You’ve heard of Evil Twin, but Atlanta’s newest brewery is a different kind of beer doppelganger: Second Self Beer, helmed by homebrewers-turned-pros Jason Santamaria and Chris Doyle, is breathing new life into Old South craft with food-forward beers and fresh takes on traditional styles. We caught up with Santamaria as he puts the finishing touches on the soon-to-open Westside tasting room.
What’s the meaning behind the name?
This—the brewery—has been our second job, our second life, our second self for five years since we started developing a business plan. Finding investors, finding a space, banks, regulations; it’s a lot. And we think all of our beer has a second self as well; our labels all have two sides, two colors. But the beers themselves have two sides, too: The Thai Wheat is a simple wheat beer recipe, but at the same time it’s centered on the spices. It’s brewed with ginger and lemongrass; it was inspired by a trip I took to Thailand.
Chris was formerly a brewer at SweetWater; how’d you team up?
We met in college at Georgia Tech. My family was in the restaurant business, so I grew up with an entrepreneurial spirit. I had a catering company in college; at one point, Chris was an employee of mine. I saw brewing as an extension of cooking. And Chris has an operational mindset; the two of us combined is great. We’ve been homebrewing together for nine years, and I was just in his wedding three weeks ago.
So many craft breweries have popped up since you started brewing; do you feel more pressure to succeed knowing you have 3,000 competitors and another 1,500 on the way?
The pressure’s there either way. There’s a more educated consumer. It’s harder to please some, but at the same time, there are more people to please. More people are drinking craft beer. In Atlanta, we don’t have 130 breweries like San Diego; we have 15. We’re not trying to take anyone’s customer.
How is Second Self different than Atlanta’s other breweries?
We’re focusing on flavor, and making beer that’s great on its own, but wonderful with food. It’s also generally balanced; for example, our IPA has IPA-strength bitterness but it’s not over the top. Our beer’s also a bit drier than many other East Coast beers, so they leave you more refreshed, and again, go well with food.
What breweries did you look to for inspiration?
In 2007, I moved to San Diego for just over a year, and I had just traveled Belgium for a couple months, so those cities ended up being the genesis of a lot of our ideas. I was totally inspired. AleSmith and Stone were just awesome. Stone is just gorgeous. And recently, Allagash and Cigar City just blew me away.
It’s not common to have a rye beer as a flagship…
Red Hop Rye is our oldest recipe. It started out as a rye beer that we dry-hopped. We really wanted something that had the spice of a rye but with the floral quality of an IPA. It’s a higher rye percentage than most rye beers out there—17 percent—so there’s lots of spice, but it’s balanced by that really nice floral quality.
And you’re also doing a saison.
Saison’s my favorite beer style, personally. I respect it a lot. There’s a wide range of what people will call a saison, but we wanted to show our restraint and do something simple. It’s dry, peppery and simple; no coriander or any spice additions. Part of my goal is bringing beer to the dinner table, and I think saison is one of the best to pair with.
What’s your favorite way to pair it?
Well, roast chicken is a favorite, but that’s traditional. I like it with steak au poivre, because the pepper in the beer and steak connect—plus, it’s just neat to pair a big piece of meat with a saison. But just last week, I had it with smoked salmon and latkes at a restaurant; outstanding! The spice cut through the richness of the salmon, and the potato rounded it off.
What beers are up next?
The next beer we have coming out is a mole porter, inspired by a family recipe of mine, brewed with chocolate and five different chilies. And LIPA [a 4.5%-ABV session IPA] will sunset in November, and we’ll introduce our seasonal IPA—a juniper-rosemary IPA. We’re working on a citrus IPA for spring.
You’ve been brewing in the space, and you expected to open this summer. When will people get to visit?
Nov. 1 will be our first public tour. With all the city and state regulations, our tasting room’s small—it’s limited to 93 people—so we’ll give what we call the standard “Georgia tour.” There’s no wall between the brewery and the tasting room; we want people to see our process and have an intimate experience.