June 11, 2012

Alpharetta, GA: 5 Seasons Restaurant & Brewery

I've been hitting the road pretty hard lately; now it's time to get caught up. This is post #100! Here goes!

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For my first brewpub adventure of this state-side road trip, I decided to check out 5 Seasons Restaurant and Brewery. There are three locations in the greater Atlanta area: Westside, Sandy Springs, and Alpharetta. My girlfriend and I went to the Alpharetta location for their weekly Cask Ale tapping (every Thursday at 5:55pm), but also because of the 5 Seasons philosophy that focuses on buying local ingredients and using what's in season:

"At the 5 Seasons we source much of our produce and meats from local and sustainable farms when they are in their peak of flavor.  That is what we call the '5th Season.'  From these wonderful ingredients we prepare a plethora of specials every day."

I'm really not sure why we went to the Alpharetta location over the other two, but I'm glad we did -- behind the bar that night just happened to be Brewmaster and 5 Seasons co-owner Crawford Moran. The restaurant had a rustic and cozy log cabin feel. Keeping with the warm and welcoming atmosphere, Crawford talked to us about his journey into beer-making: a trip to Europe, experimenting with homebrewing, making a mess of his (now) wife's kitchen...

He introduced us to what was on the cask that night, the 5A Pale Ale, dry-hopped with loads of Citra hops, which honestly (and enjoyably) pushed it into IPA territory. Strong hops and aromas of grapefruit were very well balanced by those sweet, caramel malt flavors characteristic of the American IPA.

We proceded to ask Crawford to steer us towards the "most local" of the items on the menu, which was stamped with that day's date (a very good sign). Following his recommendation, we started with a couple appetizers:
  • The Georgia Cheese Plate featuring Miticana, Smoked Gouda, and Queso Tetilla cheeses with arugula, pecans, strawberries, American proscuitto from locally-raised Kurobuto ham, and local honey
  • Tempura Fried Hakurei Turnips with a spicy soy and sesame dipping sauce
My girlfriend, a cheese fanatic, was especially pleased by the presentation of the local cheese plate. We enjoyed experimenting with the different flavor combinations of the cheeses, fruit, and beer. We were also served some of the 5 Seasons Spent Grain Bread, certainly better than my own attempt, light, fluffy, and still warm. It was something of a cross between sourdough and multigrain, made with Chef Dave's proprietary yeast strain that has a story of its own.


Those appetizers were superb, but the real treat that night was a bottle of their Jack Daniels Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale from the Brewmaster's Cellar Reserve List. Let me tell you -- this beer was one of the best barrel-aged beers I've had, putting it into a category all its own. Super fizzy, apples on the nose, extremely well-balanced with just a hint of Jack Daniels. Kind of like a cross between Tennessee and Scotland, it finished with caramel flavors coming out towards the end. Oh yeah, and a deceptively high ABV. This is why they're called "master" brewers.

Even though we were approaching full and more than satisfied with the meal so far, we had to do a beer sampler and try some other items from the menu. I really wanted to see how 5 Seasons' Reuben with Homemade Sauerkraut would compare with the Wrecking Bar's Pastrami Sandwich in a grand "Battle of the Beef." And that's when I was struck...through writing this blog I've had the opportunity to try so much food that is so frickin' good, sometimes it's really hard to say one place is better than another. This was one of those occasions. I will say however that 5 Seasons' Sweet Potato Fries with cocoa/chili butter were fantastic.


We also tried the Pimiento Cheese Brulee, which was as stellar as it was inventive:


Finally, the sampler of beers from the evening, which were great across the board:
  • Venus - a Belgian white inspired by the Goddess of Love (and Crawford's wife). Brewed with barley, wheat, oats, orange peel and coriander.
  • Golden Ale - Delicate, well-balanced, and easy drinking.
  • Dark Star Stout - A dry, Irish stout, nearly black in color, with flavors of chocolate and coffee. Best Stout at the 2000 World Beer Cup.
  • 5A Pale Ale - The base ale for that night's cask tasting. This one was dry-hopped with Cascade rather than Citra.
  • Echo Street IPA - Named after a street in Atlanta with an "interesting" history, this IPA features big, citrus hop flavor.
My only regret is that I wasn't able to try everything on the menu. If you still need convincing, here are just a few of the other menus items that caught my eye that night:
  • Homemade Pretzels
  • Georgia-Raised, Organic, Grass-Fed Beef Burger
  • Vidalia Onion All-Natural Turkey Burger
  • Antelope Patty Melt
  • Pan Roasted Halibut with Organic Vegetables
Regardless of what you get, you will not be disappointed!

I wonder what they're tapping this Thursday at 5:55...