Beer City: Atlanta’s Breweries and Beer Bars

States like Colorado and Oregon once dominated the craft brewing scene, but Georgia has taken a stand as a top contender. Atlanta boasts three big breweries, with others opening soon...

1156 Euclid Avenue Northeast
Praised by everyone from the James Beard Foundation to Anthony Bourdain to Esquire to for its massive selection and delicious eats, the Porter Beer Bar is one place well worth a stop. The Porter opened in 2008 in a narrow space in Little Five Points. It boasts 44 beers on draft and over 700 bottled. The food is made by an award-winning chef, serving up upscale bar food. The portions are massive, particularly buffalo shrimp po boy with herb fries. It can rarely be said that everything on a menu is good, but the Porter may just be an exception.
602 North Highland Avenue Northeast
Tucked in an area known as Poncey Highlands, Manuel’s Tavern has made a name for itself as the everyman’s bar, a watering hole for politicians, college students, old timers and everyone in between. It’s one of a few bars downtown that has its own parking lot, so it’s a popular spot for birthdays, meetings and events. Manuel Maloof opened the bar in 1956, which soon became popular with senators, mayors, athletes, musicians and of course, local students, for the cheap prices. Manuel’s boasts an extensive beer selection, but you can’t beat the deal on $6 pitchers of Miller High Life and Pabst Blue Ribbon. The food is also a step above your standard bar fare, particularly the burgers, barbecue sandwiches and Philly cheesesteaks.
195 Ottley Dr NE, Atlanta, GA 30324, USA
In Atlanta, Sweetwater Brewing Company is king. Its success story is not unlike that of Samuel Adams, although less commercial. They started as a hometown craft brewery with humble operations and now are distributed throughout the country. Their motto is “don’t float the mainstream,” and their beer names certainly show that. While you have a standard IPA, there’s also the 420 Pale Ale, Blue, a blueberry beer, Exodus Porter, Georgia Brown and the LowRYEder IPA. Throughout the year they also offer special brews, many of which you can only find at the brewery. They include a Festive Ale, Happy Ending and Road Trip, among others. The Dank Tank is one experimental keg to try at the brewery. On a sunny afternoon, you and the many locals will enjoy live music and food trucks at the brewery. Many of the beers and events at Sweetwater benefit local causes, namely Camp Twin Lakes and the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, so you’ll be drinking for a cause. For $10, you get a pint glass and 6 samples to try. Alternatively, you can skip the pint glass for a plastic cup and get 6 tickets for free. They are open Wednesday through Friday from 5:30-7:30 and on Saturdays from 2:30-4:30 pm.
670 Trabert Ave NW, Atlanta, GA 30318, USA
Monday Night Brewing Company is the newest kid on the Atlanta craft beer scene, but it already had a strong following before moving into its Trabert Avenue space. The brewery started out as a Monday night men’s Bible study, which is how they developed their motto that “weekends are overrated.” They make three signature brews available on draft or in bottles throughout the state. The Fu Manbrew is a Belgian-style Wit ideal for a hot Atlanta afternoon. The Eye Patch IPA has the hoppiness you want from the style, but without being overwhelming. And the Drafty Kilt Scotch Ale is for dark beer lovers at 7.2% alcohol by volume. Visiting the brewery only costs you $10 for a pint glass with 4 samples, poured by bartenders in neckties. Bring your own necktie to add to the neon “Tie One On” wall for $1 off entry. Monday Night has everything to keep your entertained, from movies played on the wall, an outdoor patio, foosball, shuffleboard and of course, the brewery tours. They’re open on Mondays and Thursdays from 5:30-7:30 pm and on Saturdays from 2-4 pm.
5600 Roswell Rd Ste. M-003, Sandy Springs, GA 30342, USA
Guests of sports bar Taco Mac in Sandy Springs might not know that there’s a secret beer heaven at their feet. Formerly known as The Fred Bar, named for beverage manager Fred Crudder, it is only available to members of Taco Mac’s Brewniversity and their guests. It’s now called the Georgia Chapter Room. Signing up for the program is free, but you must be at the “pledge” level, meaning you’ve sampled at least seven of their beers. To enter, go down to the loading dock area where the door on the left has a red button. Press the button, and an employee will let you in after verifying your credentials. The decor is swankier than upstairs, with leather chairs and curtains. The entire menu is available on an iPad placed on your table. The secret locale is also a step above when it comes to both food and drinks. The beer selection includes aged, rare, and lesser-known brews curated by the knowledgable staff. This is the place to splurge, as the staff can recommend something you will enjoy.
125 E Court Square, Decatur, GA 30030, USA
In the funky neighborhood of Decatur is one of the country’s top rated beer bars. The old wooden doors make you think this place comes right out of the Old South, but it has a touch of Europe. Upstairs there is a bar devoted completely to Belgian beers like Boon Kriek and Blanche de Bruxelles. If you’re not familiar with many of these beers, the staff is very knowledgeable and can recommend something to your tastes. It can be difficult to find a table on a Saturday afternoon so go early. They also have a nice pub food menu with staples like fish and chips.
2323 Defoor Hills Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30318, USA
In 1993, the folks at Atlanta Brewing Company opened their doors as the city and state’s first craft brewery. Although they’ve changed their name to Red Brick, named for the brick warehouse they now call home, they’re still staying true to the original concept. Hoplanta and Laughing Skull Ale, named after The Vortex Bar and Grill, are the two year-round brews but the brewery also creates award winning seasonal selections. Their Chocolate Cherry Porter and Dog Days Ale are favorites. Red Brick is open for tours and tastings Wednesday through Saturday and each night of the week has something different to offer. Wednesday nights are half priced for college students with valid IDs, Thursday is trivia and Friday is live music.
1170 Howell Mill Rd, Atlanta, GA 30318, USA
Hidden underneath a Westside shopping plaza, Ormsby’s is a twenty-something playground, complete with craft beer and games. For a quieter experience, sit at the upstairs bar and restaurant rather than the downstairs playground. I can’t recommend the food as I’ve never had it, but choosing a drink will be the most difficult part of your evening. Ormsby’s is also the headquarters for summer bocce leagues. Apart from bocce, the bar also has pool, backgamon, darts and shuffleboard.
292 Moreland Avenue Northeast
The gorgeous 1900 columned building on Moreland Avenue was a Victorian home, a Methodist church and a dance school before being renovated and becoming Wrecking Bar Brewpub. Today the upstairs is an event facility while the basement and patio are part of the bar and restaurant. It has been voted the top brewpub in Atlanta for the last two years. Wrecking Bar brews their own award-winning beers, including the “Jemmy Dean” Breakfast Stout, Baby Got Blackberry Wheat and Breaking Bob Kolsch. The menu is full of upscale bar food like sandwiches, cheese plates and entrees.
817 West Peachtree Street Northwest, Atlanta, GA 30308, USA
Off of busy West Peachtree is Cypress Street Pint and Plate, a neighborhood bar surrounded by apartment buildings. The welcoming patio and weekly specials make it a favorite of locals. On Mondays you can get their tasty Philly cheesesteaks for only $5 and brunch is every Saturday and Sunday. There are 14 draft beer and 40 bottled selections as well as wine and spirits. Every Tuesday is Beer Geek Tuesday, where the experts at Cypress Street celebrate one brewery or style of beer. The food menu is delicious, especially the aforementioned cheesesteaks, buffalo chicken sandwiches and meatball sliders.
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