Written By Andrea Janise Photography By Patrick Heagney
It’s Saturday, May 4th, the morning of Hopstix’s second anniversary. After a 30-minute huddle with his staff anticipating a few hundred guests throughout the day, owner and brewmaster Andy Tan opens the door to its central Chamblee, GA, location at exactly 11 a.m. Its environs are regularly labeled Atlanta’s most bustling neighborhood about 15 miles from the city’s heart, with access to two MARTA public rails stations, the 285 interstate perimeter, and other neighboring municipalities. And even with the welcomed flooding of guests, Tan graciously set some time to share the two-year history of how Hopstix quickly became a revered staple in not only Georgia’s capital, but the entire nation’s craft beer scene.
“I was born in Indonesia but moved to Georgia in 1997 for college at Georgia State, majoring in IT,” Tan says. “My brother was already here, so my family thought it would be best for me to join him. I have always lived in the Chamblee area because of its diverse feel, and I’m glad to see how it’s become the true melting pot of Atlanta; it kind of reflects the multi-ethnic roots of Indonesia.”
To complete the bridge from his native land to his new home, Tan embraced his passion as a homebrewer and chef and created the 5,000-square-foot Hopstix alongside his wife Amy and the trusty team he terms “extended family.” The result has been quite remarkable and, frankly, delicious.
Tan is wowing taste buds with his fresh take on ales and lagers by infusing Asian spices and exotic flavors into many of his recipes, brewing more than thirty variations onsite to date and pairing them with his talented culinary team’s gourmet Asian-fusion fare. The dining menu ranges from a Dumpling Salad to a colossal Super Bowl made with sashimi and grilled pork belly, octopus, and unagi; numerous raw bar selections; Miso Ramen; and skewers off the popular robata grill he had imported from Japan. Hopstix has been named USA Today’s top three brewpubs in America in its first two years of operation and one of the “Hottest Breweries in America Right Now” by Thrillist. Numerous magazines, food-centric television shows, influencers, and beer authorities continue to pay homage consistently.
Tan grabs a tulip-shaped glass and pours his new Going Solo Single-Hop IPA—a bright, tropical-forward brew made with Ekuanot hops at 6% ABV—from one of the 20 house taps. After nodding in satisfaction at its aroma, he continues sharing his journey.
“I love the brewing industry because people get together to support one another,” he says. “I wouldn’t be where I am at today without the support from my brewing friends, and I keep this ideology embedded in the Hopstix mindset. I think Hopstix fills the cultural gap in the craft brewing industry. We are doing something unique by pushing ourselves to be creative with Asian-inspired cuisine, beers, and cocktails. Ten years ago when I started homebrewing, there were only a handful of breweries and brewpubs in Georgia. Now it’s the opposite, so I had to do something extraordinary, yet still organic to me.”
Tan proudly credits his upbringing in the East to create the Hopstix concept. “In Indonesia, the charcoal-grilled skewers like short ribs, pork belly, and beef tongue are street food staples you find at almost every corner,” he says. “They’re delicious and comforting, and our versions pair really well with a lot of our beers. The Rice & Shine Asian lager [5.8%] brewed with steamed jasmine rice and Sorachi Ace hops complements virtually everything.”
To keep things fresh for his customers’ adventurous palates, Hopstix hosts themes like “Tuna Thursdays,” when a whole Blue Fin Tuna usually exceeding 200 pounds is shipped in straight from the sea to the brewpub’s doorstep in the morning and is served in whatever eye-popping dishes the chefs come up with in their state-of the-art open kitchen throughout the day. At the heart of Hopstix is Tan’s five-barrel brewing playground, where the extremely popular flagship KungFu Hops unfiltered IPA (6.5%); Maimosa Berliner Weisse brewed with the exotic tropical soursop fruit he grew up eating (4.8%); U.S. Gold Open Award-winning Seven Seas foreign extra stout (7.5%); and numerous other highly respected concoctions are crafted. He spends at least half the day in brewing boots.
With the success of Hopstix, Tan is well on his way to becoming a catalyst for many other aspiring minority entrepreneurs in the brewing industry. He recently participated in a national roundtable discussion about diversity and inclusion held by New Belgium Brewing in Atlanta. There is still work to be done, but the future is bright.
So what’s next for Tan? He seems grateful for all of the attention Hopstix has received but is not in any rush to expand to a second location just yet.
“We are humble to receive great reviews, national accolades, and franchise inquiries; but at the moment, we are committed to our first location and further growing the business,” he says. “Our plans include increasing our beer production and on-site sales as well as implementing a marketing campaign we are currently developing to prepare for distribution to select pubs, restaurants, and retail.” Taking one last sip of his Going Solo IPA, Tan concludes, “Every day, we work really hard and maintain the focus to be creative and continue adding a uniqueness of the craft brewing industry, especially in the South.”
And we can all gratefully raise our glass—and chopsticks—to that.