After surviving the ice and snow onslaught, our good friend Sarah made her way up from Savannah and joined us at Twain’s Billiards and Tap in Decatur, GA on Thursday, 2/13/14. Owner and co-founder Ethan Wurtzel greeted us when we walked in the door, then poured us a flight of beers to enjoy as we talked to him about the brewpub. Twain’s is, and always has been, a place where you can hang out, eat, drink, watch sporting events on TV, play shuffleboard, darts, pool, and other games; it’s a very interactive establishment.
Twain’s opened in 1996 with 20 pool tables, 21 taps of beer, and had a mission to support local beer as much as possible. The area has been exploding with restaurants and bars since 2000, so Ethan explained that in 2005 they “got to a point where we wanted to define ourselves separately from the other beer bars.” At that point, there was an opportunity to move away from being a pool hall with a small kitchen, small dining room, and 20 pool tables, so they transformed by expanding and becoming a brewpub so they could brew beers to redefine themselves. They took 7 pool tables out, added more dining space, absorbed some of the space next door, made a brand new kitchen, and added the brewery. The whole establishment is now just shy of 11,000 sq ft, with the brewery taking up about 1,250 sq ft of that.
After spending a good amount of time speaking with Ethan and his brother, fellow owner & co-founder, Uri, we were introduced to brewers Chase Medlin and Brad Davis. The original head brewer, Jordan Feetwood, had met Chase through a mutual friend they had at Bell’s Brewery, and then later offered him a job. Chase promptly accepted the job in 2010 and began brewing with Jordan. Since Jordan’s departure in 2011, Chase has anchored the brewery, working with brewer David Stein through 2012. Brad was brewing west of Chicago at a nanobrewery called Lunar Brewing Company before that. He had visited Decatur to do a Twain’s/ Lunar collaboration brew, then about 5 months later, Twain’s was in need of a new brewer to replace David Stein. Brad drove down on New Year’s Day of last year and took the open brewing position. 2013 ended up being their most productive year yet, with the brewpub producing a total of around 750 barrels on their 7 bbl system, accompanied by three 7 bbl, two 15 bbl, and one 20 bbl fermenters, as well as eight 7 bbl serving tanks. Although they can now legally distribute up to 5,000 bbl/ year, a significant majority of their sales are in-house.
The brewpub tries to keep four beers on tap year-round, with the current assortment being as follows: Criminal Sin IPA, Four Count Pale Ale, Messipi Nut Brown Ale, and River Sunset Amber. Unfortunately the River Sunset Amber was out while we were there, but in addition to the other three beers I just listed, they were serving Decatur Vice (an American ale inspired by a German Berliner Weiss), Humorist Hoppy Wheat Ale, Two Tier Imperial IPA, and Indelible Ink Stout. Chase and Brad also told us about a new beer concept they are working on called Fire & Smoke Red Ale, which is brewed with smoked malt and heavily toasted American oak chips, giving it a charred oak flavor alongside the smoke malt. Not too long ago, they reached a milestone 500th batch of beer, so they celebrated by brewing an Imperial OatMilk Porter. They also have a brew series called One-and-One that contains beers with only a single hop and a single malt added. In addition, they have a barrel room that houses red wine, white wine, and whiskey barrels right now, and they have had some Willet, Jack Daniels, and Tequila barrels as well. The Tequila barrel was at one time used to make a Tequila IPA with the Criminal Sin IPA as the base beer, and I am quite upset that it was not available to taste during our visit.
Every spring Twain’s holds a Spring Fest that offers a lot of music, both inside and outside, along with beer and BBQ. They have been doing the festival for about 5 years now, and are able to donate $8 worth of food to the Atlanta Community Food Bank for every $1 they raise. Through 2012 they have raised over $30,000, which equates to nearly $250,000 worth of food. On Tuesday nights at 9pm Twain’s has a Jazz Jam hosted by a local trumpeter, Joe Gransden, and his quartet. The brewpub is open every day of the week and you can find their menu here. Big thanks to Ethan, Uri, Chase, and Brad for entertaining us on that cold night!
Author: Michael Roberts