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First Draft With Michael ‘Tiny’

Snellville’s Lincoln Fill Station co-founders on loving, drinking, and selling beer

Wednesday June 3, 2015 04:00 am EDT

Michael “Tiny” McClannan and Brad Tomlinson probably didn’t expect to become business partners three or four years ago when they met over beers at Snellville’s Summits Wayside Tavern, but they sure had a lot in common. McClannan moved down from Maryland in 2000 with a swimming pool company, met his wife, and then started his own company in 2002. Tomlinson moved to the Peach State from California in the early ’00s as well, eventually settling in with his new wife and a new gig at FedEx in 2003.


It was at Tomlinson’s urging that the pair opened a beer store one year ago just one mile up the road from Summits. Lincoln Fill Station sports 60 taps (20 or more are always Georgia beers), bottles and cans, and an increasingly popular humidor for area cigar aficionados. And thanks to a new city ordinance they helped pioneer, the ability for customers to drink up to 32 ounces of beer on site in their store or on their two patios. It’s the best to-go beer destination within 45 minutes of its location. Not bad for a spot that used to be a Blimpie. Creative Loafing sat on one of those patios with the pair, drinking Reformation Brewery selections until the table filled with regulars and it was time to go home.

Describe your first beer.

Michael McClannan: Schlitz — my dad’s beer. To this day, it’s one of my favorite beers.

Brad Tomlinson: Coors Banquet Beer at 9 years old. My dad was a truck driver, and he’d come home and have me get him a beer.

MM: We don’t sell much of either one, but they’re in here. We vowed to keep them.

What’s been the biggest challenge in Lincoln Fill Station’s first year?

BT: For me, it’s keeping up with all the new stuff that’s coming out, fighting tooth and nail to get special stuff for people, and then trying to build up inventory to hold onto for special events. Putting out money for that and be like the Porter or Brick Store, buying three of a thing and saving two for years down the road. It takes a lot of budgeting.

MM: Each of us having a career aside from this has helped. We weren’t sucking money out of this to pay our bills at home. But at the same time, for me, it took up a lot of time and I wasn’t here as much as I would’ve liked to have been. So he would pick up the slack.

Aside from the laws, what would you like to see change in Georgia’s brewing community?

BT: I’d like for less breweries to jump on the style bandwagon, because they leave a lot of their great stuff behind. I feel some of the breweries wanna do what’s in, what sells, but I think they should try to stay true to form instead of doing 10 types of session IPA/sour/berliner/whatever.

MM: And another thing, these proposed laws about how breweries should be able to sell their beer, it’s great. That’s not going to hurt our business at all. It’s not gonna hurt us one bit. More people will become knowledgeable of what’s out there, and the breweries will sell just their beer. We will sell everyone’s beer. People are saying that it’s going to hurt our business—

BT: —that’s just all distributors. That’s all distributors.


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BEER EVENTS

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The Wild Bunch: A Benefit for the Giving Kitchen
When: Sun., June 14, 7 p.m.
Where: Argosy
Price: $25, which includes 5 taco/cocktail tickets (additional tickets available for purchase inside)
A stunning lineup for a great cause, the Wild Bunch will include food and cocktails from chefs and bartenders from many of the city’s best restaurants, including Empire State South, Octopus Bar, Kimball House, Last Word, and Victory. Beer sponsors include Creature Comforts, Wild Heaven, Orpheus, and Red Brick. Gentleman Jesse will also perform.

Wrecking Bar Brewpub Wood-Aged Wednesdays
When: Every Wednesday
Where: Wrecking Bar Brewpub
Price: Depends how many wood-aged beers you drink
Each week, this Little Five Points brewpub serves up a special small-batch beer that’s been aged in a wood barrel.

5 Seasons Cask Night
When: Every Thursday, 5:55-7:55 p.m.
Where: 5 Seasons North and Westside
Price: Depends how much cask ale you drink
Each week, a different guest taps a different keg of “real cask ale.”