We’re taking the week off from writing to spent time with our families this Christmas. Please enjoy best-of Foodie Friday article written by Mike Christensen.
Ok, let’s tally the score. Over the last two years in Alpharetta and nearby areas we’ve seen eight growler stores, two growler gas stations and two breweries open. Craft beer is the name of the game. Now we can add one more.
A brew pub called Hop Alley recently opened to great anticipation on Main Street next door to Smokejack. Owner/brewer Brandon Hintz graduated Georgia Southern in 2008 with a degree in construction management with dreams of following in his father’s footsteps. The housing market crash lead Brandon and his wife to pursue work in Iowa for the Army Corps of Engineers. While in Iowa he got into home brewing, eventually joining a home brew club and landing an internship at a local brewery.
At the insistence of his wife, they moved back to Atlanta and Brandon found employment as a brewer at Sweetwater. Brandon noticed that all the brew pubs in Iowa seemed to bring the community together. He wanted to bring that sense of community to the Alpharetta area. After exploring several sites, Brandon chose the space on Main Street. Coming from a construction background, they did the build out themselves and saved money and time. From the back deck to the materials inside to the shiny tanks behind the bar, the whole space invites you to come in, have a beer and a good time.
Brandon sees Hop Alley as a chance to expose people to new craft beers; getting people out of the familiar to find something new. I’ve tried several kinds of beers that I’ve never had before like a saison and a red rye PA. The vast majority of the beers that are offered are Brandon’s own recipes. He really has a passion for brewing and is always tinkering with new combinations. Look for new beers rotating through the schedule in the following months. The selection is always changing with the seasons, so expect to try something new.
It’s not all about the beer, though. Hop Alley has a full bar featuring tons of varieties of infused liquors like a bacon bourbon. There is also a series of fruit and candy infused vodkas that people are snapping up by the bottle.
Enough about the booze; let’s talk food. Don’t come to Hop Alley expecting typical bar food such as chicken wings and the like. Brandon hired a chef formally of Going Coastal in Canton to help create a menu of unique and locally sourced cuisine worthy of a high end restaurant. My wife and I have dined on burgers, salads, steak and sausage sandwiches, and we have never left unsatisfied.
The burgers are some of the best I’ve ever had; juicy and flavorful. The bacon could dent a car it’s so big. The steak was tender and the Portuguese chorizo sausage on my sandwich was spicy and left me longing for more. I wish I had ordered the platter and not just the sandwich. The meat is from Heywoods Butcher in Marietta and the produce comes from North Georgia farmers.
The two best sellers at Hop Alley are the chicken avocado salad and the 50/50 burger (half meat, half bacon). While the most popular items will stay the same, the rest of the menu will rotate seasonally. Since Hop Alley has been open the menu has already changed four times. They use their own beer for the beer batter for the few items that are fried. Fresh, not frozen, in house prepared and local are the buzz words for the food.
For all the good points, Hop Alley is not without some criticism. The service has ranged from very good to passable, something that I think will improve over time as they hone their staff. I tried the bacon infused bourbon, and did not like it. I really couldn’t taste the bacon and it was a whopping $9 for just a shot. Pretty scary.
It’s cool to see all the brewing equipment right behind the bar. Spend some time inside and you’ll likely be able to watch the process. Brandon is always open for folks to ask questions about beer and brewing but be respectful when he’s in intense periods of work.
Hop Alley is in a great location and it is a very welcome addition to Alpharetta’s craft beer scene. Will Alpharetta become a OTP beer mecca? Only time will tell. Judging by the crowds darkening their doorway, Alpharetta has embraced Hop Alley, as have I. Cheers!