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Twain's has a fine selection of beer in the bottle, but it's more impressive to have a local brewer doing such interesting stuff in the heart of Decatur. Jeff complained that even in a brewpub such as this, many drinkers still come in and ask for the lightest beer possible. The Schlitz lover in me can relate to that, but I kept my mouth shut. In fact, I agree wholeheartedly that if you want a Milwaukee's Best perhaps you should just drink one rather than trying to find something similar at a serious local brewery. The wonderful thing about a place such as Twain's is that you're likely to come across something unexpectedly pleasing.
Our next stop was the new 5 Seasons out in Alpharetta, where Crawford Moran is brewing a selection of food-friendly, European-style beers. Both Jeff and I are fans of Glen Sprouse, the brewer at the original 5 Seasons location in Sandy Springs, but we decided to give the new guy a whirl.
We weren't disappointed. The BR-549 pale ale tasted of sweet malt, with a nice hops finish. The Crazy Ralph's Nut Brown Ale was mellow, with a hint of sweet soy. Jeff wasn't sure about the Mechanical Failure Scotch Ale when he first got it, but warmed to it as it got closer to room temperature, admiring its mellow maple and banana flavors. We both exclaimed that the Doctor Moran's Dunkelweizen tasted exactly like bananas Foster, and then read the description that confirmed the dessert had been one of the inspirations for the beer. By now I was taking extensive notes, and using words like "undertones" with abandon. It was time for me to go home.
A few days later, we set out early for Sweetwater, and it's a good thing we did. A half hour before the brewery opened its doors, a long line formed outside. Similarly to the scene at the Atlanta Brewing Company, the crowd was coed-heavy.
Sweetwater's large indoor space features windows on two sides and is complemented by a courtyard. A country-rock band performed outdoors, and the atmosphere had all the cookout vibe with none of the cookout.
Sweetwater's signature beer is the 420, which I have always liked but is so much better straight from the source than from the bottle. From the keg, the extra pale ale takes on some prodigious honey undertones (heh heh – I said undertones). The brewery is just releasing a new beer, the Road Trip pilsner, which has a perfect summer flavor, tasting a little of toasted corn. I could drink the stuff by the gallon.
I tried Sweetwater Blue again, their blueberry-flavored ale. Unfortunately I'm just not a fruity-beer kind of girl. The stuff tasted the way Strawberry Shortcake's good friend Blueberry Muffin smells.
Jeff liked the IPA, which is a floral, herbaceous beer with some grapefruit and rosemary personality poking through. I was a bigger fan of the Georgia Brown, which had the classic brown-sugar highs, was easy to drink and showed some nice malt. I pointed out that if I were to make a pie chart of my beer-drinking needs, about 20 percent of the pie would go to beer that was complex and intriguing, and the other 80 percent would be the beer I want when I get home from work – balanced, delicious and straightforward.
Jeff accused me of sounding like a Budweiser apologist. "That's all fine and good," he said, "but you can't abandon the malt! That's the mistake of so many American beer makers: They forget about the malt!" Jeff is a chill dude, and this was about as worked up as I have seen him.
We stumbled from Sweetwater buzzed and happy. Atlanta's beer scene, along with my trusty friend and beer geek Jeff, had taught me a few things about the intricacies of thinking about beer. Good things are to be found outside your comfort zone. Undertones is a cool word. Taking notes is a good idea if you want to remember anything about the beer. And it's very bad to abandon your malt. I wish all life lessons were this much fun to learn.For information on Creative Loafing's Beer Fest Saturday, June 9, click here.
Beer Issue 2007
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