With a prime location on Savannah’s Bay Street and an irresistible beer garden, Moon River Brewing Company is a popular gathering spot for both locals and visitors. In spring and summer, the 5,400-square-foot beer garden, which opened in spring 2013, offers a convivial atmosphere, communal tables, and cool coastal breezes. Come nighttime, the terrace is aglow with string lights.
But there’s another level of history beyond this cheerful exterior. Savannah is often regarded as one of the most haunted cities in the country, and Moon River Brewing is housed in the city’s first hotel, which was built in 1821. The brewery took over the space in 1999, but some say the property’s previous residents may still reside there in some way. Many brewery staff have personal accounts of paranormal activity, from silverware and glasses flying across the room to actual apparitions appearing in the bar area and on the stairwells. Paranormal shows including the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures have investigated the brewery, whose website even has a page dedicated to its ghosts.
Still, most of the conversation at Moon River revolves around beer, not things that go bump in the night. Pick from 10 of the brewery’s rotating beers on tap; IPA fans will love the “Swamp Fox,” one of the brewery’s most popular. This amber-colored pour is hoppy, slightly bitter, and versatile to drink any time of year. The Abbey-style “Depravity or Divinity” is a Belgian Abbey-style Dubbel with a rich, malty-sweet pallet tempered with bright notes of tangy dried fruit. Similar to Belgian-style, this beer is brewed with imported Belgian beet sugar, but Western Europe also is represented with German Pilsner malt and Czech Saaz hops. While Moon River pours the zippy, citrus-infused Belgian-style “Wacky Wit” beer year-round in the pub, it’s releasing the beer into distribution in May 2015 through the end of August.
“Moon River is all about diversity and that is certainly our aim in keeping a wide variety of flavors flowing from the taps,” brewmaster John Pinkerton says. “We've got a couple of really special beers we’re currently pouring. We recently tapped Foras, a beer re-fermented and aged in oak barrels for a slightly tart, bone-dry, fruitiness that is truly wild.”
The brewery’s food selection is a melting pot of traditional beer-friendly foods. Burgers feature grass-fed beef from Hunter Cattle Company, 45 miles west of Savannah. Garlic fries are dangerously addictive, a hearty portion served skins-on, crispy on the outside, and laden with fresh garlic and Parmesan cheese. The chicken and sausage Creole is an ode to spicy Southern fare. Similar to jambalaya, the dish melds the flavors of tender chicken, smoked sausage, peppers, and onions atop Lowcountry rice.
The weekly “toast,” a tradition started in the 1990s by a few regulars, is a compelling reason to pop into the brewery at 6 pm on a Friday. The brewery passes out a sample glass of beer to every patron, and one brave soul takes to the mic to perform the toast.
Such unique offerings, as well as its excellent beers and ambiance, make Moon River Brewing one of the city’s most popular watering holes. According to Bob Townsend, editor atSouthern Beer News, Pinkerton is a “pioneer” in the Georgia craft beer community, while the brewery “has become a Savannah mainstay for both locals and tourists seeking a convivial spot for a beer and a bite near the river on bustling Bay Street.” To that, we say cheers.