By Heather Karellas, contributor
Atlanta’s beer scene has exploded over the past few years. With so many new breweries in the city, it’s easy to miss some of the smaller ones that have recently cropped up. For your summer bucket list, we’ve rounded up a half-dozen of the city’s most underrated small breweries that you may or may not have heard of. While some of these places are a little bit of a drive, they’re all within around 30 miles of downtown Atlanta – perfect for a weekend day trip.
Gate City Brewing Company | Roswell
With the slogan “modern spirit, southern soul,” Historic Roswell is a suburban gem filled with unique spots to shop, dine, and explore. However, the neighborhood lacked a craft brewery until Gate City Brewing Co. opened in 2013. Over the past five years, the brewery has slowly grown; today, their 30bbl brewhouse offers nearly 20 beers on tap in a “warehouse-chic” facility (the building was formerly home to two Roswell mechanic shops). The brewery has live music just about every Friday and Saturday night during the summer, and a variety of other weeknight events including trivia, painting night, and even cornhole competitions.
Pro Tip: Try out the skee-ball machines in the taproom for extra nostalgic fun.
Variant Brewing Company | Roswell
At first glance, what’s most striking about Variant is the way their taproom looks. After visiting a number of craft breweries, the décor and furnishings at each one begin to blend together. It seems that most, if not all, brewery owners have a penchant for rustic wood finishes, plenty of iron and steel work, exposed beams and brick walls, and so on. Somehow, Variant Brewing has managed to incorporate some of that typical brewery décor while still creating a vibe that’s refreshing, unique, and extremely welcoming. Variant is nearly brand-new; they opened in November 2017 and have been quietly growing since then. At time of writing, they have 18 beers on tap with an impressive variety of styles and flavors.
Pro Tip: Get the Raspberry Lemon Gose – it’s the perfect refreshing summer drink, with just the right mix of sweet and sour.
Arches Brewing | Hapeville
Founded in 2016, Arches is unique for its decidedly science-based approach to beer. Arches’ team emphasizes the importance of water quality in every brew – and in 2017, they installed a well system to deliver the purest, freshest water possible to their brewhouse from the company’s own underground aquifier. The brewery team even adjusts the water profile for each beer depending on the region where the style of beer came from. This is unsurprising when you learn that Arches’ Brewmaster, Jamey Adams, is a trained biochemist. He’s also lived in East Point for more than 15 years, which meant that Hapeville was an obvious location choice to establish the brewery. Arches is nestled in the city’s burgeoning arts district, with plenty to do and see nearby.
Pro Tip: Check Arches’ calendar for brewery events including “Yoga on Tap,” group runs, Beer & Bingo, and other fun events. You can also grab some food after your visit at another local attraction: the Chick-fil-A Dwarf House less than a mile away.
Jailhouse Brewing Company | Hampton
Jailhouse opened in 2009 as the fourth production brewery in Georgia. Open only on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Jailhouse includes an outdoor taproom with more than a dozen beers to try. Jailhouse’s approach is to intentionally think small; the company’s self-described philosophy is, “bigger isn’t necessarily better.” This means that rather than simply focusing on growth, the founders are devoted to building community and embracing their neighborhood. The brewery’s name derives from its facility’s origins; the brewery’s building is the old Hampton jail built in the early 1900s.
Pro Tip: Love music and beer? Jailhouse offers a Vinyl Night every Friday night in July; if you bring a record for the brewery to play, you’ll get a free taster of beer. (Limit one per person).
Pontoon Brewing | Sandy Springs
Pontoon Brewing is another newbie on the Atlanta beer scene. Opened in January of this year, the brewery encourages its patrons to relax and unwind from the stressors of daily life – a notion the founders describe as “living the Pontoon Lifestyle.” Pontoon’s beer lineup includes three flagship beers and a variety of seasonal and special release beers. A particular standout is “Fluffy Otter:” an oatmeal crème stout with real marshmallow and vanilla. In addition to delicious beers, a visit to the brewery will also give you an insta-worthy photo opp with this magnificent mural.
Pro Tip: There’s nothing that says summer picnic like a slice of cherry pie, and Pontoon has perfected it in liquid form. Try “Cheerbeer” – a seasonal 8 percent strong ale with cherries and vanilla.
Reformation Brewery | Woodstock
Going up 575N, Woodstock is one of the gateway towns to Georgia’s beautiful Ellijay and Blue Ridge areas. If you’re headed to North Georgia this summer, be sure to stop by Reformation on the way. Reformation has the heart and soul of a small-town brewery. Its core values include moderation, humility, and acceptance, and its logo is derived from the Lutheran Seal. Reformation’s leadership puts their money where their mouth is, with the brewery’s philanthropic arm supporting community causes including Variety Playhouse, The Giving Kitchen, and the Upper Etowah River Alliance.
Click here to see an interactive map of these breweries.