As the 2020-21 school year has ended and things are finally starting to open back up, more people will be looking forward to traveling this summer. Lake Oconee News reporter Lance McCurley has compiled a list of things to do away from Lake Country in the summer series, ‘A Tank of Gas’. All the recommendations are for places or destinations that will, in fact, only take one full tank of gas to visit. Enjoy.
Ever wanted to try a blood orange jalapeno beer, play putt or hear a string band while eating from a food truck? Well, I’ve got to the place for you.
Strange Duck Brewing is in Commerce, right off Hwy 441 and owner Drake Scott officially opened the taproom last year in June.
Scott, 32, who started out making moonshine and wine at the age of 16, knew what his passion was by the time he reached college.
Drake enrolled at the University of Georgia in 2007 and learned the process of brewing beer while at school.
“I was all about brewing beer the whole time I was in Athens,” Drake told the Lake Oconee News, who graduated from UGA in 2011. “It was a unique experience because there was beer everywhere.”
Following college, Drake moved out to San Diego to take a job at Stone Brewing
Company before he relocated to Virginia, which is where he met his wife. The
Dacula native learned the process of distribution while working at Wolf Hills Brewing in Abingdon, but his interest was more of keeping the tap room full of people.
“I was very much more focused on the on-site sales and the community center aspect of it,” Drake said. “I left there and helped a guy build a cidery in Tennessee.”
Drake purchased an old yellow school bus while living in the Volunteer State, which is where he converted it into a stage. He drove the bus around to different beer festivals and bought brewing equipment that could be used for a startup business he had planned.
“The goal was to one day open up my own place and do my own thing,” Drake said. “I wanted to find a way back to Georgia. With the laws changing three years ago to allow on-site sales by the pint, we decided to move back and start a family. We moved back down here and planned on looking at places around Athens to live.”
Drake took a job at ASW Distillery in Atlanta working four days a week until he found a Facebook Marketplace advertisement, which he found interesting. A lady owned a piece of property where she ran a flea market but wanted to repair the abandoned mini golf course. Drake convinced her to sell the property and that’s how Strange Duck Brewing was born.
“We’ve got this awesome 13-and-a-half-acre property that was an old fun park,” he said. “It had a mini golf course, go-kart track, arcade and driving range that had been defunct for about 15 years. So, it was a lot of work to dig this place out of overgrowth, especially since the last time it had been taken care of.”
Drake said that the repairments to the outside attractions started in October 2019.
“It takes about six months to get the alcohol license,” he added. “So, in the meantime, we started renovating. We got our three-barrel brewery set up, so we brew about 93 gallons at a time. The goal was the brewery and then to work on these other features.”
Strange Duck opened last year in April with “Growlers to Go” due to the pandemic. The tasting venue and bar officially opened two months later in June, which was when Scott finally got to let other people sample his beer in a “hangout” type of setting.
“Our main focus was to get the inside open and have the hangout spot in the tasting room,” Drake said. “We’ve been rock-and-rolling ever since. There’s bingo and trivia every other Wednesday. We’ve got live music every Friday and Saturday, which is from 6:30-9 p.m. We do an open mic night on Thursday and food trucks are here most of the week.”
There are about 12 to 20 different beers that are brewed on-site at any given time, which are all featured on the wall with name crests to the left of the pouring station.
Some local favorites are: Mr. Quacktastic (IPA), Key To Happiness Sour (Fruited
Gose), Nut Job Peanut Butter Porter (a chocolate malt with a peanut butter flavor),
Mother Ducker (IPA with a punny name, which tastes like a milkshake), Tondelayo
Blood Orange Jalapeno Wheat (mentioned earlier) Hard Candy Fruit Beer (Sour), That’s So Karen (Blonde Ale), Key To Happiness (Key Lime Pie Gose) and many more.
“We try to use as much of the local ingredients as possible,” Drake stated. “A lot of those core ingredients aren’t found in this region. A lot of the hops and malt barleys will come out of the northwest like Oregon and Idaho. But, there are local guys that we’ve used here. With wheat, we’ve gotten it locally from Red Hill Farms, which is about five minutes away from here in Jackson County. Then, we’ve used blueberries and blackberries from a farm just down the road called Sunny Hill Farms.”
Drake said he’s always open to expand when searching for ingredients, which includes Greene, Morgan and Putnam counties.
“We’re always open for working with farms from other counties that aren’t from the Commerce area, and are in near proximity,” he added.
After buying a drink, Drake said people like to spread across the 13-acre lot, depending on the weather. He mentioned that since the mini-golf course was completed, more and more people are starting to spend time out on the back deck and lawn enjoying the weather. There’s patio furniture and lawn chairs to view the scenic landscape behind the school bus where some bands and live music acts perform. Furry pets are also welcome.
“With the mini-golf course, there are plans to do tournaments and league nights,” Drake added. “We’re planning to do all sorts of things with that. Kids come out and ride bikes and scooters around the go-kart track while their parents relax. It’s a very family-friendly place.”
“There are even some nights, when a former X Games competitor Brian Fox will come and perform,” Drake said. “He comes out and does double backflips, 180s and whatever he can do.”
Playing mini-golf is highly recommended and Drake challenges patrons to set the course record. Also, to play an 18-hole round only costs $5.
“I would love for members of the Lake Oconee community to come out and see us,” Drake said.
Strange Duck Brewing is located at 26 Old Allen Rd of Hwy 441 in Commerce, Georgia. The brewery is closed on Monday and Tuesday, but is open Wednesday through Friday from 5-9 p.m., and Saturday from 12-9 p.m. and Sunday from 2-9 p.m.
You can find them online at strangeduckbrewing.com or on Facebook and Instagram @StrangeDuckBrewing.