Tucked away on Pierce Drive just off of Peachtree Road in Chamblee, Andy Tan brought something truly unique to Atlanta’s Asian food scene when he opened brewpub Hopstix six years ago. Hopstix isn’t your average brewery, nor is it your typical Asian fusion restaurant. It combines the best of both. At Hopstix, Tan embraces the term “fusion” to describe his Chamblee brewpub, where dishes from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, and India fill the menu and the flavors and ingredients from these countries infuse beer styles from America, England, Belgium, and Germany.
Born and raised in Medan, Indonesia, a city in North Sumatra near the coast influenced by immigrants from China, India, and Malaysia, Tan was immersed in a melting pot of cultures from a very young age. Having grown up in a such a culturally diverse city, Tan wanted to offer that same experience in the food and beer served at Hopstix. And what sets Hopstix’s beers apart from other breweries and brewpubs around Atlanta is Tan’s use of Asian ingredients like house-steamed Thai jasmine rice, Chrysanthemum flowers, Japanese sencha green tea, and Southeast Asian fruits such as soursop.
“With so many shared concepts and ingredients, Asia is already fundamentally fused in terms of cuisine,” Tan says. “We want to celebrate and own that [at Hopstix].”
This celebration of shared concepts and ingredients is also evident in the food. Hopstix offers a wide range of dishes, including sushi, charcoal-grilled skewers, dumplings, bao, and Thai-style and Indonesian gado-gado salads.
Tan says the Asian food scene in Atlanta was still in its infancy when he first arrived in 1997. Today, Atlantans enjoy a much more robust, multi-cultural dining scene that includes numerous restaurants from not only specific countries throughout Asia, but from regions and hyper-regions within those countries.
“I could only find a small Asian grocery store and a handful of Asian restaurants along Buford Highway [in 1997]. That was it,” he says. “There’s a growing appreciation for the diversity and complexity of Asian flavors, and it’s inspiring to see how people are embracing that.”
As a longtime resident of Chamblee, a city nestled within the Perimeter eight miles northeast of Atlanta, Tan says it’s always felt like home to him. The city’s cultural diversity reminds him of growing up in Medan and is what keeps him there. Like Tan, many residents have come to the city from other parts of the world and now call Chamblee home. So when he was looking for spaces to open Hopstix, Chamblee was the obvious choice.
Despite Tan’s deep understanding of both beer and food, he didn’t start out as a brewer or a chef. He holds a degree in computer science from Georgia State University. Tan fell in love with the fermentation process and the science behind it after helping his brother set up a distillery back in Indonesia. The experience led Tan to begin brewing beer at home in 2010 and to join the oldest home brew club in Georgia, Covert Hops, where he met other brewers like himself who also eventually turned pro.
Tan truly sees Hopstix as a fusion of flavors and dishes representing countries from all around Asia. The brewpub’s motto, in fact, is “inspired by cultures.”
But as the Asian food scene continues to grow and evolve in Atlanta, some argue that fusion cuisine is losing its appeal. Tan disagrees. “The trend now is moving away from fusion because people think fusion is not authentic,” he says. “But Hopstix has always been about fusion, from our beers to our food. Asia is so integrated in terms of cuisines and we want to share that with America.”
Tan is excited to offer new beers at Hopstix that he’s create from his barrel-aged and wild ale projects. Adopting an antiquated brewing technique using wild yeast and bacteria, the fermentation process can take over two years to reach the desired flavor profiles. In addition to the regular rotation of beers at Hopstix, like Rice and Shine (a refreshing and crisp jasmine rice lager) or the Shaolin Showdown (an orange smoked Chinese black rice lager), some of the new beers from the wild ale project boast ingredients using toasted Thai coconut flakes, Papua New Guinea vanilla beans, and Sumatran cacao nibs.
While there are no immediate plans to open another Hopstix location, Tan says it’s not out of the question. For now, he’s focusing on continuing to grow Hopstix and exploring more ways to infuse Asian flavors and ingredients into the beers he creates for the brewpub. Looking ahead to the future, Tan sees even more opportunities for growth and exploration in Atlanta’s burgeoning Asian food scene.
“There’s so much potential for new and exciting concepts,” he says. “I think we’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible. As long as we continue to be curious and innovative, there’s no limit to what we can create.”