This isn’t an article about beer. Yes, the beer at Reformation Brewery is excellent and comes in many types. You’ll find heavy lagers, light beers, shandies, beers with fruit, a patriotic beer that benefits veterans, sours, and even beer with cats on the cans. Now the brewery is also making spirits. Undoubtedly there is something for everyone to love at Reformation, but this article goes deeper. It’s about how ten years ago, a Cherokee County man, his wife, and his friends followed a crazy dream and made something inviting where the whole community could come together.

The story did start with beer, though.

Looking Back

Spencer Nix, cofounder and CEO of Reformation Brewery, is in a reflective mood these days. Spencer just celebrated twenty-five years of marriage to his lovely wife, Paula, who is like a big hug of bubbles. His oldest child is off to college this fall, and the brewery he and his friend Nick accidentally started is turning ten.

Those milestones are significant.

Kicking back with Spencer at one of the Reformation tap houses, you’ll see that he looks like a man who has reached a calm place. Spencer is effortlessly likable, tall, handsome, and has a gentle smile he throws around generously. He feels good these days and says, “Right now my family, the business, and the kids are all in the best place they have ever been.”

You might think Spencer was born to be the proprietor of a brewhouse all along. Not quite.

From Pulpit to Brewer

No, becoming the owner of a brewery was not the plan. The CEO of this thriving company went to Southern Baptist Seminary and was a pastor for ten years. While Spencer was still pastoring, he and longtime friend Nick Downs, who also went to seminary and is a Delta pilot, enjoyed sharing the international beers Nick brought back from his travels. When Nick moved up to flying 777s and going to places like South Africa and Japan—not known for their beers—it seemed like the party might be over. Not ones to give up, they decided to try brewing the European-style beers they were missing. It was good, and word spread.

Reformation Brewery cofounders and lead distiller

Nick Downs, cofounder; Paul Hamill, lead distiller; and Spencer Nix, cofounder and CEO. [L-R]

Somehow it became a whole thing, with people driving in from other states and musicians playing. At times there were up to 150 people on brew night. Chatter built among the friends about funding an actual brewery.

Paula says things got real when, “Our friend Clay Mahaffey and his family took us out for lunch and told us if Spencer and Nick wanted to open a brewery, he was prepared to invest. I went home and thought, ‘Wow, we are really doing this.’ I knew who I married; he is a true entrepreneur—we had to do this.”

With the support of investors and friends, Nick and Spencer were ready to go pro.

Going Big Time

On October 31, 2013, at 500 Arnold Mill Way in Woodstock, Reformation Brewery opened its doors, intending to serve good beer and create community by stimulating great conversation. And praise be to Saint Augustine, the patron saint of brewers, printers, and theologians (maybe it wasn’t such a leap from pastor to brewer), it worked!

At first Reformation Brewery was the smallest brewer in the state, brewing one barrel at a time, with no paid employees. Word of a local brewery where you could tour and purchase tickets for beers spread like wildfire. By 2016 Reformation had amped production up to 5,000 barrels.

In 2017 Reformation and other craft brewers pushed for and saw the passing of Senate Bill 85, which allowed craft brewers to sell directly to customers. Spencer took his kids to the Capitol to show them the government at work.

By then things were flying at Reformation, and it was time to open another location.

The second location at 105 Elm Street in Woodstock is a research and development brewhouse, with two brew bars and one outside, a large deck, and a beer garden shaded by the crowning glory of the entire establishment, a massive elm.

Reformation also needed more room for production, so it opened a new location at Canton’s The Mill on Etowah in 2017 on the aptly named Reformation Parkway, where most of the beer is now brewed. Most recently the brand expanded beyond Cherokee County with a small taproom in Smyrna, Georgia.

You would have to look hard in Cherokee County to find someone who hasn’t had an experience with one of Reformation’s taprooms; they are cornerstones of the communities they serve. From community group meet-ups—including Reformation Books & Brews book club and MilVet Community veterans’ group—to live music, pop-up markets, silent discos, Galentine’s celebrations, trivia nights, yoga workshops, tailgate parties, fundraisers, and more, Reformation’s events draw in community members of all ages, interests, and backgrounds to meet and get to know each other.

All this growth needs employees, and Reformation strives to hire staff that share its core values of acceptance, listening for common ground, authenticity, humility, and humor.

A great example of the company’s missional approach to business is the story of Jonathan Chambers.

Enjoy Cherokee shared in its May/June 2023 edition how Jonathan and his family benefited from community support as Jonathan’s wife, Allie, battled cancer and ultimately passed away. After some time of intense grieving with his three daughters, Jonathan knew it was time to reenter the workforce.

After some thought and prayer, he decided to discuss it with his good friend, Spencer Nix, who had been a big support to his family. Jonathan says, “I showed him my strengths and asked for suggestions on where to begin. To my surprise he felt I was a really good fit for a spot they had been looking [to fill].”

Jonathan was a little nervous. As “Uber Dad,” driving his three young girls all over Cherokee County for activities, he needed flexibility, but he soon learned Spencer’s philosophy is “You are your own entrepreneur; be at the meetings, do your job well, and make it work for your family.” Jonathan enjoys what he calls Reformation’s “scrappy culture” that makes what is becoming a big enterprise seem small town, because it is in the people business.

Words from Paula and Spencer

It seems that in addition to beer, gratitude is on tap at Reformation, even among its owners. Gratitude is a common thread in conversations about the past ten years. Spencer and Paula express their heartfelt gratitude to the community for embracing them with open arms. Yes, they, their investors, and friends took the risks and did the hard work, but the community showed up big time. Paula smiles, remembering, “During [the pandemic], people were doing everything possible to keep us going. They were picking up beer, buying shirts, and even buying dog collars for dogs they didn’t own.”

This is it…

Photo Credit: Lindsay Ann Photography

This Swiftie is in her Reformation era.
(Photo Credit: Lindsay Ann Photography)

Spencer says he felt he had a moment of clarity at a recent event. In July Reformation in Woodstock celebrated Taylor Swift’s Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) album release with an event that Spencer says was one of the busiest Friday nights in Reformation’s history. In true Swiftie style, there was karaoke and tunes from DJ Queen, friendship bracelets, juice pouches, and purple mocktails.

Spencer says he looked on as one of the regulars smiled, chuckled, and remarked, “What on earth is going on?” Spencer says, “It was amazing; people of all ages, huge smiles on everyone’s faces, dancing and singing, everyone engaging with each other, no phones out. I just thought, ‘This is it, this is why we did this,’ the whole community coming together and having a great time.”

Reformation Brewery is a lot of things to many people, and Spencer acknowledges things there aren’t perfect; it’s full of broken people, like everywhere else. Maybe that is why so many patrons say Reformation Brewery feels like home to them.

Spencer adds, “We aspire to inspire deeper happiness by celebrating the reformer in you.”

And that aspiration is way bigger than beer.

  1. Sometimes called “Woodstock’s Backyard,” Reformation Brewery on Elm Street is a community-favorite gathering spot.
  2. Reformation’s brews can be found on the menu at restaurants near and far, including Garland Mountain Bar & Grill of Waleska. Check out our restaurant review of Garland Mountain Bar & Grill, including the delicious Peach Cuban Sandwich pictured here.
  3. Cheers to community! Reformation Brewery was built on the foundations of acceptance, authenticity, humility, story, moderation, and humor.
  4. Local country artist Thomas Fountain headlined the 2022 Cadence Fair; this year’s lineup features headliner Jonathan Peyton.
  5. Raise a glass to ten years of Reformation on Saturday, October 14, for the 10th Annual Cadence Fair.
  6. During Reformation’s recent Taylor Swift-themed night, fans of all ages belted out their favorite Taylor tunes on the karaoke stage.
  7. As Reformation grew from home brewing to hometown brewery, it opened an additional location at the historic Mill on Etowah in downtown Canton, where the majority of its products are now brewed.
  8. Reformation’s Cadence is described as “a dry, easy drinking take on the Belgian Dubbel [with] a deep fruit aroma with hints of caramel, figs, and Belgian candi sugar.”


Cadence Fair 2023

Reformation Brewery is hosting the 10th Annual Cadence Fair on Saturday, October 14, in Woodstock featuring headliner Jonathan Peyton, plus Hunter Blalock, Shane Byous Band, Cody Bolden, Brother & The Hayes, Chad Patterson, Jamie Talley, Kurt Lee Wheeler, & DJ II Tone Def.




Coming soon from Reformation Brewery…

North Georgia Made Makers – a miniseries by Reformation featuring the stories behind our fellow North Georgia makers. A multi-episode miniseries featuring the stories behind North Georgia Made products and the makers of this handcrafted community. Reformation is proudly North Georgia Made and believes in the authentic and handcrafted approach to local, artisan-made products.

Episode 1: A Leap of Faith – Nate Bridges and the Story of Alpine Leather Co.




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