So far, in just the first few months of this year, I've spent more time playing in Georgia than I have in any previous year. Usually I hit a Georgia brewery on my way to or from Florida, but this year I have not only done that, but also spent several weekends playing breweries throughout the state. I stopped at Atlanta's Best End Brewery as one of the first stops on this year's Spring Tour, and it was already my third trip to play the Atlanta area this year (in addition to other stops near Augusta, Athens, northern Georgia, etc.).
Best End is a very cool brewery. Based in Atlanta's West End, the brewery is situated in a most unusual sprawling campus of repurposed warehouses that are now the home of several breweries, a distillery, and restaurants. The buildings are massive, there's tons of parking, and the rear of the development borders a park-like area with bike trails, a creek, and beautiful landscaping. All of this is well within the urban city of Atlanta... not a suburb off in the distance.
Best End Brewing Co. - Atlanta, GA
Beers are available at the brewery and to go, as well as found on taps in finer drinking establishments throughout the Atlanta area.
The taproom itself is enormous and gorgeous. Awesome woodwork everywhere, very cool tables, colorful festive murals throughout the inside and out, and hanging lighting all create a vibe of celebration. Behind the building, bordering the previously mentioned bike trail, etc. is the sizeable beer garden, with a tiki bar at one end, a proper stage for music on the other, and plenty of tables and seating in between.
The incredible smells of the kitchen waft throughout, and while I sampled their very good wings, I was most enamored by their big Sicilian style rectangular blocks of pizza, which looked and smelled amazing. Next time...
The brewery's space is large enough that on this night they actually hosted two different musical artists.... I played to an upbeat crowd under the stars in the beer garden, and inside an R&B artist played to a more chill crowd on piano. My crowd was very attentive and there to hear music and we had a great night outside, and afterwards we relaxed for a little while inside to the sounds of the R&B guy, and while the vibe inside was quite different from my show, his crowd was every bit as keyed into his show as mine was to mine.
Best End's beer selection is large and varied. Pale Ales, sours, darker beers, and seltzers are all well represented. One that jumped off the board at me was the Milksteak Milkshake (6.4%) IPA. Now, “milkshake IPA” is a combination of words that turn some people away right off the bat. Milk and ice cream in a pale ale??? Well, luckily that's not what it really is... it usually means there's some sort of fruit and a bit of lactose used to make the body a tad creamier, and they are quite good. But then “milksteak” is another pairing of words that don't seem right together... and then you're going to put that together with “milkshake IPA”? Ballsy. I honestly don't know what “milksteak” is or means... but I do have a vague memory of an episode of Always Sunny In Philadelphia referencing it. Regardless, I went for it... and I'm happy to report I did not detect any meat or beefy elements in the beer, nor any fat or grizzle, for that matter. What I did get was a nice smooth, refreshing IPA with a hint of orange and just enough lactose to add a little body to the sip. It was quite good, and yet another example of why I don't turn away from a new beer just because it looks weird on paper. This one is worth hunting down.
Another brew that scared me a little on the board, which I then of course had to try, was the Neopolitan Dino Might (6.4%) Milk Porter. Now, milk porters don't scare me... I rather love them... but Neopolitan indicates we're also playing with strawberries, vanilla, and chocolate... and that can be scary. Could also be great. I like any of those three things in a beer, in moderation... but all three could also be an overly sweet mess and I don't like sweet beers. Surprisingly, not only was it not too sweet, I actually had a hard time detecting much of those flavors. Like you'd expect in a good porter, there was a nice toasty malt flavor, and this one also had a nice medium-heavy body, but I didn't get much sweetness, strawberry, nor vanilla. It was a good porter, I enjoyed it, but if I had for some reason read the name and wanted a sweet beer with bunch of strawberry and/or vanilla I might have been disappointed.... but that's not me, so I liked it as it is.
Another standout was the Man of War (4.8%) Vienna Lager. It seems I don't drink many lagers these days, what with all the other choices screaming for attention, but I do love a good tasty lager, and that's exactly what we have here. True to the tradition, Man of War had a nice copper color with white head, crisp and clean on the drink, with a slight toasty bread and malt flavor, and rather light on the hoppiness. Many breweries these days tend to look to lagers (and pilsners) as a light, watery option for the friend you dragged along who normally just drinks Coors Light, but that's not what we have here. Medium-light bodied, but full of good flavor, Man of War is definitely a Vienna Lager and not a knock off of it's more watery American cousin.
I can tell you I also sampled a few IPAs, but I can't really report on them in any detail as my notes got wet and I can't read them. I can tell you that I enjoyed the ones I tried... one was a bit piney from the hops, but I remember thinking my reaction was probably more because of the fact that I selected it after a non-IPA beer, and just had a little hops shock on the palate. We talked about me coming back to play again later in the season, and when I do I'll make a mission of focusing more on the pale ale options.
Best End is a relatively new gem of the Atlanta craft beer scene. The setting was awesome, the beer selection was wide and quality, the food is great, the staff was extremely friendly and helpful, and they draw a fun crowd (and doggies). If I lived nearby this would be a regular haunt for me, and will definitely be on my short-list to pop in on whenever I'm in the area. I hope to be back soon!
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