When Toolbox first opened they had a variety of beers available including a milk stout, a pale ale, an IPA, and their various sours, kettle and barrel aged. At the time, the idea of eventually having an all brett brewery (brett stands for a form of wild yeast that is common in sours and wild ales) seemed extreme. I still think so, even though now I have gotten more familiar with the style of beer. Though I and many beer drinkers enjoy a good sour, there are still people who want a stout or IPA and who may visit Toolbox with their friends who enjoy sours. Now, some time later, they have brought back the traditional styles along with a line of North East style hazy IPAs, a sweet stout, and a barrel aged imperial stout.
This is a subtle shift because they still have their numerous core kettle sours and various barrel-aged sours. The change in the menu should help them attract a wider audience and over time convert more people to the delicious sour beer side as well. In my visit I tried a few of their new offerings and overall they were quite impressive. In total I tried their wild lager, hazy IPA, sweet stout, barrel aged stout, and hazy double IPA.
The wild lager had delicious fruity notes that blended nicely with earthy funk in the background. It was a crisp, clean, lager that I would enjoy having more of. The hazy IPA was soft and full of aromas while not too bitter. I enjoyed it though the galaxy hops came through with a lot more herbal notes than I expected, which I don’t particularly care for. The sweet stout was sweet with a thin body that presented just the right amount of chocolate and vanilla while finishing with a mild lactose sweetness.
The bourbon-barrel-aged imperial stout was sticky and thick with a fantastic balance of fudge, caramel, mild salt, and subtle bourbon. I was quite impressed for their first release of the style. The double IPA was hazy and started off with intense fruit and a mild acidic finish though I got some of the same herbal notes as I did from the single IPA that pushed me off. It had a properly thick mouth-feel and is well on the way to joining other local hazy offerings.
Toolbox succeeded in adding to their already impressive lineup of beers with their solid hazy IPAs and stouts to push them further past other Vista breweries in quality. They will go nicely along with Burgeon to bring hazy beers to the area.
My trip to Georgia was mainly to visit some breweries in Athens, but since I was flying out of Atlanta it made sense to hit a brewery there before leaving. To avoid driving with too much beer, I kept to one brewery and so I went with my friend’s recommendation to try Scofflaw. They are in an area of Atlanta a bit North West of downtown, a ways away from anything. That didn’t stop people from coming out and enjoying beer though. The crowd was quite respectable.
During my visit their tap list was almost all IPAs with the exception of an imperial wit and a barrel-aged strong ale. All of the IPAs I had were quite well-done, juicy but not hazy, in the modern West-Coast style. I might have even brought back some cans of the IPA they had available if I could have done so while still buying the strong-ale bottles, but since I had to pick I got the strong ale. Your preference between the varioius IPAs they make will come down to your hop profile of choice. Their double IPA was also quite impressive, fruity, mildly sweet, and not really boozy at all.
The barrel-aged strong ale was good and medium body, mildly sweet, with a good mix of caramel and light whiskey character. It was also barely boozy despite the high alcohol content. I left with a bottle because it was quite well-done and the price was right. If you are in to the juicy (not hazy) style of IPAs, Scofflaw hits the spot nicely and should satisfy any hop-head who ends up in Atlanta.
Come visit for modern-style IPAs and barrel-aged stouts
Though cider isn’t beer, beer fans would feel immediately at home walking into Newtopia. Their tasting room has all the feel of a proper tasting-room with taster flights available and a wide array of options to choose from. I had a variety of different ciders though two of their core offerings were unavailable, perhaps because they have been selling so well they can’t keep them on tap.
Their Belgian style cider had a dark red color with notes of pineapple and spice that finished with notes of currants. I enjoyed it though I thought the flavors could be a bit more balanced with each other. The twisted takes a cider and adds some citrus to it. It had a bitter citrus finish with notes of light ginger, with a bitter and dry finish. The chai is their award-winning offering and I can see why. It had a perfect balance of mild spice and light sweetness that reminded me of a classic spiced-cider. I was sad I couldn’t bring some home in my growler.
One of their core offerings is their IPC, a dry-hopped cider, though the only version available when I visited was the double of the same. It had a fantastic strong hop flavor of citrus and grass with a medium sweetness. The semi-sweet had notes of herbs and light mint with a crisp finish. I wasn’t a fan of the herbs or the mint. The Sleepless in Sumatra is their cider with cold brew coffee and vanilla added. It was smooth with light sweetness and nice balance of coffee and vanilla.
I enjoyed most of what I had at Newtopia and hope to stop by again to try some of their core offerings that I missed. I was glad to see that they started with having an outdoor patio and a crowler machine to offer their cider to go. They also stand out with their unique cider glasses that help make the aromas prominent in the experience.
Athens Georgia is a small college town about an hour and a half drive East of Atlanta. I visited mainly for Creature Comforts and while I was planning the trip I read about The Southern Brewing Company and their barrel aging program. People rave about the Tropicalia IPA from Creature Comforts, though when I tasted it, it didn’t blow me away, perhaps because I assumed from the name it was going to be a hazy IPA. I had two IPAs at Creature Comforts and they were both excellent examples of the West Coast style of IPA, hop-forward, low malt bill, and crisp dry finish while not too bitter.
What really impressed me though was their berliner-weisse. I didn’t drink any of the base while I was there but when I visited they had a number of versions available. Both the Terry Swish, with three kinds of fruit, and the dry-hopped variant were fantastic. I enjoyed both of them so much that I brought back a six pack of the base to explore it further. I enjoyed the cans so much that I wished I had brought back a second six-pack. This is the new standard against which I will rate berliner-weisse beers for some time.
San Diego breweries sell a lot of fruited berliner weisse and gose but usually they go a bit too light on the fruit for my tastes. This one was bursting with fruit and so good that I got two of it out of the tour. The dry-hopped version was perfectly balanced, with tons of hop aromas and no bitterness. The fruity hops went nicely with the citrus kick of the gose.
A note on the way breweries sell beer in Georgia, or at least while I visited, they can’t sell beer directly. Instead, they sell you a tour that includes a glass and six six-ounce pours. They have tours available but you don’t have to take one. It is their way around the silly laws. Other silly laws limit your ability to take home beers, so that you can’t buy more than 72 ounces of beer to go in one day per person. The tour thing should be changing soon for smaller breweries based on a law that has already been passed, which would allow them to sell directly. It will be interestin to see if they start doing taster flights like other tasting rooms.
Creature Comforts makes some great beers and everything I tasted when I visited was well-made. I also brought home a bottle of one of their sours to try later. They have a large open tasting room with plenty of seating inside and outside and it can get quite busy on weekends. I happened to visit on a particularly busy weekend because it was graduation time for many and they celebrated by going to breweries.
The Southern Brewing Company
Compared to Creature Comforts’ West Coast style IPAs, everything hoppy I had at The Southern Brewing Company was more malty in the classic style. I didn’t even bother with their IPA once I realized it was as malty as their pale ale. There is nothing wrong with the style but I don’t particularly enjoy drinking it. The pale ale was really well made and a good mix of fruity hops and biscuit notes from the malts.
What I really enjoyed was their Berliner weisse and their Cherokee Rose. The Berliner weisse was complex and balanced. The Cherokee Rose tasted like an earthy saison with some mild funk. They also had a barrel-aged saison on tap that was funky as expected and nicely done. I also enjoyed their mexican-chocolate stout that was left over from Cinco De Mayo. It was appropriately balanced and medium body with notes of spice and mild hot pepper heat on top of a nice roasty stout.
I wanted to try some of the sours they were selling bottles of but besides the saison I couldn’t try them. Thankfully I found a bottle of their peach sour at a local shop and brought one of those bottles home along with their bourbon barrel aged stout. Southern also had a nice tasting room with an even larger lawn area for people to hang out in the sun. It is a shame California has such restrictive laws that require enclosed spaces at breweries or we could have something similar. They used the space to put on live music and it was good and relaxing. The crowd was even more insane at Southern.
If the sours from both breweries turn out as good as I hope, it makes for a great visit to enjoy the laid-back town of Athens and have some great beer while you are there.
Since writing this post, I tasted the peach sour and barrel-aged stout I brought back with. The peach sour was well-made though pretty standard for the style. The barrel-aged stout was also quite tasty though a bit thin because I assume they blend it down after aging in the barrel. It is a nice change from some of the thick sludgy stouts I see a lot of. Both were nicely done but not something I would make a separate trip to buy bottles of.