Judging from the opening weekend crowds elbowing through every corner of the new Terrapin Taproom at The Battery Atlanta adjacent to SunTrust Park, the combination restaurant, bar and brewery is already a popular destination.
Operated by Delaware North food service management company, the menu features Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q favorites, including smoked brisket, pork and chicken, plus a few new items, such as saucy brisket nachos, and the loaded Fox. Bros. chili dog.
The bar highlights a rotating list of Terrapin beers on draft, including the new Chopsecutioner Bat Wood Aged IPA, along with a canned selection of the Athens-based brewery’s signature offerings, such as Hopsecutioner IPA and Rye Pale Ale.
Maybe more notable, Terrapin’s ATL Brew Lab, located next to the restaurant and bar, is home to a five-barrel pilot brewery, where the Terrapin team is producing a series of new and one-off beers that will be served at the Taproom. Last week, the big seller was SunRay Wheat Beer, a refreshing, German-style hefeweizen.
Recently, Terrapin co-founder and brewmaster Brian “Spike” Buckowski and Terrapin Taproom commercial operations manager Mark Crouch were at the Brew Lab, along with head brewer Peter Trapani and associate brewer Chad Martin, where they talked about opening and running a brewery restaurant at a ballpark.
As Crouch pointed out, major league ballpark breweries are a rare thing. Sandlot Brewery at Coors Field in Denver was the first, and Dempsey’s Brew Pub at Oriole Park in Camden Yards is possibly the only other example.
“I was actually the last person to join this team,” Crouch said. “My role here is really to keep everything else off the brewers’ plates. We just want these guys to focus on brewing beer. I’m here to interface with the restaurant and the ballpark and The Battery, and then working in the brewhouse whenever I can.”
But Crouch, who is a trade brewer and certified cicerone, says the combination of Terrapin beer and Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q sets the Taproom apart.
“It’s the Fox Bros.’ fantastic food, delivered to you by Delaware North,” Crouch said. “My background working with Tenth and Blake Beer Co. before this was a lot about education around food and beer pairing, so I love talking about how we’re going to pair the brisket sandwich with which beer and why.
“Right now, my favorite pairing is the brisket chili with the Schwing Batter Brown Ale, because you’ve got the caramel malts playing around with the flavors in that barbecue sauce, and a bit of hops cutting through the richness of the chili. And I really like the SunRay with the smoked chicken, as a lighter protein with a less intense beer.”
Buckowski said being part of a brewery restaurant after founding a craft brewery is really a return to his roots.
“Way back when I went to brewing school at UC Davis in 1996, I did my internship at the Phoenix brewpub in Sandy Springs,” Buckowski said. “Later on, I worked at Five Seasons, which replaced the Phoenix, so it is like where I began.
“At Terrapin, I never had a pilot system, so every recipe was always tested full-bore, whether it was 25 barrels or now 100 barrels. So this finally gives me the opportunity to play around a lot more and try new things.”
And, Buckowski said, he’s excited about the possibilities of creating new beers to go with the food at the Taproom.
“We’re going to have a lot of great beers coming out of here,” Buckowski said. “Will every one pair great with barbecue? I don’t know. But I think there are many things on the menu that will pair with the beer that we make.
“To come back and really wrap your head around new recipes that complement food, that’s going to be fun. Maybe we can start doing some beers with herbs, or maybe with some of the Fox Bros. seasonings. Really, the sky’s the limit here.”
755 Battery Ave. S.E., Suite 100, Atlanta. 404-494-1202, terrapintaproom.com.
More images from a First Look at Terrapin Taproom at SunTrust Park