A veteran television news cameraman, Scott Hedeen opened the local brewery near downtown Kennesaw in June 2011.
Named after a trail that runs up Kennesaw Mountain, the nanobrewery boasts an eclectic array of brews with names that reflect his taste in punk rock music and fondness for local history.
“I’m a strong believer that you have to have a local tie to where you are, but you also have to add your own flavor to it,” Hedeen said.
His history-themed brews include an American porter called Courageous Conductor, named for train conductor William Fuller’s raid on a Confederate train known as the Great Locomotive Chase; and Fighting Bishop, the nickname of Confederate Gen. Leonidas Polk, who was killed on Pine Mountain in 1864.
Then there are the beers named after bands you’ve probably never heard of: A barley wine named for ’80s band Killdozer and an imperial American porter named for North Carolina heavy metal band Corrosion of Conformity.
“I’m just putting together the things I love — beer, music and history,” Hedeen said of his variety of naming choices.
Burnt Hickory usually has a menu of about six beers year-round and five seasonal offerings. All of the beers are considered high-gravity, meaning they have a higher percentage of alcohol content than your average Budweiser, and feature a twist on traditional flavors from a blood orange-flavored Imperial Pale Ale to a graham cracker stout to a porter that’s reminiscent of red velvet cake.
“It sounds a little strange, but the flavor of graham cracker and cinnamon goes very well with a roasty stout,” he said. “And in the blood orange, the hops we use in the IPA have a very citrusy quality and it turns into a great beer.”
Hedeen’s master brewer, Will Avery, creates the recipes for some of the brews on tap.
After meeting Hedeen at Moondog Growlers in Marietta, Avery decided to volunteer his time until he was hired on full time as Burnt Hickory’s only other employee. As a homebrewer for the last 12 years, Avery said he’s excited to be getting in on the ground floor of a microbrewery.
“We want to brew stuff that people want to not like but they can’t help but like it,” he said. “We kind of turn everything on its head a little bit. Basically, we’re trying to go to the edge without jumping off and freaking people out.”
Avery said he connected with Hedeen over the idea of pushing the limits.
“There are rules to brewing,” Avery said. “There are things you do, things you don’t do. Our mentality is you’ve got to know the rules to break the rules. We know the rules so well that we can kind of do something twisted up, a little catawampus.”
An expanded business model
Hedeen, an Acworth resident, describes the overall feel of Burnt Hickory as a “Civil War, spaghetti Western, biker (and) hard rock” type of outfit. The rebellious theme seems to flow throughout his business model.
This year, Hedeen has big plans to expand his operation. He is looking to take his 2.5 barrel system to more than 20 barrels, qualifying Burnt Hickory as a microbrewery and putting it in the same production category as Marietta-based Red Hare Brewery.
That would put the former home-based brewer on the map of the burgeoning metro Atlanta brew scene.
The company’s 1,500-square-foot building off Moon Station Road is in the process of expanding into the building next door, a 3,500-square-foot addition.
The new space will house a larger tasting room, a Wisconsin-made brew house and bottling operation, with plans to have the brew house functioning by the end of the year.
“We’ll be able to make 20 times what we make now,” Hedeen said.
Hedeen, who calls himself a “beer geek,” said he looked at other breweries around the state and the country as he was starting his business, learning the do’s and don’ts from other start-ups.
“I saw the cloud circling overhead of all the other breweries,” he said. “I decided to go small and self-finance. We wanted to make sure when we launched the expansion we were already well-versed and already had a customer base.”
Quite a bit of that money came from selling his hard rock records and a piece of rock ‘n’ roll history.
“I saw Nirvana in 1991 in (Washington) D.C. and grabbed the set list,” he said. “I stuck it in a record and forgot about it. I pulled it out two years ago and it turns out it was written by Kurt Cobain.”
Many loyal fans turned out Wednesday night for a tasting of the new White Flag Third Strike Wit, a Belgian-style beer brewed with apricots and named for a popular California rock band.
The only problem patrons complained about was not being able to take any home, as Georgia law prohibits breweries from selling their product directly to their visitors.
Two friends who attended the tasting, Kennesaw residents John Gray and Adeolu Omadebeyo, lamented not being able to buy a few bottles.
“The second I tasted the White Flag I said, ‘I need to get some of this and take it home with me,’” Omadebayo said. “Now that I know I can’t, I just want this stuff in a bottle right now.”
Some legislators are working changing the law.
House Bill 314, which would allow breweries and brewpubs to sell a maximum of one case (288 ounces) of beer on-premises for off-premises consumption, didn’t make it past Crossover Day during the 2012 legislative session.
Hedeen said he’s hopeful the state Legislature takes up HB 314 again next year, as it would “greatly improve” his bottom line.
“The craft beer culture in Atlanta and in northwest Cobb has really gone to a new level where people are seeking out local products,” Hedeen said.
For now, fans can get ahold of Burnt Hickory beers at Johnnie MacCracken’s in downtown Marietta, Trackside in downtown Kennesaw, Wild Wing Cafe on Roswell Road in Marietta and a few other restaurants in the Atlanta area.
The brewery continues to have its Wednesday tastings from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and will have another open house 12 to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 15.