Savannah River Brewing Co. President Steve Ellison said he might shed a tear when he sees his product on the shelves of local package shops.
On Monday, however, he was just glad to see the equipment needed to reach that point.
Through today, seven tractor-trailers are expected to arrive from British Columbia carrying equipment for the beer brewing process.
Seven large steel fermenters were tucked in one corner of the brewery’s location, a vacant warehouse at 813 Fifth St. Outside were the tanks and brew house waiting to be moved inside.
“If you look at the cost of a brewery, one of the biggest costs is this stuff,” Ellison said, gesturing toward the forklift maneuvering one of the tanks into the 21,000-square-foot warehouse.
It’s also a sign Augusta is a step closer to welcoming its second brewery. Just around the corner, at the Farmers Market on Laney-Walker Boulevard, Riverwatch Brewery – the city’s first brewery in more than a century – has begun the beer-making process after clearing the licensing process last month.
Ellison, a Monroe, Ga., resident, said his brewery is still waiting for its federal license, submitted roughly eight weeks ago. The brewery is expected to open in the second quarter of the year, with an initial four-beer offering distributed in kegs and bottles via AB Beverage Co. It will also feature a 6,000-square-foot taproom and an outdoor deck in a fenced area behind the building.
“You take an eyesore away from this corner and you put in its place a destination,” Ellison said.
Brew master Mark Walters, a professional brewer with more than 21 years of experience, spent most of Monday orchestrating placement of the equipment. He’s worked on everything from small brewpubs on up to serving as head brewer at Abita Brewing Co. in Louisiana before becoming a consultant for other startup breweries.
He said one thing will set Savannah River Brewing apart from the other projects he’s worked on: size.
“The difference is that we have a big picture,” he said. “The big picture is that we want to distribute our beer up and down the East Coast.”
Most startups, he said, are lucky to run a 10-barrel system in the first year of business – one barrel is equivalent to 31 gallons – but both Augusta breweries have set their sights higher.
“Riverwatch is doing 20 and we’re doing 30,” he said. “For a town that didn’t have anything before that at all, that’s crazy. But it will be cool.”
That’s just for the mash tun, a large tank designed to create a fermentable mixture. Each of the seven fermenters can hold about 60 barrels which, in turn, can fill more than 23,000 six-packs, Ellison said.