Beer, Golden Tickets, and the Historic Georgia Theatre

A fire in June 2009 destroyed the interior of the Georgia Theatre in Athens, Ga.

Credit: Georgia Theatre

This week, a year after a fire shuttered the historic Georgia Theatre in Athens, Ga., workers began rehabilitating the 1930s venue where R.E.M. and the B-52s first performed.

To help raise the $3 million needed to repair the gutted theater, a local brewery has created new flavors. Terrapin Beer Company's first Georgia Theatre brew came out in March, and its second was released in Georgia stores this month.

"You get to drink a beer and save a historic property at the same time," says Wilmot Greene, owner of the Georgia Theatre. Terrapin will donate part of its profits to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, which established a fund for the theatre last year.

In a Willy Wonka-esque maneuver, one $12 bottle of each of four planned specialty brews will hold a "golden ticket," a lifetime pass to the Georgia Theatre, a beloved landmark in the city of 100,000.

"Dustin [Watts, Terrapin Beer Co.'s] marketing guy, approached me while the building was still burning, literally. He gave me a hug and said, 'We're going to help,'" Greene remembers. A few months later, "after a few beers, we started talk about the 120-year history of the Georgia Theatre."

Terrapin named its first beer in the Georgia Theatre series Iron Tankard because the first building on the site was constructed in 1889 as a YMCA with an iron swimming pool in the basement. This month's brew, Double Feature, pays tribute to the theater that opened on the site in 1935. The third will be called Sound Czech, a nod to the building's rebirth in the 1970s as a concert hall, and the final beer in the series, Hoptaneous Combustion, will mark the fire on June 19, 2009.

The interior, which was completely destroyed in the fire, will be rebuilt, but the Art Deco exterior will be restored.

"It took a year and three days to get work started," Greene says. "We're on track."

Read more about Athens, Georgia, one of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations

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