Thursday, August 02, 2007

Max Lager's in Atlanta, GA

I've been to Max Lager's in Atlanta, GA at least a half dozen times or so over the past few years. Each time, I never seemed to stay long enough or partake in enough of the experience (atmosphere, food, beverage, service, etc.) to do a full-blown review. What this will represent is an accumulation of all of my experiences to date. Fortunately, my impressions of their place have been consistent enough from visit to visit that this is fairly easy to write. (Isn't that what we wish for in all of our dining and drinking encounters? consistency.)

I need to start by saying that to understand why you must go to Max Lager's in downtown Atlanta, that you must first have been to downtown Atlanta. Okay, that may not have made much sense. But, if you've been there, you know what I mean. (And, you also know that everything begins with, ends with, or crosses a Peachtree of some kind or another! see right, if you don't know what I mean)

Unfortunately for a lot of business travellers in the downtown Atlanta business district, there are not many of what I would consider interesting options for eating and drinking after the work day is done. Within walking distance of the many offices and hotels you will find plenty of the typical chain offerings from Hooters, to Hard Rock Cafe, to Benihana, to Steak & Ale, and on and on and on. Sure, fair enough, there is Ray's in the City, Pittypat's, and Azio offering some creative dining fare in more comfortable setting. But, there is no real good outlet for brewpubs, beer bars, or take-out beer in the downtown Atlanta business district.

You've seen me write before about Gibney's...not a bad little downtown Irish Pub. Then, also about my trips to Midtown (Vortex and Gordon Biersch) and to Decatur (Brick Store Pub and Twain's). Other stops around the region could include Little Five Points (another Vortex location), Buckhead (eh, Fado), Smyrna (Muss & Turner's), and The Highlands (Limerick Junction, et al).

But, downtown, what's a beer lover to do without heading out of downtown? Go to Max Lager's. They're set off on the north end of downtown just a short couple of blocks from the Peachtree MARTA stop. The brewpub is inside a decent size two-story building, with a bar on each level. There's a small parking area out back if you have a car. It's unmistakable when they're brewing, as the mash tun sits just inside the front door. There was no mistaking the fact that I was in a brewpub the couple of times I walked in as the grains were being raked out.

The downstairs holds the kitchen, a decent size dining room, and a front bar area that can hold a moderate crowd at barstools, hightops, and tables. Upstairs you'll find the bright tanks, pool tables, another (longer) bar, and more dining.

The service for me has always been even and non-threatening. On one hand they're not slackers, but on the other hand they're not overly ambitious about helping out with beer or food selections. The middle ground, in this case, probably is not a bad thing. But, the good thing is they've always been available to get me what I need. A food order or a new beer has never beer far away. From a food perspective, the funny thing is, on maybe half of my visits I've ordered the Jambalaya with cornbread on the side. What a great food accompaniment for a variety of beers. So, without further ado....

....the beers. They run the gamut here from non-threatening (is that the second time I've used this descriptor?) for the timid to bigger, more flavorful beers for those that are looking for them. Here's a quick rundown of their four usual taps, followed by a couple of seasonals that I noted on my last trip there.

Gold- nothing much pleasing to note; aroma/flavor too sharp and metallic
Honey- subtle honey, very quaffable; good for a session
Red- thinner than expected, but nicely drinkable, just enough malt, nothing offensive over all
Black- ROASTED HEAVEN!, hint of chocolate, just enough weight
English Pale Ale- nicely balanced; a pleasant, mild fuggle hop bitterness in the finish
Barleywine- very nice; smooth, 11.5% ABV, decent body, hops noticeable in finish, then disappear; ready for more!

I think you get the message here. While Max Lager's may not be a destination beer stop in and around Atlanta, if you're in the downtown business district it is the place to go for decent craft beer and a nice dinner.

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