Opened in Helen in 1990, Friends Brewing and the Helenboch Brewery was Georgia's first craft brewery. It was a very different time for beer in Georgia, and across the US. Microbrew was the term used for what we call craft beer today, Georgia still had a 6% cap on ABV, lagers were the preferred styles, and Friends Brewing was just the 175th microbrewery in the US.
Friends made a great impression on the beer scene when they launched, Helenboch won silver at the Great American Beer Festival in 1989 and Helenboch Oktoberfest took gold in 1991. The famed beer writer Michael Jackson visited the brewery as well, and no visit to Georgia is complete without a trip to Waffle House where Jackson experienced the greatness of hash browns served scattered, smothered, covered, topped, and chunked.
Helenboch beer was brewed in Helen from 1990-1991 and contract brewed through 1998. After being gone for nearly 20 years a Facebook message to Friends Brewing's President Dow Scoggins from Helenback Race Series founder Dan Wilkins set the wheels in motion to bring it back to life. Scoggins posted to see if a brewery would let him brew his beer with them... or give him $500,000 to re-open a brewery. He didn't get any funding offers but Max Lager's John Roberts saw the post and reached out to Dow and in short order they agreed to make Helenboch happen again.
As with many microbreweries of the day Friends Brewing is no more, but the original owners are still very passionate about beer. I sat down recently with Rick Roberts, Frank Cronin, and Dow Scoggins from Friends; John Roberts from Max Lager's; and Dan Wilkins from the Helenback Race Series to sample and talk about this old/new brew and the memories it brought back.
You can try Helenboch beer at Max Lager's now "until it's gone" or run the Helenback Race Series on April 29th and enjoy a pour at the finish line.