Growing up in LaGrange, Chase Hudson spent a lot of time in the then-bustling Hillside community, a centerpiece of LaGrange’s mill neighborhoods.
“In those days, Hillside had as much as downtown,” he recalls. “I hated seeing so many empty buildings after the mills closed.”
Those memories influenced Hudson in 2017 as he began scouting locations for a new business. Already an established restaurateur, with fine dining eateries C’Sons and Mare Sol downtown, Hudson was intrigued by the idea of opening a brewpub. The building at 700 Lincoln Street offered the rustic charm he was was seeking. Better still, it was around the corner from his boyhood hangout, the legendary soda fountain and lunch counter at the former Smith-Hillside Pharmacy. Beacon Brewing Co. opened in fall 2018 with a menu featuring “Asian food with Southern flair “and approachable, innovative craft beers made on the premises.
Hudson had been struck by the similarities between traditional southern and Korean foods, each with an abundance of pickled, fermented, cured or smoked specialties.
“The two flavors work so well together,” he said, inspiring menu options like ramen bowls, braised greens and Waygu beef hotdogs with Asian slaw.
As for beer, Hudson said he likes the old European model, where every town had its own brewery.
Though challenged by the pandemic and related labor shortages, Beacon has not only survived, but thrived. “It’s really growing quick, “ Hudson said.
Evidence of that is apparent as construction moves ahead on an expanded brew house with larger, more modern and efficient equipment. They’re also adding a full indoor kitchen to replace the current food truck and a lounge with separate entry, to be furnished with comfy sofas and coffee tables.
The popular outdoor tables and green space will remain, Hudson said, along with the laidback vibe.
“We want to be very inviting, very casual, definitely a family place where children can play. It’s more of a hangout, more of an experience than just going out to eat.”
Though the expanded brewhouse will be more efficient, the goal is not to grow significantly.
“Distribution is not our focus,” said Hudson, who expects the brewery output to remain well under its license limit of 10,000 barrels per year.
Beacon beers are available at stores in Troup County and a few DeKalb locations, but most beer is sold on-site or at the sister restaurants.
Staying small doesn’t mean aiming low, Hudson explained. In mid-2020, Beacon brought in Dave Hash, a graduate of the well-established brewing school at the University of California/Davis, as head brewer.
“He’s brought a level of professionalism and assurance to our beer that I didn’t dream possible at this point,” Hudson said.
A professional brewer since 2016, Hash says beer has developed into “a perfect culmination of art and science,” and he enjoys “letting my creativity develop new sensory experiences while my analytical side pays homage to brewing science. In a nutshell, I strive to bring out the harmony between innovation and tradition.”
From the outset, tradition has been a big part of Hudson’s plan. The name Beacon is a nod to newsletters of that name put out by Callaway Mills during the 1940s and 50s. Walls are decorated with original art painted from photos in old editions of the Beacon newsletters, some salvaged from a dumpster by Hudson’s grandfather, Tommy Clem. Two of Beacon’s first beers, Alice’s Hands and Fuller’s Earth, were named for his great grandparents, Alice and Fuller Callaway, Jr. Another, Clem the Clown, honors his grandfather Clem.
In a larger sense, by bringing attention, business and jobs to Hillside, Hudson wants Beacon to be part of the ongoing effort to revitalize the historic neighborhood. One of Beacon’s most popular beers, Hillside IPA, is a “charitable beer” with one dollar from every pint or six-pack sold at the brewery going to DASH, a non-profit focused on neighborhood redevelopment and sustainable housing.
Additionally, Beacon will be a vendor and active supporter at the Junior Service League’s Taste of the Town festival, which is partnering with DASH and moving to Hillside on April 9 in conjunction with the Hillside Art and Music Festival.