First Draft with John and Jennifer O'Connell

The folks behind Fusica Architects and Brewworks talk beer, life, and the business of building breweries

Husband and wife duo John and Jennifer O'Connell have always had beer in common. Their relationship started over brews at East Atlanta's Gravity Pub in the late '90s, but has since grown into a marriage with a couple kids, and now, a shared business. Fusica Architects & Brewworks is only a few years old, but it has been essential to local beer businesses such as Ale Yeah! Roswell, Emory Village's Slice and Pint, and Orpheus Brewing. Currently, Fusica is looking toward the future with projects like Gainesville's Left Nut Brewing, a forthcoming brewpub in Chamblee, and the revamping of Comet Pub and Lanes (formerly Decatur's Suburban Lanes). The O'Connells sat down with Creative Loafing at their de facto office, Twain's, to talk about following their dreams, coming up with a good business name, and where they think a new brewery should be built.

Describe the first beer you had together.

Jennifer: We met at Gravity Pub in East Atlanta Village. ... I was going to Gravity on a regular basis after work in 1998. I think they opened in '97. It was a Friday night, and I had gotten kind of dressed up and went to the bar. I was drinking Lone Star, because I lived in San Antonio as a kid, so it was one of those "My dad drank this as a kid" kind of things.

John: One of the things she said to me was that she wouldn't date anybody that drank lighter beer than she did. But it was Lone Star, so I didn't have far to go. I was probably drinking SweetWater 420 at the time.

Tell me how the idea of Fusica came about.

Jennifer: We had a couple kids and I was basically a stay-at-home mom. I decided I wanted to get a degree in drafting, so I went to DeKalb Tech because it was kind of a boom time. It was a two-year program, and while I was in there, one of the final classes was creating your own company. You could use whatever the book gave you, but that's no fun. So I talked to John about making a faux company, and he came up with the name immediately.

John: There's this phrase: "Architecture is frozen music." And I figured that beer architecture is more like "Architecture is fermented music." So, "fusic" or "Fusica."

After Ale Yeah! in Roswell, when did you decide to make Fusica a full-time gig?

John: Things were kinda snowballing. Eighteen months before we went independent, we were working on Orpheus and Slice and Pint. So I was basically sneaking out of my day job to do conference calls. I had to make the choice. I was going to quit one or the other, because somebody was going to fire me. That was toward the end of last year.

We're sitting here in Decatur, which is an embarrassment of beer riches. We don't need another brewing operation in Decatur. But what part of town do you think is ripe for a beer maker?

Jennifer: There's one particular spot that John found.

John: It's basically Scottdale, Clarkston, on the way to Stone Mountain.

Jennifer: This particular spot is right on the Stone Mountain bike path. There are three buildings on this plot of land that could eventually be not just a brewpub, but a storage area, a big patio, lots of trees, and you're not right on the road. It's like two acres.





Monday Night Brewing’s 4th anniversary
?When: Sat., Aug. 8, 2-9 p.m.
?Where: Monday Night Brewing
?Price: $30-$35
?The Westside purveyors of beer and necktie-themed marketing will celebrate four years with an extensive lineup of MNB beers, special casks, live bluegrass and a special, brewery-only bottle release of its Tie 4 On Quad.

HOToberFest’s Barrel Aged Ball
?When: Sun., Aug. 16, 2-8 p.m.
?Where: Historic Georgia Freight Depot
?Price: $85
?Easily one of Atlanta’s best beer festivals returns after a year off, sporting barrel-aged one-off beers from many Georgia breweries as well as local food and a mysterious, carefully curated “bottle splurge.”

Southeastern Craft Brewers Symposium
?When: Aug. 29-30
?Where: Courtyard Marriott Downtown Decatur
?Price: $75-$145
?This two-day conference aims to teach homebrewers, young brewery owners, and enthusiasts about the science and business aspects of opening and maintaining a brewery.

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