Thanks to the passing of HB 645 in 2004, metro Atlanta has opened the floodgates for the best beer in the world, and we’re loving it.
by Ale Sharpton
What’s the new thing sweeping the nation? Singer Justin Bieber? Only with teeny boppers. Electric cars? Getting there. 3D? When the televisions get cheaper. My answer is beer.
Just look around and explore metro Atlanta’s restaurant scene. Eateries—from dives to upscale spots with white table cloths—are stepping up their beer game and improving their roster of suds to welcome the wave of brews invading Georgia. Proudly taking it to another level, there are also specialty bars like The Porter Beer Bar in Atlanta and Decatur’s own Brick Store Pub that are garnering national acclaim due to their rotating taps of the world’s finest.
Yes indeed, beers are replacing wines when it comes to food pairings and if you’ve noticed, this summer has averaged one beer event or festival every other weekend.
It’s simple: People, particularly in Georgia, are starting to ditch the assumption that there are only a handful of beer styles to choose from, thanks largely to the state lifting the law that kept many of them from even entering state lines. Since the 2004 passing of House Bill 645 that more than doubled the 6 percent alcohol by volume limitation in Georgia, distributors have capitalized by consistently bringing in hundreds of different beers that can satisfy the most particular palates. It’s a movement that pubs, brewmasters, retailers, festival founders and overall beer lovers (a-hem!) are welcoming with open arms.
“Great food and great company deserve great beer,” said Lee Davis, beer manager of the Brick Store Pub. “People in Atlanta don’t want instant coffee, bad chocolate or cheap cigars. We want the best!”
Speaking of “best,” the Brick Store has been voted consistently in the top 10 worldwide by beer mags as the best venue to have a cold one with two floors pouring exotic, hard-to-find beers that are shipped in daily.
While Brick Store continues to excel in its 13th year, Atlanta saw the birth of another place for beer aficionados that’s garnering accolades as well, The Porter Beer Bar in Little Five Points. One half of the husband-and-wife ownership team, Molly Gunn, professed an economic benefit of beer. “Beer is becoming the next big thing because of simple economics,” she said. “A $6 glass of wine in most restaurants is vinegary crap, while a $6 beer will be finely crafted and delicious.” The Porter is celebrating its second anniversary in mid-September.
Amazingly, there are numerous styles and flavors of beer, even though there are only two types, lagers and ales, which are based on four ingredients: water, hops, grains (usually malted barley) and yeast (there are also hybrids, but that is another story).
DeKalb County and metro Atlanta got beer festival-happy this year to introduce the masses to hundreds of different brands, styles, colors, tastes, aromas and other characteristics brews generate during events like the East Atlanta Beer Festival, Heritage Beer Festival, Dunwoody Beer Festival, downtown Atlanta’s German Bierfest and the upcoming HOToberFest that pops off Oct. 2 in the Glenwood Park community.
In their third year, Alan Raines and partner Tryon Rosser have consistently made HOToberFest a “can’t miss” when it comes to beer variety, family fun and, like many of the others, benefitting a great cause.
“Nobody realized it at the time but when the Georgia beer laws changed, the public demand for better beers also led to a demand for better pubs, better food and a better lifestyle in the region. The trickle-down effect has been amazing. HOToberFest was organized to appease this new demographic of enthusiasts. We promote sustainability, organics, alternative energy and craft beer in the only consumer-judged tasting in the nation,” Raines said.
Festivals, specialty retailers such as Green’s, Hop City and Tower; local award-winning breweries such as SweetWater, Atlanta Brewing Company and 5 Seasons; and sit-downs, including Decatur’s Twain’s and the Taco Mac chain; and the ales and lagers that they serve are collectively making Atlanta a leading contender for the beer capital of the South. Cheers to that!
Dennis Malcolm Byron, aka “Ale Sharpton,” has been a beer enthusiast for more than two decades and took his appreciation for beer to the next level, writing and educating readers for a number of publications including Beer Connoisseur Magazine. Visit his Web site at www.alesharpton.com.