Beer drinkers spoiled by craft-brew wonderlands like Portland and Chicago might not be paying attention to the South these days, but they should be. Of the many scenes bubbling up below the Mason-Dixon, Atlanta’s is perhaps the most exciting—and certainly the easiest to take advantage of during a layover in the Delta Airlines hub.

The current craft revolution can be traced back to 2004 and the monumental passing of HB 645, when the city finally shook off its Bible Belt influences and the restricting laws that had hamstringed the growth of the scene previously. Since then, the alcohol by volume limits have more than doubled from 6 percent to 14 percent, growlers have been legalized, and retailers can sell alcohol on Sunday.

Now, well-established breweries like SweetWater (the second largest in the Southeast) and Red Brick Brewing are sharing tap space with newcomers like Monday Night Brewing and Burnt Hickory, and the judicial leniency has spawned a surge in ambitious taverns and specialty beer retailers all over the city.

To get some insider tips on pint-swigging in the ATL, we asked local beer expert Ale Sharpton—whose eponymous site was nominated by Saveur as 2012’s Drink Blog of the Year—to give us a rundown of Atlanta’s top five beer bars.

Next time you’re in Georgia’s capital, these are the spots you can’t afford to miss.

Written by Ale Sharpton (@AleSharpton)