This has been one hell of a summer and I send my sincerest apologies to any readers out there who have wondered where the heck I've been. In short I have been taking a little time off of beer, those carbs and calories add up like WHOAH and can sneak up on an unsuspecting female in her 20's. Anyways the wheel in the sky keeps on turning and my best friend who is in the military just had a beautiful baby boy! With the news I decided I was going to fly to Georgia and spend a few days with her and the little baby creature then catch a ride with some friends headed home after their service in the USMC.
I would like to start off saying that I am VERY glad to live in California. Aside from the fact that the south feels like you're walking through an Armageddon war field complete with the flooding, fire and locusts the laws about alcohol are twisted. My first and only true brewery stop was in Atlanta Georgia where I discovered the craziness of the land.
Our little caravan pulls into SweetWater Brewery- all excited that I'm going to taste some beer for the first time in weeks if not months. We find a place to park our massive uhaul trailers and run up the stairs like children arriving at FAO Schwartz on their birthday only to see that the bar looks totally empty and the chairs are all stacked up.It's the middle of the week they have to be open. I walk in and I ask the girl at the front desk if I can get a sampler of their beer. They told me that they can't sell beer on Tuesday “as per Georgia State Law”- WHAT? ITS TUESDAY! What the frack is wrong with Tuesday's? She explains to me that there are rules for the days that a brewery can sell beer at the brewery. So I take a moment to absorb this injustice then brighten up and ask her if they have a brewpub in the city- “As per Georgia State Law a brewery is not allowed to have their own pub.” OUTRAGE!!!!!
I walk outside to stomp around in the parking lot for a couple minutes and try to figure out a way to reword my questions into resulting beer. I walk back inside and ask her if there are any “pubs in town not affiliated with the brewery that I might be able to get some SweetWater beer at?” She looks at me shakes her head and refers me to a place called Taco Mac. So we set off towards down town Atlanta to find a Taco Mac.
I didn't realize when I walked into this super large sports lounge that I was about to meet the East Coasts answer to the West Coasts Yard House. Taco Mac meets and raises the bar for tap rooms. With 140 beers on draught and 223 beers in the bottle there was almost every thing I've tried plus mini-micros from all up and down the east coast. Sweaty (as per usual on this trip) and very very worried that the people at Taco Mac are going to tell me “bugger off you alchy” for wanting beer on a Tuesday afternoon (heaven forbid) I sit at the bar and explain my situation to the bartender and finish it with “Am I allowed to get beer here?” Anthony, probably the raddest barkeep I have ever met, laughs and says of COURSE you can get beer here and loads me up with a flight of SweetWater beers.
They didn't have all of the beers but they did have the majority of them:
Sch'Wheat(4.7%) was in my opinion more bitter than most wheat beers (like the taste of a lemon rind with a hint of banana). It was very very bubbly out of the tap. I felt that it was nothing special.
The BLUE(4.8%) is a blueberry beer with an intoxicating strong smell of blueberries, however I feel that it's bark was worse than it's bite because I found it overly sugary and yet somehow lacking in the blueberry flavor department. Compared to Abita's Purple Haze or other more popular blueberry beers I found it relatively bland. I will say though that on a ridiculously hot day it felt good!
420 Extra Pale Ale(5.4%) was flavorful with a quick clean piney finish. My favorite part of the beer was the aftertaste, it was lightly fruity and fresh. I would definitely have this beer again, especially since I don't drink EPA's very often!
Georgia Brown(5.1%) had a very thin espresso tone to it and slightly sour. I liked it. It was definitely a session beer, it had everything I love in a brown ale just slightly muted.
The IPA(5.9%) was good, I liked it almost as much as Dank Tank(9%)- it had a fair amount bready/citrusy malt flavors, but my only complaint was that I felt it was too passive and felt more like a Pale Ale than an IPA. However before I get booed off the stage for saying that I'd like to mention that between the three of us Dank Tank was the best. It had the wonderful fruity Belgian yeast flavor but with the robustness of an IPA.
Talking to the barmaster he realizes we haven't heard or seen half the beers that were on tap mostly being from the East Coast, so he sets us up with important landmark beers of the east. He served up a small flight of the Terrapin Brewery's finest of which Terrapin Gama Ray (10%) was my favorite. It had a tasty appley/fruity/clove/nutmeg flavor all resting on a strong hop and malt mantle of awesome. This was quite a big beer for such a little glass. I would like to add this to my wishlist of things to find in the near future (don't shoot the messenger but I've been hard pressed to find any of these beers since I've been home).
Anthony also set me up with some Southern Tier beers from New York. Southern Tier Iniquity (9%) A Black Ale or an Imperial IPA as it was described to me, is a black oil from the devils harvest. It wasn't as hoppy as I had expected for an IIPA however it had a tasty caramel nut flavor to it. It also had a slight aftertaste of apricots which I enjoyed very much. Again- it's a fairly big beer but Southern Tier apparently likes BIG because their Mokah(11%) and Crème Brulee Stout(10%) packed a serious punch as well. The Mokah hits just like a shot of espresso, if Starbucks brewed beer this would be it. It was somehow blacker than black with a light but bitter carmel flavor hidden in the brew. There was some chocolate and a light boozy finish.
The Southern Tier Crème Brulee Stout almost made me cry. I know many of you out there are chocolate fans, and that's awesome, Im a bit of chocolate snob and normally don't eat it unless I know it's going to be dark and sexy. With this in consideration, Im even more of a vanilla snob. I looove vanilla and what better way to get your vanilla than in a crème brulee or a frozen custard of somesort? Well now there's a Crème Brulee Stout which they call an Imperial Milk Stout. If you can picture the queen of cows being fed nothing but Old Rasputin and Vanilla Beans- milked and served cool, this is what your crystal goblets would be filled with! It was blacker than the black or the Mohak with a nice film of a typical stout's head and you could smell the burnt caramel and vanilla from across the bar. I was looking for a spoon to crack the head with it smelled so authentic. It was buttery, milky, vanilla-y, with flavors of burnt coffee and caramel dancing on your tongue. This is truly one of my favorite beers and definitely a dessert beer. I want some now.... again, I haven't been able to find it and this hurts my soul.
After the darling bartender shattered my beer drinking heart and turned my flavor world upside down he recommended we stop at a divish bar with a good selection up the street called the Vortex. Beer aside this place had a very fun and hip atmosphere and the most amazing fried cheddar balls I had ever tasted! We had a Laughing Skull Amber by Red Brick Brewing Co, in Atlanta. This was a nice palate cleanser- crisp, sweet and bready! After a nice little snack there, we jumped back into our vehicles and pulled forward- New Orleans Or Bust!