A Sobering Tale: 79,000 Stolen Beers Get Recovered, Then Dumped

Thieves stoles two semi trucks of SweetWater's summer variety pack. Credit: Courtesy SweetWater Brewing

Last week, two freight trucks containing 78,528 bottles of craft beer were stolen from SweetWater Brewing in Atlanta, Georgia. Authorities had no leads as to who the perpetrators are or where the beer was stashed, until now.

On Wednesday, the majority of the bottles were returned to the brewery thanks to the efforts of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Major Theft Unit and the Southeastern Transportation Security Council (SETSC). The investigation teams used the GPS tracking device information extracted from the two freight trailers to piece together the trail the thieves had taken throughout southern Atlanta. “The investigators poked around a little bit and interviewed people at the places the trucks had been according to the GPS devices,” Tucker Berta Sarkisian, the head of communications at SweetWater, says. “That led them to where the beer was.”

Although the recovery of the stolen beer was speedy, the investigation is ongoing since the thieves have not been caught. However, Berta Sarkisian says she has confidence that will change within the next few days.

But what about all that beer?

Unfortunately, the beer is not drinkable as SweetWater can't say what, if anything, might have happened to it while in the hands of the criminals. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to waste. SweetWater has donated all 40 pallets of beer to Synergy Solutions, an environmentally friendly waste-to-energy recycling and ethanol company. Synergy Solutions is one of three companies in the nation that takes beverages containing sugar or alcohol and turns it into fuel.

There, the beer will undergo a full distillation process and get filtered so that it can be converted into ethanol fuel. “Our process takes the standard 4-percent beer and brings it all the way up to a 199-proof alcohol, which is almost 100 percent ethanol,” Will Creekmore, vice president of Synergy Solutions, says. “That fuel-grade ethanol becomes the 10-percent ethanol fuel at the gas station.”

Synergy Solutions will also completely recycle the labels and glass from the 78,528 bottles of SweetWater brew, so that nothing ends up in a landfill. “We are bummed that people can’t enjoy drinking the beer, but at least it is going toward a cause that's good for the planet,” Berta Sarkisian says.