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"We do all kinds of walking, bike rides, hiking, backpacking," Lisa says of the AOC. "This is right up our alley to park somewhere, take MARTA, and walk over to a bar."
We hit a snag. Either we've missed a bus or a bus missed us. We've been standing on Ponce in front of Chipotle for more than a half-hour, watching lanterns float by on the Beltline above. The next No. 2 finally arrives to take us toward Little Five Points, and I start to let some bus-mishap irritation creep over me. We arrive at our stop and as we step out onto Moreland Avenue, a friend steps into the bus. She knows what we're up to and laughs, a moment that wouldn't have happened if all had gone according to plan. Immediately put in a better mood, we march toward the Porter Beer Bar, which is celebrating its fifth birthday.
The place is busy, but now, eight hours into the biggest day of its birthday celebration, it's subdued in a buzzed, exhausted way. Owners Molly Gunn and Nick Rutherford are sitting out front looking tired but satisfied. Gunn makes a recommendation of a beer not usually available in Georgia. I order it once inside, but five bars in, I don't have the presence of mind to write down the brewery's name amid the loud laughter, constant shuffling of patrons, and the sapped servers behind the bar. Wrecking Bar owner/brewer Bob Sandage is sitting at the bar. He and his crew from up the street have been taking shifts all day to enjoy the Porter party.
Outside away from the bustle, I sit down with Curt Dawsey, a 34-year-old beer rep for Goose Island. Years before he was a regular (and "regular" is a bit of an understatement here), he came to the Little Five Points establishment with his family, drank a couple beers while waiting for a dinner spot, but then had "a very real problem with the greeter" that resulted in them never getting a table. Dawsey wrote an honest and cutting Yelp review. Gunn reached out to him the next day to apologize and sent him a gift card. On his next visit, she showed up at his table to apologize again in person. Dawsey says that return visit was "a great experience, like I've had every time since." He started showing up around five times a week for a year or so after that, and now counts Gunn as one of his best friends.
We're about an hour behind schedule when we finally walk from the Porter to Wrecking Bar. The kitchen is in the middle of a frenetic dinner service, but the bar is relatively calm. I take a break to eat the brewpub's macaroni and cheese with crispy pig ears, which is a) completely delicious, b) completely necessary after six hours of walking, talking, and craft beering, and c) yet another reminder of what great things chef Terry Koval, formerly of Farm Burger, is doing with Wrecking Bar's menu these days.
I order the Hop Noggin Imperial IPA, a stunning, West Coast-style beer with big floral and citrus notes, and a delicious example of what a gem this two-year-old brewpub is. Wrecking Bar's importance to Atlanta's beer scene cannot be overstated. The Hop Noggin goes down a little too smoothly for a 10.5 percent ABV monster. Maybe that explains why Shane has two. He hasn't eaten in hours, and gets into a spirited, meandering conversation with Jason, our photographer. Topics covered include: Elon Musk, Hanson, Jewish temples, and what was apparently, at least according to my notes, "a passionate argument about the 'granddaddy of hashtags.'" I don't even know what that means. #pray4shane
We embark on a short walk from Wrecking Bar to the No. 107 bus, which will take us to our final destination, East Atlanta's Midway Pub. Once on the bus, relief washes over me. We did it — seven bars in one day, all using public transportation. Aside from our one hiccup after Book House (which Shane swears is the exception to the norm), our day's transportation has been easy, reliable, cool (the high today reached 90 degrees), and comfortable. Why have I avoided MARTA's buses for years? I see no reason to continue this behavior going forward.
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