A pint at Jekyll Brewing in Alpharetta, Ga.

Neolocalism is rich at craft breweries across the country.  Many draw from their hometown or nearby places as inspiration for the brewery’s name and regularly pull from the same places and histories for their beer names.  However, Jekyll Brewing in Alpharetta, Ga., takes a unique twist on the inspiration and draws from an island over 350 miles away on the Georgia coast.

Main entrance to the brewery.

Jekyll Island, which is a barrier island that is part of Georgia’s Golden Isles, is a popular vacation destination for Atlanta-area residents.  Despite drawing its inspiration from Jekyll Island, the brewery that Michael Lundmark and Josh Rachel established in 2013 focuses on the island’s role in the history of Georgia and the Deep South and not on the role of the island as a vacation destination.  It it this history that visitors will learn about when going on a tour, as my wife Katie and I did when we visited recently.  We met Nicole Mazzuca, who oversees the taproom operations now that Georgia changed its laws to allow breweries to sell beer directly to customers.

Almost immediately after walking through the door, my wife Katie and I got a beer in our hand and Nicole was walking us around the brewery.  So I’ll start with the tour, which the brewery still offers on an hourly basis on the weekends.  Right now, the tours are free, and the brewery hopes to maintain that status.

To the right of the bar next to the merchandise area is a door that leads visitors to the production side of the brewery.

Some of the merchandise available at the brewery.

Although many areas have a specified purpose, there is storage throughout much of the facility.  The first two rooms we entered stored grains and yeast and the grain hopper.

The next space we visited was the loading dock, but it served multiple purposes.  It stored several more whiskey barrels for aging, numerous pallets of unused beer cans, and most importantly the brewery’s coffee roaster.

A coffee roaster is far from a traditional piece of equipment to be found at a brewery.  Due to Mike Lundmark’s affinity for coffee, the brewery roasts its own, which is available for purchase in the taproom.  Additionally, Jekyll Brewing offered complimentary coffee on Monday morning recently.  The brewery’s location in an office park attracted a steady crowd of visitors to these free events.

After walking through the storage area of the brewery, visitors finally get to see where the beer is brewed.  Technically, people see where the beer is stored first.

Along with seeing the fermentation tanks, visitors see where the grain is stored for use in the brewing process in the company’s silos behind the building.

The brewery’s grain silos behind the building.

Back inside visitors are greeted by the last part of the beer-making process: packaging.  The brewery kegs their beers, so you get to see a keg cleaner.  Additionally, Jekyll Brewing bottles AND cans their beers, so we got to see both machines used in that process.

Tucked behind the canning line is the brewery’s small-batch, pilot system.

The small-batch system.

Farther in the back is the 50-barrel system that towers over the production side of the facility.

In the “crow’s nest” of the brewery’s 50-barrel system.

Following the tour of the production side, we returned to the taproom to sample some beers.  As we contemplated our beer choices, I seized the opportunity to take pictures of the taproom.  The taproom is quite extensive, despite losing some space with the addition of the 50-barrel brewing system in March 2017.

An overview of the taproom.

The taproom has two spaces for customer seating.  One is adjacent to the bars, and the other is farther away from the bars, but closer to the production-side of the brewery.  The space closer to the production side has the same type of tables as the side closer to the bars, but there is also a performance stage and some sofas.

As Katie and I visited the brewery around two o’clock on a Saturday on a holiday, the space closer to the production side of the brewery did not have many visitors.  However, the space closer to the bars was quite full.

The main bar features several names of varying sizes.  As Nicole explained, these are the names of people who contributed to the brewery’s Kickstarter campaign in 2013.  The size of the text indicates the amount of the individual’s donation to the campaign.

It was as Katie and I sipped on some flights that we got to learn about the history of Jekyll Island and how it connects to the brewery.  Thankfully because my wife enjoys craft beer, I got to hit up the year-round beers I had not sampled while she worked on some taproom exclusives.

So before delving into the beers, it’s important to understand the history of Jekyll Island how it inspires many of the beers and beer names at Jekyll Brewing.  There are multiple stories about beer and the Deep South, but instead of delving into each one of them I am only going to retell the story about what saved the colony of Georgia.  In 1733, James Oglethorpe, a member of the British parliament, soldier, and social reformer, established a settlement near the side of modern-day Savannah, Ga.  Following a visit to London the following year, he left Major William Horton in charge of the colony during his absence.  Horton noticed that many colonists were dying, and built the first brewery in the Deep South on Jekyll Island.  The colony flourished during this period, and subsequently he allotted new colonists forty-four gallons of ale to live.  It is from Horton’s brewery on Jekyll Island that Michael Lundmark and Josh Rachel drew their inspiration when establishing Jekyll Brewing.

So onto the beers!

Jekyll Brewing products are widely available where we live, but I have not tried all of the brewery’s year-round brews.  So I felt that I should focus on trying the core beers.  While I focused on those beers, Katie opted to sample some taproom exclusives.  With my mind on year-round beers, I had Big Creek (a Kölsch), ‘Merican (an American amber), Southern Juice (an American India pale ale), and Slow n’ Low Porter (a smoked porter).  All were very good and brewed close to style.  Of the four, I really enjoyed Southern Juice and felt that it was a particularly approachable beer, especially for people who do not identify as hop heads.

The taproom exclusive flight that Katie built is indicative of what breweries have been doing since Georgia changed its beer laws and allowed breweries to sell beer directly to customers.  As of my visit to the brewery, Jekyll Brewing has brewed fifty-seven beers exclusively for the taproom since Sept. 1, 2017.  So Katie ordered the Strawberry Lemonade Southern Juicy Juice Shandy (a shandy mixed with a New England IPA), Secret Apollo (a New England IPA), Let’s See What Happens (a saison with strawberry and rhubarb), and Major Hot Lips (an American stout with coca nibs, raspberry, and Habanero).  I liked all of them for different reasons, but I especially enjoyed Major Hot Lips.  You got the chocolate notes upfront with a bit of raspberry before finishing with a nice bite from the Habanero peppers.

Whether you prefer to stick to the basics or experiment with your beer selection, you will find something that suits your tastes at Jekyll Brewing.  The taproom has plenty of space for visitors, so whether you’re checking out a new brewery on your own or hanging out with a group of friends you can find a spot to enjoy great beer.  For those who visit on Saturdays, you are likely to find a food truck in the parking lot, too.  If for some reason you don’t like craft beer, you can check out the brewery on Monday morning and enjoy some freshly roasted Colombian coffee.

A pint at Eventide Brewing in Atlanta, Ga.

On the edge of Grant Park in downtown Atlanta, a trio of college friends opened a brewery.  Nathan, Haley, and Geoffrey met while undergraduate students in Statesboro, Ga.  Years later they opened Eventide Brewing.

The brewery sits on the edge of a residential area, so it has a built-in clientele within walking distance.  Additionally, the brewery is not far from the Atlanta BeltLine, which is a rail-to-trail corridor under development around the center of Atlanta.  As more of the trail system is completed, Eventide will be connected to more residents who can ride their walks to the brewery.

When visitors arrive at the brewery they see this…

Main entrance to the brewery.

Due to construction across from the brewery when I visited there are very limited parking spots in the brewery’s lot, but there is plenty of street parking.  As evidenced from the above photograph, there is plenty of outdoor space with picnic tables and other gathering spots.

Inside the brewery is a slightly different situation.  When my wife Katie and I walked into the brewery it was packed, which wasn’t a surprise because it was a college football Saturday.

A view of the seating area and TV projector.

Despite the full crowd there were some open tables toward the back of the taproom, which shouldn’t have been a surprise considering that most people were focused on watching the football game on the TV.

Another view of the seating area.

Putting it all together here’s an overview of the seating area.

An overview of the seating area.

There are three tables to the left of the bar with open space before visitors get to the six high-top tables in the back.

There are two entertainment areas for visitors in the taproom.  The first is an area behind the high-top tables setup for the bimini ring game (a.k.a. ringing the bull).  It’s a game that involves swinging a bull’s nose-ring that is attached to a string with the objective of landing the ring on the hook to score points.

The other pub game is darts.

A view of the dart boards and some merchandise for sale.

However, the dart boards area serves a secondary purpose to display some of the brewery’s t-shirts available for purchase.

There are two really cool displays at the brewery.  One is not far from the dart boards, and is just outside the brewing facility.  It is a sign detailing the brewing process.

A poster detailing the brewing process outside the brewing facility.

The other interesting display is on the wall behind the high-top tables.

A collection of historic pieces detailing the Grant Park community.

The brewery’s collection of photos and old news stories about the Grant Park community bring a degree of historic preservation to the brewery.  Considering the brewery’s proximity to residences, it’s great seeing part of the community incorporated into the taproom.

Although I’ve discussed the multiple areas of the taproom, I have yet to discuss the most important aspects of my visit: the bar and the beer on tap.  Visitors clearly see the bar when they walk into the taproom.  However, on this visit the crowd made it nearly impossible to reach the bar an order a beer.  So instead, I had to capture it from the back of the taproom.

An overview of the bar.

Unlike many bars at a brewery, the bar top at Eventide does not have any stools for seating.  It is set up for people to order beer and sit elsewhere in the taproom.  Next to the bar is a cooler, which as of Sept. 1, 2017, allows visitors to purchase six-packs to take home with them.

Onto the important stuff…

A view of the bar with posters displaying the beers on tap.

Eventide usually has six to eight beers on draft.  While a price menu lists the beers and their cost per pint, there are also posters detailing the SRM (standard reference method; i.e. the color of the beer ranging from pale yellow to black), IBU (International Bitterness Unit), and ABV (alcohol-by-volume).  The posters also include a detailed description of the beer including a tasting profile so people know what flavors to expect while enjoying their beer.

I first visited Eventide in March 2017 before Georgia breweries were allowed to sell beer direct to consumers.  My most recent visit took place nearly eight months later, after Georgia modernized its beer laws.  So on this visit I ordered the two beers I did not get to sample during my first visit.  I ordered Red Headed Haley (an American amber) and Highlander (a Scotch ale).  Both were quite enjoyable and done close to style.

During my previous visit, back when visitors had to buy tours and received six 6-ounce samples I tried most of the brewery’s year-round beers.  I had previously drank Kölsch Style Ale, Pale Ale, and Dry Irish Stout (on nitro) from Eventide’s staple of beers.  I also sampled Slam Dunkel Weisse (a dunkelweizen) and Kattegat Baltic Porter, two seasonal brews that were available at that time.  Looking back on all the beers I’ve tried from the brewery, the Kattegat Baltic Porter has been my favorite.  It was rich with chocolate and coffee notes, and a very smooth brew.

However, depending upon your taste buds and preferences you may enjoy The “A” IPA or something else more than the Kattegat Baltic Porter.  Regardless of your preferences, you’ll assuredly find a beer at Eventide Brewing that makes you feel at home in this friendly, communal tasting room.

Reviewing my 2017 ballpark resolutions

As 2017 comes to a close, it’s time for the annual review of my New Year’s resolutions.  Unlike people who resolve to lose weight or be kinder to others, which are all great goals, mine focus on travel and more specifically they focus on baseball travel.

My first resolution for 2017 was…

While attending the American Association of Geographers (AAG) Annual Meeting in Boston in April, I organized a field trip to see the Portland Sea Dogs and got to meet Josh at the game.  It was great getting to talk baseball and our travel experiences during the game.  I wrote about my experience at Hadlock Field, too (read it here).

In addition to attending a Sea Dogs game, I also made it to a New Hampshire Fisher Cats game during the AAG Annual Meeting.  Josh did not join me at the game in Manchester, but it was still a great visit.  I stopped at Stark Brewing before going to the game, and got to watch a doubleheader because of bad weather that canceled the previous night’s game (read about it here).

It’s easy to assess whether I accomplished my first resolution, which is a resounding yes.

My second resolution for 2017 was…

Although I did not blog about my trips, I did attend a few Birmingham Barons games this past season. My first visit was in April to celebrate my bachelor party with some friends. I also attended a game later in the season with my now wife Katie. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to Mobile or Montgomery for a baseball game. So I can clearly acknowledge that I did not accomplish this resolution.

My third resolution for 2017 was…

When I made the resolution to see the Biloxi Shuckers with Katie, I had no idea when I was going to make that trip. However, Katie and I were both intent on making it happen because we had planned to visit in 2016 to celebrate her birthday, but we had to cancel those plans at the last minute.  But this year, we made the trip to Biloxi in mid-July after returning from our honeymoon to Southeast Asia.  We spent a long weekend on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and visited a number of breweries in addition to attending a Shuckers game.  I blogged about my brewery visits (here) and wrote about my visit to MGM Park (read it here).  So clearly I accomplished this goal.

My fourth resolution for 2017 was…

Following the trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Katie and I visited family in Atlanta and made it to an Atlanta Braves game.  Although we spent several hours exploring The Battery Atlanta and having drinks at the Terrapin Taproom & Fox Brother BBQ, we did not get to explore much of the ballpark because of an extensive rain delay.  So I have opted not to blog about my visit to the ballpark because I feel like it was an incomplete visit.  However, I firmly feel that I accomplished my resolution to attending a Braves game at SunTrust Park.

Recapping the Resolutions
Unlike previous years, it is pretty easy to determine the success of accomplishing my 2017 resolutions.

#1: See a New Hampshire Fisher Cats or Portland Sea Dogs game with Josh Pahigian.  Goal accomplished.
#2: See all three Alabama MiLB teams (Birmingham Barons, Mobile BayBears, and Montgomery Biscuits).  One of three stadiums visited.  Goal unaccomplished.
#3: See a Biloxi Shuckers game at MGM Park with Katie.  Goal accomplished.
#4: See an Atlanta Braves game at SunTrust Park.  Goal accomplished.

On a grand scale, I accomplished three of four resolutions (0.750).  If I measured each individual component of my resolutions, I accomplished four of six objectives (0.666).  Either way, I feel good about upholding my resolutions for the past year.

Revealing my 2017 ballpark resolutions

I’m now into year three of writing baseball-travel resolutions (read 2015’s resolutions here; read 2016’s resolutions here).  These resolutions/goals mostly focus on attending Minor League Baseball games, but sometimes I add a Major League Baseball goal.

The first resolution for 2017…

Over the past few years, I’ve gotten to interact with Josh Pahigian, who has written numerous books about attending MLB and MiLB games (see his Amazon author page here).  He lives in Portland, Maine, and teaches at the University of New England.  During this past season he reached out to me about using a photo I took of a biscuit at a Montgomery Biscuits games (read my post here) in his upcoming book The Amazing Baseball Adventure: Ballpark Wonders from the Bushes to the Show, and we’ve corresponded about attending a game together when I’m in the Boston area for the AAG Annual Meeting in May.  My schedule is still in flux, so I’m not sure what ballpark or game we may attend, but I’m optimistic that I’ll get to either a New Hampshire FisherCats or Portland Sea Dogs game and meet Josh.

My second resolution for 2017…

I’ve previously aimed to see all the MiLB teams in Alabama, and setting the same goal this year.  I have seen the Barons (read post here), BayBears (read post here), and Biscuits (read post here) at different times since I started blogging about my stadium visits, but have never visited all three ballparks during the same season.  My fiancée Katie has been keen on the idea of seeing the Biscuits and BayBears, so I decided it would be a good goal to try and see all three teams during the upcoming season as we hopefully visit more of Alabama’s craft breweries.

My third resolution for 2017…

Last August, Katie and I had hoped to visit the Mississippi Gulf Coast and attend a Biloxi Shuckers game, but we were unfortunately unable to accomplish that trip because of other commitments.  As she loves the beach and thankfully enjoys baseball, too, I’ve pitched the idea to her that we could visit Biloxi this summer for some beach time while also watching the Shuckers and visiting some of Mississippi’s craft breweries.

My fourth resolution for 2017…

Last year, I resolved to see the Atlanta Braves play a game during their final season at Turner Field.  So it seemed appropriate and kind of obvious that I’d resolve to see the Braves play a game during their first season at SunTrust Park this year.

Now that I have my four baseball travel resolutions set for 2017 I have to start planning and make them a reality.  I accomplished two of my four resolutions for 2016, and hopefully will be more successful this year.

Reviewing my 2016 ballpark resolutions

Like many people, I make New Years’ resolutions.  Unlike most people mine aren’t about losing weight, spending more time with family, getting organized, or any of the other most common resolutions that people end up breaking a few weeks into the new year.  Instead, my resolutions are about travel related to baseball teams.  Specifically, I tweet my resolutions about the baseball teams/stadiums I hope to visit during the upcoming year.

So as 2016 is nearly coming to a close, I’ve taken some time to sit down and look at my success of accomplishing my New Years’ resolutions.  Since 2014, I’ve written four resolutions on January 1st of each year.  So without further ado, I’ll review how I did accomplishing my resolutions for 2016.

Attending a Thirsty Thursday game hosted by the Asheville Tourists was easily accomplished as part of my trip to the Carolinas following my engagement.  It was the second stop of our trip through the Carolinas, and we did indeed took advantage of the beer specials that night (read about it here).

It’s tough for me to assess this resolution because I did not get to see all four South Carolina Minor League teams play at home, but I did make it to all four towns and had the intent of attending a game at all of the stadiums.  However, the Greenville Drive‘s home game was rained out on the night I was in town as part of my #SCMiLBTour.  So I ended up seeing the other three Minor League teams in the Palmetto State.  You can read about my experiences in Myrtle Beach (here), Charleston (here), and Columbia (here).

Since 2014, I’ve tried to see all three Kentucky Minor League teams in action, and have failed to accomplish that resolution.  Sadly, this past year was no different.  In early August, Katie and I attended a Bowling Green Hot Rods game (read it here), but we were unable to incorporate visits to Lexington or Louisville into our trip.

I hoped to make it to multiple Braves games at Turner Field during the 2016 season, but had to settle for just one ballgame before the club moved out.  However, in late May on the way back from the Carolinas, Katie and I watched the Milwaukee Brewers take on the Atlanta Braves in Turner Field.

As I’ve previously mentioned, trying to assess whether I accomplished all four of my resolutions is a bit difficult.  However, if I apply a black-or-white filter things become much clearer.  In a black-and-white world, I accomplished two of my four resolutions by attending a Braves game at Turner Field during their final season there and by attending an Asheville Tourists game on a Thirsty Thursday.  So overall I finished the year 2-for-4 (0.500 average).

If I break down the individual components of the resolutions my average climbs to 0.667 or 6-for-9.  As usual, my eyes are often bigger than my schedule when it comes to attending baseball games.  But now it’s time to consider my resolutions for 2017…

Revealing my 2016 ballpark resolutions

Over the past two years I’ve made some baseball-related travel resolutions for the new year (Read 2015 resolutions here).  I’ve continued that trend into 2016, so before the semester gets away from me I wanted to sit down and recap my goals for the upcoming baseball season.

Getting right to the point, my first Minor League Baseball travel resolution is to…

I’ve previously made resolutions to see specific teams, but I have not made a resolution to attend on a specific day of the week or to attend a specific promotion. I have avoided these resolutions for two reasons:

#1, most teams do not release their complete promotional schedules until February or March at the earliest;

#2, my goal is usually to visit multiple teams on a trip, which means that in order to visit multiple teams on a trip that I may visit a specific club on a Tuesday because another team is on the road and I have to visit them on a Wednesday.

However, I have already been planning a trip through North Carolina and South Carolina, so I know that my schedule permits me to attend a game in Asheville on a Thursday. So my resolution is more about sticking to my plan than making a special effort to attend a game on a Thursday night. While many MiLB teams have a Thirsty Thursday promotion, it is unique in Asheville because the promotion originated with the Tourists. You can read about the origins of the promotion from MiLB.com writer Ben Hill here.

My second MiLB travel resolution is to…

I have previously aimed to see all the Minor League teams in a state before, and so far I’ve had mixed success in achieving the goal.  In 2014, I made separate resolutions to see all the teams in Alabama, Georgia, and Kentucky.  While I saw teams in each of those states, I did not come anywhere near reaching my goal.  However, last year I made only one resolution to see all the MiLB teams in a state.  I was able to meet that goal when I visited all four teams in Georgia.

My girlfriend, who thankfully enjoys baseball and many of my other interests, has not yet visited South Carolina, so she and I have been discussing taking a trip to the Palmetto State after the spring semester.  So it seemed natural to me that we try to visit all of the teams in South Carolina because each of the cities represents a different region of the state, and allows us to see the variety that the state offers visitors.

The added bonus is that I have never seen any Minor League games in South Carolina, so I would visit four new ballparks and add another state to my tally.

My third MiLB travel resolution is to…

For the second time in three years, I have set the goal to see all three Kentucky MiLB teams.  In 2014, I saw the Bowling Green Hot Rods (read it here), but did not see the Bluegrass State’s other two teams in action.  My motivation for seeing all three Kentucky teams in based primarily around proximity.  My girlfriend lives in Nashville, and wants to see Mammoth Cave National Park, which is approximately 90 minutes away.  As I have never seen the Lexington Legends in action nor have I written about visiting the Louisville Bats, I’m aiming to make a short trip to the Commonwealth to explore baseball, bourbon, and beer.

The past two years I have made four MiLB-related resolutions, one often ties into my travel to the AAG Annual Meeting.  In 2016, the conference takes place the last week of March, which is before the start of the Minor League season.  So for the first time ever, I limited my MiLB resolutions to three, and made my first MLB-related resolution.

My first MLB travel resolution is to…

I’ve written previously about growing up an Atlanta Braves fan, and the club plays its final season at Turner Field before moving to a new stadium in the suburbs for the 2017 season.  So while Turner Field is not a particularly historic venue, it holds special significance to me as a fan and as someone who worked at the stadium for many years.  So I would like to see at least one more game at the stadium before it is replaced.

With my resolutions set, now the planning and working to ensure they happen really starts.  While I upheld three of my four resolutions from 2015, we will see what 2016 holds and how many of my baseball-related travel resolutions I can uphold.

Reviewing my 2015 ballpark resolutions

Since 2014, I have posted baseball-related travel resolutions.  If you want to see how I did meeting my 2014 resolutions, read about it here.

Starting off January 1, I made four resolutions relating to visiting Minor League Baseball stadiums.

I started the year off on a good note, as I did in fact attend a Kane County Cougars game, and I got to meet Craig Wieczorkiewicz.  Craig operates The Midwest League Traveler, which covers appropriately enough, the Midwest League.  The first day I was in Chicago I got a rental car and drove from downtown Chicago to the West Suburbs (specifically Geneva).  It was a chilly evening, but I got to hang out with Craig, drink a Raging Cougar Ale, and talk about baseball.  You can read about my visit here.

In hindsight I’m not sure how you quantify the success/failure of this resolution.  I made it to First Tennessee Park for a Nashville Sounds game at their new ballpark.  That is obviously a success.  However, I did not get another photo with Ozzie because he was replaced by Booster the Hot Chicken.  Considering that I did get a photo with the mascot, I’m counting this as a win.  You can read about my visit here.

Somewhere along the way we all fall short of fulfilling our resolutions, and I can report that I did not attend a Lexington Legends game with my friend Dr. Michael Bradley.  I wasn’t swamped with writing my dissertation, but due to car repairs I did not drive to Cincinnati, Ohio, for the AP Human Geography Reading and therefore failed to drive through Kentucky on my way back south.  I’m optimistic that I will be able to attend a game in 2016.

Last year I hoped to visit all four of Georgia’s Minor League Baseball teams, but only visited one of them.  I visited the Gwinnett Braves with my Oklahoma State Grad School classmate Bill McBrayer for Back to the Future Night.  I did not blog about my visit because I had visited the G-Braves in 2014 (read about that visit here).  On the same road trip I did visit the Augusta GreenJackets and Savannah Sand Gnats, who were in their final season.  You can read about my visit to Augusta here and my visit to Savannah here.  I made a daytrip to watch the Rome Braves play about a week after my trip to Augusta and Savannah.  You can read about my Rome visit here.  So I can definitely mark my Georgia-related resolution as a success.

Of my four resolutions, I completed three.  From an individual component perspective I completed six of seven resolutions for a 0.857 average in baseball terms.  From an overall vantage I went 3-for-4 for a 0.750 average.  Either way you look at my baseball resolutions for 2015 I consider myself a winner.  I’d like to go 4-for-4 with my resolutions one year, but I will definitely take a 3-for-4 day at the plate.

Now to consider my baseball travel resolutions for 2016…

My night with the Atlanta Braves – Aug. 29, 2015

When you grow up in a city you rarely take the time to visit the sights because those are the things tourists do.  As someone who grew up in metro Atlanta and worked at Turner Field for many years until recently, it was not a baseball stadiums I sought to include in my blog because it was always going to be there and I’d get to it sometime.

That “sometime” came recently after winning three free tickets to see the New York Yankees play the Atlanta Braves on August 29.  So when making plans for a weekend trip to Atlanta I made sure to bring my camera, arrive early, and do my best to document a stadium where I have seen numerous games since it opened in 1997 and worked many more games over the last 17 seasons.  Finally I got to play tourist and take in the sights and sounds of Turner Field along with my girlfriend and mother.

View of the facade from the northwest.

After parking to the northwest away from the primary parking lots, I walked around Monument Grove and photographed many of the statues and other markers for Braves players with retired numbers.

The ticket office along with retired numbers for Hank Aaron (#44) and Phil Niekro (#35).
Pitcher Warren Spahn (1942, 1946-1964) was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.
Phil Niekro (1964-1983, 1987) was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.
Outfielder Hank Aaron (1954-1974) was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.
Katie and I with a bust of Hank Aaron, who had two statues in Monument Grove.
Chipper Jones (1993-2012) was honored upon his retirement with bricks from the building
that houses the Ivan Allen Jr. Braves Museum and Hall of Fame.

After finally entering the stadium we explored the Fan Plaza, which is usually full of fans dining while listening to live music that is played in front of the Majestic Clubhouse Store.  We arrived about two hours before the game started, so the plaza was not packed nor was their live music yet.

The back of the gargantuan scoreboard sits above the entrance to the Majestic Clubhouse Store.

People, however, were checking out the Taste of the Majors concession stand.  It was a stand that had unique food items from the Braves’ opponent, but when I checked it out the menu was the same at each line.

Taste of the Majors concession stand in the Fan Plaza.

In addition to the concession stand in the plaza there is the SweetWater Beer Shack, which has a selection of primarily local craft beers.  When SweetWater signed a deal to sponsor the stand it caused quite a bit of controversy (read more from Creative Loafing here).

An overview of the Fan Plaza with the SweetWater Beer Shack prominently featured.

Beyond the Taste of the Majors stand, there are a variety of specialty concession stands throughout Turner Field.  One of the best known stands is local favorite Holman & Finch, which is noted for its hamburgers.

H&F Burger concession stand near the Fan Plaza.

Near the H&G Burger stand is Southern favorite, Waffle House.  Known for their hash browns and, obviously waffles, the Waffle House concession stand usually has a very long, but there was no line a few hours prior to the start of the game.

The Waffle House concession stand.

Beyond the Waffle House stand is Scouts Alley, which is an interactive area that allows children to test the speed of their fast ball or swing for the fences against their MLB pitcher of choices.

The entrance to Scouts Alley.

After exploring the stadium some more and checking out food options, we ended up taking our seats in the upper deck along the third base line.  After settling into the seats finally we go to see the first pitch.

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Matt Wisler delivering the first pitch to New York Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

After watching a few innings of action I went in search of my dinner choice after previously settling on the Dixie Dog, which I found at a variety of locations throughout the ballpark.  I ultimately purchased my decadent hot dog at Grillman’s All Beef Hotdogs near Aisle 421.

Grillman’s is the official hot dog of the Braves.
The Dixie Dog, which is half-pound, foot-long dog, topped
with pulled pork, Carolina BBQ sauce, cole slaw, sauerkraut, and pickles.

With an announced attendance of 49,243, for a marquee game against the Yankees I opted not to explore as much during the game and instead focuses on capturing the sights from my seats.

One of the coolest things was seeing the “Simba Cam.”  Instead of doing the standard “Kiss Cam” during games, the Braves have been doing the “Simba Cam” with parents raising their young child replicating a scene from Disney movie “The Lion King.”  All of this may sound odd considering that the team is called the Braves and there is no obvious connection to lions, but shortstop Andrelton Simmons picked up Simba as a nickname a few years ago.

A pair of parents celebrate their children being featured on “Simba Cam.”

In addition to the gargantuan scoreboard, the other notable outfield features include a tomahawk-chopping Chick-fil-A cow.

A view of the 755 Club with the Chick-fil-A cow to the left.

After capturing some highlights of the stadium, I returned to capturing some game action photos.  The majority of these photos were in the later innings.

New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino on the mound.
Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino on to face the Yankees in the top of the ninth inning.
Yankees closer Andrew Miller preparing to take the mound in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Braves right fielder Nick Markakis at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The game was a pitcher’s duel throughout, but the Yankees came out victorious 3-1.  The crowd was overwhelmingly filled with Yankees fans, which isn’t completely surprising given the volume of transplants from the Northeast now living in metro Atlanta.  Despite the over abundance of Yankees fans, Turner Field provides fans with a good experience despite some minor flaws.

Ticket prices are among some of the lowest in MLB.  The food prices are in line with other MLB stadiums, as are the beer prices (at least relatively).  The specialty food choices are good, as evidenced by the delicious Dixie Dog.  The craft beer available from SweetWater are good, but it’s disappointing there aren’t more local craft beers available considering the recent growth of the industry in the Atlanta area.

Although I did not get a good picture to capture it, the view of the downtown Atlanta skyline is also quite memorable (and highly underrated when discussed by baseball fans).  Baseball fans should get out to Turner Field before it’s gone because it leaves people with a memorable experience regardless of their fandom.

My night with the Rome Braves – June 26, 2015

Over a year ago I made a New Year’s resolution to visit all four Minor League Baseball teams in Georgia.

I failed miserably because I only visited the Gwinnett Braves last year (read more here).  Wanting to avoid a repeat, I did not make that resolution this year.  However, this summer I finally fulfilled my goals and saw all four of Georgia’s Minor League Baseball teams in a single summer.

After visiting Gwinnett, Augusta (read more here), and Savannah (read more here), I only had Rome left to visit to complete my goal.  So I decided to take a day trip from my family’s house in Marietta up to Rome to explore the city, but most importantly to watch the Rome Braves play.

After a hot and humid day I saw the main entrance to State Mutual Stadium…

Main entrance.

Across from the main entrance was the Redneck Rummage Sale trailer, which earned the 2014 Best Between-Inning On-Field Attraction Bizzie from MiLB.com‘s Ben Hill (read more here).

The Redneck Rummage Sale trailer in the parking lot.

But I didn’t come to the stadium to ogle at a trailer in the parking lot.  I came to the game to explore the stadium and watch a baseball game.

Around the concourse there are pillars that the Braves utilize to display an exhibit about baseball in northwest Georgia and Rome.  The exhibit was created by Heather S. Shores, who worked at the Bandy Heritage Center for Northwest Georgia.  Her research was published in the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) journal The National Pastime (read more here).

Exhibit detailing the history of baseball in northwest Georgia.
Exhibit detailing the industrial-based Northwest Georgia Textile League.
Exhibit displaying notable photographs of baseball in northwest Georgia.

While exploring the concourse I found the South Atlantic League standings as the league had just started its second half the night before.

South Atlantic League standings entering play on June 26, 2015.

While I did not ask for assistance, I was unable to locate the lineups posted on the concourse.  However, I did find an interesting piece of Rome Braves history hanging over the concourse.

Championship flag honoring the Braves’ first title since moving to Rome.

After exploring the concourse and seeking input about my food choices for the evening I decided to take my seat behind home plate and catch the beginning of the game before making my dinner selection.  So sitting comfortably behind home I was easily able to get my standard photo of the first pitch.

Rome Braves starting pitcher Zach Quintana delivering the first pitch
to Augusta GreenJackets center fielder Johneshwy Fargas.

I moved down each base line to get a few more action shots, and to get pictures of other parts of the ballpark.  Moving down the third base line I got a closeup shot of Quintana pitching and the Suzuki Showcase in right field.

Rome Braves starting pitcher Zach Quintana with a view of right field in the background.

When I walked around to the first base line I got a picture of Miller Lite Marina that sits in foul territory along the third base line.  The Miller Lite Marina has a few craft beers, but there is a standalone stand nearby that has a much wider selection of craft beers.  The beer selection was OK, but I was especially surprised they did not carry any beers from the nearby Blue Ridge Brewery and instead carried selections from Florida and Chattanooga Brewing Company just up the road in Tennessee.

Rome Braves first baseman Matt Tellor at the plate with the Miller Lite Marina in the background.

Finally after watching a few innings of play I decided to find something to eat.  When I checked out the concession stands before the start of the game I saw all the usual suspects like hot dogs, pizza, chicken tenders, and hamburgers.  There was also a Chick-fil-A stand, but in Georgia that’s not unique.  Where I finally found some unique food items was down the right field line at Bubba’s BBQ Barn.

Down the right field line Bubba’s BBQ Barn has the most unique food items at State Mutual Stadium.

At Bubba’s BBQ Barn fans can order the standard barbecue items, but also unique items like a fried bologna sandwich or the kitchen sink nachos shown below…

Kitchen sink nachos come served in a pizza box and include chips, barbecue pork or chicken, and the usual nacho toppings.

While the kitchen sink nachos looked delicious I was not nearly hungry enough to consume them.  Instead I opted for the BBQ sundae, which is a piece of cornbread topped by coleslaw, BBQ pork or chicken, and topped by another piece of cornbread.  The BBQ sundae had been featured in MiLB.com‘s 2013 Food Fight, which pitted unique food items against each other.

My BBQ sundae.

The BBQ sundae lived up to expectations.  It was filling and a great mix of flavors, but I wish the top piece of cornbread had been topped with honey or perhaps BBQ sauce.

After finishing the BBQ sundae and returning to my seat I got a few more photos.  I wanted to be sure to get a photo of the scoreboard.

The scoreboard in left field.

In addition to the scoreboard I wanted to be sure to get a photo of Ozhaino “Ozzie” Albies, who entered the 2015 season as one of the Atlanta Braves top prospects.  According to MLB.com he is currently ranked as the fifth-best prospect (read more here) in the Braves’ farm system.  He was also selected to play in the 2015 Futures Game, and USA Today Sports named him one of the top players to watch in that game (read more here).

Rome Braves shortstop Ozzie Albies in the batter’s box.

After taking those two pictures I was content to watch the rest of the game, but quickly got up when the mascot Romey came by.

Me with Romey late in the game.

After giving up a first inning run to Augusta, Rome tied the game in the fifth inning.  However, the game was still tied after the completion of nine innings so the game headed to extra innings.  The GreenJackets took a 2-1 lead off Aramis Garcia’s RBI-double in the 10th, but the Braves tied it in the bottom of the frame when GreenJackets reliever walked Braxton Davidson.  A Wigberto Nevarez sacrifice fly brought home Omar Obregon to give Rome a 3-2 win.

It’s always good when the home team wins.

The day ended with the Braves celebrating a win and me fulfilling a New Year’s resolution a year late.  Although I grew up in Georgia, it was odd to see that all the unique food items were connected to BBQ, which isn’t particularly a food the state is known for producing.  However, the BBQ sundae was tasty, and the kitchen sink nachos looked delicious.  The craft beer selection needs to be improved, especially as that market has grown in the state over the past few years.  Overall, I had a great experience at the ballpark and would definitely return for more games.

Final Score: Augusta 2, Rome 3 (10 innings)
Box Score

My night with the Savannah Sand Gnats – June 17, 2015

Following the announcement in late May that the Savannah Sand Gnats are moving to Columbia, S.C., for the 2016 season (read the story here) I set a goal of seeing the Sand Gnats before they left town.  With the goal of seeing the Sand Gnats before they moved, I made a three-day trek and saw the Augusta GreenJackets (read about it here) before catching the Sand Gnats at Grayson Stadium.

So when arriving at Grayson Stadium for the rest of the 2015 season fans are greeted by this image…

Main entrance.

The Sand Gnats fenced off the entrance plaza to create more entertainment space, so it’s difficult to see the stadium marquee until fans are about to walk into the ballpark.

Closeup of the stadium marquee.

Originally built in 1926 and named Municipal Stadium, the ballpark was devastated by a hurricane in 1940.  Spanish-American War veteran General William L. Grayson helped raise the funds to rebuild the facility, which with the aid of Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers underwent a renovation in 1941.  The newly rebuild stadium was renamed in honor of Grayson’s efforts, and commemorated with a plaque.

Plaque renaming the stadium for William Grayson.

As I entered I asked employees for suggestions and the most common answer was to hit the grill in the plaza.  However, as I was attending a game on a Wednesday the grill was closed.  Apparently it is only open on the weekends, but the menu did not look particularly unique so I didn’t feel liked I missed out on anything great.

Nor was I particularly hungry because I had a delicious hamburger and a flight of beer at Moon River Brewing Company in downtown.  So I opted to walk around the stadium a bit before settling in to watch the first few innings of action.

While exploring I got photos of the first half standings, as the Sand Gnats were in the hunt for the division title and playoff berth when I was there.

The kind of blurry and tough to read South Atlantic League Southern Division first half standings entering play on June 17.

Nearby the standings were the starting lineups, so I got a photo of them as well.

The starting lineups are important, but money wins out.

The obstructed view of the starting lineups kind of illustrates some of the issues with Grayson Stadium.  There’s no doubt a stadium needs an ATM, but it needs access to a phone line to complete transactions so other important things like the starting lineups have to take a backseat to taking care of fans.

After exploring the stadium some, I took my seat behind home plate.  As usual, I got a picture of the first pitch from behind home plate.

Savannah Sand Gnats starting pitcher Martires Arias delivers the first pitch
to Asheville Tourists center fielder Omar Carrizales.

After exploring the food options and consulting a few employees for feedback I decided to get a bite at the Philly Cheese stand, which is just past the gift shop on the first base line.

The Philly Cheese stand.

Savannah is not known for its Philly cheese steaks nor are the Sand Gnats a Philadelphia Phillies affiliate, so I don’t have a good rationale for why they have the stand except that it’s a popular food item with mass appeal.

What made my choice unique is that I did not opt for just a standard Philadelphia cheese steak.  The Sand Gnats offer a steak and chicken option, and something called The Godfather.  I opted for the latter, which consists of an Italian sausage topped with either the steak or chicken variety.  I went for the traditional choice and had my Italian sausage coated in a steak variety.

The Godfather cheese steak.

The Godfather may have nothing to do with Savannah, but it was a delicious surprise.  The seasonings used to cook the steak mixed well with the cheese and Italian sausage, which I chose to top off with yellow mustard and ketchup.  Even “if” the grill had been open I would still choose The Godfather over those offerings.  It is definitely the best food item at Grayson Stadium.

Shortly after finishing my Godfather, the Sand Gnats mascot Gnate the Gnat came by.  So I quickly had my photo taken with him.

Me with Gnate the Gnat.

One plus and minus of Grayson Stadium is the net that extends all the way around the seating bowl.  It means fans are protected from any bats or balls entering the stands, but it also means taking clear action photos is incredibly difficult.  So I did not take many action photos and had to venture far down the right field line to the colossal party deck called the Southern Comfort Station.

View of the Southern Comfort Station from the third base side.

So what did I get to actually see from the SoCo Station?  The home team bullpen abuts it, so I got to see some young kids asking some Sand Gnats for their autographs.  I also got a nice view of the scoreboard…

View of the scoreboard from the Southern Comfort Station.

and a decent view of the picnic area along the third base line, which is cordoned off from the field of play by a chain-link fence and netting.

View of game action and the picnic area along the third base line.

After my photos from the SoCo Station I walked over to the picnic area so I could get some more photos.  Aside from the photo of the Southern Comfort Station, I was able to get a picture of the seating bowl and the elevated press box.

View of the elevated press box and seating bowl from the third base line.

After taking pictures to show off the seating bowl and the amenities at the stadium, I returned to my seat to watch the action.  Although Savannah threatened in the bottom of the 9th, the game went to extra innings.  Sitting right behind the net, I got one last action photo in the bottom of the 12th with Asheville reliever Yoely Bello on the mound.

Asheville Tourists reliever Yoely Bello facing Savannah Sand Gnats center fielder John Mora in the 12th inning.

Ultimately the Tourists pushed across two runs in the top of the 13th inning and held on for a victory.  I missed the final inning because I had sightseeing plans early the next morning, but thoroughly enjoyed my time as Historic Grayson Stadium.  The craft beer selection covered a wide spectrum that included local beers like Southbound’s Scattered Sun Belgian Wit and SweetWater’s 420.  There was not a huge variety of food, but The Godfather was delicious and assuredly the items off the grill would be equally good.

Grayson Stadium definitely shows some wear it is still a great venue to watch baseball.  Despite reports that a collegiate-wood bat Coastal Plain League team will move to Savannah in 2016 (read more here) fans should go out and watch the Sand Gnats this season.  If I lived in the vicinity I would definitely check out the Sand Gnats on a regular basis.

Final Score: Asheville 4, Savannah 2 (12 innings)
Box Score