Friday, September 7, 2012

Atlanta Airport to Get First Belgian Beer Café™

It's been a year or so since I ranted about the news that the InBev-run Belgian Beer Café chain wanted to open locations in the United States. Specifically, I targeted a beer list "weighted with saccharine and fakery." It was a gut reaction fueled by the realization that many people would get their first taste of Belgian beer from a global behemoth that profits from efficiency and mediocrity and efficient mediocrity rather than beer of much character.

Sorry, Leffe. Sorry, Hoegaarden and Stella. You have your fans but you are what you are.

A necessary clarification: A-B InBev cannot legally own their own cafés to sell their own beer in the United States. So the firm that works with InBev to design the cafés, Creneau International (and give them credit, many are stunning), has the rights in the United States. It sounds like sleight of hand but I reckon the lawyers have their ducks lined neatly in a row.

I haven't changed my mind about that sample beer list. It is patently weak next to the better-curated Belgian beer lists around the world, in bars or restaurants where people know what they are doing. I see a few reliable gems greatly outnumbered by dull cack of sugar and spice. I grant that a beer list can be like a Rorschach test and we will not all see the same picture. But when I apply my perspective, as far as it goes, that is what gets spat out. I stand by it.

On the other hand...

Well, I'm a practical man. I travel a lot. And just as I'm more inclined to drink a Hoegaarden in Costa Rica than in Belgium, due to complex algorithms of relative quality and availability, well...

Airports. Against all odds they remain beer wastelands, generally speaking. Yet they are those places in the middle of those sorts of days when we most often think, "Fuck, man. I need a beer."

And they are where the first U.S. Belgian Beer Cafés are going.

The very first one will be in Atlanta, scheduled to open in two weeks. The second will open in Newark.

I fly through Atlanta sometimes. Like most airports, it is shit for beer. Best you can find there, last I checked, is a Sweetwater IPA in one of those closed-up bars where they quarantine the smokers. Not an entirely pleasant experience.

But the announcement says this: The beer list in that Atlanta bar will include, among some other stuff, Chimay Blue on draft and Saison Dupont in bottles.

Well, like I say, I'm a practical man. I know where I'm headed next time I'm passing through ATL. I'll probably be plucking down $14 or some absurd price for a certain farmhouse ale archetype.

After the airports, there are plans to open locations in New York City and Philadelphia. And just a wild guess but I'm guessing they won't be right next door to Gramercy Tavern or the Monk's Café.

And a final thought: I am not anti-corporate. I am anti-mediocrity.


  1. ATL actually has a Sweetwater Taphouse which is non-smoking and a great place to grab one of their brews. It made a couple treks through there far more bearable.

  2. Thanks for that. Obviously I've been going through the wrong terminals. Will hope for better luck next time.

  3. Also, the TGI Friday's in ATL airport carries local microbrew standout Monday Night Brewing. Amazing, but true!

  4. Excellent tip, thank you. I'll watch for that next time.

  5. Man, wish that airport was near here! I do love me some Belgian brews! :)