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When Drowned Valley Brewing Company opened its doors in December of 2019, there was no way to anticipate the overwhelming response that Bartow County has had to the craft brewery. Being the first of its kind to open their doors within Cartersville’s city limits, the draw to the brewery can be attributed to a mixture of novelty, curiosity, and a deep love for all things craft beer. 

Within six months of opening, the establishment is already in the process of upgrading their barrel system and concocting new recipes to keep up with the demand for their products. Co-owner and operator Dean Kimberly gives an inside look in how he and his team run the wildly popular brewhouse.

On Wednesday, Nov. 27th, 2019, Drowned Valley held a soft opening to allow the people of Bartow in the doors and try out their beer. The event was packed with people. There hasn’t been a weekend since the official opening where people aren’t lining up to taste the craft beers that are being brewed mere feet from the bar. Kimberly says that the process has been humbling and overwhelming. “It’s a dream come true. It’s incredible to see the response and the reaction from everybody. It still hasn’t sunk in for us completely because we are so on the go.”

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Co-Owner and Head Brewer JD Dean

Kimberly first started to consider the idea of a brewery about seven years ago. “My wife and I have always traveled to different breweries and enjoyed seeing what other people were doing, and we thought that this was a pretty cool business concept. I’m a very business-minded person, so I started to dive into it more and started creating the business plan, starting with the foundation. I was doing the research and meeting with different breweries, and I started the business plan, which took me about four years to complete. 

Then, I met JD Dean, who is one of the other partners and the head brewer, he makes awesome beer and great recipes. Then about a year and a half ago, we met with the owners of the space, we are in now, and they were the ones who had a larger vision for the brewery. David and Pat Holt took our small scale thinking and helped elevate it into the brewery that it is today.” Without David’s resources, experience, and vision for the future of what breweries could be, Drowned Valley would have been “just another neighborhood brewery,” Kimberly says. “We went from wanting a 1bbl brewhouse and some picnic tables to what you see today because of him, well mostly. 

The layout and design of the taproom is a vision and undertaking that Pat knocked out of the park. She took a blank canvas and crafted a welcoming modern industrial feel, complete with handmade light fixtures, a custom welded fire pit, beautiful leathered granite bar tops, and even custom steel welded drip trays. She left no stone unturned during the build-out and it shows, when you come to Drowned Valley you immediately feel welcomed and at home and it is tough to leave.”

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While the process leading to opening day took a great deal of effort, they would also need to convince the city council of their place in the community. There are numerous drinking establishments within the downtown area of Cartersville and some on the city council was concerned that a brewery would be redundant. But Kimberly knew that what they had planned was unique and something that the community would benefit from. 

“Our goal has always been to be community-focused. It’s written in our mission statement: ‘Striving to grow our community and build relationships through our passion for local, handcrafted beer.’ So, we always wanted to make this a place where people could bring their dogs, bring their family and give back to the community. I knew that once we got the OK to go ahead, we would be able to show that through our passion through our work and how our employees treat our guests and making everyone feel at home and feel like family. We had our soft opening and it blew us away and ever since it hasn’t slowed down, in a positive way. The city is very responsive. Local business owners and our patrons are responsive. We have people who come from different areas of Georgia now that word’s getting out more and more and they’re very positive towards us. I feel like it has been an very positive experience, and we are psyched to have been able to grow so much so soon in our tenure.” 

And indeed, they are growing. The brewery started with a four-barrel system, but with the exponential growth and demand for their beer, they are expanding to a 15- barrel system very soon. Kimberly explained the need to expand, “A barrel of beer is about 248 pints, so with four barrels we had roughly about a thousand pints. We are on a four-barrel system with a capacity of about 40 barrels per month and the demand, and the reception has been so good that it’s hard to keep up with that sometimes. So, we decided to upgrade our equipment. We can’t do any to-go beer yet or expand our recipes like we want to, so we are moving up to a 15-barrel system. We will be able to produce about four times the beer and we are also adding two 15-barrel fermenters. We are going to go 45 times our capacity within the next eight weeks and we are excited. We are going to be able to sell to-go beer just in time for lake weather.”   

They are currently selling Long Gone Blonde, Itaba IPA, Bartow Brown, Imperial Stout, Coffee Blonde, Lemon Lime Seltzer and Cherry Haze Seltzer. Each beer is crafted with the community in mind and people can’t seem to get enough. Their Coffee Blonde is the most requested beer and it’s brewed with coffee from Cartersville’s Noble & Main Coffee Co. While the brewery itself only serves beverages, the atmosphere brings something else to the table that you won’t find anywhere else. The architecture and design of the building are reason enough to visit the brewery. The open interior is filled with custom art and fixtures with antique games available for patrons to enjoy. Live music from local artists can be heard every week, and most nights, there are food trucks from local vendors that park in the front courtyard and serve gourmet food that compliments Drowned Valley’s beer perfectly. The regulars include Chucks Curbside Cheesesteaks, The Royal Pig, Let’s Taco Bout It, The Mule House and Table 20. 

Kimberly emphasizes that the goal of Drowned Valley is to be as community-minded as possible and that includes allowing these food trucks and local artists to come in and use the space to get as much business as possible. He continues that they also plan to do “river clean-ups and some kind of hikes over at Pine Mountain for awareness. We are also hopefully going to do a run club. But we are just so new and it’s all so much to take in at once that we don’t want to say yes to everybody and then start to wear ourselves thin. We want to be able to take our time and build toward helping the community in every way that we possibly can.”  

Drowned Valley has become a place where the people of Cartersville want to gather and relax. So, try it out for yourself and enjoy a new piece of the community. For current hours and menu options, you can visit their website www.drownedvalleybrewing.beer or find them on Facebook @DrownedValleyBrewing

Ashlee Bagnell is a graduate of Kennesaw State University where she received her BA in English. She spends her time writing (mostly) Bartow stories at Noble & Main. When she isn’t writing for the magazine, she can be found reading, drinking coffee, binge watching Netflix and HBO shows, drinking more coffee, and even sometimes acting with ACT I Inc., a community theatre based in Cartersville. She lives in Euharlee, Ga. with her family and her two senior adult dogs Milo and Charlie Brown.