You might expect to have quite a few highly touted food and drink options to wade through in any big city. In smaller college towns, however, you might think the pickings would be slimmer. But even if that’s the case, the hot spots shine out all the brighter. Sure, Atlanta has the Porter Beer Bar, but when we drove over to Athens for the Georgia/LSU game, we stopped at the Trappeze Pub almost immediately and kept circling back like a tetherball.
The weather was beautiful in Athens that weekend, so the sidewalk tables were calling out to us. A large, colorful, brightly lit pub space was teeming with both red shirts and purple, as even the visiting team’s fans knew where to go for great beer. About 30 taps offer phenomenal craft beer from across the country, including local luminaries like SweetWater and Cherry Street, or Athens’ own Terrapin Beer. We stopped in for a quick bite and a pint before taking a walk through campus, yet couldn’t help but linger. Further words of porcine praise need not be spent at this point, suffice it to say the Double Pig beckoned, with both braised pork and spiced bacon, along with pickled green beans, a paprika/tomato aioli, and a laurel wreath of arugula all on a ciabatta bun. I had a draft pour of Terrapin’s latest side project, the Dr. Krunkles’ white farmhouse IPA, brewed with white peppercorns and aged on white ash, pairing nicely with the peppery arugula.
After a dropped iPhone on campus required a service center visit, why not stop by Trappeze again on the way back to the hotel? That would become a theme for the weekend. We did visit the rooftop bar at the Georgia Theater before the game and swung by the newly opened Dirty Bird’s sports pub afterwards, but then, back to Trappeze. By that point the air was electric with the Bulldogs upset win over the Tigers, and we sat at a sidewalk table watching people in various states of celebration. I tried a complex Honey Ginger Tripel from Michigan’s New Holland brewing before moving on to another Belgian-inspired Strong Pale Ale from Georgia’s Wild Heaven brewing. In fact, Trappeze Pub’s own founder, Eric Johnson, is transitioning into the full-time Brewmaster position at Wild Heaven, which he co-founded with Paste magazine founder Nick Purdy.
We eventually moved inside, where we met Ort Carlton, a writer on local beer and errata for Flagpole Magazine and other publications. He was bellied up to the bar, talking beer with bartender Alex Olivier and taking copious notes on the legal pads at his elbows. We carried on as you might expect, talking about beer, local breweries and Texas enterprises besides Shiner that don’t really make it to Georgia. Ort eventually inquired of Alex whether he had anything from JailHouse Brewing, of Hampton, Georgia, just south of Atlanta. The accommodating bartender produced a bottle of their Breakout Stout, bringing a twinkle of delight to Ort’s eye – who bears a striking resemblance to Father Christmas. It had a nice hop bite to balance the rich chocolate malt, and had me wishing I could try the limited release version called Last Request, aged in Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels. Alex also opened a Sour in the Rye from California’s the Bruery, of which we were all happy to partake.
I made sure to return the favor, sending a sour and a stout in kind, from Texas over to Athens. A beer exchange will suffice in the meantime, but beyond the thrilling football game, Trappeze Pub certainly helped put Athens high on the list of college towns we’ve visited on our annual football trip. I’d certainly be glad to return.