Who Changed More?

The Pines Bar, Hilliard, Florida. Photo by The Recapturist, www.recapturist.com

The Pines Bar, Hilliard, Florida. Photo by The Recapturist, www.recapturist.com

I can’t say who changed more in the last 50 years, me, the deep South or beer in America. I reflected on this a lot over the last week while visiting my long-time friend Bonita, who today lives in Woodstock, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta.

When I was growing up in Austin, Texas, our family drove through Atlanta more or less annually on our way to Westminster, South Carolina. My father and I were native Texans, both with mothers from the tiny town locals pronounced “Westminister” with an extra “i.” The thousand-mile route was amply sprinkled with churches, a great many of them Baptist, like the one Mom, my siblings and I attended in Austin and the one both sides of the extended family attended in Westminster.

I never saw a drop of alcohol at family celebrations. This was due in large part to the Baptist pastors and elders who preached against the dangers of alcohol. For years, these admonitions provoked considerable inner conflict for me since Daddy, who didn’t attend church, drank an occasional beer with friends. Any way I tried to understand it, my father was doubly damned.

On those road trips, crossing certain state and county lines ensured being greeted by a string of bars on one or both sides of the road. It was from Daddy that I first learned about dry and wet counties—and the hypocrisy he saw in this. Keep in mind that 50 years ago, in 1967, the U.S. was only 34 years out of Prohibition. Many God-fearing folks reasoned exactly as the Prohibitionists had in the decades before the Volstead Act made national Prohibition the law from 1919 until 1933. In 1960 less than half of all women—married, widowed or single—worked outside the home. When husbands were the sole breadwinners, an alcoholic one generally meant economic disaster, heartbreak, social stigma and sometimes verbal and physical abuse for the wife and children. The bars I’ve seen in pre-Prohibition photos and the ones I saw from the outside as a child, were places kids and decent women didn’t enter. The one time Daddy took me in a liquor store while he made a quick purchase, I felt embarrassed and uneasy. I’m sure neither of us ever told Mom about that early foray into the world of sin.

Fifty years ago, neither my parents, my pastor nor I could have imagined that one day it wouldn’t even occur to me to feel shame at walking into a Georgia pub for lunch and a beer with a girlfriend. Or that we’d chat with the African-American couple at the table next to ours. Or that the bar would offer some 30 beers on tap and hundreds in cellared bottles, not one named Bud or Miller or Coors.  Like I said, a lot has changed in the last half century.

In preparation for this trip, I solicited advice from—where else?—social media. Writer friend Shelly King (author of The Moment of Everything, a romantic comedy about a southern transplant in Silicon Valley) connected me with her friend Bill. “Brick Store in Downtown Decatur is a must,” he wrote. “Georgia Beer Garden on Edgewood Ave serves only Georgia brews, and there are plenty to choose from. Orpheus Brewery is a personal favorite. Also, check out Wild Heaven in Decatur and Monday Night in Marietta. There are lots of others as well!”

Beer menu at the Brick Store

Beer menu at the Brick Store

Turns out the Atlanta metro area is whole lot larger today than in 1967. Once I got there and started plugging venue names into mapping apps, all Bill’s suggestions were 27 to 35 miles from Bonita’s house. Good sport that she is, Bonita insisted on driving the 31 miles to the Brick Store Pub. Craft beer fans, let me tell you, Bill was correct. Similar to Monk’s Café in Philadelphia, the Brick Store boasts a beer menu the size of some library catalogs, with a superb selection of Belgian beers. If you can only visit one pub in the Atlanta area, make it the Brick Store, preferably for beer and a meal, because the food is as good as the beer. I had a great pork belly sandwich and, after a fun discussion with our server, a Mayor Bill from Scofflaw Brewing Company, a nicely fruity, copper-hued IPA, tame on the bitterness for a West Coast beer geek. We chatted with probably half a dozen employees, all knowledgeable and friendly. A special shout-out to bartender Sam Zaboroskie who offered to take us upstairs to the Belgian bar and then patiently stood in the refrigerated cellaring room answering all the questions I kept asking while I gawked at the amazing selection.

In the Brick Store's cellaring room at the with bartender Sam Zaboroskie

In the Brick Store’s cellaring room at the with bartender Sam Zaboroskie

For the rest of the visit, we stuck closer to home. A couple of the best beers I had were a server-recommended Red Hare IPA (not sure which one, but it was delicious) and a Reformation Haddy Belgian White Ale. Maybe it was because I drank this last one under a patio umbrella in the afternoon heat, but I found it deliciously malty and highly refreshing. For the best Louisiana-style cooking in Georgia, I nominate Henry’s in Acworth, which last Saturday had five Abita brews on tap and Henry himself making the rounds. (I confess, as the daughter of a southern mother, I opted for iced tea with my shrimp and grits.) At Hop Alley Brew Pub in Alpharetta, I enjoyed a flight of four solid house beers—a hefe, a dark lager and two IPAs.

Hanging with Bonita and Henry

Hanging with Bonita and Henry

While the beer and food at Hop Alley were satisfying, what I’ll most remember was the company—Bonita’s five-year-old quadruplet grandchildren and their mom–and what they represent. When church-going southern grandmothers enjoy a beer at a neighborhood pub with the grandkids in tow, that reflects a monumental shift in how the U.S. has shed century-plus attitudes in recent decades. That and the rise of craft beer are two remarkable changes few Americans could have anticipated 50 years ago.

Cheers at the Brick Store


  1. Bonita Cox says:

    Oh, how our friendship has grown over the last 28 years. Your blog title is very appropriate, Leslie. “Not My Father’s Beer” fits this former Ohio Catholic’s childhood, too?. We will definitely put the Brick Store on our revisit list.

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