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Beer tasting raises money for Arts Clayton

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Arts Clayton and the Highway 138 Package Store set out Thursday night to answer the question, "Do beer and art go together?" The answer is yes ... yes they do.

The art gallery and the package store teamed up to host the "Sip Into Summer" Artisan Beer Tasting at Arts Clayton in Jonesboro.

Highway 138 Package Store brought in the makers of three of its most popular craft beer brands, who poured samples to visitors supporting the art gallery.

Karen Powers, gallery manager of Arts Clayton, said the gallery has partnered with the Highway 138 Package Store since 2006 to host wine tasting fund-raisers. She said the beer-tasting event was a chance to do something new, and different.

"Beer isn't something that just goes with football," Powers said. "Beer goes with just about everything and is enjoyed by many types of people. You have more and more people realizing beer is something that is an art form, and that [it] can be crafted.

"Our main purpose with everything we do here is to bring people into the Arts Clayton gallery to experience the work of local Georgia artists," she continued. "Anything that we can do here to reach different people and show them what an asset they have here ... that is always our goal."

Breweries at the beer tasting included Atlanta-based SweetWater Brewing Company, Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales of Milton, Del., and Victory Brewing Company of Dowington, Pa.

Arts Clayton patrons were offered a dozen different beers, including SweetWater's Sweet Georgia Brown Ale, Dogfish Head's Festina Peche - a beer with light peach flavors - and Victory's Golden Monkey Belgian-style beer.

Chuck Bussey, a Hampton resident, said he and his wife often support the fund-raisers at Arts Clayton, and that an event like "Sip into Summer" has universal appeal.

"I feel like the arts are not being supported enough, the way it is being taken away from schools," he said. "Art and beer ... they appeal to a wide cross section of people."

Brian O'Connell, a spokesperson for SweetWater Brewing Company, said Thursday's benefit marked the first time the brewery has partnered with Arts Clayton. He said that as the popularity of craft beer has grown, an event like "Sip into Summer" is a good way to direct that popularity toward a good cause.

"We've recently seen people digging deeper into what makes a beer," O'Connell said. "People treat the beer experience almost like the wine-tasting experience. Raising money to help the art gallery here is a great cause, and that's why we came."

Kathleen Higgins, co-owner of the Highway 138 Package Store, said she is pleased with the community's response to the beer tasting and hopes to bring more beer tastings to Arts Clayton.

"There is definitely a market for these microbreweries," Higgins said. "Beers are stepping up. It seems like there is a new one that is hitting the market every month [and] Georgia is making its mark. I think [the beer tasting] will give our customers in the community information on the products we carry and it will definitely be an event to promote these new craft beers.

"I'm very pleased with the partnership," she added. "Art is very calming and we need that in the midst of all the chaos around us."