Watch out, Asheville: With a slew of new gastropubs and breweries, plus chefs giving beer unprecedented attention on their menus, Atlanta is fast becoming the South’s latest beer destination.
by Blane Bachelor
The newest player on the local brewing scene, Wrecking Bar Brewpub (Inman Park; wreckingbarbrewpub.com), makes its home in a magnificent Victorian-style mansion. Having taken turns as an antiques shop, church, dance studio and private residence, it’s been reincarnated as a hip spot with a speakeasy feel. Brewmaster Chris Terenzi’s geeky yet approachable creations, including Nelson Sauvin-hopped cream ale and a dubbel crafted with house-made candi sugar and yeast sourced from the Chimay Abbey, come in full- and half-pint sizes, too. Free brewery tours are available—and if you ask nicely, you just might get to see the rest of the sprawling mansion. Local stalwart SweetWater Brewing (Midtown; sweetwaterbrew.com) pours one of the South’s most popular brands. Public tastings several times a week at an easy $8 for six 5.5-ounce samples make for a seriously hopping happy hour, especially on Fridays. Further across town, the western outpost of the 5 Seasons Brewery (West Side, 5seasonsbrewing.com) offers a welcome respite from the hustle of holiday shopping in a renovated warehouse-turned-retail space. Bitter fiends will have a hard time resisting multiple Hopgasms, an IPA brewed with five different hops. If the forecast is gloomy, hightail it to Park Tavern (Midtown; parktavern.com) in the southeastern corner of Piedmont Park. The brewery’s promise of “When it rains, we pour”—that is, standbys like the easy-drinking Druid Hills Pilsner for $1 a pint—will have you feeling sunnier in no time.
Local culinary celeb Ron Eyester’s latest project is The Family Dog (Morningside; thefamilydogatlanta.com), where his quirky bites like lobster-spaghetti egg rolls complement beer guru Jason Chenette’s commendable list of options from Terrapin, Duck Rabbit and beyond. Diehard beer drinkers and casual sippers happily mingle at the beloved Brick Store Pub (Decatur; brickstorepub.com), just steps from Decatur’s bustling town square. With 17 rotating taps and 75 bottles, an upstairs bar dedicated to Belgian styles and an unpretentious vibe, it’s on every beer enthusiast’s bucket list. As is The Porter Beer Bar (Little Five Points; theporterbeerbar.com), which has continued to raise the (beer) bar in the city since opening in 2008. Cool-weather offerings on the Porter’s 30-draft list might include Mikkeller Til Fra and La Chouffe’s N’Ice Chouffe, while coveted picks like J.W. Lees Vintage Fall Age highlight a head-spinning 500-bottle list. In December, the bar hosts a hilarious Christmas vs. Hanukkah Beer Dinner, complete with an arm-wrestling match between Santa Claus and a rabbi. The BookHouse Pub (Poncey-Highlands; bookhousepub.com) is a cozy contrast to its seedy strip-mall surroundings with a well-curated array of craft beers, satisfying munchies and a lovely literary atmosphere. For a chill spot to take in a game or solidly spun tunes with nary a hint of frat-house shenanigans, P’cheen (Old Fourth Ward; pcheen.com) is a good bet, with a solid selection of drafts, crafts and creative cocktails, plus a seasonally focused menu that far exceeds standard pub grub.
Atlanta’s culinary scene exploded thanks to an ever-growing appetite for Southern-style cooking, a bumper crop of world-class restaurants and a sprinkling of celebrity chefs. Among the latter is Kevin Gillespie of the Woodfire Grill (Morningside; woodfiregrill.com), who achieved local stardom long before his “Top Chef” appearance with locally sourced and exquisitely grilled dishes like pork loin with creamed collards. Patrons have been packing the tables for years at Sotto Sotto (Inman Park; sottosottorestaurant.com) for some of the city’s most authentic Italian; don’t miss the sumptuous seafood risotto. For quintessential Southern cuisine with a contemporary twist (think shrimp and grits with poblano peppers and tasso ham), South City Kitchen (Midtown; southcitykitchen.com) always delivers. To avoid the hordes of young partygoers who frequent the nearby bars on weekend nights, consider a weekday lunch. Adventurous diners will delight in the seemingly infinite global offerings along Buford Highway, a few miles north of downtown. The perennially popular Rincon Latino (Doraville; 770.936.8181) serves up tasty Central American staples like pupusas. And for beer and a burger that hits the spot anytime, every time, The Vortex (Midtown, Little Five Points; thevortexbarandgrill.com) retains its status among the city’s best, even during the recent hamburger hysteria.
Conveniently located between Piedmont and Peachtree streets, the chic Loews Hotel (Midtown; loewshotels.com) offers spectacular skyline views, easy access to the city’s most happening ‘hoods and a swanky-but-not-snobby lobby bar. For an inviting yet upscale B&B experience, check out the Stonehurst Place Inn (Midtown; stonehurstplace.com), a beautifully restored and eco-friendly property built in 1896 that’s on the National Register of Historic Places. Those who enjoy rubbing elbows with well-heeled jet-setters and old-moneyed Atlantans will have every whim met at two locations of The Ritz-Carlton (Downtown and Buckhead; ritzcarlton.com). And for holiday hoopla, the equally posh St. Regis (Buckhead; stregis.com) offers snazzy seasonal extras like an ice-skating rink and in-room s’mores.
In the last year, Atlanta has gone gaga for growlers; fill up with liquid souvenirs before heading out. At AleYeah! (Decatur; aleyeahbeer.com), the eight taps start churning winter warmers, stouts and spice ales as temperatures drop—just in time for the store’s one-year anniversary bash in early December. In nearby Avondale Estates, you could spend the better part of an afternoon salivating over the 40 constantly rotating craft selections at The Beer Growler (Avondale Estates; thebeergrowler.net), which opened in August. But the trailblazer of upscale bottle shops, Hop City (West Side; hopcitybeer.com), is still captivating connoisseurs with its staggering selection of craft offerings: up to 1,700 (no typo there) at once. Watch for taps and four-packs from local newbie Wild Heaven Craft Beers (wildheavencraftbeers.com); snatch up the coffee-infused Ode to Mercy imperial brown.