On the other hand, its beer menu offers notably focused options. About a half-dozen beers are brewed on-site in shiny tanks that can be glimpsed behind the brightly lit, spacious open kitchen. In a show of admirable camaraderie, another dozen or so beers on tap are sourced mostly from other local brewpubs like Wrecking Bar and Twain’s. No doubt this is the smart, friendly work of Andy Tan, Hopstix’s brewmaster and founder, who has long been a notable presence in Atlanta’s homebrew scene.
Hopstix brewmaster Andy Tan produces classic, balanced craft brews like this B.C. Brown. CONTRIBUTED BY WYATT WILLIAMS
One evening, I brought along a friend that we’ll call a reluctant beer snob. Maybe you know the type: He’ll tell you he’s just a normal guy who likes a good brew before reluctantly admitting that, yes, he does have an opinion about the questionable relationship between the hops profile and malt backbone in this particular pint. As we slowly ordered a few half pints from the house taps, the sun pleasantly receding behind the building’s front windows, he initially feigned indifference at his options.
Perhaps this is because Hopstix beers are not, at first glance, the most exciting or unusual of craft brews. There is a classic Pilsner, a lightly hoppy golden ale, a porter, an English brown, an American Pale with enough hoppy bitterness to knock you over the head. But as we made our way down the list, nibbling along the way, I could see the beer snob’s indifference fade into pleasant approval. For a brewpub open only a few months, he explained, the consistent quality of the beer is impressive. For my money, a half pint of the B.C. Brown is a pleasant steal.
The same can’t quite be said for the kitchen, though it isn’t bad. In fact, that has tended to be my response for almost everything I’ve tasted out of the Hopstix kitchen: “Oh sure, not bad.” The sushi corndog, which takes a tuna roll and dips in it tempura batter with a stick like a corndog, is amusing, though I wished for less rice and more punch from the spicy mayo drizzled atop it. Tempura-fried kabocha squash was tasty and crisp by itself, but overwhelmed by the salt in the dipping sauce that accompanied it.
There is no shortage in the portions. Entrees of king crab fried rice and a piled-high chirashi-style bowl called super bowl on the menu both contained enough rice to feed a small family. Though there was plenty of tender king crab meat piled atop, the fried rice was a touch too greasy and bland. I much preferred the super bowl, which includes a scattering of tender sashimi, sticky sweet eel, some lettuce and ginger, fish roe, vinegar-packed sushi rice, a skewer of robata grilled pork belly, and a raw quail yolk nestled inside a tiny eggshell. Is that maybe too much stuff packed into one bowl? Sure, but it hits the kind of big, messy, overlapping, satisfying notes you want from something called a super bowl.
If you’re able to look past all of these other options, though, I’d say the best bet at Hopstix is the robata grill. Like the short pours of beer, these skewers hover around a few bucks a piece and encourage the kind of casual nibbling and tasting that pairs perfectly with a flight of beers after work. Tender vegetables, like Chamblee-grown shiitake mushrooms and crunchy shishito peppers, are touched with char and smoke but not overwhelmed by it. A skewer of tender, smoky baby octopus is a delight, especially when paired with the piles of kimchi loaded on with the platter. Pork belly arrives chewy, fatty, crunchy. A drinker in possession of a half pint will be surely pleased.
11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays; 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. 3404 Pierce Drive, Chamblee. 678-888-2306, hopstixbrewing.com.