Editor's Note: The problem with beer writing, in my experience, is that it often has very little to do with the things we love about beer. We love to drink beer because it's social, because it's relaxing, because it's delicious. Most times, beer writing is all about tasting notes, brewing styles and flavor profiles. While that type of writing certainly has its place, it doesn't get to the heart of our affection for hops, malt and bubbles. So instead of tasting notes, we've decided to ask beer personalities around town about their relationships to beer — what their first beer experiences were like, where and how they like to drink beer and, of course, what they like to drink. Along with that, we'll offer some beer events for the month. This month, our beer columnist Austin L. Ray spoke to Bob Sandage, who owns Atlanta's newest brewpub, the Wrecking Bar. We hope you enjoy First Draft. Cheers! — Besha Rodell
Owner, Wrecking Bar Brewpub
Describe your first beer experience.
Of course, there was sneaking an occasional sip of my dad's PBRs when I was about 10, but I don't necessarily count that. In high school in Nebraska, I had a co-worker at Pizza Hut that was of age buy me Heineken. I would drink other beers like Miller High Life with friends, but when I was buying it, I preferred to get Heineken, Heineken Dark, Molson or Moosehead.
Where is your favorite place to enjoy a beer?
Obviously, the newest and shiniest brewpub in town, the Wrecking Bar Brewpub. We have diverse styles and a quality that is tough to beat in the distributed beers available. This said, I do love to frequent the Porter and Brick Store Pub, as they have so many commercial styles to choose from.
What is your favorite beer style and why?
India Pale Ale (IPA). The bitterness, flavor, and aroma of hops are almost intoxicating to me by themselves, and the IPA style is a showcase for hops. Especially the American-style IPAs. There are so many different qualities to the hops and there exists an almost infinite combination of various malts and hops used throughout the boiling process.
An ideal pairing for that style?
I love spicy foods and the IPAs have an acidity from the hops that helps to cut the heat on the palate.
When it's time for a beer run, where do you go?
I usually go to Green's on [Ponce de Leon Avenue]. Convenience is big for me, and Green's has a great selection and is less than a mile from me.
Aside from the passage of Sunday sales, what would you like to see happen to Atlanta's beer scene going forward?
Two things: One, abolish the three-tier system in Georgia. It stifles creativity from breweries, at events, etc. For example, a beer festival can't have representatives of the brewery pouring their beers, but rather must have volunteers or distributor representatives that often have little knowledge of the beer. So many other states have the brewers make a special beer for the festival, pouring it and on-hand to answer questions. Two, growler sales by brewpubs. This helps spread the word about the brewpubs outside of the establishment. The customer has a beer at the pub, likes it, buys a growler and then shares with friends somewhere else.
Next: The best Atlanta beer events in August