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Sunday, June 9, 2013 - 11:00pm

Savannah Expands As Beer Town

Savannah is entering a new phase as a beer town as two local business owners are opening a new brewery.

It's the only one of its kind in a city with a growing interest in beer.

There are three kinds of brewing licenses in Georgia.

Savannah already has breweries operating under the brewpub and contract brewery licenses.

But as far as plain old breweries -- ones that brew on site and sell to a distributor -- Southbound Brewing Company is the only one doing it.

Company founders Smith Mathews and Carly Wiggins, who have been close friends since college, gathered the majority funds to start up the brewery through donations -- $870,000 in only four days.

Mathews, originally from Statesboro, says they started the brewery in Savannah for a variety of reasons.

"It's close to home and there was no other production -- we're the only brewery here," says Mathews. "It has has tons of tourists and I think this area is really supportive of a retail microbrewery."

The company's Carly Wiggins says Southbound is the first brewery of its kind in Savannah.

"What we do here is just manufacture beer, sell it to United, our distributor, and then they sell it to restaurants, bars, anywhere else that wants to carry to the retailers," says Wiggins.

The company recently launched its product on draft in local taverns.

Mathews says the most exciting part during this process has been drinking their own beer poured from a Southbound tap handle at a restaurant.

Wiggins says she has known she wanted to be in the beer buisness since her college job at Sweetwater Brewing Company.

"My parents were initially, 'Are you serious about staying in this? Is this what you really wanna do?' And I was like, you know, I'm very good at it and I love it," says Wiggins. "It's just been a journey and I'm very happy I stayed on this path."

The city already has a brewpub and a contract brewer, several beer-centered pubs and a recently-expanded beer festival.

Mathews says the craft beer industry is booming despite the current state of the economy.

"People are really expecting more out of the beer and looking for a better beer," Mathews says. "They're willing to pay a little bit more for it even if they may not drink as much as they would a big domestic."

Southbound Brewing is still waiting for a city official's blessing before giving tours and tastings.