When I travel, as infrequent as that is, I try to sample the local breweries. Last fall I visited Athens Georgia to give a talk and was able to try some offerings from two breweries Terrepin and Sweetwater.
I arrived in Athens the afternoon before my seminar and meetings and was left to my own devices. First of all, Athens is a kick-ass college town (at least the area adjacent to the college. I spent about an hour exploring, walking around trying to decide where I would get some dinner, etc. My hotel concierge suggested a nearby pizza place that once I saw, I decided there was no way in hell I would go there. I wanted a pub type place with a good beer list, some decent food, and a little attitude.
I found numerous dive bars, a few upscale places, and a bunch of places I couldn't quite figure out. Probably some of khedive bars were what I wanted but without a guide it was impossible to know for sure and I didn't have the luxury to sample. Ultimately there was a way in hell and I went to the pizza place.
Before I get to that, I want to touch on the vast array of shops to explore. There are dozens and dozens of small places selling a diverse range of things amongst the plethora of bars and eating establishments. It's about 8 blocks of perfection. On one edge of this commercial paradise sits a police station and across the street is a headshop with dozens of pipes in the windows welcoming the officers to work each day.
Alright, so I ended up at the pizza joint. There were not that many people there, but it was still fairly loud inside. Not a bad thing, just a fact that it seemed to be a lively place to go. My waitress, a pleasant enough college student brought me a menu and asked if I wanted something to drink. I explained that I wanted something local and she told me that they had both Terrepin and SweetWater and listed several beers. At this point I realized that she was underaged, not a beer drinker, or not a quality beer drinker. I decided the best idea was to take a few minutes looking over the beer list.
When she returned I decided on the Terrepin Hopsecutioner (ABV 7.3% IBUs 71). Based on the name I was expecting a hoppy smack to the mouth, which did not come to pass. Overall it was quite good and notably smooth. A reasonable way to start a meal. After ordering some food I decided to try a Sweetwater. The place had two on tap, the SweetWater IPA and the 420. I told my waitress my preferences and asked which she would recommend. She had to run away and ask someone who actually had tried the beers. After a few minutes, she returned and tried to repeat the words she had just heard but likely did not understand. Short version: the 420 is better overall but the IPA had a stronger flavor. Since I was excepting a stronger flavor than I found in the Hopsecutioner, I went with the IPA.
The SweetWater IPA (ABV 6.7% IBUs 65) was excellent. This was more along the lines of what I expected with the Hopsecutioner. I great balance of bitter and fruity flavors. This was clearly my favorite of the trip (although I would happily have any of those I sampled again). Shortly after dropping off the IPA, my waitress came back and asked if I made the right choice. I expressed my lack of understanding regarding her question and she tried again asking whether I choose correctly between the IPA and 420.
This is what I call a teachable moment. I explained that while I enjoyed the IPA and thought it was a fine beer, I could not possibly answer the question until I tried the 420. (There are obvious philosophical problems with this approach as my preferences may not be identical when I finally try the 420, but it's the closest thing we have to an experiment.) I'm not sure my waitress really gave a crap about my exposition (actually I am sure and she didn't). Is this teaching critical thinking or is it just traumatizing a young woman with better things to do with her time?
So while finishing up a great oversized small salad and calzone, I tell my waitress that I would like to do the experiment. She returns shortly with a SweetWater 420 (ABV 5.4% IBUs 65). While it was recommended as the better of the two SweetWaters on tap, I liked the IPA more. Could have had more flavor on the front end but I did note a subtle kick on the backend.
Overall my choices are SweetWater IPA, Terrepin Hopsecutioner, followed by the SweetWater 420. All were good and readily drinkable.
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