Dr. Tripp Morgan already had plenty to do. The 2001 Mercer School of Medicine graduate is a vascular surgeon in Albany and a father of four. He owns the Albany Vascular Specialist Center and a property management business and is a business partner for a medical spa.
In late 2017, he added craft brewery owner to his list of business ventures with the opening of Pretoria Fields Collective in Albany.
“I’m one of those people who just can’t find enough to do. I have to have my time filled during the day,” Dr. Morgan said. “It’s fun. Beer meetings are a lot less stressful than medical meetings.”
Dr. Morgan said his family has been farming in South Georgia for a hundred years. He and his father, Harris, a retired pharmacist, have farms in Camilla, Pretoria and western Lee County. The idea for a brewery emerged as they started looking into growing nontraditional crops and other ways to add value to their farming business.
The Downtown Development Authority of Albany got wind of the Morgans’ brewery idea, and before long, it had morphed from a small farm project into a big downtown project. Wheat, rye, fruits and other crops used to make beer are grown at the Morgan family farms, and then brewmaster Eric Kirchner and three other brewers create the recipes and the beers in the brewery and taproom in downtown Albany.
The brick building has a homey atmosphere like an “old style public house,” Dr. Morgan said. A building next door was converted into green space, and the wood from it was used to construct the tables of the taproom.
Large glass windows allow patrons to watch the brewers at work. Local artwork hangs from the walls and is rotated regularly, and live music can be heard almost every weekend. A farmers market is held on the grounds on most Sundays.
One thing you won’t find at the venue is a TV. Pretoria Fields Collective encourages patrons to put their phones down, talk to each other and enjoy the beer. The beers range from Flowing Well – a traditional, German-style, malted wheat beer – to Rye Charles – a rye IPA with hints of citrus.
The Albany tasting room usually has 10 to 12 beers on tap, and six beers are distributed throughout Georgia and Alabama. Seven hundred locations – including restaurants, liquor stores and grocery stores – south of Newnan sell the products and several thousand locations sell them in Atlanta and North Georgia.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” Dr. Morgan said. “We’re successful if people understand our story. The more people we can get in front of and talk about home-grown agriculture and farm-to-glass … and the more we can speak the gospel of home-grown products, the better we do. We have to stay around our customer base, who are people who actually care about what they’re drinking and doing.”
Chronic diseases and autoimmune disorders have been on the rise in recent years, and returning to simpler methods of farming without chemicals is one way to combat these health hurdles, Dr. Morgan said. Organic farming is part of the movement to encourage the use of clean products and educate the public on healthy living.
Pretoria Fields Collective is working to promote agriculture, recreate the farming knowledge of the past and bring back crops that haven’t been grown in the area for a while. For instance, the Morgans have been working to establish a couple of barley varieties that haven’t been seen here in some time.
“There’s something really neat about taking a product all the way from its inception out on the field to having people enjoy it all over the state,” Dr. Morgan said. “Our only real goal is to continue to make products and continue to be supporters of Georgia agriculture.”