29 Apr
the view of Olympic Park from my hotel room

the view of Olympic Park from my hotel room

The South is a mysterious place to many in this country.  If you’ve never spent any time there, you might picture Plantation homes, humidity on a scale unimaginable, and glasses of sweet tea being consumed on a large wrap-around porch.  All of those are things you find down south, but there is so much more than that going on. I’ve been in Atlanta for the last several days at a professional conference, and it’s been great. Atlanta is an old southern city, known for its history and friendly charm.  Ive been here several times in my life and am always struck by the livability of the place.  Considerably larger that Portland, most would assume that it’s all traffic and concrete. The truth is that the city has done a fantastic job, the last couple of years, of focusing on amenities that soften the edges of the large metropolis that it is.  With all of that has come renewed investment in the city and a burgeoning food and beer scene.

It’s no surprise to see a focus on craft beers in larger cities these days.  My first night in town I made my way to a place that is a good representation of this renewed focus on craft beer, (both for better or for worse) The Porter Beer Bar in the area known as Little Five Points.  Think of it like a smaller version of Hawthorne, but with more seediness than what we have today.  The crowd was noticeably younger than you see at tap houses in Portland, but also more noticeably ignorant of what they were drinking.  Granted, that’s just what I could observe from my table. But the vibe did feel more like wanting to be seen than wanting to drink good beer and hang out. It’s a cultural thing, I think. And that’s ok. I certainly don’t want the whole country to be like Oregon. Being unique in our beer culture is what makes it special. The truth is, it was nice to be able to get some East Coast beers on draft that I would never have access to at home.

Starr Hill's DIPA

Starr Hill’s DIPA

I decided that my first beer should be an IPA, so I could get my initial grumbling out of the way.  I chose the Starr Hill Double IPA, from Virginia.  The malt profile was nice, to be sure, but the hops were just not there. The aroma was muted and the aggressive flavors didn’t shine the way I expected.  It wasn’t bad, but it couldn’t hold a candle to what we get everyday in the NW.  There…I am all finished grumbling now.

I went back to the well for hops, or so I thought, when I ordered the Heavy Seas Black Cannon from Baltimore.  The small description made it sound like a Black IPA (which I later verified on the website, it was) so I was pretty excited. Being a big fan of the style, I had high hopes.  They were dashed pretty quickly. More akin to a sweeter porter, there were not enough roasted malt flavors, and no hop nose at all. It was work trying to finish this beer.  Onward then.


they should call this Salt Lick Gose...

they should call this Salt Lick Gose…

I capped the evening with a Westbrook Gose from South Carolina. In a can no less! Just 4% and super salty! I loved every bit of this beer. Wish I could find this in Portland. Hell…I wish someone would make one in Portland and put it in cans. Fantastic idea. So glad I tried it.

Is there anything better than a day game in the sun?

Is there anything better than a day game in the sun?

The next day consisted of two parts: my conference presentation and a baseball game.  Guess which one involved beer?  The Atlanta Braves have been my favorite baseball team since I was a little kid. They were on TBS all the time, and my stepmom was a big fan.  We took several trips to visit parts of her family in Alabama in those days, and day trips to Atlanta to see the Braves were required.  This time I wasn’t just here for the baseball (though it was the main reason), I wanted to see what local beers were available at the ballpark.

A tired attempt at a name, but a damn fine beer was in that can.

A tired attempt at a name, but a damn fine beer was in that can.

There was plenty of Budweiser and Coors Light being consumed at the game, but there was also a lot of beer from Sweetwater Brewing Company in people’s hands.  This Atlanta-based brewery seemed to have the exclusive rights to craft beer sales at Turner Field.  All the beer stands were carrying their IPA and 420 Extra Pale Ale. The centerfield beer kiosk also stocked their Georgia Brown Ale, LowRYEder IPA, and their seasonal Road Trip Ale.  I managed to try four of these at the game, which is pretty ambitious, considering they stop selling beer at the 7th inning stretch!  The 420 EPA and the Rye IPA were extremely good. The 420 was fantastic, with a smooth drink ability that was enhanced by the excellent hop nose and flavors.  Very citrusy and crisp, this was the best beer I had on the trip.

spicy, malty, and assertive

spicy, malty, and assertive

The Rye IPA was also great, with a bit more malt structure and an assertive rye flavor that can sometimes get lost in the style.  Their IPA was no slouch and would be welcome anytime. A good beer made well. Can’t ask for much more than that.  Their motto for the IPA is: The beer you’ve been training for!  That might explain the simple, yet solid, taste of it, being its a relatively difficult beer to introduce to new craft beer drinkers.  The Road Trip ale was also well done, with a clear pilsner malt base that made it feel like a lager in flavor while retaining some of the color and body of a more traditional ale.

Atlanta was great.  I had some great beers at the game, some good beers at a taphouse, and a new appreciation for what they’re making down South.  They may have a ways to go when it comes to craft beer, in terms of product and culture, but they are giving it their best.  I was charmed and intrigued during my stay.  This is a wonderful city to explore and spend time in. Atlanta may not be your next destination, but know if you end up there, there are some mighty good beers to be had and a city with a rich history to explore.


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