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First Draft with Twain's new head brewer David Stein

Decatur brewer talks about plans to revamp beer lineup

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Although David Stein is only 28 years old, he got started in the craft-beer world early. As a teenager, he discovered SweetWater, and by the time he got to the University of Georgia, he was already home brewing. After graduating, he started taking his passion a little more seriously, naming his home brew Creature Comforts, giving it away to friends, and spreading the word within the Atlanta beer community through word of mouth and social networking. He worked at Brick Store Pub and Ale Yeah! in Decatur, and Hop City on Atlanta's west side. He even apprenticed for Fraserburgh, Scotland's BrewDog, a hip brewery known for making some of the world's most alcoholic brews. The Scots offered him a brewing position, but he turned it down, thanks in no small part to Fraserburgh's rather bleak and heroin-plagued environs.

On Dec. 5, Twain's Billiards and Tap named Stein its new head brewer. He's already gotten to work on his plans to clean out the lines and invigorate the establishment's beer lineup with fresh recipes and new styles, and his first beers should be ready in mid-to-late January. Creative Loafing caught up with Stein a week before Christmas to learn more about what we can expect on tap at Twain's soon.

Describe your first beer experience.
I don't remember this, but I have a picture of me drinking a Heineken at 2 years old. Then, when I was in middle school, I used to sneak my dad's Fosters and chug them in the basement. Unbeknownst to them, my parents were strong proponents of underage drinking. My love of craft beer began with SweetWater 420 in early high school.

What is your favorite beer style, and why? An ideal pairing for that style?
My favorite beer style is the American IPA. The versatility of hops is incredible. It's crazy that with one plant species you can create such a variety of flavor and aroma — passion fruit, peach, mango, grapefruit, pine needles, earthy notes, and so on. The pale ale is the perfect canvas for using endless creative hop combinations that enhance the bitterness, flavor, and aroma of the beer. Anyone who says they don't like hoppy beers just doesn't know what's up yet.

An ideal pairing for the IPA is spicy food. Hoppy and spicy flavors are very complementary. Sachin Patel, owner of Five Points Bottle Shop in Athens, told me about his brilliant idea of a brewpub that serves Thai food. Someone needs to do this immediately — it would be the best.

You've said previously that you're going to clean out the lines at Twain's and start experimenting with styles the pub has never served before. What do you hope to accomplish in your first year?
Honestly, I plan to make the best damn beer Atlanta has to offer. We deserve it. Many of the beer styles will remain the same, but with new and improved recipes. During the first year, I hope to build a consistent core line of beers that will satisfy Atlanta's rapidly growing population of craft-beer enthusiasts. Twain's will also do a lot of barrel-aging and begin a sour-beer program. Additionally, I'll involve the community as much as possible, brewing collaboration beers with local brewers, bars and restaurants.

Now that you're working at Twain's full time, it makes sense that your home-brewing brand, Creature Comforts, will go on hiatus. What are you planning for the future of that project?
I decided the Creature had some shaping up and maturing to do. I chained him up in my basement. I'll let him out eventually.

Next: Atlanta's best beer events in January

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