By Bobby Bush
Greeted by a friendly bartender as we approached the elongated C-shaped, copper clad bar, we perfunctory ordered a taster tray of all the house brands. I'd visited this building before, probably four years ago when it was known as Phoenix Brewing. Beer, food and facility were memorable. Nice. One of the better brewpubs in greater Atlanta, somehow Phoenix failed. Locked and shuttered for two years, the dusty brewpub arose from its ashes, like its mythical namesake. With new owners and a new name, Five Seasons Brewing Company began life on April 5, 2001.
Original Phoenix brewer Glen Sprouse still mans the 15-barrel brew kettle, though he was able to significantly upgrade the old system. His beers benefit. What I remember as decent, even good beer before, has now become pretty darn remarkable. Named after the original seven breweries in Munich, Seven Sisters Munchner was a sweet smooth lager. Clear golden, Bavarian-style Munich Helles was malty sweet with a turn toward bittersweet on final swallow. Its hop profile was tart though less pronounced than a German pilsner. Lionheart Pale Ale was medium in mouthfeel with almost no noticeable malt sweetness. Brewer Sprouse's recipe places Lionheart between an ESB and IPA, rendering a mildly bitter, crisp drinkable ale.
Pegged as an interpretation of hoppy California pale ales, Sledgehammer West Coast Ale had a big hop presence in aroma and taste. Deep copper in color, this medium bodied beer was blessed with proper Cascade whole leaf hops. Chestnut brown in complexion, Blackbird Porter worked dark chocolate, black patent maltiness. Full bodied and very filling with only minimal bitter finish, this creamy beer was dessert in a pint glass. I had two. Not quite ready for the public, Sprouse brought a sip of his new Delirium Dubbel from the grundy tank. Brewed with beet sugar, this Belgian style holiday brew was appropriately sweet with a pleasing dry finish. At 5.99% abv, this strong ale pushed the limit of Georgia's alcohol law. Unfortunately, we missed Glenkevin Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, Terrapin Rye Ale (creation credited to assistant brewer Brian Buckowski), a true German Hefeweizen, a traditional Czech Bohemian Pilsner, an Alt, a Kolsch, ESB and other great sounding Five Seasons seasonal beers. Brewing 25 to 30 recipes a year, it probably does take five seasons to try them all.
Glen holds mechanical and chemical engineering degrees and has designed equipment and systems for Anheiser Busch and Coors. He still consults for two of his old accounts. His real brewing experience comes from famed brewer school University of California-Davis, which afforded him an opportunity to apprentice at River City Brewing in Sacramento. Glen's focus is on lagers, though he makes delicious ales as well.
Joining Glen in the Five Season's team are restaurateur Dennis Lange and well-known Atlanta chef David Larkworthy. They make the dining experience complete with friendly, well-trained wait staff and a menu that spans cuisines. Little Plates offerings include Mussels a la Mariniere, Edamame (Japanese Boiled Peanuts) and Crispy Buffalo Quail with Blue Cheese. For bigger appetites, there are pizzas (Wild Mushroom with Asparagus, Granny Serrano, and House Cured Salmon with Avocado) and a entree list that includes Black Pearl Salmon over Fregola with Wild Shrooms, Port and Chive, American Lamb Tenderloin with Smashed Potatoes and Duck Both Ways with Spicy Demi-Glace and Micro Greens. Real Pomme Frites, Grilled Asparagus and Sweet Onion Spaetzle are among the side offerings.
Every aspect of the Five Seasons' dining/drinking experience is as close to perfect as life can be. Located in the back of The Prado shopping center in the Sandy Springs community, Five Seasons is just south of I-285 off the Roswell Road exit. It's a little hard to find, but absolutely worth the effort. Guaranteed.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush