Nick Purdy believes in a better beer.
Driven to create the best-brewed beverage in the Southeast, Purdy recently founded Wild Heaven Craft Beers and immediately provided two new beers to the Atlanta market.
After offering Wild Heaven locally for just a few months, Purdy's craft brews have quickly become a preferred potion, poured favorably in bars throughout Decatur, Avondale Estates and East Atlanta. Following an initial launch at Brick Store Pub in September, Purdy has already expanded Wild Heavens' territory to stretch into Alabama.
For the time being, Purdy is likely better known as the founding publisher of Paste Magazine, but with Wild Heaven quickly accumulating praise, including a pair of "A/A-" ratings on BeerAdvocate.com, his most-recent creative undertaking may become his most well known.
"It really started the same as Paste," explained Purdy. "I'm an enthusiast who realized there's a better option and wants more people to choose the better.
"I became really interested in beer in the mid to late '90s," Purdy continued. "I cut my teeth on Bud Light and then over time I began to get exposed to more and better beers, a very similar experience to when I began to be exposed to more and better music. And I realized at some point, I just can't sit on the sidelines."
In 2007, Purdy approached a friend and home brewer, Eric Johnson of Trappeze Pub in Athens, about beginning a brewing operation. Combining Purdy's creativity with Johnson's knowledge, the two began preparing 50-gallon test batches in Athens.
Pleased with their progress, Purdy selected a contract brewery in South Carolina to prepare larger quantities and Wild Heaven Craft Beers was born.
Just months after launching to immediate praise, Purdy now has plans to bring a permanent brewery to Decatur as soon as 2012, but he is yet to divulge his preferred location.
He has only said that the future Wild Heaven location will be near the new Paste location, though not in a shared space, which had been a consideration initially.
"Decatur has a great beer story," said Purdy. "There are wonderful pubs all around Decatur and this great culture – there's a brew pub in Twain's and a brand new beer store in Ale Yeah – so you have this amazing soup to nuts amazing beer story and the only thing missing is a production brewery. Decatur is this strange place of inspiration and people love beer there, so we want to be there.
"We actually have a building identified and we're deep into that process. We want to build our own brewery as soon as possible."
And while Georgia has a taste for top-notch craft beers, with just a slim number of brewers in Georgia - the Peach State has less than two brewers per million residents, among the lowest ratios in the nation - there's certainly room in Atlanta for Purdy's well-received beverages, Invocation and Ode to Mercy.
"Georgia has some very good breweries and we're proud of them and they paved the way for us," said Purdy. "If anyone ever says the name Wild Heaven in the same sentence as Sweetwater or a Terrapin, that's a compliment. But per capita, Georgia doesn't have that many breweries."
Similar to his preference for quality in music that led to Paste, Purdy's brews are celebrated for their quality and complex, engaging flavor profiles.
"Typically for this style of beer, a higher-gravity with Belgian influences, you would use a candy sugar to amp up the alcohol," explained Purdy, who avoids adding sugars or corn syrup found in many beers. "What's a bummer about that is the sugar is what can make you feel not so great the next morning if you drink two or three. So we're doing all grain in our beers, which is more difficult to do but it gives it more body and flavor.
"These are beers literally made with more care and love," said Purdy with a smile.
Purdy's goals for Wild Heaven include measured distribution growth and the release of a third craft beer and bottles in the Spring, but his primary focus remains to produce unique, premium craft beer.
"The breweries we love the most are ones that are realty, really ambitious. The ones that aren't necessarily trying to make a beer for everybody and they're shooting a little higher," said Purdy.
"That may or may not be all that great of a business strategy, but it's what we're doing," he added. "We look out around the country at breweries like Dogfish Head, Allagash, Avery, Russian River and Stone … these are breweries that have been very ambitious and we want to be the Southern brewery that's mentioned in the same conversation as the very best American breweries."
For now, Purdy is still better known as Paste's publisher. But as he continues to pour care and love into developing Wild Heaven Craft Beers, his brewing operation only seems bound for further recognition.
"I'm still publisher of Paste," said Purdy. "I can say this, I'll probably be doing Wild Heaven later in life than Paste. In the sense that Paste is really about the best in pop culture and I will always be interested in that."
He added, "But I don't know that I need to be an arbiter of that when I'm in my 50s. Whereas beer, I think I can do beer for a long time."