Maybe it was Seth Somerstein's unusual first beer experience that led him to his job today, which finds him managing brews and operations at Midtown Bowl, Atlanta's oldest bowling alley. He didn't sneak a Coors from the fridge in the garage, nor did he sip some anonymous lager from a red, plastic solo cup. Instead, on a trip to Belgium with his parents at 13, he sampled a Trappist ale the name of which has since been lost to time. "Maybe it was the circumstances, maybe it was my inexperience with beer, but I remember it being sublime," Somerstein says.
He wouldn't drink beer for years after that, but the experience stuck with him as he grew up and acquired more knowledge about the food and drink industry. He'd eventually serve as head bartender for a fine-dining restaurant in Charlotte, N.C., creating a fresh martini program. Later, he'd manage a bed-and-breakfast in Austria. Following more travel and learning, the University of Georgia grad eventually moved to Atlanta.
Now, the 43-year-old's days find him organizing and maintaining a stunning beer selection — and not just by bowling alley standards. Recent options on Midtown Bowl's 100-plus beer list include some of the most-hyped craft rarities — Terrapin's Cinnamon Roll'd Wake-n-Bake, Bell's Hopslam IPA — alongside the usual adjunct lagers and less-usual bourbons. Pappy Van Winkle 12- and 15-year graced the alleys in late 2013. In terms of diversity and quality, Midtown Bowl's drink selection tops many bars and restaurants.
Midtown Bowl's beer selection is impressive.
Midtown Bowl's beer program has been evolving the entire time I have worked here. We renovated the bar just over a year ago, and the expanded cooler and display doors gave us the opportunity to bring in a larger selection of beer. We are constantly striving to better meet the wants of our clientele. I hoped that our guests would enjoy this. So far, the response has been positive.
Where's your favorite place to have a beer?
My favorite place to drink in Atlanta is the Porter. They have great food and an amazing beer program. The best place that I could have a beer is surrounded by those whom I hold dear. Whether that is on my couch in Atlanta or at a beer garden in the middle of the Austrian Alps, it is the company that makes all the difference.
What are some of your favorite Atlanta beers?
Atlanta's brewing scene is quickly coming into its own. We have seen rapid growth in both the number of breweries and the quality of the beer that they are producing. It is a great time to live and drink in Atlanta. My favorite beers tend toward the dark and complex side, so I would say my most recent favorites have been Monday Night Brewing's Bourbon Barrel Aged Drafty Kilt and Red Brick's Smoked Vanilla Porter, Vanilla Gorilla.