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In Atlanta, a Burgeoning Oasis of Craft Beer Awaits

May 24, 2018

By Beca Grimm, May 24, 2018

Atlanta has long been capital of the American South: A blue haven for weirdos, artists and counterculture in an otherwise conservative corner of the country. After all, Georgia—with its tall oak trees, Spanish moss and mild winters—was founded as a dry colony in 1733. Only as recently as late-2011 did cities and counties have the option to allow alcohol retail sales on Sundays. Even still, restaurants cannot serve, and shops can’t sell, booze till 12:30 p.m. on Sundays. The Southeast, in general, is not the most obvious piping hotbed of microbreweries, what with a combination of heavy religious influence and staunch local and state governments.

But the tide, as they say, is slowly starting to turn. Beer culture in Atlanta started to incubate in the 1990s, with the advent of Atlanta Brewing Company—now called Red Brick Brewing—in 1993 by former Guinness executive Greg Kelly. Shortly after, Decatur’s Brick Store Pub opened and pushed the yeasty envelop, opening hundreds of taps and developing a craft beer buzz in the city. By the end of 2011, the state of Georgia housed a whopping 45 breweries and brewpubs. Now, that number hovers around the mid-50s.

Another barrier lifted for beer culture in Atlanta in July 2015, when new taproom regulations allowed on-site consumption. So, for the first time, patrons could enjoy a brew or two or three without purchasing a brewery tour to go with it. It was a whole new world, honestly. A new thirst for thoughtful beers outside the Corona and Budweiser rolodex pushed restaurants to start offering a wider range of options, some even eventually learned to brewing on-site. So, if you have just a weekend to drink through the city of Atlanta, there’s more than enough to keep you afloat.

Caleb RaubenoltHop City Craft Beer & Wine, Krog Street Market

Argosy

Kick off your Atlanta visit at one of the city’s semi-recent crowned jewels. Nestled in a former antique market in East Atlanta Village, Argosy opened its doors in Spring 2013. A covered patio entrance makes way for its opulent, slightly nautical-themed innards, complete with multi-level seating, high ceilings and exposed wood beams. It’s like sipping brew from the deck of an unearthed, ethereal pirate ship—a feeling likely amplified by Argosy’s highly tattooed staff. It might feel cavernous if it weren’t always so full—from brunch all the way till the post-11 p.m. crew, when the restaurant starts serving a free, wood oven-fired pizza with purchase of two draft beers.

The aesthetic is thoughtfully curated—with DJs playing vinyl records in both the main and the back rooms frequently—but even better is Argosy’s rotating 30-plus tap list. Most of its expansive beer menu is local, with offerings from breweries like Three Taverns Craft Brewing Company in Decatur, Creature Comforts Brewing Company in Athens and Eventide. Get the biscuit plate and pair with a a nice low ABV brew, such as Creature Comforts’ Bibo Pilsner.

Hop City

If drinking inside is good, then drinking outside is better. Enter the picnic beer and Hop City. In addition to a fully-stocked beer and wine retail shop, Hop City in Krog Street Market also features a full bar tricked out with 60 beer taps, which means you can take your brew to-go while you wonder the space or grab another bite from one of the food vendors. To boot, Hop City slings growlers and employees a truly knowledgeable staff—one who won’t blink an eye when asked what beer pairs best with daytime nachos.

Trek towards Grant Park, a lovely residential area chock full of older homes with audacious porches and a park of the same name. Here’s a good spot for to [sneakily] crack open some Hop City spoils as well as that post-biscuit public nap.

Eventide Brewing

Eventide Brewing

This is also where you will find Eventide Brewing. Hot on the heels of the Summer 2015 regulation passing, Eventide opened a taproom in its Grant Park premises. A kid- and dog-friendly neighborhood joint, the company, which sold its first batch of beer in early 2014, peddles beer all over the city, pouring about nine types in its taproom, ranging from a crisp Kölsch-style ale to a heavy, full-bodied Highlander Strong Scotch Ale, with a few lighter pale ales in the mix. Though co-founder Matthew Sweezy says Eventide isn’t the spot for beer nerds. The casual, unpretentious neighborhood feel and well-executed bubbles make it worth a visit.

“Our whole mentality has always been ‘great doesn’t have to be complicated,’” he told Atlanta magazine. “I think that fits very well with this neighborhood as an easy place to come and enjoy.” The philosophy also holds true with Eventide’s reliably good output.

Wrecking Bar

Sink into the late afternoon in what’s basically a magical castle dungeon. Wrecking Bar is situated in the historic Victor H. Kriegshaber House—AKA the Marianna, named after his daughter, Maria—an 18,000-square-foot mansion originally commissioned for architect Willis F. Denny to design around 1900. Among other accomplishments, Kriegshaber is credited for helping establish some of Atlanta’s first public playgrounds and co-founding the Atlanta Music Festival Association before his death in 1934. Later, the space, which features elegant Victorian columns and a domed roof, was used as Centerary Methodist Protestant Church, a dance studio and an antique shop before opening as the brewpub it is today in Summer 2011.

Now operated by co-owner by Bob “the Brewer” Sandage and Kristine Sandage, just a few blocks from another beer bar The Porter, Wrecking Bar’s taps feature an ever-evolving house-made beer list, including the occasional special release key. Much of its food is locally-sourced and sophisticated global cuisine, such as charred octopus served with fermented black bean chili sauce, tangy pickled hedgehog mushrooms, black-eyed pea and peanut furikake and scallop powder as well as beef heart tartare which comes with pickled shiitake, anchovy, beet miso mayo, nori, pain au levain and local egg yolk. Each Tuesday features vegetarian specials, but call ahead if you need a hair-of-the-dog weekend brunch; occasionally there’s a bagpipe player stationed in the super acoustic-heavy space, which is not very friendly to hungover diners.

The Porter Beer Bar

Brick Store Pub

Surely you got a solid, hours-long buzz going at this point. Scoot thee to Decatur for the infamous Brick Store Pub. When long-time friends Dave Blanchard, Tom Moore and Mike Gallagher joined forces in 1997 to open Brick Store, they never intended to garner international attention—that was just a happy, accidental perk. Brick Store is arguably credited as heralding the city’s wave of craft breweries and overall boosted interest in more illusive brews. When the 2004 Georgia law passed, making higher-ABV styles legal, that popularity soared even further.

The original downstairs pub centers on a half-moon-shaped bar, akin to the Globe restaurant in Athens where the trio first met while working together. Exposed brick—obviously—runs rampant in the restaurant’s decor. The Belgian Bar is situated upstairs, with lower lighting and a speakeasy feel, specializes in Belgian and Belgian-style beers via draft and bottle. Brick Store’s food menu keeps in classic pub territory, with fish and chips, a burger and soft pretzels with spicy mustard and pimento cheese.

The Porter Beer Bar

Start the next morning in Little 5 Points. Atlanta’s L5P is a bit like San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. The neighborhood enjoyed a heyday as a weirdo paradise decades ago, but some of the strange remains intact with the district’s eclectic shops and mainstay characters. Right in the thick of the hullabaloo is husband-and-wife-owned The Porter Beer Bar, with an unassuming, narrow shopfront and more than 400 beers inside. It’s been a celebrated watering hole since opening in 2008.

Patrons can hunker down in a dark, heavy wooden booth to peruse the leather-bound beer menu—including a hefty list of vintage beers, imports and micro-brews—which hangs from a hook at the end of each table. The food menu sticks to traditional pub fare with a highbrow twist; that means goat cheese fritters dusted with fresh cracked black pepper and mulberry honey drizzled on top and dry-fried wings doused in Sriracha and spiked with rose petal salted mango and cilantro, among other items. Weekend brunch offers such decadent options as Hangover Hash, which fills a bowl with smoked pulled pork, eggs, onions, peppers, potatoes and grits, topping it all off with buffalo sauce. So, frankly, it’s a good spot to both close down the night as well as open up an admittedly sluggish day.

Scofflaw Brewing Co.

Monday Night Brewing

You’d be hard-pressed to find an actual Atlantan to non-ironically use the phrase “Hotlanta,” but the testament stands: The city enjoys a very mild and warm climate. Take advantage by setting up camp at one of the outdoor seating options at Monday Night Brewing’s new Southwest outpost. Opening the brewery’s second location seemed a bit of a gamble at the jump, because Atlanta’s West End neighborhood has been historically scant of food and, especially, booze options. However, co-founder Joel Iverson pushed to implement the new brewery and tasting room regardless.

Since opening in September 2017, the Garage continues to attract fleets of thirsty folks and their dogs, filling out the spacious taproom and flooding out to comfortable outdoor seating overlooking the recently-opened Westside trail. Dogs are welcome, as is BYO food, in this huge, bright space. A massive chalkboard stretches across the back wall, which catalogs boozy patrons’ thoughts, love notes and more. An offbeat but fun way to dissuade from bathroom graffiti, maybe—but one look in the brewery’s highly-Instagrammable stalls and you’d never dream of defacing the joint.

Scofflaw Brewing

Round out your Atlanta visit at one of its fastest growing breweries. Owner Matt Shirah and brewmaster Travis Herman banded together to create and propel Scofflaw, an IPA lover’s dream. The Basement IPA, its flagship brew, goes gentle on the hops, letting the mild bitterness cut through notes of lemongrass and citrus. Though you can find Basement on tap across the city, going straight to the source is a must. Bench-style seating encourages customer interaction in the otherwise cavernous space. A refurbished railroad spike marks each brew on draft, further emblazoned with the image of a goat skull. Even at first blush, the brewery emotes steam punk vibes. Scofflaw approaches its craft with a decidedly punk rock attitude, starting from its name—an ode to the rebels brewing and drinking despite the Prohibition.

ZX Ventures, a division within AB InBev, is an investor in October
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