Georgia is similar to many other states in the Southeast, in that a variety of laws and regulations limited craft beer growth when compared to other parts of the country. With that said, recent changes have allowed the city of Atlanta to experience significant progress. Sweetwater is the well-known, established name, but an influx of newbies that have popped up the last few years have drastically changed the local landscape (all but one of the breweries I visited had opened in the last 4 years). Several places I visited were packed to the gills, and it is clear residents of the state’s capital are on the craft beer bandwagon. Most breweries are towards the outskirts of the city, but seem to be in pockets, especially on the Northwest side. From what I experienced, I would expect Atlanta to continue to build on this momentum.
- Orpheus Brewing
- Monday Night Brewing
- Scofflaw Brewing
- Torched Hop Brewing
For those unfamiliar with Greek mythology, Orpheus was a legendary musician, poet, and prophet. Jason, the brewmaster at Orpheus, was a professional trumpet player, and also had an affinity for Greek mythology. Hence, the name fit perfectly. They are located a little north of downtown, close to Piedmont Park and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. While the taproom is fairly basic (cement floors, picnic tables), there is something that makes it stick out. Down a hallway is a separate room, where they serve a plethora of barrel-aged beers. There were half-a-dozen options, with 3 being aged in wine barrels, and 3 in bourbon barrels.
Speaking of the beer, it was delicious. Of the barrel-aged brews, Stone & Flesh was top dog. This Wild Ale aged in wine barrels with peaches is INTENSE. The peaches provide just a subtle sweetness to offset the sharp tartness. Another from the barrel room is Sykophantes D’Or, a bourbon-barrel aged fig sour with red currant and apricots. As the description suggests, it’s a complex mouthful. Bourbon is present, but not overpowering, as the sour character plays nicely with it. The most interesting beer is The Cold Ground, a sour coffee ale. Using coffee from the local Java Lords, this is a somewhat mind-boggling beer. Somehow, the coffee and sour base dance a beautiful tango together, rather than fight for position. Two others to check out: Atalanta, their flagship tart plum saison, and Abandon All Hope, an Imperial bourbon-aged stout with vanilla sure to please big beer fans.
I could have written about several other beers. This place will especially appeal to fans of sours and barrel-aged brews. Shout out to Kevin who showed me the beers in the barrel room and gave me some information on Orpheus!
Opening in 2013, Monday Night has become a staple in the Atlanta area. From the beginning, they have built their business around brewing for the weekdays. One of the slogans you see on the website is ‘Weekends are Overrated.’ The founders began brewing on Mondays nights, and after several years they decided to go pro. Their taproom is home to one of the most memorable features I’ve experienced at any brewery. As you walk in, the entire wall to the right is covered in ties, with a neon sign spelling out ”Tie One On”. The ties continue down the hallway as well. It is incredibly eye-catching, and “TIES” into the theme of being a weeknight spot. They also have a second location, referred to as The Garage, over in Atlanta’s West End. This location is used for barrel-aging and souring. And about the beer…
Drafty Kilt is a scotch ale, but they had their seasonal Cinnamon Cocoa Drafty Kilt on draft when I stopped by. I went with latter, and was pleased with the expected cinnamon notes, which were especially present in the after taste. As a sour fan, I of course got Dr. Robot, which is a sour made with blackberry juice and lemon zest. The tartness is there, but is also balanced with a tad of sweetest as well. Han Brolo is a solid pale ale, which is probably popular with people just getting introduced into craft beer. It’s a crowd-pleaser that doesn’t lean too heavily on either the hops or malts. I was somewhat surprised that I didn’t care for Blind Pirate, a blood orange IPA. It wasn’t a bad beer by any means, just didn’t quite pack the punch I was expecting.
Monday Night has longer hours during the week than on Saturday. They truly take the weekday mantra seriously. It’s a memorable spot to enjoy a local beer, and should be on your list of places to visit while in Atlanta.
Located Northeast of downtown Atlanta, Scofflaw Brewing has been serving up IPAs since mid-2016. One of my favorite stories I learned while talking with them was about the logo. As you can see, the billy goat sits front and center. The inspiration comes from the ram, which symbolized the stronger bock beers in Germany. Scofflaw chose to go with the billy goat because it has a more southern feel, and also sports a beard and independent spirit (both represent the craft beer ideals at Scofflaw). It is also clear that the folks at Scofflaw are incredibly passionate about what they do. A while back, some misunderstandings in regards to unfiltered beers led to some ruffled feathers on Facebook, but it’s clear that Scofflaw stuck to their guns. To me it seemed that providing the area with a new style of beer just took some time to settle in.
Basement is what they are probably best known for, but I tried Pog Basement, which is the same IPA, but with passion fruit, orange, and guava. And let me tell you, it was a winner. The guava is what did it for me, as it dominated my senses, but there was certainly orange and passion fruit swirling in the background. Goat’s Milk is an IPA brewed with mango, strawberry, vanilla, and milk sugar. A hazy choice, the mango was the strongest element, protruding out especially on the nose. Sucker Punch was my third IPA (a rarity for me). This American IPA has grapefruit and lemon zest in the recipe. Wasn’t my favorite, but I feel that has more to do with my personal taste, rather than the beer itself. My final beer was unique in that it wasn’t an IPA, and it did not have a funky, catchy name. Chocolate Stout was unsurprisingly roasty, with a slightly bitter chocolate character towards the back.
Scofflaw is unapologetically different. They have the mantra of, if you like their beer, awesome, if not, find something else to drink. Judging by how busy they were when I visited, I would say plenty of people are in the former group!
A short jaunt north of downtown, you will find Torched Hop Brewing. They’ve only been around a few years, but are making a name for themselves in the area. One of the more eye-catching features are the large hops that hang in the foyer. They were cut on a jig saw by the owners, which took them over 180 hours. They also made most of the tables in the foyer and bocce ball area (yes, bocce ball is a unique game to offer). The main level consists of the bar area, the brewhouse, as well as a shuffleboard table. Further back, it becomes a split-level, with two separate seating areas. I did not personally eat there, but the food did sound good, and is what they call ‘upscale pub food’.
There was a nice array of options when I visited, with 10 house beers on tap. IPAs and Belgians appeared to be the current focus, with three of each offered. My top choice was Golden CHAIld, a Belgian Golden brewed with 15 pounds of Chai Tea. The chai sits in the front, and it is a nice, quaffable option. Speaking of quaffable, Kolsch AF, is an accurate, clean representation of the style. The IPA I sampled was Haze Craze, a hazy offering that won silver at the US Open Beer Championship. Citrus notes stuck out to me, but there was plenty of passion fruit mixed in as well. Their big Chocolate Stout (9.5%) The Darkness Becomes, was a bit more bitter than I care for, but this brew with Madagascar Vanilla beans does certainly have a place.
You can get a well-rounded experience at Torched Hop. Beer, food, games, and a location close to bustling downtown. I expect them to continue to flourish.
Some recent law changes, including the ability of direct sales, have helped Georgia breweries push forward. I believe we will continue to witness growth in this part of the country. And if you are in Atlanta, there is plenty of touristy sites to see. My top two picks would be The World of Coca Cola and the College Football Hall of Fame. The Georgia Aquarium is supposed to be one of the best in the country as well. No matter where you go, you’ll have an excellent time!
I spent an extended weekend in Jacksonville, FL visiting my old college roommate. We also spent time in Tampa and Orlando, so I had plenty of breweries to choose from! It was my first time drinking beer in the Sunshine State, and I’m hoping to return in the future.
Current Brewery Count
225 breweries across 114 cities in 25 states. These numbers are current as of 2/5/18. For an up-to-date count, follow my adventures on Twitter: @brewerytravels.