Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Wrecking Bar Brewpub, Atlanta, GA

While the front facade shows the building's beauty,
the entrance to the bar is in the back, located in the basement.

Today I found myself in a small warehouse in the back of the Wrecking Bar Brewpub, located in the Little 5 Points area of Atlanta, as the new brewpub’s brewmaster, Chris Terenzi, held a captive audience of a dozen or more patrons who came to the first opportunity for lunch service and brewery tour since the bar’s opening less than a month ago. With the same energy and enthusiasm of the affable actor Seth Rogan, Chris brought a jovial tone and educated tongue to explaining the process of a small scale brewery to what seemed to be a good mix of home brewers, beer enthusiasts, and beer drinkers. As Chris began to discuss plans to expand from the current 5 beer rotation to 12 brews in the coming months and years, he pointed out that the brewpub’s owner, Bob Sandage, had joined the group mid-tour, and how their partnership evolved into this burgeoning business.

WB's Fermentation Vessels.

Chris shows off the mash tun and wort chillers.

Cold storage that serves the beer at the bar upstairs.

When the tour winded down, I asked Bob and Chris for a photo opportunity to post on this blog, and I found it hard not to gush about the wonderful experience, from the beer to the staff, that this “lunch” had offered. I complimented him on emplying staff such as Neil, our lunch waiter, who had a wide range of knowledge of the beer on tap, the brewing processes, and was even able to engage me in an extended discussion about our personal home brewing experiences.  Chris interjected that when hiring for the brewpub, even before applicants were offered an application, that they had to go through a 16-question quiz on beer and brewing. Both he and Bob reinforced that they wanted the best beer-centric wait and bar staff, even rejecting the services of bar veterans because they were more versed in wines and liquors than brewing. 

Owner Bob and Brewmaster Chris

As much as I wanted to show my beer snobbery in relation to other bars and breweries in the area, in testement to their character, was impossible to get these two men to criticize the other players in the Atlanta bar and brewpub scene. They continuously undercut my compliments to reinforce the role their competition plays in the local and state beer community. Even when discussing the role that inconsistancy in the natural products used for brewing effect the art of crafting beer, Chris gave compliment to macrobrewers’ ability to retool their recipes for the sake of consistency. While not really saying anything negative about larger breweries, Chris at most only suggested an issue of these macrobreweries marketing their beers, not the products’ quality, and never lingered on the subject while in discussion with a tour member.

All members of the staff that I interacted with showed a decorum and thoughtfulness that was just as present in the quality of the beer and food that we enjoyed before allowing the proprietors to convey it verbally.

The sandwiches that my wife and I enjoyed, a pulled pork sandwich and a hot pastrami sandwich respectively, were tender, balanced, and robust. As well, the Belgian style fries that were light and perfectly seasoned, came with homemade ketchup, a homemade ranch, and a spicy mayo dipping sauce that augmented the potato flavor, and made the trip to the Wrecking Bar for eating worthwhile in itself. 

With all of my pontification on subjects excluding the taps, I am sure you’re more than ready to know about the quality of the beer itself. In the simplest terms, their offerings are what I believe locally crafted beer should be at its best. Each of the five beers that were on tap, which were available in a pint or 8oz “shorty” (excluding the Abbey ale), was honest to the style and balanced while being incredibly full of flavor. 

While not as in depth as a normal review where a single beer is the focus, here are some brief impressions of the offerings on tap this afternoon. 

The Ol’ Lantern Jaw English Mild, Golden Nelson Ale, and King Louie India Pale Ale.

The Golden Nelson Ale:  A perfectly clear, straw colored ale with a nice, hoppy, although not overly bitter, flavor, and a dry white wine finish. Described as the flagship beer of the brewpub by our waiter, this was perhaps my wife’s favorite beer of the afternoon. 

The Ol’ Lantern Jaw English Mild: A nice dark, yet light bodied ale that had a nice toffee tone with a  slight coffee bitterness on the backend. With a 3.7% ABV it also meets the criteria for a true session beer, an often overlooked defining measure of session beer by American breweries.

King Louie IPA: Named after the orangutan king from the Jungle Book due to a similar burnt orange hue, this was my favorite beer of the day, being hop forward with strong floral notes brightened by a slight citrus and sweet, malty backend.  

Belgina Wit: The last beer my wife and I tried this afternoon was a lighter flavored, typical wheat beer, defined by a sweet banana forward flavor, and easily drinkable.

Wrecking Bar Abbey Dubbel: Rocking a 7.8% ABV, this beer exhibited a fuller banana and clove profile, rounded out with sweet, caramel goodness.

My only regret in going to the Wrecking Bar is that in a little more than a week’s time there will little opportunity to enjoy this brewpub again on the near horizon. 

Pope Crisco

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