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First Draft with Brick Store Pub's Dave Blanchard

The Decatur Craft Beer Festival co-founder knows the perfect food and beer combination

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Describe your first beer experience.
The first beer I ever drank was three-fourths of a can of Busch from a funnel. I was probably 14 and I was hanging out, for some reason, with my older brother Rick and his high-school band buddies. He convinced me to funnel my first ever beer so I could always claim that feat. Funny, 28 years later, I finally get to tell that story.

What is your favorite beer style and an ideal pairing for that style?
My favorite style is always a tricky question. I think the very best thing about beer is that there's always a style to fit your mood because beer styles are so diverse. I will say I just got back from a week at the Chesapeake Bay where we went crabbing every day and caught bushel upon bushel of blue crabs. Six straight nights of rolling out the brown paper and sitting for hours picking and eating crab. Without a doubt, the almighty IPA was the beer of choice all week long. It was a week of Victory HopDevil, Dogfish Head 60 Minute, Heavy Seas Loose Cannon and my newest best buddy, Ithaca Flower Power, which I was told I must get or forever regret by my beer manager at Leon's, Tim Ensor. It's an amazing beer we hope to have in Georgia one day soon. Let me tell you, the most perfect combination in the whole history of food is Old Bay Seasoning and fresh, hoppy IPAs.

What would you like to see happen to Atlanta's beer scene going forward?
I think Atlanta has become a fantastic city for beer. For the longest time it seemed like we were the only place doing anything interesting with beer. Now, I can't remember the last time I went out to eat anywhere and didn't find some effort given to the beer list. As far as law changes go, Georgia must improve the laws that affect our local production breweries. I would love to see laws allowing breweries to sell their own beer out of their own brewery, allow a pub/restaurant to be attached to the brewery for on-premise sales and even allowing breweries to self-distribute as they see fit until they need a larger distributor. Georgia will continue to lag in new brewery growth until these current laws are relaxed. We need more local breweries, as the time for good beer and local sourcing is now.

Next: Atlanta's best beer events in October

October Beer Events

Leon's Full Service Flight Night
When: Every Monday, 5 p.m. until it's out
Where: Leon's Full Service
Price: Varies
Leon's serves up myriad beer and wine flights (five or six of each), with food pairings.

Beer Geek Tuesdays
When: Every Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where: Cypress Street Pint and Plate
Price: Depends on how much you drink
Each week, this Midtown establishment features anything from tap takeovers to guest speakers, special brews to the company of beer aficionados.

Hop City Beer Tastings
When: Every Wednesday, 5:30–7:30 p.m.
Where: Octane
Price: Free
Octane hosts different beers from Hop City Beer every Wednesday.

Wells and Young's Brewmaster Visit
When: Thurs., Oct. 6
Where: Ale Yeah!
Price: Free
Wells and Young's brewmaster Jim Roberts will visit Ale Yeah! in Decatur to discuss his brewery's wares. The store will offer growler pours and specials on Wells and Young's, too.

Atlanta Beer Week
When: Oct. 8-16
Where: All over the Atlanta metro area
Price: Varies
For nine days, the Atlanta beer community comes together for festivals, tap takeovers, special prices, dinners and events too numerous to list here.

Hop Harvest Fest
When: Sat., Oct. 8, all day
Where: Brick Store Pub
Price: Depends how many IPAs you have
For its third-annual hop fest, Brick Store will fill all 25 of its draughts with IPAs - 17 Americans downstairs, eight Belgians upstairs. The kitchen will create food pairings as well.

Great Atlanta Beer Festival
When: Sat., Oct. 8, 3-8 p.m.
Where: Turner Field
Price: $35-$45
The festival promises hundreds of beers, college football on televisions and live music.

Picktoberfest & Low Country Boil
When: Sat., Oct. 8, 2 p.m.
Where: Twain's Billiards & Tap
Price: Free
From 2-8 p.m., Twain's is offering all-you-can eat low country boil while supplies last, followed by multiple bands and its usual freshly brewed beer. All ages until 9 p.m.

Smyrna Beer Fest
When: Sat., Oct. 8, 1-6 p.m.
Where: Smyrna Market Village
Price: $30-$40
Featuring hundreds of beers, live music from Homefront and food from area restaurants, proceeds from the eighth-annual festival will benefit Mustard Seed Communities.

Athens Craft Beer Festival
When: Sat.-Sun., Oct. 8-9
Where: Hotel Indigo, Athens
Price: $45-$65
Trappeze Pub and Hotel Indigo are collaborating on this festival, which will feature live music, food, prizes and more than 100 craft beers.

Dessert Beer Flight & Pairing
When: Sun., Oct. 9, 4 p.m.
Where: The Porter Beer Bar
Price: Various
The Little Five Points pub will pair Southern Tier's Mokah Stout, Java Imperial Coffee Stout and Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout with mini-desserts, while supplies last.

Italian Beer Class
When: Wed., Oct. 12, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Porter Beer Bar
Price: $30
Taste and learn about six Italian beers, or come try them individually without the education, up to you.

First Annual Decatur Passport Crawl
When: Wed., Oct. 12
Where: Twain's, Ale Yeah!
Price: Depends how much you drink
Details were fuzzy as press time, but no-purchase-necessary custom passports will be available at Twain's and Ale Yeah!. Those passports can then be taken to participating area locations and stamped as beers are consumed. Stamps will be redeemable for prizes at Ale Yeah! a week within stamping.

Beer and Cheese Tasting
When: Thurs., Oct. 13, 6 p.m.
Price: Various
Where: The Porter Beer Bar
Ten beers - from Terrapin, Bell's, Left Hand, Shmaltz and Heavy Seas - paired with 10 cheeses. No reservations required, while supplies last.

Special Beer Dinner Menu
When: Thurs., Oct. 13
Price: Various
Where: Wrecking Bar
In addition to beer special throughout Atlanta Beer Week, the Little Five Points brewpub will feature a special beer dinner menu on this night.

The Decatur Craft Beer Festival
When: Sat., Oct. 15, 12-5 p.m.
Price: $40, Sold out
Now in its 14th year, the fest will take over Decatur Square for an entire afternoon, featuring more than 100 local, American and international brews.

Bootleg Beer Dinner
When: Sun., Oct. 16, 6 p.m.
Price: $20-$30
In which special "hard to get" food and beer join forces in a four-course, 8-ounce pairing menu.

2 Course 2 Beer Pairing
When: Wed., Oct. 19, 6-9 p.m.
Where: The Marlay House
Price: $20-$25 (estimated)
Every third Wednesday of the month, the Marlay's chef creates two unique dishes to go with two unique beer pairings. Call 404-270-9950 for further details and/or RSVP.

Festival of Excellence
When: Sat., Oct. 22, 2-10 p.m.
Where: Corner of North Highland Avenue and Briarcliff Place
Price: $20
This inaugural event will feature more than 24 craft beers, college football on televisions, food trucks and live music. Proceeds benefit the Kyle Pease Foundation & St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

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