Until last week, when his beers were served — and quickly sold through — at Taco Mac Kennesaw and Marietta's Wild Wing Cafe, Scott Hedeen operated Burnt Hickory Brewing as a labor of love.
As Burnt Hickory went from his hobby to an actual job (supplemented by freelance video and editing work), and his "band beers" started getting a little attention outside of his home, Hedeen, a music fanatic, made the ultimate sacrifice, selling off a treasured piece of memorabilia in order to purchase a fermenter. The tank is named Cobain after the 1991 Nirvana set list that was sold for $3,500 to pay for it. Creative Loafing recently caught up with Hedeen to discuss how he combined his two passions, when we can expect his beer inside the Perimeter, and how Georgia could encourage start-up brewers like himself.
Describe your first beer experience.
The first time I had a beer was in 1980, at age 14. My friend's dad had left out two cans of Piels in the sun for a week. We found them and drank them. I'm lucky I decided to ever drink beer again after that! A few years later in college, I was lucky enough to have a friend who decided that I was an idiot for drinking Olympia and Natty Boh [National Bohemian], and introduced me to Anchor Steam and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I've been a beer geek ever since.
Tell me about the band beers both present and future.
They started as a research and development thing for my home-brew recipes as I ramped up for my launch to pro level. The Killdozer barleywine was first, about two years ago. Since then, it's been a list I'm very proud of — the Meatmen Toolin' for Alenuss brown ale, the Jesus Lizard Mouth Breather ESB, the Germs Blueberry Saison, Government Issue Joyride Ale, Helios Creed green peppercorn triple, the New Bomb Turks' Hammerless Ale. All in all, we did like 20 bands. I made a handshake deal with all of them that I was not going to make money on these beers and it was strictly as a promotional tool and a tribute.
Was it hard to sell an old Nirvana set list to pay for one of your brewing tanks? Did any other prized memorabilia go the way of eBay to fund the project?
Yeah, I grabbed this list off the stage after a Nirvana show at the old 9:30 in D.C. in October of 1991, stuck it in a Nirvana LP, and forgot about it. I pulled it out a few years ago and looked at it. It seems Cobain never wrote set lists from this era and it was definitely in his handwriting. I posted on eBay, got offers, and it sold. With the cash, I bought our number-four fermenter. We call it "Cobain" and thank Kurt for the contribution.
I've been letting go of my record collection slowly over that last four years. I'll see what else is sold here in the future to help the brewery. I'm thinking about a certain Nirvana 45 — I have to pay Killdozer's airfare to Atlanta to play a private show at the brewery. You think Cobain would approve of that? Hell yes.
When can we expect to see Burnt Hickory's wares inside the Perimeter?
At first we are going to concentrate on Northwest Cobb. There are enough bars and stores with interest in my beers that I will not have any problems selling the product. The problem will be making enough to fill the orders. Our jaunts into the city will come soon after. My promise is that it will get to all who wants it, ASAP. I'll even show up and help you pour it.
A lot has changed in recent years, from the ABV-limit lift, to growlers, to Sunday sales. What do you think the state of Georgia still needs to focus on in order to encourage its booming craft-beer industry?
The three-tier system needs to be looser. North Carolina's beer scene has grown because if a brewery is under a certain amount of output, they can self-distribute. If that happened here, I could sell my beer to people who came to the brewery. A lot of breweries/brewpubs would open if they could sell beer on-site. North Carolina has had a huge growth in beer, so much so that several national breweries have announced they are opening East Coast breweries in Asheville in the last few months. I think Gov. Deal would be happy to have the tax dollars they would have generated here in Georgia.Check out upcoming beer events.