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First Draft with Curt Dawsey

Talking beer with the Porter’s assistant general manager

Wednesday December 2, 2015 04:00 am EST

Curt Dawsey’s new job makes a lot of sense when you consider the history. His grandparents lived in a brick apartment building in Little Five Points when his dad was born in August 1947. Several decades later, he’d have the “first beer that really caught his attention,” a Victory Golden Monkey Tripel, at L5P’s Vortex about a block away. And then in 2009, a disappointing experience at then six-month-old craft beer watering hole the Porter Beer Bar ultimately changed his life.


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Following a rough first visit, and a rougher Yelp review from Dawsey, the Porter’s co-owner Molly Gunn reached out to him personally, mailed a $50 gift card to his house, and, when he was in for a beer dinner not long after (she saw his name on the list), came over to his table to apologize personally. “The first year or three that I was coming here, I got flak from the staff constantly,” Dawsey says. “Anything happened, and they were like, ‘What are you gonna do, Yelp about it?’ laughs

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The 36-year-old grew up in Marietta and went to Berry College in Rome, Ga., but quickly found his way a little further south. He worked in restaurants right out of college, got into wine, got into beer, and took a break to work in sales with his dad in the construction industry for a few years. He loved working with his dad and traveling, but eventually found his way back to restaurants. Then his work started turning toward beer — two years at Savannah Distributing Company and a little more than a year as a sales rep for Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company. He’s spent the last year and a half working for the General Muir’s restaurant group, and now finds himself spending even more time than usual at his favorite bar in the world.

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Gunn became great friends with Dawsey — who’d become a Porter regular — after the Yelp dust-up. She asked him to have coffee a few months back and offered him a position at the Porter out of nowhere. Following a week of deliberation, Dawsey agreed to become the bar’s assistant general manager. He started in late October. Creative Loafing sat down with him in one of the Porter’s booths to talk friends, beers, and doing what you love.

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Describe your first beer.

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I have no idea. It was probably daddy’s Budweiser or something like that. There was always alcohol around growing up. There was no demonization, so I never felt the urge to sneak a drink. First whole beer? Probably when I was stupid and 16. I had a few drinks, but I was a good kid and didn’t become “a drinker” until I was 21. I just didn’t care.

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Did you expect to work in restaurants, or did it just happen?

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My dad is nearly 70 and, to this day, says, “I don’t know what I wanna do when I grow up.” I’ve always laughed at that, but he’s really not kidding, and I’ve sort of adopted that. I have no idea what I want to do when I grow up. My degree is in Psychology and Religion. I am neither religious nor a psychologist. I just got a job out of college, and I liked it, and I was good at it. I stayed at that first place for four years.

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What kind of concerns come with working at a place you love so much?

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This is my happy place. Gunn is one of my best friends. That’s very concerning, to work where you play. It potentially opens a door to lots of conflict. I realized I had to say yes because our friendship is strong enough at this point that it’s not going to be damaged. I’m going to drive her crazy, she’s going to get angry, and that’s normal and that’s OK. The Porter is more important than I am, and that’s a good thing. This place is really, really important to me. My friend said something very funny during that week of deliberation. She said, “Curt, I don’t mean to be glib, but other than your friends and family, the longest and most positive relationship you’ve ever had has been with that bar.” After seven years, that’s not a joke. It’s true.

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BEER EVENTS

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The Night of the Stout
?When: Fri., Dec. 4, 6-10 p.m.
?Where: Jailhouse Brewing Company
?Price: $50-$65
?For this exclusive event, the Hampton, Ga., brewery will pour four stout variants and send attendees home with three bombers, including a 2012 Last Request aged on Pappy Van Winkle barrels. Only 72 tickets available.

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Cherry Street’s 3 Year Anniversary
?When: Thurs.-Sat., Dec 10-12
?Where: Cherry Street Brewing Cooperative
?Price: Depends how many special beers you drink
?For its third anniversary, the Cumming, Ga., brewpub will pour a dozen special beers over three days, including collaborations with Wrecking Bar Brewpub, Dogwood Growlers, and the Porter.