The Burnt Hickory Brewery is an outstanding, up-and-coming craft brewery located in Kennesaw, Georgia. Civil War buffs know the area as the location of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, where under the leadership of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, the Confederates handed General Sherman a tactical defeat on his march to famously leveling Atlanta (or infamously if you’re from the South). In a nod to local history, Burnt Hickory Brewmaster and Owner Scott Hedeen named some of his beers after significant people and places associated with the battle.
To tell the story of each beer, the brewery commissioned Nashville-based artist Tim Hooper to design the amazing art that adorns each bottle. Mr. Hooper’s background as a cartoonist and his interest in history really makes each bottle stand out. In my opinion, Hooper’s pieces also add a depth to the Burnt Hickory brand that most breweries aren’t lucky enough have.
Here are a few of my favorite Civil War-themed beers by The Burnt Hickory Brewery.
“Big Shanty” is the former name of what is now Kennesaw, GA. The area bore witness to its fair share of Civil War activity. From 1861 to 1863, Camp MacDonald, a training camp for thousands of Confederate troops, was located there. It was also the staging ground for The Great Locomotive Chase on April 12, 1862. As part of the larger Atlanta Campaign, it was the site of major fighting during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.
The name comes from the shanty town that developed in the area during the construction of the Western & Atlantic Railroad in the 1830s. The name was actually changed after the Civil War due to the significance of the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. Big Shanty Drive now leads to downtown Kennesaw, less than a mile from the brewery.
The Graham Cracker Stout is as delicious as it sounds. Dark and viscous, made with real graham cracker crumbs and honey, this 9% dream has notes of cinnamon, vanilla, ginger and roasted malts that end up smelling and tasting like, you guessed it, graham crackers. A really fun beer to share with friends, or just drink by yourself, for breakfast.
Leonidas Polk, the “Fighting Bishop,” was bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. Despite his lack of prior combat experience, he was commissioned by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and served under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston during the Atlanta Campaign. He was popular among his troops, and his habit for disagreeing with his superiors, notably General Braxton Bragg, is well documented.
He died on June 14, 1864 when General Sherman noticed a cluster of Confederate generals scouting enemy positions from Pine Mountain and ordered the position fired upon by an artillery battery. A Federal artillery shell struck and killed Polk about a mile from where The Burnt Hickory Brewery now stands.
Burnt Hickory’s take on the classic Belgian Tripel adds green peppercorns into the mix that, in my opinion, are a very subtle but interesting addition. The traditional Tripel notes are all there, high ABV at 8.5%, hint of banana, clove and Belgian candi sugar, but the slight, dry spice that I get is probably the peppercorns coming through. Overall, it’s a very fun take on a classic style.
After the death of the “Fighting Bishop,” Gen. Johnston withdrew from Pine Mountain to establish a new line of defense that stretched from Kennesaw Mountain to Little Kennesaw Mountain. To gain an advantageous position above the Union forces, Confederate troops dragged their cannons to the top of Kennesaw Mountain, inspiring the name “Cannon Dragger.”
This IPA is a step up from traditional pale ale in every way. Higher in alcohol at 8%, the citrus and pine on the nose are aggressive and well balanced. The increase in ABV adds to the deep taste of those same flavors with a hint of caramel. All that with an almost velvety mouth feel make this an IPA to seek out.
Old Wooden Head
John Bell Hood was a Confederate General, referred to by historians as “Old Woodenhead” because of his stubborn bravery and aggressive tactics that often bordered on sheer recklessness. These traits ultimately led to decisive defeat in the Atlanta Campaign after criticizing, and then replacing, Gen. Johnston on July 18, 1864.
Old Wooden Head is a massive Double IPA with hops and malt that don’t let up. A tinge of honey mixes with powerful citrus and pine notes on the nose and palate making this big 10% ABV beer really well balanced.
The Burnt Hickory Brewery just released its next Civil War inspired beer “Courageous Conductor,” a red velvet cake porter named after the conductor at the center of The Great Locomotive Chase, William Fuller.
On its regular run from Atlanta to Chattanooga, The General was stopped at Big Shanty so the crew and passengers could eat breakfast at a nearby hotel. That’s when civilian scout James Andrews and his band of Union raiders hijacked the The General and the train’s first car. They didn’t get too far before one courageous conductor chased them down and got his train back.
In a toast to the “bravery and balls” of Fuller, who chased down the Union raiders that stole his train, this is the brewery’s courageous take on a fruit porter. With hints of raspberry, cherry, vanilla, and the ever present chocolatey goodness, this is as close as it gets to guzzling down a tasty Red Velvet Cake.
March To The Sea
Still haunted by “General Sherman’s infamous inferno from Atlanta to Savannah in 1864,” The Burnt Hickory Brewery and the Coastal Empire Beer Co. (a Savannah-based brewery) decided to collaborate on the creation of a “tactical liquid to finally put out Tecumseh’s fire.”
Be on the lookout for this American Barleywine Ale this summer.
This article was written by Dan Fontaine, a loveable idiot who co-founded Atlanta Beer Tours and who also co-hosts the delightful beer podcast, Beer Pop. Dan and his business partner Aaron Rolka, who also happens to be an idiot, are two dudes that connect beer enthusiasts with the best craft beer in Atlanta and beyond.