Contrast Artisan Ales opened in late December in a small building behind a stretch of storefronts on Peachtree Road in the heart of downtown Chamblee, where the restaurant and bar scene has been booming lately.
Contrast founder Chase Medlin got his start brewing at Twain’s Brewpub & Billiards in Decatur, eventually becoming the head brewer there, before moving on to pursue his dream of building a brewery of his own.
In fact, Medlin was set to open Locomotion Brewing Co. in Chamblee in spring 2017, before several complications caused the venture to be delayed, then finally scrapped.
Locomotion was to be located in a warehouse space on Broad Street near City Hall, with a three-vessel, 30-barrel brewhouse, and a production capacity for packaging and distributing draft and canned beer.
The aptly named Contrast is a much more modest operation, as I discovered one recent afternoon, when I sat down with Medlin at the bar in the tasting room. And it was made possible, he said, by state legislation that went into effect in September 2017, allowing Georgia breweries to sell directly to consumers.
While we sampled one of Medlin’s newest beers, Luminiferous IPA, he told me how he turned what was once a car repair shop into a small, seven-barrel “own-premise” brewery, using a combination of new and used equipment.
“I got the brewhouse and two tanks out of a brewhouse in Florida,” he said. “I got the bright tanks out of a brewery in Connecticut. I hate the term ‘own-premise.’ That’s what people are saying now. But no one is reinventing the wheel. We are making beer and selling it here.
“I will be doing crowlers. I’ve got the machine all ready, and we’ll be doing that soon. But the operation is basically just me. I have three part-timers who work behind the bar, and that’s it.”
In addition to Luminiferous, which is a slightly hazy 6.8 percent IPA with Citra and El Dorado hops, Medlin had four surprisingly high-gravity ales over 8 percent alcohol on tap while I was there.
Bossy Blonde is a fruity and refreshing Belgian-style ale that’s dangerously easy to drink. Fever Dream Double IPA features a bright and lively blend of Citra, Simcoe and Vic Secret hops, and a lovely pale gold color.
Hypnotize Biggie Stout is a dark, rich American imperial stout. An even richer Biggie variant is infused with concentrated cold brew Nicaraguan coffee roasted by Medlin in collaboration with Atlanta’s Beanealogy.
There are “fancy lunchables” and other snacks for sale, and nitro cold brew coffee on tap. Plus you can buy bags of Contrast Coffee beans in light, medium or dark roast, along with T-shirts, caps and other logo merchandise.
Medlin hired a local design-build firm to transform what was a series of bays with garage doors into a cozy taproom with a granite-topped bar and tall cafe tables with stools. A large mural and other works by Atlanta artists Jagua Martian and Austin Blue give the space a vivid Technicolor focal point.
“People keep asking me what’s next,” Medlin said. “But I just opened this place. I don’t know what’s next. I don’t have to. And I’m OK with that right now. I’m just easing into it. Maybe there will be another one in the future. I could do one that’s a little larger, with a small canning line, but still not big, and mostly direct sales-focused.”
CONTRAST ARTISAN ALES
5504 Peachtree Road, Chamblee. contrastartisanales.com.
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