I love it when there’s a brewpub within walking distance of the hotel. At the end of February, I was in Atlanta. In addition to checking out Sidebar for Buzztime trivia, I tried the sampler at Max Lager’s. Check out their site for details on how to get there if you want to try it too. Here are my notes.
My overall impression is that this is the most diverse sampler I’ve ever had and I’ve done the double-decker spinner at Chicago Brewing Company at Four Queens in Vegas. Each beer was distinct and while they weren’t all styles that I would enjoy an entire pint of, the taste experience was worth it. That is to say that if you are going to order just one beer here, I highly recommend getting a taste of it before you commit to a full glass. As a comment on the service, I almost felt bad for ordering the sampler because they were so busy, but the server didn’t even sigh at my request. She happily went to work getting my tiny beers and even took me through the sampler menu. It’s always nice to see an establishment that insists on hiring waitstaff that are knowledgeable about the beers as well as the food menu.
I made notes on the order they served them on their sampler menu but as you’ll see, I think they did themselves a disservice by mixing the malts and hops. I think most people expect to be served from lightest to darkest but I prefer to separate the malts and hops. Especially here, I suggest drinking the lightest to darkest malts (Red, Stout) and then the lightest to darkest hops (Gold, 320, IPA).
Max Gold – light hops but not light enough in taste for a light beer drinker. Smooth. A good starter for a night filled with more hops, but since most macro drinkers in a pub will go for the lightest color beer on the menu, it’s worth mentioning that I do not think that Bud Light drinkers would like this beer. See my notes on the Red for something more your style. That being said, an American Pale Ale lover will feel right at home with this beer and in the same way, might be turned off by the light color and the fact that it is first on the menu. Give this beer a shot before you jump to the IPA on the menu. It will prep your pallet nicely. But if you are doing the sampler, then my suggestion is not to start with this beer but the Red instead.
My final note on the Max Gold is that it was served a bit warm for my taste but since it was in a sampler, that may just mean I got the beer that had been sitting in the lines. That seems unlikely as I said; they were very busy that night. My guess is that they either had a warm keg in the cooler or (more likely) they keep their cooler on the warm side because most of their beers are hoppy (taste better warm). At any rate, if you are expecting a tall, cold refreshing lager after a hot day, then you will be disappointed in this beer.
Old 320 – I’m not sure what a “West coast inspired beer” is supposed to taste like (in their description of the beer) but maybe it’s the raisins. This is malty and tasted like what other brewers would call a red. Lots of character in this one and worth a taste. I simply couldn’t find a good way to compare it. Maybe a red with more alcohol notes? The confusing thing about it is that it is heavily hopped but it is so balanced that I think you forget that’s what you’re tasting. If you are a hophead and have time to drink three beers then start with gold, go to the 320 and finish off with the IPA. What I’m trying to say is that this beer is not to be missed. As I said, I’ve never tasted hops so perfectly balanced before. If you only have time for one beer – make it this one.
Red – I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a red that I didn’t love and this one is great. Full body and the malts even stood up after drinking the hops in the Gold and 320. If you drink macro then the red is for you. It’s also a great beer to stick with all night long or to step back down to if you get hit too hard by the IPA. If you have only one beer and you don’t like hops, then this is your only choice on the menu, but it’s a good choice. I don’t recall the temperature of this beer bothering me but again, a Red is great on the warmer side of cool.
Scotch Ale – very sweet. I mean really sweet. Disgustingly so. I don’t know where to place this beer because there was literally nothing in the flavor profile to prepare you for it and I’ve had Scotch Ales before. But not like this. It was really sweet. I think I mentioned that. The only advice I can give you is to skip it. But if you decide to drink it anyway, then do not confuse this with a porter and put it after the stout as I did. That just made it worse. Seriously, I have never not been able to finish a sample of beer before but it was like drinking Karo Pancake Syrup.
Stout – I don’t like gratuitous chocolate or coffee flavors in stouts so this one wasn’t for me but it was good if you believe the stereotypes or want to introduce someone to a stout. There was a very light mouthfeel and the head isn’t dense, so it’s accessible to a skeptic for a sip. As I said, drink this after the red.
Hopsplosion – I hate it when brewers call something an IPA that merely rates next to Sam Adams Boston Lager, but it was still a good beer. Drinking tip for women – learn to love IPAs. I always get a lot of street cred when I order the IPA. Guys raise their eyebrows and business colleagues like having something else to talk about with me besides work.
All in all, this beer menu is why samplers were invented. It was a great way to get an overall feel for what they do really well (Red is the winner but 320 was the most unique beer I’ve ever had) and helped me decide what I wanted to drink the rest of the night (I still went with the Hopsplosion… what can I say?). When I got back to Houston, I realized that I was near Brick Store Pub and didn’t make the trip out to see my Facebook friend Mary Jane Mahan. Next time.