In July, Atlanta chef Kevin Gillespie debuted his newest venture, Cold Beer, a two-story, 7,000-square-foot space in the Edge mixed-use development along the Eastside Beltline in the Old Fourth Ward.
The name comes from Gillespie’s childhood memories of a rustic sign painted on the side of a building that advertised “cold beer.”
But, in contrast, the bar-focused spinoff of Gunshow, Gillespie’s innovative restaurant in nearby Glenwood Park, is decidedly sophisticated, with a dramatic, multifaceted design that includes a soaring rooftop deck.
The menu features 15 imaginative seasonal cocktails from Beverage Director Mercedes O’Brien, alongside 15 seasonal “share plates” from chef de cuisine Brian Baxter. There are a dozen or so wines by the glass or bottle, too.
And, there’s the beer list, where the 25 offerings are arranged from light and refreshing to complex and strong.
Among the 12 taps, you’ll find Gillespie favorites such as Orion, a Japanese rice lager not readily available on draft, or Cigar City Maduro, a malty, aromatic brown ale he likes to pair with wings. There are another 13 packaged selections, ranging from Bud Heavy and Coors Banquet to the likes of Crooked Stave Sour Rosé and Dieu du Ciel Péché Mortel.
“We arranged it so that, generally speaking, people can tell what they’re getting into,” Gillespie said. “We wanted it to still feel like a bar here, in the sense that we wanted you to feel comfortable coming in, ordering a beer and a snack, and leaving.”
Not surprisingly, Gillespie’s beer philosophy is wide-ranging, and not necessarily craft beer-correct.
“I’m over the people who think that the only good beer made in this world is from the tiniest microbrewery as close to you as possible,” Gillespie declared. “There are some awesome people making beer near where we’re sitting right now. But, they’re not all standouts. And, some of them aren’t good at all. When I put a beer list together, it’s almost like I’m making a playlist for somebody.
“Sometimes, it’s bands you’ve heard of before, and sometimes it’s bands you’ve never heard of before,” he said. “And, that’s what I think we have here. We have a mixture of things from a lot of different size breweries, and a lot of different places, with one connecting factor — that we think that’s the best version of whatever it is that we’re showing you. And, of course, we wanted to think about seasonality to match the food.”
Gillespie has definite ideas about what he considers the top beers for any list, too.
“I’m comfortable in saying that there isn’t a better German hefeweizen than Weihenstephaner,” he said. “If you’re looking for what a hefeweizen is supposed to be, start there. They’ve been making it for 1,000 years. I think there’s something to admire about that.”
Also, he said, “Orion lager is a beer that a lot of Americans don’t know. They know Sapporo, and things like that. Personally, I think this is better. I think its flavor is more refined. If I tasted it blind, I would tell you that it was a German beer, because it has such a crisp quality. And, I like the idea of having it on draft, because you usually only see it in bottles.”
Summing up the Cold Beer ethos, Gillespie said: “I don’t think dining needs to be so damn serious. It should just be fun.”
670 DeKalb Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-254-1032, coldbeeratl.com.
More metro area beer lists
Metro Atlanta is home to beer bars that regularly rank among the best in America, if not the world. Here’s a sampling of those destinations, plus some places with solid beer lists that aren’t quite as well known.
Argosy — Call it a gastropub, a beer bar, or a hip hangout, this East Atlanta Village mainstay feels like it’s been around longer than six years. Look for an estimable draft list updated online, and bites, burgers, pizza and brunch that keep regulars coming back for more. 70 Flat Shoals Ave., Atlanta. 404-577-0407, argosy-east.com.
Boxcar —Open since March in the “Malt Disney” Lee + White development in the West End, the latest Hop City spinoff features a restaurant, two bars and a new retail beer and wine store. You’ll find 80 rotating draft beers, with suggestions for pairings on the food menu. 1000 White St. SW, Atlanta. 470-788-8171, boxcaratl.com.
Brick Store Pub — The Decatur icon celebrated its 22nd anniversary in June. The OG of craft beer in greater Atlanta also is a premier place to enjoy the best ales and lagers from around Europe and the U.K., and both the vintage cellar and food menu continue to evolve. 125 E. Court Square, Decatur. 404-687-0990, brickstorepub.com.
Georgia Beer Garden — A fixture on Edgewood Avenue in the Old Fourth Ward, this renovated early 1900s two-story brick building is home to a neighborhood bar with more than 100 beers and ciders brewed in Georgia. There’s a full food menu, as well. 420 Edgewood Ave. SE, Atlanta. 404-458-5690, georgiabeergarden.com.
Johnnie MacCracken’sCeltic Firehouse Pub — This former fire station turned Irish bar turned craft beer destination on Marietta Square offers 70 rotating taps, classic pub fare, and a cast of friendly regulars that keep it busy. 15 Atlanta St. SE, Marietta. 678-290-6641, johnniemaccrackens.com.
The Nest Kennesaw — Get a taste of craft beer and barbecue at this bar and restaurant situated in a pair of renovated 1880s houses, with a beer garden in between. With some 60 taps, the draft list includes an abundance of local, seasonal and rare offerings. 2921 Cherokee St. NW, Kennesaw. 678-903-6921, thenestkennesaw.com.
The Porter Beer Bar — Opened in Atlanta’s hip Little Five Points in 2008, before craft beer was commonplace, the combo of a chef-driven food menu and a beer list that boasts more than 430 selections made this storefront a hit with geeks and neighborhood regulars alike. 1156 Euclid Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-223-0393, theporterbeerbar.com.
Steinbeck’s Ale House — A gem in the Oakhurst neighborhood of Decatur, the minuscule space is just one of the charms of a pub that features grub that’s so much better than it needs to be, and a small but mighty beer list that’s as well curated as the ever-changing menu. 659 East Lake Drive, Decatur. 404-373-1116, steinbecksbar.com.
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