After leaving Asheville after what felt like all too short of a stay, we headed further south to Atlanta to make it to Turner Field for Braves opening night. We traded in the cold and rain in Philadelphia for mild temperatures and torrential rain in Atlanta. Thankfully, unlike Fenway Park where beer vendors only serve spectators in premium seats, the Ted had plenty of them. During the rain delay they set up shop in the middle of the concourse and it was easy to grab a quick can while waiting out the rain. We grabbed and shared Sweetwater IPA and 420 Pale Ale. Both were quite enjoyable, reading the descriptions on Sweetwater’s website there is plenty of Munich malt flavor that came through to more than balance the hops. Terrapin’s Hopsecutioner had a more pronounced hop flavor, but still wasn’t quite as hoppy as beers available locally.
After the rain delay and waiting an eternity for a cab, we went back to our hotel to crash after the game on Friday night. We had all day Saturday and part of Sunday to check out the city and the beer scene. Downtown Atlanta is walkable, but the breweries are spread out. There is no Industrial Way or Old Port like there is in Portland. We started at Max Lager’s brewpub as it was a block from our hotel. As the name suggested the lagers in particular were excellent, especially What the?! Helles. Helles is a lightly hopped German lager, perhaps the antithesis of an IPA, and I love when I find a quality example. Locally, Jack’s Abby House Lager is also worth checking out.
From there we walked around and checked out a few bars. As this trip went on I felt like we were living in an episode of Best Bars in America. At Cypress Street Pint and Plate I enjoyed the truly outstanding Liquid Bliss Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter, and was quite suppressed to find Funky Jewbulation 2013 on draught, or even that Schmaltz distributed that far south. Cypress Street was the consummate craft beer bar: great selection, laid back atmosphere, friendly staff, and involved in the local scene. The night we were there they were raffling off tickets to 420 Fest. We didn’t win, but we wouldn’t have been able to go anyway. Taco Mac is a regional chain that reminded me a bit of Buffalo Willd Wings but with better food, five times the beer selection with their 100 draught lines, and literally 20 times the selection of craft beer. Transmigration of Souls by Orpheus Brewing was the best IPA I had in Atlanta.
On Sunday afternoon as we were leaving Atlanta we visited the Sweetwater brewery which was about a 15 minute drive from our downtown hotel. We got souvenir pint glasses and tickets to sample five beers. The pours were around five ounces and regrettably we did not have time to use all of our drink tickets. All the beers I had at Sweetwater were very, very good. Atlanta could do a lot worse than to have Sweetwater as their largest and best-known craft brewer.
The fact we spent as much time in Atlanta on Sunday meant we did not make it to Durham, NC in time to visit Fullsteam Brewery. We needed to make a seven plus hour drive to Rehobeth Beach, DE on Monday, and there aren’t a lot of breweries open at noon on a Monday. We did stop at Carolina Brewery in Chapel Hill and the beers were all solid. The Jumpin Bean Coffee Stout on cask was a perfect beer to have before noon on a Monday. My favorite part of the brewpub was that the brew system: mash/lauter tun, boil kettle, and fermenters were all behind the bar. I wish we were there on brew day.
Before leaving North Carolina I had to have some North Carolina barbecue. The aptly named, The Pig was recommended by Foursquare. The food was excellent and fortunately for us they did have some local beers on tap. Although we did miss the brewery, they did have the Fullsteam flagship California common. It had a lot more hop flavor than I recall Anchor Steam having, but was still crisp and refreshing. I loved it!
After another long drive, crossing the Chesapeake Bay bridge, and learning how rural the Maryland Eastern Shore and southern Delaware are, we finally made it to Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats in Rehoboth Beach. This is the brewpub where Sam Calagione started it all, and is still the place where Dogfish Head tests its new brews. Dogfish 90 Minute IPA might be my least favorite of Dogfish Head’s year round offerings, but they had a dry-hopped variant called Squall on cask which was out of this world. The restaurant’s hours are literally noonish to close. The place was pretty quiet so we only got to stay for dinner and a couple of rounds.
Tuesday was the last day of our vacation, we both had to work on Wednesday. Brew Dogs ranked the Pickled Pig the best beer bar in Delaware. It was right near our hotel so we went there for lunch. Coincidentally it was Delaware Beer Week and they had numerous local beers on draught. The best on was a one-off for Delaware Beer Week, a Vienna Lager by Twin Lakes Brewery. I encouraged them on social media to make this a year round offering.
Our last stop was the Dogfish Head brewery in Milton. This tour was a blast. You can tell the entire company from Sam all the way down had the same offbeat, fun vibe. Our tour guide was knowledgeable and told some gloriously awful jokes. We got to see Sam’s original 10 gallon setup bottle filler; the mash tun, lauter tun, and boil kettle while they were brewing; the giant wood vats where Burton Baton and Paulo Santo Marron are aged; and other parts of the brewery. I grabbed a work shirt for my next brew day and a Spieglau IPA glass at the gift shop. Again, I wish we had more time to spend there.
It was an epic trip. After all this driving we will be flying and staying at one location for our next vacation. If it is within driving distance I might take the bus. I an already working on an IPA recipe inspired by Squall and all the great East Coast IPAs we enjoyed. I must confess I did find myself craving the amazing hop-forward beers we have around here. As good and occasionally great the beers we had on our trip were, we are fortunate to have as much great local craft beer as we do.