The rooftop beer garden at Nine Mile Station offers views of the downtown, Midtown and Buckhead skylines. (Evan West)

New Atlanta beer gardens offer different takes on tradition

In April, Kevin Gillespie, the chef-owner of Gunshow in Glenwood Park, opened a German-style beer garden in the backyard of his down-home Decatur restaurant, Revival.

The cozy setup of picnic tables and horseshoe and cornhole games, with a cabana-like bar and a bright red food truck, immediately drew long lines and big crowds.

And Revival Executive Chef Andreas Muller’s takes on Bavarian-style pretzels, grilled sausages and beef-fat-fried potatoes were the right match for a variety of German draft beers, served up in dimpled glass steins.

In the past few weeks, two more beer gardens have opened around Atlanta, offering very different takes on the tradition.

Up in the air at Nine Mile Station

Touted as an “elevated beer garden,” Nine Mile Station opened in late October on the rooftop of Ponce City Market.

The idea came from Kelvin and Mandy Slater of Slater Hospitality, who founded the Blue Moon Pizza franchise in Atlanta.

“After we sold Blue Moon, we always wanted to do a beer garden,” Kelvin Slater said. “And we wanted to do it, no pun intended, elevated. When we learned about this space, and we came up and saw the view, we knew it would be a place unlike any other in the city.”

Guests ascend via a freight elevator and stroll through the crowds at Skyline Park, the Slaters’ Coney Island-inspired stretch of boardwalk-style fun and games, to reach the quieter, more refined confines of Nine Mile Station.

Inside, the main dining room is a sleek contemporary space, with an L-shaped bar, an open kitchen and walls of windows that offer wide-angle views of the downtown, Midtown and Buckhead skylines.

Executive Chef Jonathan McDowell’s menu features nods to expected beer garden fare, with a meat and cheese board, a mixed grill, a schnitzel platter and a picnic basket that feeds four to six people.

But there are more imaginative dishes among the large and small plate offerings, ranging from creamy cauliflower soup and crispy crab-stuffed peppers to smoked trout salad and pork belly with Brussels sprouts and poached egg.

Beverage Manager Robert Merrick and head bartender Randy Hayden oversee a bar program that features 12 beers on draft, with a mix of classic European and newer American craft beers.

There’s also a list of “boozy cocktails” offering three variations on the Nine Mile old fashioned, wines by the glass or bottle, and Champagnes and sparkling wines from the “sparkling bar.”

Outside, the beer garden proper stretches over a parquet-like patio, with a bar rail overlooking busy Ponce de Leon Avenue, and communal tables, container gardens and fire pits with Adirondack chairs.

One recent moonlit evening, several groups of guests were gathered around the fires, sipping drinks, bundled-up in blankets provided by their Nine Mile servers.

Going local at Georgia Beer Garden

Calling it a “Southern take on a classic beer garden,” Georgia Beer Garden opened in late October on Edgewood Avenue in the Old Fourth Ward.

Owners Brandon Ley and Johnny Martinez, who also own Joystick Gamebar across the street, have spent more than two years renovating an early 1900s two-story brick building that most recently was home to Edgewood Animal Clinic.

Ley and Martinez are Georgia natives who have worked to revive business in the area, so they said the idea of serving beers exclusively from the state of Georgia was a natural extension of that.

“We really just wanted to be a neighborhood spot for people to gather and have a conversation and a couple of beers with friends,” Ley said. “Our focus on Georgia beers comes from love of our home state and a desire to show off what Georgia breweries are doing with beer right now.”

There are 24 rotating taps, and a large illuminated beer menu behind the sprawling, three-sided bar that is the focus of the main drinking and dining area — where exposed brick, burnished wood and milk glass light fixtures recall a vintage saloon.

There’s also a good number of bottled and canned beers, and an intriguing list of regional small batch spirits, along with well-known liquors and liqueurs, and a concise wine list.

Until the kitchen is completed, the only food available is bar snacks like peanuts and pickled eggs. But the menu, which was designed by consulting chef Andre Gomez of Porch Light Latin Kitchen in Smyrna, promises to be an Atlanta melting-pot mix of Southern, Asian and Latin.

You enter the sloping beer garden from a grotto-like courtyard, or stairs at the back of the bar. Still a work in progress, it offers seating at a scattering of picnic tables and cable spools. Long communal tables and seating on a back deck are in the plans for the future.

One cool evening last week, only a few people ventured outside, while the bar and booths inside stayed loud and lively with a young crowd.

BEER GARDENS

Communion. 5-10 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 1-10 pm. Saturdays, 1-9 p.m. Sundays. 129 Church St., Decatur. 470-225-6770, revivaldecatur.com/communion.

Nine Mile Station. Opens at 3 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 11 a.m. Saturdays, noon Sundays. 675 Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 770-999-1532, 9milestation.com. Guests can only enter Nine Mile Station from Skyline Park ($10 for adults and $7 for kids 12 and under) or by pre-booking with a deposit via the Tock online reservation system: 9milestation.tocktix.com.

Georgia Beer Garden. 5 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Wednesdays-Fridays, 1 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Saturdays, 1-11:30 p.m. Sundays. 420 Edgewood Ave. S.E., Atlanta. 404-458-5690, facebook.com/georgiabeergarden.

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