Traveling for business isn't really work when you have a little time to yourself to explore the surrounding area—especially the local breweries. In my recent travels to Atlanta, I had the pleasure of visiting some great breweries and bottle stores.
Before I continue, let me get something off my chest: Georgia has crazy beer laws, and they suck. To start, I contacted two breweries, Orpheus and Creature Comforts Brewing, before my visit to see if I could find their beer near my hotel. Turns out they are legally prohibited from telling me where I can find their beer via social media. I am not a dullard, so I found a spot that sells a great assortment of Georgia craft beer, but you’ll hear more on that later. Then, when I actually visited Orpheus, I found out they cannot sell their beer to go at the brewery. What? You want to know how many growlers I have taken home from breweries in my lifetime? Too many to count! Even better, Orpheus couldn't “sell” me their beer to drink on premise. Instead, I had to buy a “brewery tour,” which included a pint glass and a few tickets for samples. Confession: I didn't actually go on a tour; I just tasted the refreshments.
Okay, rant over. Laws aside, here’s what I thought about the spots I visited.
FOOD, AMBIANCE & SERVICE: 4.25/5
I was blown away by the location, friendliness, and overall hospitality of everyone at Orpheus. The brewery offers a breathtaking view of Atlanta’s historic Piedmont Park, and though the tap room is small, it overlooks the brewing equipment and looks recently renovated. But the real gem of the brewery is the patio, where you can take your tour glass and enjoy the scenery. It combines the perfect weather, location, and bustling atmosphere for an after-work getaway; during my visit, an early 20-something crowd showed up to unwind after a long day in the office, making for plenty of conversation and mingling between friends and acquaintances.
I tasted the following brews:
Atalanta - Tart plum saison. Super light and refreshing; the perfect combination of tart with a little plum or other stone fruit (nectarine?) aftertaste. You don't need session IPAs when you can drink this all summer. Did I mention this year-round beer also comes in 12 oz. cans?
Serpent Bite - Dry hopped sour. This was more grassy than the Atalanta and definitely had a little more of a kick.
Lyric Ale - Saison. Another canned offering that is citrus forward, but balanced.
Transmigration of Souls - DIPA. I accidentally asked for a trans-mitigation and was quickly reminded that they were not lawyers. The bartender then went into a story about how this beer was named but all I remember is that this was tapped fresh the day before and it was a straightforward DIPA that didn’t taste like 10% ABV. If you said that 3Floyds, Revolution or Pipeworks made this beer I wouldn't be surprised. In other words, this is good.
FOOD, AMBIANCE & SERVICE: 3/5
Imagine a large, family, sit-down restaurant combined with a hunting lodge. Add a dash of a German beer hall, and you will understand the ambiance of 5 Seasons Brewing. More eclectic than refined, it wasn’t bad at all. The food menu was diverse, with an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients with Southern flair. My group started with a regional delicacy, pimento cheese crostini, and it was the perfect amount of salty, spicy and fresh. I followed that with a good Cubano sandwich with awesome sweet potato fries but if I had wanted to be more adventurous, I could have had my choice of any Southern critter, ranging from gator to antelope to turtle.
The 5 Seasons beers were primarily German style, but with an (surprise!) eclectic flair. Side note: I visited this brewery with co-workers who aren't “beer people,” so when I asked for a flight, they were almost dumbfounded. I forget that some people might not realize you can generally order a flight at a brewery, which is a great choice when you’re not familiar with the beer.
Take It Easy Berliner Weisse - This beer didn't have the tartness OR the cereal grains I was expecting from a Berliner Weisse. I drank the Creature Comforts Berliner the previous night and this paled in comparison.
Munich Helles - My non-beer friend compared this to a Miller Lite, which is an apt comparison, but I enjoyed the slightly bready notes.
Seven Sisters Munchner - The winner of my flight. This would be a great fall beer, and I would happily buy a six-pack of this every September as my transition into winter brews.
Hopgasm DIPA - A really good DIPA. I had one of my co-workers smell this beer, and she gave it the best review possible, especially for someone who is used to macro brews: She said it didn't smell or taste like a beer. There was definitely a late addition of a citrus and/or juicy fruits hop.
Cartoon Brune - A great yeast characteristic gave hints of chocolate, fig, and prune, but maybe a little too much of an alcoholic finish for 7% ABV.
The only perk of Atlanta’s draconian brewery-related laws: They seemingly inspire excellent beer stores. HopCity had a huge selection of home brew equipment, regional and national beers (which customers can build into make-your-own four- or six-packs) and a huge tap and growler selection. While most of the options were from the American South, you could have filled 20-30 growlers with beers from all over the country. I walked away from HopCity with my first plastic/reusable growler filled with Creature Comforts Rye IPA.
A large big-box liquor store with a growler station and a nice selection of craft beer including an impressive refrigerated section. I talked to Will, the beer buyer, to learn more about the smaller local options that were available and he was more than willing to discuss Atlanta’s craft beer scene with me. If I lived in the area, this spot’s great selection and knowledgeable staff would make me more than happy to call it my go-to local beer store.