- Bob Townsend For the AJC
There’s something magical about watching as a bartender pulls back a tap handle and carefully guides a bubbly draft on its journey from the keg to your glass.
For the longest time, that time-honored ritual was repeated with special attention at pubs and beer bars, where the “perfect pint” was the ultimate goal of the pour.
But, nowadays, those gushing sounds and fresh flavors can be found in a surprising variety of venues, including growler shops, food halls and grocery stores.
What’s more, wine, cocktails, cider, craft soda, tea and kombucha are all part of the flavorful new world of beverages on draft.
The Green’s offshoot in the bustling food hall at Ponce City Market falls somewhere between a bar and a bottle shop, Tolsma says.
Customers can opt for draft beer, wine or cider in a growler or crowler. And there’s usually something new and different to try, including craft soda from Atlanta’s Monday Night or Red Hare, or local Golda Kombucha.
“It sort of functions like a bar, but because it’s Ponce City Market, having a market component was important to us,” Tolsma says. “You can get your draft choice in myriad sizes, from 8 ounces all the way up to 64 ounces. And you can either take it into the food hall to enjoy or you can take it home.”
Tolsma says that drinks on draft account for about 80 percent of sales at the Tap. And while beer is 60 percent of that total, wine has been steadily growing, while other beverages on draft are finding followers, too.
“Putting kombucha on draft was actually a customer request,” Tolsma says. “It took a while for wine to get going, because with wine drinkers, it’s not just a learning curve, it’s an acceptance curve. But now it’s really taking off.”
Wondering where to find your favorite beverage on tap? Here’s a sample of places to try.
Taco Mac — There are 26 Atlanta-area locations, and most are known as much for wings as beer. But from its humble Virginia-Highland beginnings in 1979, Taco Mac was the mega-tap draft pioneer and led the way for craft beer here. The speakeasy-like Georgia Chapter Room below the Sandy Springs TM recalls that spirit, albeit in a fancier setting. 5600 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. 404-941-1503, gachapterroom.com.
Brick Store Pub — Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, this pillar of draft in Decatur is easily one of the best and most convivial beer bars in the world. Combining an ever-changing selection of American craft downstairs and Belgian classics upstairs, the Brick Store shows its dedication to the art of beer by serving it in brewery-specific glassware, properly maintaining draft lines, and training servers. 125 E. Court Square, Decatur. 404-687-0990, brickstorepub.com.
The Porter Beer Bar — Following in the footsteps of the Brick Store, the Porter Beer Bar opened in Little Five Points in 2008, when craft beer wasn’t quite commonplace in the city, yet. Since then, it’s carved out its own niche and beer bar accolades. You’ll find 50 draft lines dedicated to beer and cider, with one red and one white wine on draft. There’s also one draft line dedicated to house-made kombucha, which is often flavored with tea and fruit. 1156 Euclid Ave NE, Atlanta. 404-223-0393, theporterbeerbar.com.
Two Urban Licks — When it opened in 2004, Two Urban Licks was one of the first restaurants in the U.S. to offer wine on draft. Its wine program features stainless steel barrels displayed in a 26-foot glass and steel temperature-controlled tower. In addition to half glass, glass, mini thief, half thief and full thief pours, the bar also offers a number of in-house draft cocktail infusions, and a good selection of draft beer. 820 Ralph McGill Blvd. NE, Atlanta. 404-522-4622, twourbanlicks.com.
City Winery — Since opening in Atlanta in 2016, the wine-focused music venue has brought a new wrinkle to the draft game in the city. The on-site wine-making operation produces vintages with juice from vineyards in California and North Georgia, and serves it up from 10 taps. There are winery tours and regular tasting events, too. And with the new growler program, you can get tap-exclusive wines to go. 650 North Ave., Atlanta. 404-946-3791, citywinery.com/atlanta.
Vino Venue — Vino Venue in Dunwoody is a multiple-choice wine bar and retail emporium that offers shopping, tasting, dining and education under one roof. Though strictly speaking, it doesn’t have a draft system, you can opt for self-serve wines dispensed from draft-like Enomatics machines. With 32 wines, available in 1-ounce, 2.5-ounce and 5-ounce pours, it’s a great way to sample a variety of styles. 4478 Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. 770-668-0435, vinovenue.com.
The Canteen — Dubbed a micro food hall, the Canteen features food stalls for Fred’s Meat & Bread and Yalla, and the new TGM Bagel. But it’s the new Square Bar that’s become a place for cocktails on tap. Among the frozen treats, you’ll likely find a classic margarita with tequila, Curacao and lime, or a whiskey and Cheerwine with lemon, all served from the bar’s trio of whirring slushie machines. 75 Fifth St. NW, Suite 170, Atlanta. thecanteenatl.com.
Bon Ton —Bon Ton aims to capture the good times of a New Orleans-style Vietnamese-Creole restaurant. And with that, you’ll find festive drinks, including a Sazerac on tap made with rye, brandy, herbsaint and Peychaud’s Bitters. Spun-up slushies, served in Bourbon Street-style plastic cups, include the Frozen Ward Six Cup with Cathead vodka, and the Frozen Vietnamese Irish Coffee with Jameson. 674 Myrtle St. NE, Atlanta. 404-996-6177, bontonatl.com.
Colletta — This modern Italian restaurant in Alpharetta’s bustling Avalon development boasts an ever-changing menu of pizzas and pastas. And among the menu of “handmade” Italian drinks, there’s a seasonal frozen cocktail or two. But beyond the booze, look for a unique selection of house-made sodas on tap, including vanilla and herbed limonata flavors, meant to be sipped along with the appetizers and entrees. 900 Third St., Alpharetta. 678-722-8335, collettarestaurant.com.
More on tap
The Tap on Ponce — With a rotating selection of 44 beers and 12 wines on tap, all available in growlers and crowlers of various sizes, this Ponce City Market mainstay sometimes features cider, craft sodas and kombucha, too. Its lively location is a perfect one-stop for trying food hall pairings and taking home a growler. 675 Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta. 404-835-2844, atthetap.com/on-tap.
Salata — Billed as “the next generation salad bar,” Salata recently opened its first Atlanta outposts at Atlantic Station and Glenridge Point. A unique feature is its self-serve beverage stations, with draft taps that deliver house-made organic tea and signature lemonade flavors, such as tropical green, peach and prickly pear. 265 19th St., Suite 2155, Atlanta. 470-233-7164, salata.com.
Kro-BAR — The toast of the Glenwood Place Kroger Market is a fun grocery store bar with 12 rotating beers on tap and 16 rotating wines served from Coravins. You can belly up for free samples, too, because everything on tap is available in the sprawling retail beer and wine section next to the Murray’s Cheese shop. 800 Glenwood Ave. SE, Atlanta. 470-447-5030, kroger.com.