Hip Hops: Atlanta's Craft Brew Scene Leaps onto the National Stage
Atlanta's not much different than many of the other cities just emerging on the craft brewing scene. It's riddled with antiquated (and stifling) distribution laws, but an old guard still struggling to earn credibility and a group of young brewers are fighting to change the business model. And while still a relatively small market for craft beer, its catching up to other more developed markets and may indeed surpass some of them. Low-alcoholic session beers, barrel-aged ales, malty porters, Scotch ales, and baby IPAs are all now available for the drinking in Atlanta, and most of them are starting to hold a candle to some of the best West Coast and Northeast craft breweries (they have the shiny medals to prove it).
The change in Atlanta's attitude toward beer came sharply. Flip the switch on your time machine to the mid-1990s, and you'll find an age where unadventurous drinkers thought light red beers were "too dark" (according to a few brewers we spoke with), Scotch ales were unheard of, and blue laws severely limited distribution.
Atlanta has matured quickly and exponentially, though, in its appetite for good beer, and the sky's the limit. There's the young Bible study trio at Monday Night Brewing, proving that a garage sale can be a great pop-up model for brewing. And there's the local favorite, and well-established Terrapin owners, who won Best Pale Ale six months after unveiling their now-signature brew. Even the stodgy lawmakers in the State Capitol building have changed their tune; in 2011 they voted to allow Sunday sales of beer outside of restaurants, and nearly all the Georgian counties approved the measure, by huge margins in some counties. This year the House voted again, almost unanimously, to allow brewpubs to increase the barrels of beer they sell and to remove the requirement that beers be slung across the bar only in draft form (bring on the growlers!).