Talking Head - Work: The curse of the drinking class

A half-dozen ways to salute the laborers of America with beer

Labor Day is one of those odd holidays that could only have come about in its time, when laboring people were clamoring for recognition while robber barons were amassing fortunes on the backs of their workers. Wait, maybe that's not so different from today after all. Still, it's hard to imagine a Labor Day parade that shows "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations," as was called for in the original proposal for the holiday. Instead, Labor Day has evolved into a weekend of barbecue and beer to celebrate the waning days of summer. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

If you want to go old school and honor America's laborers this weekend, but don't want to cut out the beer-drinking part, why not give a salute to one of America's most important laboring groups – brewers. Most of the work in brewing beer, at least on a small scale, involves toting sacks of grain, dragging hoses and wielding a scrub brush. Many craft brewers can be found on the line at bottling time, capping case after case of beer by hand. Hell, even with the takeover of American macros by foreign megalopolies, brewing, distributing and selling any kind of beer is a laboring occupation. So here's to you, brewers, brewery workers and everyone involved in bringing me my pint. This year there are so many great ways to honor beer workers that some tough decisions will have to be made.

If you're looking to get out of town for the weekend, you could do a lot worse than Savannah, which hosts the Savannah CraftBrew Fest on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 29-30. The fest takes place at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center overlooking the Savannah River and downtown Savannah. Friday night features a beer dinner and Saturday is the Grand Tasting, from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The impressive list of participating breweries can be found at the festival website. Old Dominion Brewing Company of Northern Virginia, and Fordham Brewing Company of Annapolis, Md., two breweries new to Georgia, will be on hand to introduce their beers.

Closer to home is the 5th Annual Smyrna Hops & Barley Beer Tasting at Smyrna Market Village on Sat., Aug. 30, from 1-6 p.m. The featured beers draw heavily from the portfolios of Anheuser-Busch InBev, SAB MillerCoors and Heineken (the latter distributes Newcastle, Amstel Light, Tecate, and Dos Equis in addition to its own Dutch lager). Craft breweries are represented as well, however, including Oskar Blues, Samuel Adams, Breckinridge, Sierra Nevada, Duvel and Dogfish Head. Music will be provided by DJ Suspense, and there will be food from Atkins Park, Zucca Pizzeria and Moe's. This is a 21-and-up event; no children, so score that babysitter now. Tickets are $25 in advance, $35 at the gate, and can be purchased at Xorbia Tickets. Proceeds from the event benefit Mustard Seed Communities.

If you're looking for a little culture with your suds, the decidedly unworking-class Decatur Book Festival takes place all weekend in the epicenter of Atlanta's beer culture. Enjoy a couple of morning readings, then grab lunch and a tasty house-brewed beer at Twain's while enjoying snippets of S.L. Clemens' writings on the walls and the menu. Besides Twain's, there are probably a dozen restaurants and bars around Decatur that are well-stocked with good beer choices including Brick Store Pub, 5th Earl Market, Java Monkey, Thinking Man's Tavern, Raging Burrito, Mellow Mushroom, Taco Mac and the Corner Pub. Close out the fest on Sunday night with a performance by redneck raconteur Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers. BYOPBR.

Speaking of bringing your own PBR, you'll find it in plenty of koozies at the Drive-Invasion at the Starlight Six Drive-In on Moreland Avenue, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 30-31. Bands play all day, tailgate parties abound and movies run all night. Best of all, you can bring your own grill for barbecue and coolers full of the beer of your choice, saving you a ton on overpriced, crappy vendor fare. Some setups are pretty elaborate, but there's no chardonnay. It's sort of the anti-Chastain.

If you don't want to cook your own barbecue, stop in at WRFG-FM's (89.3) annual Labor Day Blues Barbecue on Monday, Sept. 1, from 12:30-8:30 p.m. at the Park Tavern, 10th Street and Monroe Drive, on the southeast corner of Piedmont Park. This year's fundraiser honors the life and music of Sean Costello, who passed away this spring. Enjoy fresh pints of brewer Brian Campbell's ales while listening to the Breeze Kings, Heaven Davis, Joe Krown Organ Combo, Joe McGuinness and Oliver Wood, Zydefunk featuring Charlie Wooten, and the Soul Shakers. Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 at the door and can be purchased from the radio station here.

Finally, if there was one thing that would be an appropriate gesture to the workers of the world this weekend, it would be to stop by the 5 Seasons at the Prado and run up a decent tab to help them through their tangle with Sembler. There's no question that Dennis Lange and Glenn Sprouse have labored their asses off to create a brewpub with exceptional beers and first-class food in what can be a marginal location for such ventures. If you've never been, or if you used to go all the time, it's worth the effort, and it's really not that hard to get there.

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