AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) – At River Watch Brewery in downtown Augusta owner Brey Sloan has mastered the artistry of ale.
It all started when she learned how to make beer while serving in the Army.
“I was assigned to Burma in southeast Asia as a defense attache back in 2008. It was under military rule then so it was under international sanctions. So, we couldn’t import any beer. They only had one beer there Myanmar Beer which was fine but it was like Budweiser. If you wanted something that wasn’t like Budweiser you had to make it yourself,” she explains.
When she was transferred to Japan.. her husband, children and brewing skills went with her.
“I worked with a German brewer down by Mount Fuji and I took some classes. After I retired and we moved here, I took some Long courses in Chicago and Munich for commercial brewing.”
Soon after moving to the CSRA, she opened River Watch Brewery.
The first in Augusta since prohibition in 1921.
“We started out with a blonde ale, a pale ale like a Sierra Nevada, a brown ale and a lime wheat beer. Those were going to be our core. As time has gone on we’ve introduced new beers. Some of them seasonal.”
Along the way, she’s had her fill of obstacles and difficulties.
First, her husband died right before opening the business.
Then, she was forced to close soon after opening.
“We opened up in April of 2016. We got shutdown about a week later because this is on state property. I mean I signed the lease so they knew what we were doing here and they had a full year to do anything about it. But, they’re lawyers hadn’t gotten around to changing the farmer market rules. So, they said, ‘can you just not be open while we fix this?'”
A few years later, she was faced with shutting down again due to the impending closing of the Farmer’s Market early in the Covid pandemic.
“So, we had until June 2021 to vacate the property. We had to sell the equipment so some of our equipment is up in Columbia and some of it is in Greensboro, North Carolina. They bought the majority of it. As the trucks were coming in to pick everything up we got notified that they changed their mind and they were no longer closing the Farmer’s Market. But, it was of course too late at that point.”
Despite the circumstance, this retired Army Colonel is still soldiering on making good brew just in smaller batches.
“The system we’re using now is about 155 gallons per batch. We used to be able to make 620 gallons a batch. For the same amount of effort I get one quarter the finished product.”
Although less, she’s still pouring more flavor and enjoyment for local patrons.
She has this advice for others who want to go into business..
“Do your research. Make sure that what you want to do there’s a market for it and you have the capability to meet that market and then just go for it. A lot of times we talk ourselves out of things. I’m not afraid of success which a lot of people actually are. I’m also not afraid to fail.”