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Peckerhead Brewery
December, 2000

By Bobby Bush

This Greater Atlanta beer journey, though properly planned in advance to minimize travel, leapfrogged through the area. Luckily traffic was moderate and cooperative with our efforts.

Just a mile or so north of Max Lager’s on Peachtree is the first southern Gordon Biersch. Construction was actually started before the California-based GB brewpub chain was acquired by Big River of Chattanooga, which already owned a Rock Bottom facility only a mile north on Peachtree. Yes, it does get confusing.

This Gordon Biersch opened on December 31, 1999 with a New Year’s Eve celebration and hasn’t slow since. Eric Gerrold’s brewery hovers over the front door, beaming through glass walls onto the valet parking lot below. We were hungry and quickly settled into a comfy booth along the far wall. The menu was typical - which is to say, great - Gordon Biersch fare, such as the best selling Fettuccini with Andouille Sausage, Grilled Chicken and Shrimp with Louisiana Spices and Tomato Cream Sauce. Many entrees leaned toward Creole, New Orleans cuisine. GB’s famous Garlic Fries, originated in Palo Alto, had no problem with a southern interpretation. Hmmm. Excellent service as well.

The food was so good we almost forgot about the beer. Again, standard Gordon Biersch recipes here, all traditional German style served in 0.5 liter glasses. With no specials, we had only three to try. Golden Export was a nice beginners beer. Malty with thin body, it’s Heineken-plus. Copper hued with white froth above, Marzen was maltier with thicker, medium mouthfeel, while ruby Dunkles was sweet with a crisp ending. A pinch of chocolate emerged in its aroma and flavor profile.

It’s nice to see that Chattanooga management is smartly letting Gordon Biersch continue as they were.

About 20 miles west on I-20 lies the humble community of Douglasville, home of two brewpubs. Since we found it first, we stopped in for a quick one at another Hops Restaurant Bar Brewery. Framed label displays and brewery paraphernalia from around the world graced the walls. Seats were fastly filling on this mid-afternoon weekday. Being very familiar with the Hops beers, we ordered only one, a pint of the seasonal Winter Amber Ale. Brewer Jim Karlak has a nice one here. Copper colored and malty, there’s a hint of chocolate malt amongst the basic crystal bill. Little hops taste escaped, though a mildly bitter finish worked properly.

We found a hotel room in Douglasville, this one unfortunately not within walking distance of a brewpub, and headed out to locate Rebecca & Eugene’s Coffee House. No, we weren’t looking for a hot cup of expresso, smartass. This funky little deli-meets-coffee shop is the home of Peckerhead Brewery, which is visible to the left of Rebecca’s front entrance. The bar was hidden in the back room, an eclectic, small place with unmatched tables, and low ceiling. The side of an old VW van housed a big screen TV from which Pink Floyd’s “The Wall Live” movie was playing. Just a bit Bohemian and redneck at the same time.

A three piece band set up their equipment as we sipped from our tall but tiny mug sampler tray. Made without the benefit of “inexpensive rice or corn,” Westside Lager played sweet until a sour hop drop at the end. Mikey’s Kolsch presented a floral bouquet belied by tart, medium mouthfeel and sour hop ending. Knucklehead Amber, a Vienna-style lager, was extremely nice with caramel and chocolate malt prevalent. Aroma-free, Slapshot American Pale Ale had a medium fruity body, hoppy bitter finish and unusual sweet aftertaste. Amber in hue, Rita’s Red Ale was smooth with heavy caramel taste and little obvious hops. English-style and dark copper, Friends Nut Brown Ale was warmly malty, coating the tongue with sweet aftertaste. Copper-amber Christmas Beer was fruity with strange tastes (spices?) mid-mouth. Peckerhead also offered Sweetwater Breakdown IPA and Guinness Stout, which we took a pass on, along with a multitude of funky coffees, hot teas and perfumed cigarettes.

Rebecca & Eugene’s Coffee House opened in August 1996. Inspired by a visit to Heavenly Daze, a brewpub in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the owner installed a brewery because all their friends were alcoholic, not coffee drinkers. Peckerhead Brewery was commissioned on January 1, 1998. John Zaneston mans the brew kettle.

This Atlanta area tour has one more installment. See you next week. Meanwhile, read more about ol’ Suds’ adventures. See Atlanta Farewell.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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