City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
Kraig Torres at Box Car at Lee and White

Featured Article

The Knight of Beer

Kraig Torres is having an ale of a good time

As with most things in life, circumstance and opportunity often align to create greatness. This is certainly the case for Atlanta’s foremost leader in the world of craft beer. Kraig Torres, founder and CEO of Hop City, Barley Garden, and Boxcar has always romanticized about beer. In fact, he admits to it being a lifelong obsession. “Going back to my teens, I have always loved beer,” says Torres. “I never envisioned making a career out of my lifelong obsession.” Kraig traveled to the UK and Germany when he was in the Coast Guard and as a result of his service, he fell in love with European beer styles and pub culture as it exists overseas. He was certainly inspired to bring it home to Atlanta!

In his pre-beer days, Kraig owned and ran collision repair centers and body shops. Everything was good until the recession hit in 2008 and Kraig lost his job. He had visited Bruisin’ Ales in Ashville and loved the idea of a beer-centric retail store that focused on the niche segment of beer consumption - craft beer. At the time, craft beer sales only accounted for 6% of all beer sales across Georgia. His business plan was well thought out, but the banks passed on his idea of a retail store that would capitalize on the small, but rapidly growing craft beer and gourmet wine following in Atlanta. Thirty-three bank rejections later, Hop City was born and Kraig was well on his way to creating not just another beer and wine retail business, but an atypical lifestyle store for those who like to drink outside the norm. “We are still that way,” says Torres. “Whether it’s natural wine or pastry stouts, we champion producers making interesting and delicious beer, wine, cider, seltzer, mead, and pretty much everything in between.” 

With the Marietta Street, Birmingham, and Krog Street lifestyle pubs and retails spaces under his belt, Kraig was approached by the developer behind Avalon in Alpharetta about a Hop City location. At this time, Hop City was not only focused on the retail side of beer and wine, but also the craft bar experience. It seemed like Alpharetta would be the next step. It was perfect except for the fact that Alpharetta requires every on-premise location to have fifty percent of their overall sales as food – at a minimum. Kraig, having no real restaurant experience to speak of, reached out to his friend Kevin Outz from Spotted Trotter. The duo built a delicious restaurant program focused on locally-sourced ingredients. “Our labors in Alpharetta paved the way for the more refined dining experience at Boxcar in the West End. It also allowed our team to open a second Barleygarden in Fayetteville," says Torres.

Kraig says that Hop City’s evolution has really been the product of having an amazing team. He is also quick to point out that he has the privilege to work alongside 190 food, beverage, and service professionals and that whatever successes they have enjoyed has truly been a group effort. For Kraig, finding and keeping passionate co-workers has been the key to success.

While Kraig doesn’t consider himself an industry leader and is generally more comfortable behind the scenes, he is certainly a driving force behind the love of beer across Atlanta. In fact, in 2022, when Princess Astrid of Belgium visited Atlanta, Kraig was invited to meet Her Highness. She appointed him as an ambassador of Belgian beer. “One thing led to another,” remembers Torres, “and the next thing I know I got a call from a friend congratulating me on knighthood!" The ceremony was held at the Belgian ambassador’s residence in DC. Robed dignitaries presented Kraig with The Knighthood of the Brewers’ Paddle (Belgian Brewers’ Guild). “A group of us were knighted,” says Kraig, “not with a sword but, you guessed it, a brewer’s paddle. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Kraig is a kind and happy man with a great smile. He drinks a beer with his eyes and nose before ever taking a sip. “A beautiful pour of beer is a sight to behold,” says Torres. “I want to see little bubbles coming up from the bottom of the glass. I want to smell what I’m drinking.”

I simply would not expect anything less from a Knight.

For more and to enjoy good beer please visit:

HopCityBeer.com

Barleygardenkitchen.com

BoxCarAtl.com

  • Kraig Torres at Box Car at Lee and White
  • Kraig at the taps at a local Hop City
  • The perfect pour awaits.
  • always a gracious host.
  • The vault - an epic adventure awaits at each Hop City

“Our labors in Alpharetta paved the way for the more refined dining experience at Boxcar in the West End. It also allowed our team to open a second Barleygarden in Fayetteville," - Torres.