In September, Summits Wayside Tavern celebrates 25 years with a monthlong series of keg-tapping events at its two locations in Snellville and Cumming.
For a bit of history, Andy Klubock opened the original Summits on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs in 1989. The Snellville location followed in 1993, and Cumming opened in 1998. Sandy Springs closed in 2006, and another Summits in the Towne Lake area of Woodstock closed in 2013.
Highlights of the 26 days (25 for the Snellville anniversary and one to grow on) include a wide variety of rare, local and one-off beers.
Among them: Westbrook Mexican Cake; Tilquin Ancienne; Foothills 2015 Sexual Chocolate; Scofflaw 2nd Anniversary Stout; Variant Cashmere; Monday Night Beyond the Clouds; Red Brick and Max Lager’s bourbon barrel-aged Dad Beer; and Creature Comforts Duende.
Klubock, an Emory grad who started out in the bar business with Taco Mac in 1982, and worked his way up through the ranks to own three TM locations before going independent with Summits, is one of the original pioneers of quality, mega tap draft beer systems in Atlanta.
And even if these days he flies a bit under the radar, Klubock was one of the first to introduce many local beer drinkers to Belgian, British and German classics, as well as the likes of West Coast Rogue Ales and East Coast Brooklyn Brewery.
In fact, I have fond memories of sitting next to legendary Rogue brewmaster John Maier at the Snellville location during one of the famously long, multicourse Summits beer pairing dinners.
Another time, it was an event in Cumming with Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver, who looked a little worried as he somehow ended up shouting into the equivalent of an “attention, Kmart shoppers” microphone to rep his beer.
“When I first moved to Atlanta from Athens to begin work in the infant stage of the Atlanta beer scene, I remember everyone speaking of Andy’s places,” says Dave Blanchard, founder and co-owner of Brick Store Pub in Decatur. “The care and passion he had was unlike anyone else in the city. It was probably the only place you could go to get a ‘craft beer.’ No one else was even close.”
For his part, Klubock also remembers an Atlanta beer scene that was extremely different than it is today.
“At the time, no one was really doing draft beer,” he says. “We were the first people in Atlanta to do it this way. We put in 10 draft lines, and people said we’d never make it. But there was a place in Portland, Ore., that had 100 drafts. I went there, and I said we’re going to do a 100. It ended up being 150 at Snellville and 224 at Cumming.
“Our whole philosophy is about choice. We want people to try different beers. When I was with Taco Mac, I did the Passport program, and I thought it was a great way for people to taste and make notes and find out what they liked.”
Asked about some of the specific changes over 25 years and more, Klubock gets more excited.
“The biggest change I’ve seen in all these years is that we didn’t have a local brewery presence like we do now,” he says. “The beers we had were mostly European, with some West Coast beers, and a few things from New England. There were a lot of amber lagers. There were a few hefeweizens, a couple of IPAs, but mostly very muted beers.
“It’s 25 years later, and it really struck me that we have almost anything that any other great beer city has, in terms of what we get from other states. But what’s better is how great our local scene is. We have world-class beers now when you look at Creature Comforts, Scofflaw, New Realm, SweetWater and others. And then you look at a place like Variant and it seems like we have so many new breweries and choices between different styles coming along.”
Summits’ 25th Anniversary
Sept. 1-26. Summits Wayside Tavern.
3334 Stone Mountain Highway, Snellville. 770-736-1333.
525 Lake Center Parkway, Cumming. 770-886-4374.