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Beer Town: What makes the ‘best’ place for beer?

A recent Best of the Big A online poll asked for readers’ opinions on the best beer selection at metro area bars.

Not surprisingly, Brick Store Pub in Decatur, a perennial top pick of beer geeks  around the world, was named most often. Even though it’s not in metro Atlanta, Trappeze Pub in Athens was mentioned by a surprising number of readers.

But how do you define “best”?
brick-front
If it’s quantity, there are many bars around Atlanta that can claim to have more taps and more beer. If it’s quality, happily there are now dozens of metro bars and restaurants that feature what critics consider the finest beers in the world.

Maybe what sets Brick Store and Trappeze apart is something different — like a serious approach to beer that borders on obsession.

That shows up in all the big and little things the owners and staff do every day. Besides procuring great and rare beers, and presenting them with knowledge and authority, they store them and pour them with care, and as often as possible serve them in the proper glassware.

Every bit as important, the atmosphere of each place offers a distinct homage to the venerable tradition of the neighborhood pub — that oasis of conviviality where you can find conversation and a sense of community.

Of course, in the crazy crush of any given night, those things might be much less apparent — which brings up another point. Just because you belly up to the bar at Brick Store or Trappeze doesn’t mean you really, deeply care about what’s on the beer list.

I’m constantly amazed at the depth of knowledge and passion revealed by so many beer enthusiasts during casual conversations at bars around Atlanta. But there are other people packing the Brick or Porter or Bookhouse, mostly because “beer is cool,” as my wine columnist colleague, Gil Kulers, likes to say.

Beer is cool, there’s no doubt. But sometimes I just don’t feel like being cool. Even though I’mtoo often tagged as a beer snob, there are moments in life when the best beer selection or even the best beer doesn’t matter.

A sweaty can of PBR at the Clermont Lounge or a solid bottle of Anchor Steam at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club can be just as sublime as a rare glass of cask ale in the members-only confines of the Fred.

In addition to the EAYC, which does have a pretty good beer selection, there were a number of worthy spots that didn’t make it to the final Best of the Big A vote.

Among them: Brockett Pub House & Grill in Clarkston, Cypress Street Plate & Pint in Midtown, Manuel’s near Little Points, Melton’s App & Tap in Decatur, the Midway Pub in East Atlanta Village, Muss & Turner’s in Smyrna, Thinking Man Tavern in Decatur, the two Atlanta locations of the Vortex, Young Augustine’s in Grant Park.

Who do you think has the best beer selection in Atlanta? Where do go to drink beer?

16 comments Add your comment

kp

June 22nd, 2010
4:26 pm

I agree with the Big A readers in choosing the Brick Store. This is the pub I visit most often even though without traffic it is at least 45 minutes away from my house. I think that they have the best selection over time. They may not have 100+ taps, but they are always pulling through a wide selection, serving it fresh, and moving to something else new and interesting. They frequently get beers not available elsewhere, although elsewhere is catching up and the selection is getting better all over town every day.

P

June 23rd, 2010
11:00 pm

Manuel’s near Little Points?….Lived here forever and have always heard people refer to Manuels as being in/on Highland not Little FIVE Points. But it is a great place for beer and the atmosphere is what makes it a great beer “pub”.

P

June 23rd, 2010
11:03 pm

I’m certain by the way that the place in Athens gets a lot of votes because of the THOUSANDS of UGA graduates who return home in Atlanta to live with Mom&Dad and work at some low wage job.

iRun

June 23rd, 2010
11:16 pm

Ah, Manuel’s…

To me Manuel’s is part Cheers and part Hymel’s Seafood Restaurant on River Road in Hahnville, LA. Only, I can walk to it from my house.

I guess for me, where I go to drink beer depends on two main things: mood and company.

But I like and frequent all of these, in no particular order:

Manuel’s (where my 8 year old son always orders Manny’s Ribs)
The Porter (because those fries are Special, and other food is fun)
The Brick (good taps, fine comfort pub food)
Taco Mac in Decatur (diversity of beer)
The Vortex (the burgers, the vibe, people watching)
Young Augustine (I like sitting on those benches outside and watching people place bocce…and sometimes playing)
Fellini’s in Candler Park (the patio and a $5 pitcher of Yuengling)
Corner Tavern (because I know the owner and I like the Frisbee)

I’m glad you mentioned EAYC and Melton’s. I don’t go there much but I’ve enjoyed myself the times I have. Other Honorable mentions are Brewhouse Cafe (nice patio), The Dark Horse, Hand-in-Hand, and even Osteria 832.

Obviously I live over by L5P, from that list. I’m all about WUI (walking under the influence…or maybe that should be SUI – staggering/stumbling under the influence). But I should get out and check out Midtown more.

Richard Alpert

June 23rd, 2010
11:39 pm

Trapeze in Athens is good. Selection of beers is fantastic, many even I’ve never heard of. But the service is decent at best and they’ve actually turned it into a restaurant as of late. In Athens, I reccomend Boars Head, Magnolia, The Globe, and Copper Creek. Boars Head is my favorite bar anywhere because of their friendly staff, good selection, and draft specials that seem to be nightly. They renovated and re-surfaced the entire bar not too long ago and it looks great now. They have ping-pong, pool, shuffle board, foosball, inside and outside upstairs and downstairs seating, live music inside and out, and a good # of tvs inside.
Magnolia is fairly new and located below Tasty World (which will be no more) Another awesome selection and a very nicely redone inside bar. Copper Creek brews their own and the oatmeal stout is incredible.

Al Kaholic

June 24th, 2010
12:10 am

Drunken fools don’t swill for the taste, but snobs sure rationalize liver damage.

Al Kaholic

June 24th, 2010
12:11 am

Enter your comments here

oldandntheway

June 24th, 2010
1:25 am

If a bar is too pretentious to sell Bud, Miller, and Pabst, it’s too pretentious for me.

GTax

June 24th, 2010
2:52 am

A good pub to me is atmosphere and good company.

I have been to the Brick Store many times, but the last time I went I left with a bad taste in my mouth. I politely asked a waitress there what she recommended because I like anything and I just wanted to see what she liked. She got all snooty though and made me look like an idiot who didn’t know anything about beer because I asked her what she liked. This is an example of what I don’t like when going to a pub. She also smirked when my fiance ordered a Guiness. I expect there to be friendly attitude from the staff, not hostile, or I know more than you about beer. It’s not about that to me. I don’t like it when staff assume I don’t know anything about beer. I have been brewing beer with my dad since I was 12 and I know quite a bit.

For that reason, I never went back. They can have all the beer in Germany, but if they aren’t going to treat me like a neighbor, they aren’t a pub to me.

Thus, I like Manuel’s, Rocky Mountain Pizza (They have a great deal on Highland Oatmeal Porter), and hand in hand. All friendly staff and don’t question me ever with what I order.

Girdle

June 24th, 2010
6:18 am

If anyone smirked when a Guinness was ordered at my local they would wish they hadn’t. Perhaps this place doesn’t know how to serve it. Anyway how come their was a waitress in a pub? Thats abit alien to me as we just have bar staff.
A good pub means cold beer, plenty of altermatives to beer,good atmosphere and preferably no TV. Pubs are so much better here now they are smoke free but if you go outside you can’t breathe!

btownsend

June 24th, 2010
8:18 am

Thanks for all the good comments and arguments — even the grousing about the location of Manuel’s.

P – You’re right, though. Manuel’s is near L5P (and Virginia-Highland and Inman Park), but it’s more properly placed in Poncey-Highland.

Frank Walker

June 24th, 2010
2:32 pm

My favorite watering hole is, and has been since the mid-seventies, Five Paces Inn on Irby Avenue in Buckhead. Sure, it’s bit of a dive and the place has been touched by tragedy, but the Bud draft that they serve in one of those little eight ounce glasses is just righteous.

Gil Kulers

June 24th, 2010
3:51 pm

Two things I think make a place “cool”
Nooks and crannies (actually this one thing). Small alcoves and hidden tables, multiple rooms, outside space. It makes for intimacy. I’ve been to beer halls in Germany and have had a lot of fun, but I wouldn’t say they’re “cool” because of the wide open, generic space.

Here’s the other thing: People. If you have an establishment that somehow attracts all the jerks, all the pretentious, all the folks that just want to be seen (and I’m thinking of two very well-known watering holes that I’ve recently been to), it just ain’t cool.

The beer, interestingly enough, comes in third place. I’d rather have a PBR in a fun place with fun people than a Belgian Ale of great pedigree with a bunch of a-holes. (the “a” stands for ant).

jw

June 25th, 2010
7:23 am

Melton’s App & Tap was a revelation when it opened. Summits Sandy Springs used to be great place for beer. The two things it had going for it were the beer selection and the staff. Then Andy decided it was best to be out in the boonies. 8-(

RB

June 26th, 2010
10:22 am

Brick Store has always seemed like heaven to me. First of all, it’s a pub where you go to meet your friends and talk. There are no TV’s to distract you. Obviously, it’s not a sports bar (not that there’s anything wrong with going to a sports bar to watch a game). I love the openness of the main room downstairs. It’s not a dark English pub, which turns me off a lot. Second, the food is really good. I’m from the Northwest and the fish and chips at Brickstore have a very unique batter that makes them some of the best I have ever tasted. Third, I have learned to expand my taste and understanding of beer. Because they don’t keep the same beers on tap, I have to try something new (which I am generally reluctant to do). I have not always been satisfied with my new selection, but I’ll know better next time. I agree with Bob that Brickstore has taken the time to learn about beers and carry beers that would be interesting to people who like beer. I don’t think that makes me pretentious, but I also understand why someone who likes PBR or Corona is not going to get the vibe at Brickstore. And, yes, my friends do sometimes call me a beer snob.

Hiram Homebrewer

June 26th, 2010
10:41 am

Thanks, Bob, for keeping us busy suburbanites in the loop!
What makes the best place for beer?
1. Selection for everyone—Should include easy drinking wheats & light lagers, great local favorites & local experiments, classic american microbrews & sublime European treasures.
2. Real people (thanks Gil) that are there to celebrate life (and maybe beer.)
3. Genuine personality—In a select few places, the moment you step inside, you know are in a special place and feel like you are where you are supposed to be or maybe a little over your head. It may be minutes from your home, but you somehow feel transported as you enter. A really exceptional bar can do this every time you step in. It may be a class act or a dive, but personality can be found in all classes of people AND pubs.
4. Service by beer lovers—A lot of places have great selections and have servers who don’t know an ale from a lager, much less how to guide me through the local favorites. At the least, you don’t have to LIKE the beer, just understand the basics of style & pairings.

The best beer bar in the Southeast? Easy, it’s the Brickstore. On par with any in the country. They don’t server beer & know beer, they respect beer want us to touch beer greatness.

Other bars not mentioned yet-
Taco Mac in Austell (better-trained servers than the other Taco Macs on the west side),
Johnnie MacCracken’s Celtic Pub near Marietta Square (personality plus great selection & even has some nooks for Gil Kuler)

Why has no one mentioned the 5 Seasons? I haven’t been lately, but they had great food & beers for years! Even cigars.
Did anybody see All About Beer magazine’s Beer Traveler:150 Perfect Places to Have a Beer: (Brick Store Pub made # 22 in the world!!! Taco Mac & 5 Seasons made the list also)

http://lyke2drink.blogspot.com/2010/06/beer-traveler-150-perfect-places-to.html