Over the holidays, Phil and I had the chance to hit up Against the Grain to learn a little about what makes them the local juggernaut that they are. I can tell you as someone who has brewed as an amateur, as a human being that has had to move heavy things in tight spaces (thanks for all the back problems, UPS), and as a professional marketer, AtG has it going on. To be crystal clear, we hit up the main pub brewery on Main Street attached to Bats Stadium (not their distribution facility). We’ve both been a ton of times together and independent of one another, and already had a well formed opinion of their beer and food.
The thing is, and this is a big thing: most of what you experience when you sample anything from music to food to beer and in between has a lot going on behind the scenes that you may not know. I keep that in mind before I get too ugly about whatever thing it is that I’m doing, because hell, everything doesn’t have to be for me, and you have no idea how the sausage is really made half the time.
That said, we do have a great idea of what they do at AtG and goddamn, it’s brutal. Those brew kettles you see on the third floor? That’s it. You have to climb ladders and dodge low hanging rafters to use the space, more often than not carrying heavy grain bags or full garbage bins loaded up post tank clean out, which are carted over and under low hanging beams and edgings onto a grain elevator that came with the space. It’s a tight space to work in, and the kind of tight space that had Phil anxious even after we’d come back down. Imagine doing that several times a week in a cramped and hot space while everyone can see you. You’ve got to respect that.
Of course, they have more than one location to get their production together, but the brewery is stocked with beers they make on site, and those beers, I’m happy to report, are awesome. They break their beers down into six categories — sections that they often mix and experiment with in the confines of their chosen space. They break down as Hop, Smoke, Dark, Malt, Whim, and Session, each of which comes with its own unique branding. Yeah, the marketing side of my brain lit up at that idea, but seriously y’all, it’s like a puzzle, and when it clicks in, it’s beautiful, a thing of tacit glory, sublime and interesting. I won’t spoil the fun, but look at their packaging and see if it tells you a story.
We were guided around by Katie Molck, who handles marketing (pictured below with yours truly). Maybe she was just nice to us because we were there to write nice things, but I don’t believe that. Why would Against the Grain need to woo us chumps here? I can answer that: they don’t. They legit like what they do and they hope you do too. Their business thrives, because of their relationships with the people they meet. I’ve meet two of the owners on more than one occasion and they’re cool fellas.
Katie made sure we were fed with some dope Pork Nachos (pictured above) which consisted of pulled pork, kettle chips, jalapeños, pickled onions, scallions, topped off with their own delicious house BBQ sauce. Needless to say, this appetizer really hit the spot. On top of that, we got to sample the majority of their beers, which included the Rosco & Enos, a dark beer with a mild smoke flavor; Wasabiotches, a rice lager with wasabi and green tea (wut); and B&J Bahamamama, a rum soaked Palo santo style brown, all of which were fucking righteous. And did your boi walk away with a bottle of Bo & Luke Duke. Holler.
Their food is rad and their beers are always worth exploring, from their more traditionally available beers to some of their white whales that get the local brewheads in all frothy. I’ve sample a ton of varieties, from their white whales to their traditional beers that stay in regular rotation, and I always walk away pleased. AtG succeeds not only because they aren’t afraid to take chances, but because they have fun. From the props suspended in mid-air (just look up the next time you’re in the taproom) to the clever marketing (pay attention to the figures on each beer) to their ridiculous beer names, they’ve got you covered. They want you to have fun, and they want to have fun doing it. We live in lame times, so I’ll take my sunshine and open myself up to the little joys in life wherever possible, and AtG seems to feel the same way.