Though open only a few weeks, Hop Alley Brewpub on Main Street in Alpharetta has already attracted a loyal group of regulars that appreciate both quality beer and great food. Brandon Hintz (head brewer/owner) talked with us recently and gave us his take on brewing and brewpubs and what beer lovers in the OTP have to look forward to in the future.
Q:How did you first get involved in brewing?
A: I started off homebrewing in Iowa and it kind of took off from there. I joined a homebrewing club that led me into working at a local brewery and I picked up a lot of experience there that helped me land a job at Sweetwater.
Q: Do you have a particular favorite style of beer?
A: I am a huge fan of Oktoberfests — really good German Oktoberfest and sour beers. We are going to start doing some sour beers up here. It is a really interesting process that they go through and they have a really unique taste. It is one of my favorite styles. We have six “guest drafts” here currently and two of those are sours.
Q: Do you hope to have your beer available for off-premise consumption?
A: Yes, that is part of the goal. But right now the goal is to get the brew system nailed down 100% to where I can do it blindfolded — and then start talking to some distributors. I opted to go the brewpub route vs. just production brewing because I don’t like just brewing the same beer all the time. We are brewing different beers all the time based on what we want to brew and not just on what a distributor wants to sell. We brewed a Saison that was very popular and when it was gone we brewed another. Customers said that based on the first batch they were really excited about the second batch. And, we had explain to them that the second batch was completely different, having used different hops and additions of both peppercorns and coriander. I really like the brewpub aspect of not having to do the same beer over and over again, which is something you kind of have to do when dealing with distributing. We do have eventual plans that way and maybe by this time next year we’ll be distributing.
Q: Why did you choose Alpharetta as a location?
A: We looked first in Roswell and had found a building right off of Canton St. That area was just slammed and does as much business as anywhere inside the perimeter. The difference in dealing with the City of Roswell and the City of Alpharetta was night and day. The City of Roswell was very difficult to work with whereas the City of Alpharetta and was very helpful and welcomed us with open arms. We had noticed that most the people were coming from the north anyway, so in asking around Alpharetta seemed like a great location. So, we took a chance and it seems to have paid off. We have been open only three weeks now and we have a great crowd of regulars with many that I know by name already, so that makes you feel good. So far, all our advertising has been word of mouth and we are just extremely pleased at the response we have gotten from the people here and the city.
Q: What advice would you offer brewers who are interested in moving into brewpubs or microbreweries?
A: If you are a homebrewer the basics are all there. You know about the mash and the water and the hops. You have most of that down. It is the cellaring part that is extremely different from what you deal with on the homebrewing side. Cleaning tanks, yeast propagation, moving the beer back and forth, and just keeping your pressures right is all different. My advice would be to try and get in with someone where you can learn the cellaring side. Brewing systems will differ from location to location, but the cellaring part is always going to be the same and that is a huge part of it.