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First Draft with Monday Night Brewing's Jonathan Baker

A chat with one of Atlanta's newest craft beer entrepreneurs

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Monday Night Brewing began as a Bible study icebreaker almost five years ago, hosted in Jeff Heck's garage on Monday nights. Heck and his buddies Joel Iverson and Jonathan Baker may not have originally intended to get their liquid creations into stores and bars, but in the time since they've developed into some of Atlanta's most exciting new beer makers. The company launched in August 2011, and its beers are only available on draft at bars such as Ormsby's, Taco Mac, Midway Pub, and Young Augustine's — and in growlers at places such as Hop City and Ale Yeah!. Monday Night currently brews two beers: Eye Patch Ale (a balanced IPA brewed with rye) and Drafty Kilt (a smooth, smoky Scotch ale). Baker and his partners are planning a third beer, which they hope to launch in 2012. Baker is the self-described Marketing Guy and Master of Mind Control for Monday Night, and he spoke to us on behalf of the crew.

Describe your first beer experience.
I was one of those lame kids who waited until I was 21 to drink an entire beer. But boy was it worth it. Nothing says "Happy Birthday!" like popping a tepid bottle of Rolling Rock in Panama City Beach. With some counseling, I was able to move past that initial bad decision and eventually came to love beer.

Where is your favorite place to enjoy a beer?
At your mom's house. She always pours it just the way I like it. But if she's out of town, I enjoy bringing interesting beers over to friends' houses for dinner. The experience of sharing beer is pretty cool, and it always reminds me of how subjective beer actually is.

What is your favorite style, and an ideal pairing for that style?
I like a lot of different styles, depending on my mood, the circumstances, and the astrological information found in Poor Richard's Almanac. That said, I can never turn down a new dark, high-gravity beer. I love the richness of darker beers and the balance one can achieve between the alcohol and the malt bill. [The ideal pairing would be] Chocolate-based desserts and/or poker games. Call me old-fashioned, but I love me some roasted chocolate malts with a nice chocolate cake. And everyone knows that chocolate cake is the perfect poker-playing snack.

What is your favorite Atlanta beer trend?
The amount of collaboration in this city in the past few years has been astounding. Just the simple fact that an Atlanta Beer Week exists where it did not three years ago is a testament to the progress this city has made. And everyone, from retailers, distributors to brewers, seems to be willing to work together to further the work of beer education.

As a young craft-beer start-up, what's been your biggest surprise so far?
The demand for our Drafty Kilt Scotch Ale has been a pleasant surprise. I also think the craft-beer industry is, in general, less intense and competitive than the rat race of the corporate jobs some of us have worked. Which makes sense. After all, it's beer. We can't take ourselves too seriously, right?

Tell us about the name Monday Night Brewing
Monday Night Brewing began out of a quest to brew beer every Monday night about five years ago. We brewed out of a garage, inviting friends, family, and complete strangers. We came to love our little weeknight brew sessions and decided to name our company after it. This dedication to weeknight drinking also lent us our rallying cry, "Weekends are overrated." We believe in brewing balanced, flavorful beers for weeknight consumption. Beers that go great with a meal after a long day, but can also be sipped by themselves.

Next: Atlanta beer events in November

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