With a reputation for quality, consistency, and sustainability, Terrapin Beer Company has its eyes on becoming the number one craft beer brand in the Southeast United States
There is no shortage of character at Terrapin Beer Company, an innovative craft brewery that has, over 18 years, achieved tremendous success through its line of colorful and quirky beers. Founded in Athens, Georgia, Terrapin continues to charm beer fans with its reptilian mascot, and mysterious tales of an elusive brewer called Krunkles, but at the center of the company’s appeal is its core product.
Primarily brewed at its hometown facility in Athens, Terrapin’s principal range includes its most popular beer, Hopsecutioner, a flagship American IPA that was first released back in 2009. Luau Krunkles, a POG (passionfruit, orange and guava) IPA is a close second in the popularity stakes and was one of the first of its kind in the United States.
Though IPAs dominate Terrapin’s product range, the brewery also produces a variety of stouts, wheat beers, and lagers as part of an offering that is always evolving. The continuous program of innovation and product development is driven by work at the company’s second facility, the Terrapin Brew Lab.
New product development
Located adjacent to Truist Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves, the Brew Lab opened in 2017 and acts as a research and development facility for Terrapin. With a five-barrel brewhouse, six ten-barrel fermenters, and a taproom onsite, it is the perfect setting for creating and trialing new beer creations.
“It’s like a little incubator where we come up with and pilot our new ideas,” explains Terrapin’s Vice President of Operations, Jack Albanese. “Whereas we are more IPA-centric in Athens, the Atlanta Brew Lab makes a lot of beers geared towards baseball games where people want easily drinkable lagers and things like that.
“It’s not just about new brands, but also new brewing innovations and technologies, whether it be hop products, hop strains, or local malts; all of that goes through the Brew Lab and the fact that it is connected to the ballpark means it is a great place to trial new beers with consumers. We’ve had a lot of beers trialed there that have gone on to have a mass market release. Los Bravos, our Mexican lager, started in R&D at the Brew Lab and ended up with a launch footprint-wide. The same thing happened with our hazy IPA, High and Hazy, when we noticed its popularity at the Brew Lab.
“Overall, it’s a site that continues to pay off for us. We’ve got great brewers there who are able to play around and create new products, and you can then get immediate market feedback in the taproom. It’s pretty cool.”
As a brewery at the forefront of the latest consumer tastes and trends, Terrapin aims to create products that are ahead of the curve, and the company is always on the lookout for the next big breakthrough in brewing. Along with the persisting popularity of hazy IPAs – and IPAs in general – Jack suggests that customers are currently in search of more sessionable, drinkable, low-calorie beer options.
“I don’t think the better-for-you brands are going anywhere any time soon,” he asserts. “At Terrapin, we market a low-cal IPA called RecreationAle. That beer was originally a session IPA that we transformed into a better-for-you brand that is low-calorie and low-carb, and we are doing really well with it. We see that trend sticking around for a while, which is why we have got such a big push behind it.”
Never afraid to try new methods and processes in search of evolution, Terrapin was the first craft brewery in Georgia to offer canned beer, and the company’s range has predominantly shifted from bottles to cans ever since. The canning line has been particularly busy in 2020 when Terrapin was forced to pivot its offering as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. After closing its taproom to protect its employees not long after the Coronavirus outbreak, Terrapin focused on its packaged and canned line of products to help weather the impact of the crisis.
“We definitely had to adapt, as I’m sure most breweries did, especially with bars, sports stadiums, and music venues closing down,” Jack reports. “Keg sales became almost non-existent for a while, but to make up for that we ran our canning line almost 24/7, just to be able to keep up with demand. We also looked to our relationships with grocery chains and other stores. It’s certainly been an interesting year, but we did a good job being able to pivot our business and we did really well protecting our employees. In particular, we kept our whole workforce employed, which is a huge success, and something that I think shows the strength of our company values.”
It’s no surprise that, during a difficult year for businesses across the globe, Terrapin looked first to the safety and security of its employees. Known affectionately as the ‘Terrapin Tribe’, the brewery’s workforce contains a substantial number of long-tenured team members, including Jack himself, who has been with the business since 2012 when he joined as Quality Assurance Manager. With a strong company culture focusing on sustainability, operational excellence, and being ‘local’ wherever it goes, Jack is proud to be part of a business that ‘really tries to live its values’.
“I have been here eight years now and have been given the opportunity to grow within the business,” Jack states. “Our President, Dustin Watts, was one of the company’s first hires, and our Co-Founder, Spike, is still here too. When you see a company that has those people sticking around, it helps you understand that the culture of that company is in the right place. It’s an environment where we want to nurture talent, build from within, and be a truly sustainable business.
“We look at sustainability in a couple of different ways at Terrapin,” Jack adds. “It’s about sustainability for the company, meaning self-sufficiency and having the right people in the right places, but also sustainability in terms of the environment too. That’s really where our Terraprint initiative comes in.”
Quality & consistency
As a company, Terrapin describes Terraprint as ‘the impact the company has on the environment and its community’. It is an initiative that Jack says has grown organically as the brewery has expanded, and it has led to the installation of technologies like a waste water pre-treatment facility in Athens.
“As we were touring people around the brewery we would mention how we had installed a filtration unit that reduced an entire waste stream to landfill, or how our spent grain was going to local farmers, or becoming compost and eventually returning, full-circle, back to the brewery,” Jack recalls. “The people would look at us bug eyed and say, ‘Hey, we had no idea you were doing that. Tell us more.’ That’s how Terraprint grew.
“We eventually identified four pillars from an environmental standpoint – water, energy, soil, and resource – and every time we look to expand or improve operations, we turn towards those tenets to see how we can lessen our impact on the environment. It has really been a good guide for us in terms of how we have built over the years and helping us tell that story to people. It’s important for us to let people know that that’s the kind of company Terrapin is.”
Having started in 2002 as a brewery producing 200 barrels of beer a year, Terrapin is now aiming to produce 100,000 barrels annually. In total, across the 18 years that the brewery has been in operation, more than 600,000 barrels of beer have passed through the site.
By no means ready to slow down production, Terrapin is planning another expansion at its Athens location in 2022, when the company will celebrate its 20th anniversary. The development will see the introduction of another canning line and additional fermentation equipment to help further increase the brewery’s capacity. Already present in 22 states in the US, Terrapin’s investment will not only improve the company’s chances of becoming the number one craft beer brand in the Southeast, but it will also help the brewery expand its geographic footprint and export beer into Central America and the Caribbean.
“Terrapin has grown every year it’s been in existence and we’re not looking to stop anytime soon,” Jack proclaims. “One of the biggest compliments I get from our customers is that they can really trust our brand when it comes to quality and consistency and that’s something that has helped us stick around.
“Thanks to strong leadership and great partners like Pall Corporation and Athens’ own Jittery Joe’s, we’ll continue to innovate and be first to market with exciting new products. No matter what, we will persevere in our attempts to be as local as we can, everywhere we are, in terms of making sure that everybody who wants to get their hands on Terrapin beer is able to get their hands on as much of it as they can.”