By Bobby Bush
I always thought that downtown Savannah, GA was a genteel revitalized Southern coastal town, built on tourist dollars just like Charleston, SC. It may be; we didn't have time to explore. But we did have the opportunity to enjoy a quick lunch and beer at Moon River Brewing Company.
Named for a local river and the Henry Mancini song made famous by native Johnny Mercer, Moon River took over for failed Oglethorpe Brewing Company last year. Situated on parking-scarce Bay Street in a four-story 1820s era brick building, there was a healthy crowd already chowing down as we were escorted past the front-and-center dark-stained island bar to a table. Hungry, thirsty and in somewhat of a rush, a sampler tray was chosen as we perused a menu of sandwiches (chicken cordon blue), salads (asparagus and shitaki), burgers (turkey burger with hot jalapeno mayo) and more.
With tiny glasses of all seven Moon River beers at hand, I set to work. Claire de Lune's - French for "moon light" and the brewpub's best seller - golden body was topped by white foam. For a lighter ale, its flavor was hoppy, kolsch-like. The seasonal Honeymoon Peach had a mildly sweet (from honey) finish with only faint peachiness in taste. An English Pale Ale, Moondance was amber in hue, very fruity in mouthfeel and just a wee bit malty for style. Savannah Fest Bier, obviously another seasonal beer, was deep gold, decked with a quickly disappearing head. It was tasty, malty with little sign of the advertised "spicy imported German hops." Deep copper, Double Brown featured strong chocolate flavor and a tingly hop bite, while Irish-Style Stout, radiating a warm dark brown/black presence, was roasty with medium nitrogenized body. The new IPA was so close to perfect, with enticing hop aroma, flavor and aftertaste, that I ordered a full pint once the taster glass was empty.
Over at the bar, beside many blue tap handles adorned with bright yellow crescents, we noticed a short guest beer selection of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Hoegaarden's famed White beer, imported from Belgium, and the near requisite Miller Lite (after all, this is a tourist town). While finishing the final sips of IPA, we conversed first with owner Gene Beeco and later with head brewer John Pinkerton. The former commented about the success Moon River has seen at the site of a defunct brewpub. The latter, who moved south from Frederick Brewing in Maryland to take over the Moon River 15 barrel system, passionately described his labor of love and plans for local keg distribution. (The wise state of Georgia does not permit brewpubs to sell growlers or bottles of their beer).
While I can't say too much for the sweltering port town of Savannah, Moon River Brewing certainly deserves high accolades. Stop in for a burger and stay a while for the beer. Their new phone number is 912/447-0943.
This article first appeared in Focus Magazine of Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush