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Hop Notes: The Highland neighborhood in Atlanta offers great local and international craft beer

Atlanta is not my first choice for a June destination, but our daughter was heading to the International Euphonium and Tuba Festival for a week at Emory University. We decided to spend a few days in the city and see some sights.

We booked a room at the nearly 100-year-old Highland Inn, located in the city’s Highland neighborhood, and the young man at check-in confirmed we were in a great beer neighborhood. With two beer bars in the same block and a great bottle selection at the corner store half a block away, how could I go wrong? Within minutes of checking in, I returned from the corner store with a bottle of Ballast Point Sculpin (IPA, 7 percent ABV, IBUs 70), recently ranked the third-best beer by Zymurgy magazine readers. It’s one of my favorites that is not available in Indiana.

Another bottle I was excited to find was a 750-milliliter bottle of a local limited release, Three Taverns Departed Spirit (bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout, 10 percent ABV, IBUs 60). I learned from its website that this is the brewery’s Theophan The Recluse — Belgian-style Imperial Stout, aged in 8-year-old barrels. After further investigation, I found that this is the first year this has been bottled. It was a nice, full-bodied beer with notes of bourbon, oak, vanilla, chocolate and coffee.

We were also within walking distance of a world-class beer bar, The Porter, but with so many things to do in just a short period of time, we didn’t make it there. Because of the beer list consisting of more than 40 taps, the amazing bottle list and a cellar list that made my jaw drop, it is well worth mentioning that I was at least close. I am not even sure how I would have chosen what to enjoy if we had made it there.

Instead, we had dinner at Bad Dog Taqueria, my son’s choice, where there were some decent beers on tap. One was a local beer that was also on tap at The Porter  — Creature Comforts Bibo Pilsner (German pilsner, 5.5 percent ABV). Creature Comforts, located in Athens, Ga., about an hour outside of Atlanta, used traditional Czech Saaz hops as well as Motueka hops from New Zealand in this pilsner. According to its website, the Motueka hops added a bit of subtle pineapple, which I did pick up. However, because of the style, the hops in general were pretty subtle. Overall, the beer was crisp, as pilsners should be, and was a decent complement to my burrito. However, it didn’t stand out enough that I would order it again.

I have had several experiences with Terrapin Beer Co., especially with its Moo Hoo chocolate milk stout (6 percent ABV, IBUs 30) and Wake N Bake Coffee Oatmeal Stout (9.4 percent ABV). So when we were at a local grocery store picking up some snacks, I grabbed a six-pack of HI 5 IPA (5.9 percent ABV, IBUs 80) cans. Most of these beers were enjoyed in our room, including a 16-ounce can of Sweet Water 420 Extra Pale Ale (5.7 percent ABV).

I had my first taste of Atlanta beer seven or eight years ago with this exact beer. At the time, I was part of a sustainability team from a local RV components manufacturer, and I traveled with the team to an immersion program with Interface Carpet in Atlanta. This seemed to be the local beer of choice throughout the event, so I followed the lead of the locals. Sweet Water, as far as I can tell, is the largest and most well-known area brewery, and it really seemed that Atlantans love their Sweet Water. I enjoyed mine while watching the women’s soccer team beat Colombia to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals.

I got some further advice from a local beer enthusiast and made a stop at Green’s Beverages, which was a short drive from the inn. It was definitely not a high-end bottle shop; however, they had a cooled beer room with quite a selection, including many Belgian beers. It is always fun to be in a new place where Bell’s and Founders don’t rule the shelf. Not that they are not great beers, but I can get those any day at home. I’m sure that Atlantans would say the same if they visited a Chalet Party Shoppe. I practiced a bit of constraint and limited myself to an Against The Grain limited beer and Lost Abbey Red Barn Ale. We do get some Against the Grain in Michiana, but unfortunately, no Lost Abbey beers.

We have moved on to Greenville, S.C., with the possibility of seeing some of Savannah, Ga., later in the week as well. We are being told that the near 100-degree temperatures are abnormal for this time of year, but we are staying inside for a good bit of the day. I have some beer stops planned, but we’re taking our vacation day by day, so we will see where we end up. 

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