Beer Town: Catching up with New Realm brewmaster Mitch Steele


Atlanta’s beer scene has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years. But one of the most exciting developments is the arrival of New Realm Brewing.

The craft beer destination from former Stone brewmaster Mitch Steele and his veteran beer business partners Carey Falcone and Bob Powers is situated in Poncey-Highland, overlooking the Beltline and the Atlanta skyline.

Known for his IPA expertise, Steele wrote what’s widely regarded as the definitive book on the subject, “IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale” (Brewers Publications, $24.95).

Among Steele’s opening beers, special releases such as Radegast Triple IPA join mainstays such as Hoplandia IPA, Perun Pale Ale, and Euphonia Pilsner, each brewed with blends of new and classic hop varieties, and often with the use of modern techniques, including hop bursting.

I caught up with Steele last week to talk about some of that. Here’s part of our conversation:

Q: When did you first arrive in Atlanta to work at New Realm?

A: My first day on the job was July 1, 2016. I flew out that week and we walked through the building, met with some architects, and started moving on the project.

Q: After being here for some time now, what’s your impression of the beer scene?

A: I think it’s a great beer scene. I was actually a little surprised early on at how mature it was. Where I come from, Atlanta is not a place people talk about for beer. I had heard of the Brick Store Pub. But to go on this kind of discovery mission, and starting to meet all the brewers, and seeing what they were doing, was pretty cool.

Q: How difficult was the job of opening this brewery?

A: It was a challenge. Learning what you don’t know was probably the most eye-opening part of the process, and the most difficult. What’s really been hard is setting up the administrative side of running a brewery, because I’ve always walked into companies that had that all set up, even if we were building a new brewery.

Q: For the beer geeks, what are the basics of the brewery in terms of equipment and capacity?

A: I like to tell people we are running two brewhouses in this brewery. The main one is a fully automated, 20-barrel Krones/Steinecker four-vessel brewhouse. The fermenters are all 40-barrels, so we’re double batching into those, and think we can brew somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 barrels a year.

Q: And what about the pilot brewery?

A: That’s a five-barrel, two-vessel Ss Brewtech steam-powered system. We have six five-barrel fermenters, and we can probably do about two brews a week on that, which equates to about 400 barrels a year.

Q: What you’re doing is a bit different in Georgia, because you’re a production brewery distributing in the market, but you also have a restaurant.

A: I think the ability to serve our beers on-site with food that we are vetting and pairings that we are vetting makes us somewhat unique. And it’s fun. The restaurant is an integral part of our business, and it’s a real nice showcase for our beers. It also gives us immediate feedback on whether the beers are well received or not.

Q: The culinary side is huge for beer right now, isn’t it?

A: We have a great chef in Julio (Delgado) and we’re starting to talk about brewing beer for specific types of food, and coming up with dishes for specific beers, and using some ingredients that we use in the brewing process in some dishes.

Q: You’re often introduced as the guy who wrote the book on IPAs, so what’s the state of the art right now?

A: The style is going in so many different ways right now. Of course, New England-style IPAs are coming on strong. For me, it’s more about exploring new hop varieties. The IPA is a perfect showcase for understanding what a new hop can do, and that’s really where I continue to put my focus.

Q: Can you talk a bit about your general philosophy as a brewer, nowadays?

A: I like tradition in brewing. That really guides a lot of what I do. Some of the historical things that have been done before and some of the beer styles that have come about over the past few hundred years. Some may not be brewed anymore, but there are takeaways that you can adapt to current brewing procedures.

Q: And how will that play out at New Realm?

A: I respect tradition a lot and I love nailing a classic style, especially if it’s something I haven’t brewed before. What you’re going to see here at New Realm is a little bit more variety with regard to styles than what I was able to do prior. But we want to make them really full-flavored, and so I think that the intensity in the things I was doing at Stone is going to carry over at New Realm.

New Realm Brewing, 550 Somerset Terrace NE, Suite A, Atlanta. 404-968-2777, newrealmbrewing.com.

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