By Daniel Silliman
Sitting at the counter on Concourse B, waiting for a flight to Houston, Mickey Green wasn't sure what he wanted to eat.
The Big Kahuna Fish Sandwich or the SweetWater Burger?
He asked the waitress.
"Which one do you think is better?" he asked.
The waitress was wearing a blue T-shirt with the logo of a fish jumping over the words: SweetWater. Her airport ID badge, hanging around her neck on a black lanyard, knocked against the clean, shiny counter as she leaned over.
She leaned over to look at the open menu upside-down.
"I'd go with the burger," she said.
Green ordered the hamburger, a big round beef patty covered in melted white cheese and surrounded by fat French fries, and took a sip of his local, micro-brewed beer.
The bar and grill has only been open for a couple of weeks, but already the place is swamped, with all 15 tables filled on Wednesday afternoon and most the seats at the counter filled.
John Liburd, a manager at the SweetWater Draft House & Grill, said he's been going through about four kegs of beer every day.
"A lot of people appreciate the Atlanta-based beer," he said.
SweetWater Brewing Co., the Atlanta-based micro brewery, was founded in 1997 and currently turns out 47,000 barrels of beer annually from its midtown Atlanta plant. The brew is distributed throughout Georgia and in Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Florida.
For the brewery's 10th anniversary, it's offering the airport's 85 million annual passengers a taste of the famous local beer and using the restaurant location on Concourse B at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to expand outside the Southeast.
"We are excited about sharing the spirit of SweetWater with even more visitors to the Southeast," said Frederick Bensch, SweetWater co-founder. "We're able to build on the phenomenal growth of our beer brands as well as deliver it in non-traditional way."
The bar and grill is the brewery's first step into the restaurant business, and was made possible by a partnership with Concessions International LLC, the company that runs all of the concessions at the airport, and Pascals Concessions, Inc., a company that identifies and promotes emerging local brands nationally.
"By bringing a local brand like SweetWater to the world's busiest airport, we're giving visitors a chance to step into and experience... a taste of Atlanta," said John Cugasi, director of the airport's concessions. "Even if they are just connecting to another flight."
In addition to the four types of Atlanta-brewed beer, the Draft House has Killian's and Miller, on tap, and has a kitchen cooking popcorn shrimp, buffalo wings, chili, crab cake sandwiches, portobello mushroom sandwiches, veggie burgers, hot dogs, fish sandwiches and hamburgers.
With his hamburger in front of him, Green said that, as an Atlanta resident, he was proud to patronize the local company.
"It's great to see a local brewery," he said. "You can support your home town and micro-breweries tend to have a better brew."