Welcoming the ASIS Convention

August 11, 2014 |  by  |  1 Comment

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We are so excited to welcome the ASIS International convention to Atlanta this September 29 – October 1! Members of Texas & International ASIS are welcome to join us for Texas Night at Max Lager’s on September 28 complete with prizes and a countrified Best Dressed contest! Visit http://www.asisregion3c.org/ for more information.

Join us for Downtown Restaurant Week August 9 – 17

August 5, 2014 |  by  |  Be the first to Comment

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16th Annual July Fourth Brew&Q at Max Lager’s

July 2, 2014 |  by  |  Be the first to Comment

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Father’s Day at Max Lager’s: Beer. Steak. Need we say more?

June 5, 2014 |  by  |  5 Comments

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Wrecking Bar names Max Lager’s John Roberts VIB (Very Important Brewer) of the Month

June 2, 2014 |  by  |  4 Comments
Our friends at The Wrecking Bar Brewpub have named Max Lager’s very own Brewmaster, John Roberts Very Important Brewer for the Month of June! He’s our VIB every month, so enjoy The Wrecking Bar’s interview with JR below (& check it out in their monthly newsletter here)

 

In which neighborhood do you live?
I live in the North Druid Hills area just outside of Decatur.

 

What is your day job?
Brewer, Restaurateur, Managing Partner, HR guy, Plumber, Electrician, Carpenter, IT support…the list is endless, but at least I’ve taken Kitchen Manager, Banquet Manager and GM mostly off the list.

 

You’re also very involved with the Georgia Craft Brewer’s Guild. Tell us about that and how supporting the Guild helps beer lovers across the state.
I’ve been the Vice-President and Chairman of the Membership Committee since the Guild’s inception four years ago and am about to term out. The Guild is working hard not only to bring about regulatory change that will benefit both brewers and beer drinkers, but to build a vibrant beer community to bring Georgians the best beer possible. It’s very rewarding to see how far we’ve come as a Guild in just four years and even more exciting to see what the future will bring.

 

You started brewing in Atlanta in 1996 at Atlanta Brewing Company and then in 1998 you opened Max Lagers. How has the Atlanta beer scene changed over the years?
Oh my, it’s a different world. When I first started brewing in Atlanta, brewpubs were popping up all over: John Harvards, Atlanta Bier Garten, Cherokee Brewing, Percy’s Fish House, US Boarder Cantina, Peckerheads… Those are just a few that came and went. Very few production breweries were testing the waters. Craft beer just hadn’t hit in Georgia and it was hard going. Those of us who were here at the beginning struggled to win over the people drinking yellow fizzy water and it wasn’t easy. But some of us persevered. Today it is much different. It’s hard to find a restaurant that isn’t carrying some craft beer and most are carrying locals. More production breweries are opening than brewpubs. Thousands crowd into every beer festival out there and there seems to be at least one every weekend these days. Georgia brewers are pushing brewing boundaries and making fantastic beer. It’s a great time to be a Georgia brewer. Imagine what it would be like if our laws were a bit more brewer friendly.

 

Your advice and friendship to Bob Sandage and everyone on the Wrecking Crew has been a big asset for the Wrecking Bar Brewpub. Why do you think it’s important to work together and help one another?
It’s a cliché I know, but a rising tide lifts all boats. It’s hard for people outside of the brewing community to understand our openness with each other…Hell we actually like each other..mostly : ) Really, the sense of community amongst  brewers is one of the main things that made me decide to become a professional brewer. I strongly believe we have to help each other. For the most part brewers don’t view each other as competition, but as allies, always pushing each other to be better. Plus you guys are my friends…I always help my friends.

 

What are your plans for the future?
Personally I plan on doing more traveling, both beer related and not. Plus golfing more…much more golfing (yeah get with it Glenn Golden. Time to tee it up..you too Lathrope) In my businesses, we are planning a fairly extensive remodel of Max Lager’s that will probably happen throughout the end of the year. White Oak continues to grow and I love our all Georgia draft beer program which has us changing up taps a lot these days. Beyond that we are always looking for the next project…perhaps a new Max Lager’s with some packaging facilities.

 

In June we honor fathers, how do you balance your work and fatherhood?
My son was born on Father’s Day and I’ll never get a better present than that! It’s been hard balancing work and family, especially since my kids live outside of Nashville. One nice thing about working with family is they understand and have always been supportive in helping me with that. I have a lot of miles on my trusty truck!

 

Any chance your children will enter the family business or is it too soon to predict?
Hard to say. I doubt my son will, but then again when I was his age I wanted to be a rock star (still do…or a super hero…yeah super hero) My daughter, maybe. Right now the only thing she is really interested in is boys…daddy needs a new shot gun.

 

You’ve been a professional for a long time, but when did you start homebrewing and why?
I started in 1989. I was living in Boston and the craft beer scene was really taking off. There was a home brew supply store I drove passed a lot and I finally went in and bought a kit. I was hooked from the moment I smelled the extract hit the water. I switched to all grain about three batches later and brewed fanatically every weekend. I love everything about brewing. The science. The creativity. The camaraderie. It all speaks to me and somehow makes perfect sense.

 

What are your favorite styles to brew?
I love brewing anything that challenges me. I especially like brewing lagers-go figure. I like brewing classic beers with personal twists on them. Over all I like making beer that tastes like…well..beer.

 

You’ve trained a lot of brewers over the years, what advice do you have for someone starting out?
Make your mistakes. They are the greatest learning tool you will ever have. Take notes. Copious notes. Learn to brew to style even if it bores you a bit. It’s a huge challenge and it teaches you what your ingredients do, how they interact, how your process effects everything. Learn, learn learn, read everything believe half of it, do what makes sense to you. Mostly don’t worry too much…it’s just beer…chances are if you mix malt with hot water, take that liquid and boil it it for for a while, toss in some hops, cool it down and throw some yeast in- you’ll end up with beer.

 

What do you love most about the Wrecking Bar Brewpub?
I like how Bob and the crew have taken what was a really scary looking basement (yeah I was in there before the work was started) and made it into this warm and cozy pub that feels like it was always there. Of course, the beer is pretty good too! : )

Sometimes it’s Nice to be Wrong

May 8, 2014 |  by  |  1 Comment

Those who know me know I love beer. That should be no surprise to those who don’t know me. After all I am a brewer! Those who really know me know I make beer that I like. I’m not overly concerned whether or not people will like the beer I make…after all…I like it, but occasionally I decide to make a beer where I think to myself “I’m not sure this going to sell very well, but I like it so…”

The first beer like that was Max Abbey Belgian-style Dubble. Now by todays beer drinking standards that beer doesn’t seem so unusual, but in 1998 the beer palate of Atlanta was shall we say, less advanced. I made it because I love the style. I figured it’d be around for a while and that was OK with me. I was so wrong. Everyone loved it. Including the late great Michael Jackson (no not the King of Pop- the much more interesting Beer Hunter) with whom it was a great honor for me to sit and drink beer with and an even greater honor for him to complement my beer. The Abbey sold out in less than three weeks.

In 2007 came the Great Hop Crisis. My favorite ingredient in the course of a week went from being plentiful to more than scarce. Multiple events took place to cause it- poor harvests in the Pacific Northwest coupled by a fire at one of the biggest growers just after harvest, downy mildew in Europe and a sudden free trade agreement with China. Now you may not know it, but there’s a LOT of people in China. Guess what they like to drink a LOT of? Yup, beer. This all scared the Big Boys (those who will not be named) and with a suspicious fore-knowledge of the coming shortage, they grabbed up everything they could. Very few Craft Brewers contracted for hops up till that point and this left us very unhoppy. Prices on what you could find went from an average $3-5/lb to $30-35/lb. Still we muddled through a difficult end of 2007 and most of 2008 hoping beyond hope that next year’s crop would be plentiful. We got lucky, because the 2008 harvest was a good one. When the “good” hops finally came in late 2008, my first reaction was to hoard them and use them sparingly, but damn it, I’m a hop head! I threw caution to the wind and decided I’d make a beer so hoppy that only me and a few of my hop head friends would want to drink it. I’d make an IPA with an absurd amount of finishing hops. I’m talking pounds (note the plural) per barrel. I’d dry hop it not once but twice. Ha, Ha, it’ll be MINE, ALL MINE! No one in Atlanta was going to want to drink this West Coast Hop Bomb…boy was I wrong again. Hopsplosion!!! IPA almost instantly became our biggest selling beer. I’d truly created a monster. There was no turning back.

A couple of years ago I became interested in the Berliner Weisse style. I’ll admit until a few years ago I wasn’t the biggest fan of sour beers. They interested me, but the risk of cross contaminating my non-sour beers with the dreaded Lactobacillus that creates the tartness kept me from even considering it. Then I heard a lecture at the Craft Brewers Conference given by Burghard Meyer, one of the last brewers in Berlin to actually make the sour Weisse. He implored American Craft brewers to save the style. It was dying in Germany. He knew we couldn’t pass up the challenge and he had a secret technique he’d been developing. One that would allow us to create these wonderful sour flavors with a much reduced risk of cross contamination. I wasn’t the only brewer to walk out of that seminar with the wheels in my brain turning. A couple of months later my good buddy’s Glenn Golden from Jailhouse brewing and Chris Collier, former brewer at Natahalia Brewing and home brewer extraordinaire and I  got together and decided we’d give this style a shot.  We crafted Partners In Crime down at Jailhouse not sure if anyone in Georgia was ready for what can best be described as German lemonade. It was a huge hit! The keg only batch sold to retailers in a day! A year later I decided I’d make my spin on Berliner Weisse here at Max and created Air Lift Berliner Weisse. This time I was sure it’d sell, but my partners…not so much. Again, big hit!

I suppose the biggest surprise hit was Hopless Dancer Gruit. Gruit is an ancient style that dates back before the use of hops. Again, Chris Collier lent a hand with his expertise. He and his wife Tina have been making Gruits for years. We used Mugwort, Chamomile, Lavender, Yarrow, Grains of Paradise and Sweet Gale to bitter and finish the Gruit. Thinking that this would probably be a hard sell, we decided to make a very small amount and hand bottle it, selling it only in house. Now, being that this was without a doubt the most esoteric beer I’d ever made and that we were selling it in one liter bottles I figured the 14 odd cases we had would be around for a while. I never seem to be right about that…it all sold in less than two weeks. People loved it.

With these lessons learned (somewhat) I’m not afraid at all to tell you that I’m about to brew my next version of Berliner Weisse. This version will be called Georgia Air Lift. The plan is to add peaches and wildflower honey to the souring wort then age the fermented beer on French oak soaked in chardonnay. Yeah those of you who know me just dropped to the floor clutching your chest or are getting ready to test me for alien DNA…no I’m NOT making a fruit beer… Well I sorta am. Just wait for it…you’ll see, but then again, probably no one will like it and I’ll have to drink it all myself…oh well.

Spend Valentine’s Day at Max Lager’s Wood-Fired Grill & Brewery

February 7, 2014 |  by  |  1 Comment

 

V-day 2014

Creative Loafing on Atlanta’s First Strong Beer Fest

November 29, 2013 |  by  |  3 Comments

Creative Loafing spoke to Brewmaster JR, longtime member of the Georgia Craft Brewer’s Guild, about the changes in the Atlanta craft brew scene since he entered the professional Georgia brewing scene in 1996. To learn more about Atlanta’s first Strong Beer Fest on December 7, click here.

Thrillist

October 23, 2013 |  by  |  Be the first to Comment

Max Lager’s and its Fire and Spice onion rings were featured in today’s Thrillist Atlanta newsletter in the “Atlanta’s Bossest Bar Snacks” story by Sebastian Davis. You can see what other bar snacks made the list here.

Thanks for thinking of us, Thrillist!

In JR’s words: Another ‘Great’ American Beer Fest

October 17, 2013 |  by  |  Be the first to Comment

Another great year at the Great American Beer Festival for Max Lager’s is in the books. The hordes of beer loving people have all gone back to their usual lives probably already planning on being back next year. I can’t think of a city better for hosting the massive event than Denver. There’s craft beer everywhere! You can’t turn a corner without running into a brewery, brewpub or beer bar. Even “normal” restaurants proudly feature local craft beer.

It’s easy to completely immerse yourself in beer culture as soon as you arrive in Denver. The Boulder Beer Company has a pub right there in the airport between the gate and baggage claim. The entire city embraces not only the festival, but beer culture itself. Everywhere you go, smiling friendly faces ask “Are you here for the GABF?…Have fun!” and they mean it.

Even though the last few hours of the festival on Saturday night notoriously becomes…umm…a drunk fest as opposed to a beer fest, the majority of the nearly 20 hours of festival time is filled with beer lovers who truly want to find something new and exciting. This year the hot trend was sour beers, especially Berliner Weisse. We brought our Air Lift Berliner Weisse and it was a big hit. But even more surprising (to the drinkers at least) was the Hopless Dancer Gruit we brought. It’s an unhopped beer flavored with herbs. Many would start to turn their nose up at the idea, but I’d say “It’s a beer festival…you’re supposed to try new things. It’s only 1 ounce of beer. If you don’t like it, get something else.” The usual reaction to tasting it…”WOW! That’s awesome!” More often than not they kept coming back for more.

Besides the festival itself, this year we chose an excursion to the recently flooded city of Boulder. I’m happy to report that life is returning to normal there. A friend from Boulder Beer invited us to a pig roast (you had me at pork), which was fantastic. Later we hit up Avery Brewing and were shown great hospitality and even greater barrel-aged beers.

All in all, it was a fun but exhausting trip. It’s good to be home, but I too am already thinking about next year…

-JR