First Draft with Jason Santamaria and Chris Doyle

Second Self Beer Company founders talk Michelob Ultra, the future of Georgia beer, and more

Second Self Beer Company hadn't planned to associate itself with Hooters. Sometimes, these things just happen. Before co-founders Jason Santamaria, 31, and Chris Doyle, 29, ended up on Atlanta's west side, between Monday Night Brewing and Red Brick Brewing, they'd been considering Chamblee. In fact, they'd gotten Chamblee to green light breweries — something the small, northern Dekalb County town hadn't previously considered (Santamaria says other prospective breweries are now looking into the city). But when the property they were considering got rezoned, they looked at the up-and-coming west side. Specifically, the building where 5 Seasons Brewing Co.'s Crawford Moran once housed his Dogwood Brewing Company.

"We wanted to revive it, give it a second life, a second self?" Santamaria says in a nod to his brewery's name. "But they had filled in the floor drains from the brewery. So, the owner suggested another space that wasn't on the market yet."

That space, which is in the same industrial complex, used to belong to Bill Loy Foods, a company that handles, among other things, potato salad for the "delightfully tacky, yet unrefined" breastaurant. "As the story goes, all the Hooters in America!" Santamaria laughs.

Now the space houses Second Self's core lineup of "bold but balanced" beers, which will include a Thai Wheat, a Red Hop Rye, a LIPA (Light India Pale Ale), and a Saison. Santamaria and Doyle — who were fraternity brothers at Georgia Tech, and later roommates in Decatur, where they haunted Brick Store and Leon's Full Service religiously — hope to hit the Atlanta market in mid-September. They'll start with kegs, then cans a couple months in. Collaboration will be a big focus as well. In fact, they're already working on a Saison with Chase Medlin and Brad Davis of Twain's Brewpub & Billiards in Decatur. Santamaria and Doyle talked with Creative Loafing about Michelob Ultra, turning side projects into careers, and the future of Georgia beer.

Describe your first beer.

Jason Santamaria: Miller Lite. It's what my parents drank, so that's what I had — probably at age 10 or 12. I come from a Cuban family, so they let me drink whenever I asked for it, which mostly meant I would try it and hate it.

Chris Doyle: Michelob Ultra in college. You get better at doing athletics if you drink it. laughs For the longest time, I thought I was invincible to hangovers. But it turns out, it was just because I was drinking water.

How did you guys decide beer would be your lives?

JS: We were brewing every other weekend when we lived together. That's actually when we did the majority of the brewing that led to all the recipes we have today. We always brought samples to Brick Store and Leon's for opinions. After some good feedback, we decided to see what it would take to go to the next level. We signed up to go to the Craft Brewer's Conference in Chicago in 2010. We came back knowing that we had to know a lot more before we went back. laughs

CD: And we had the idea for the brand itself then. We went to the CBC as Second Self.

Who is your distributor?

CD: United. We interviewed a lot of them — six, seven? I had a couple people show up the other week, "Listen, I saw you—"

JS: —actually, they mentioned a Creative Loafing article.

CD: We met with United a couple times, and the way they approach distribution seemed easy to work with. They seemed well put together as a company, and we liked the people who were doing the craft side of the business.

JS: Seeing their success with Terrapin and SweetWater helps.

Why aren't there more local beer collaborations?

JS: I don't know, but it's a 5K exactly if you stop by us between Red Brick and Monday Night. I've proposed a beer run to them, with us being a stop on the way. But the partnerships should be with restaurants and bartenders, too. A lot of the people who have helped us to get to where we are, we're trying to collaborate with them.

What would you like to see change in Georgia?

JS: If we could sell beer out of here, it would make a huge difference for us. Either pints or growlers. In Alabama, you can buy pints at breweries, and that's Alabama. laughs

CD: I'd like it to be a six-pack or something.

JS: Like I told United, I want a distributor because I don't want to be a logistics company! But if someone walks in and wants something, I'd love to be able to give it to them.

CD: I'd like to please my customer just like everyone is pleasing their customers all the way down the chain. It's fair.

JS: They're not gonna drive back here to pick up a beer. United feels the same way. They know we need them, and they need us to survive. If we can gain a customer for Second Self, it's good for them because then they're going to buy it somewhere else, whether it's at a bar or at a store to take home.

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