Photograph by Osayi Endolyn
Taproom Coffee, Kirkwood’s latest arrival on the specialty coffee and craft beer scene, recently launched its introductory craft beer draft list. Owner Jonathan Pascual has collaborated with Dan Fontaine, co-founder of Atlanta Beer Tours, to bring a rotating menu of twelve beers to the neighborhood shop. Now pouring: A range of local brews like Three Taverns’ A Night in Brussels and fun big boys, like the Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti by Great Divide.
Pascual and Fontaine say their collaboration is very much in the beginning stages—they agree to call Fontaine a consultant would be too formal. But the two are finding ways to work together to ensure that Taproom’s foundation in great beer offerings and service matches the expertise Pascual has in brewing, selling, and talking about coffee.
Taproom opened May 1 after Pascual surpassed his initial $15,000 Kickstarter goal—the campaign earned $21,700 funded by 214 project backers. Pascual had requested help from the community to pay for the “Beerspresso Machine,” an old espresso machine he had converted into a beer tower. I spoke to the duo at the Taproom counter about their new working relationship, how they chose their beer list, and what’s on the horizon.
How did you start working together?
Pascual: It wasn’t a conscious decision at first. We sat down, talked beer. Dan has a lot of experience with Atlanta Beer Tours and the craft beer scene, and I lacked that experience, being more focused on coffee and running coffee shops. Dan was open to doing some informal consulting for us. We did tastings and talked with distributors, finding out what was available to us here to determine what kind of lineup we wanted.
Fontaine: I’d read about Jonathan’s goal to create a place of community and serve high quality coffee, and that he didn’t know that much about beer. I liked that philosophy and I know something about beer. I’ve worked in restaurants before, but I’ve never helped put anything together—that’s what I wanted to do. We just kind of jumped on the opportunity.
On forming a menu—there’s so much to choose from. How did you cull down the list?
Pascual: I liked Dan’s idea that we’re going to feature local beer, but we’re not going to be exclusive to that. We say we want to offer some locals, some seasonal styles, and some to expand people’s palates. So not offering the most typical beers from draft lines in the area.
Fontaine: Any business wants to differentiate itself from competitors. We’re just trying to avoid beers that are already on everywhere. We want people to say, “At Taproom they have this beer that I’ve never heard of before,” or “I’ve heard of it but didn’t know where to get it.”
Pascual: Maybe it’s a familiar name for a brewery, but it’s one of their beers that they only carry seasonally, or it’s a one-off. We do want the approachability of a familiar brand. But offering a style that they haven’t seen on the list.
You’re pretty serious about making sure staff is knowledgeable about beer.
Pascual: We are. We did a crash course before we opened, tasted a bunch, learned about styles, brewing. I’ve incentivized further training for my staff—if they pass the Cicerone Certified Beer Server exam (I’ll pay for their first attempt), they get a raise. So, they’re serious about it! And we have that pursuit of professional education on the coffee side, too. Our staff will get barista certified by our coffee roaster company Counter Culture. Even for the base level beer certification, you’ve got to know quite a bit, from knowledge of beer styles to draft system maintenance, and how to properly clean glassware so you can present beer the best way. I know I couldn’t provide that training with my limited beer service experience, but I can join in with them in the certification.
Fontaine: I also think having that beer certification will help attract [potential staffers] who are genuinely interested in beer.
Will you be adding bottles anytime soon?
Pascual: The issue right now is we have a tiny location. Even though we have twelve lines, we’ve got the kegs stacked up—we have the smallest cooler possible. So I may get a bottle fridge so we can try to expand, which is something we want to do.
Do you think we’ll see more merging of beer and coffee service?
Pascual: I would say it’s happening more now, but I would say that no one else in Atlanta is doing it in the way that we are doing it (and we’re friends with all of them, baristas and owners). We’ve just pared it down—Taproom is about good coffee and good beer. If you want a good meal, good cocktails, there are a lot of places I can point you to. We want to keep it simple so we can really talk about what we’re pouring.
Taproom Opening Draft List
Dogfish Head Sah’tea
Duchesse de Bourgogne
Evil Twin Yellow Cab Lager
Great Divide Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti
Three Taverns A Night in Brussels
WI Gouden Carolus Easter
Terrapin Maggie’s Peach Farmhouse Ale
Terrapin Recreation Ale
Brasserie St. Feuillien Saison
Wild Heaven Eschaton Quadrupel
Taproom Coffee, 1963 Hosea L Williams Drive Suite R106, taproomcoffee.com