Updated: Apr 3
Upon returning from the February in Florida run, I was home for one week and then back on the road, this time for two weekends in Georgia. To be more precise, it was actually one weekend in the Atlanta area, then back to Ohio for a St. Paddy's Day gig in Dayton, then back to eastern Georgia for a second weekend.
The first night of the Georgia run was in Lawrenceville, which is just a bit northeast of Atlanta, at Ironshield Brewing. Being I was coming in from the north, I assumed I would skip most of Atlanta's notorious traffic, but I assumed poorly. It had been about an 8 hour drive, and now I was stuck in traffic for at least an hour, so I was pretty stressed when I arrived at the brewery, thinking I was supposed to go on shortly. As it turned out I wasn't supposed to play until later than my schedule had indicated, so I was actually a few hours early, which game me ample time to explore the brewery and get the brewery's story from a few employees.
Ironshield Brewing - Lawrenceville, GA
Beers available throughout Georgia
Ironshield occupies a rather large dark red building on a corner lot in an area that was a mix of residential and businesses. The front of the building features a long covered patio, outside of which is a nice spatial beer garden. The beer garden is shaded by large angular tarps and festive lighting, with ample picnic tables and seating throughout, and bookended by an area for foodtrucks on one side, and a proper stage for live music on the other. The food truck on this night, by the way, had FANTASTIC empanadas!
Inside, the taproom was like a chic, cozy beer hall. A large bar running the length of one side, some picnic tables for beer hall type atmosphere near the bar, and capped towards each end with more comfortable, relaxing seating (leather couches, end chairs, etc.). There were also additional rooms with pub games like darts, shuffle board, etc. and interesting artwork throughout.
As for the beers, these guys grew out of an Irish beer tradition, as well as a German tradition, so the styles you'll find at the taps tend to skew towards one of those or the other, and not so much towards the more trendy craft styles of the moment. You can find Ironshield's brews throughout Georgia, and they also contract brew (where one brewery turns to a higher capacity brewery to brew batches for them) for a dozen or so other breweries.
I think my favorite beer of the night was their brand new Lorelei Hefeweizen (5.2%), which was exceptional. Hefeweizens (unfiltered beers made with at least 50% wheat, of the German tradition) as a whole can be rather hit or miss to my palate. When they are crisp and well balanced and not too bready they can be fantastic, but when playing with malted wheat and relying on the yeast to carry the flavor and aroma they can get a bit funky. A well balanced hefeweizen gives slight hints of banana and spice flavors (such as clove), a funky one delivers a bit too heavily on either or both. As such, I always hesitate a bit while ordering, as if not perfectly balanced I find it hard to get through a pint. Ironshield really nailed their Lorelei, providing a really well balanced brew with slight hints of banana in the aroma and sip, with just a tad of space to keep it from being too sweet. The pour was a glowing slightly hazy gold with a medium white head. Medium bodied and carbonated, it all in was one of the best hefeweizens I've had. Well worth the visit!
Another of my favorites was the Half Cork'd Irish Red Ale (5.5%). Another style that I either love or don't like at all, where a subpar red ale can be a bit sappy and too sweet for my tastes. Half Cork'd was neither, again a nice crisp and refreshing drink, malty goodness with a slight roasted nut element, wrapping up with a rather dry earthiness on the finish that was notably absent of that sappiness I was talking about. This is one of those beers where the finish is so enjoyable that you want to immediately follow it up with another sip. Crushable in it's own way, but with a medium body, carbonation, and boldness. A darker reddish brown pour with a light tan head, Half Cork'd again rose above my usual expectations in the category.
Going back to the German side of the house, the Seven Sisters Munchen (Vienna style) Amber Lager (4.8%) was a respectable brew. Amber on the pour (as the name would imply) this was rather full bodied for a lager, ever so slightly hoppy with a leaning towards the maltiness, especially on the back end. Refreshing on the sip, perhaps a little sappy on the finish, yet still a refreshing drink. When I say sappy on the finish, perhaps better described as just a little maltier that you might expect in a lager.
Honorable mention to the Brown Ale (5.5%) North English Brown Ale... a little chocolate, a little caramel, and just the right about of brown ale nuttiness, with a clean dry finish.
Ironshield is a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon and/or evening. The beer garden and multifaceted taproom provide many options for setting and comfort, and the proper stage and enthusiastic crowd made it a great venue for live music. In a world that is exploding with craft breweries pushing various IPA offshoots and sours and such, it's always a treat to find those rare breweries dedicated to the old European standards and traditions, and Ironshield does a great job with them.
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