Beer Town: Serve yourself at Red’s Beer Garden in Benteen Park

Kristen “Red” Sumpter and Ed Sumpter are the wife-and-husband team behind Red’s Beer Garden. CONTRIBUTED BY Bob Townsend
Kristen “Red” Sumpter and Ed Sumpter are the wife-and-husband team behind Red’s Beer Garden. CONTRIBUTED BY Bob Townsend

ExploreRed’s Beer Garden opened in late January in Benteen Park on a rapidly changing stretch of Boulevard some half-a-mile south of the Southside Beltline.

Wife-and-husband owners Kristen “Red” Sumpter and Ed Sumpter call the mostly self-serve, 300-plus beverage concept “the first of its kind” in the area. But whatever the case, it certainly displays a sparkly newness that fits with the changing ways of selling and serving beer and other related beverages now.

Once a laundromat, the storefront space occupies a substantial section of a small strip center, with a bright build-out that includes both indoor seating at cafe and communal tables, and a dog-friendly deck and fenced backyard with picnic tables.

Pick your beverage selections from a wall of refrigerators organized by flavor profiles, such as “Dark & Roasty,” “Hoppy & Bitter” and “Crisp & Clean.” Notably, there’s one refrigerator for gluten-free beer, wine, cider, mead, and hard seltzer, aka “spiked bubbles.” And another refrigerator holds all sorts of soft drinks, and even chocolate milk and apple juice.

You pay or start a tab at the bar, where you can choose from six different rotating beers on tap, and grab snacks, such as local Poppa Corn’s popcorn, Zapp’s potato chips, or DIY cups of cheese balls, trail mix, or pretzels.

Going bigger, order flattop-grilled local Pigman Goods beef hot dogs, or Beyond Meat vegan hot dogs, with a choice of toppings and combinations — including the Red’s Favorite with pimento cheese, fig jam, and chopped bacon, and the Kids These Days with peanut butter and grape jelly.

During a recent visit, I sampled both the Red’s and Kids dogs, along with a Unibroue La Fin du Monde Belgian-style triple, served on draft in a 16-ounce clear plastic cup. I enjoyed it all. And I enjoyed talking with the Sumpters, who told me how they’d long dreamed of opening a beer bar.

“It’s been awesome, because we’ve already sold a lot of beer,” Kristen Sumpter said. “It’s been Bud Light and Miller High Life, and then we’ve also sold a lot of really nice sours, and really nice stouts and IPAs. That’s great because we’re seeing a lot of different kinds of customers.

“And what I love is that we have a lot of nonalcoholic options, and a lot of non-beer options. The first Saturday night we were open, we were selling almost as much nonalcoholic stuff as alcoholic. Even the mead has been doing super well, maybe because you don’t find it everywhere. And the CBD water is a real crowd-pleaser.”

Asked how and why Red’s differs from other places to drink beer, she explained it was what they grew up with.

“Ed and I are from Wilmington, North Carolina,” she said. “We were both born and raised there, and we went to UNC Wilmington. When we moved here, we kept looking for places that had these self-serve coolers — because in Wilmington, which is a fairly small city, there were three places like this that we would always go to with friends and family.

“So it was our dream to do that here. But it is a different model. Draft is really big right now. We only have six beers on draft. The selection is in bottles and cans, but I think what makes it unique is that you are able to look and see what your options are. We really wanted this to be a small neighborhood place, so we went to the neighborhood meetings, and talked to people, and everybody was on board with that.”

RED’S BEER GARDEN

1328 Boulevard SE, Atlanta. 770-637-2299, redsbeergarden.com.

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