Brad Tomlinson and Michael "Tiny" McClannan opened Lincoln Fill Station in 2014 on a stretch of US78 in Loganville that was thirsty for some craft beer. Over the past year, Lincoln Fill Station has become a craft beer lover's dream with more than 60 taps on the wall and an expansive package selection in bottles and cans. Thanks to a local ordinance they helped pass, customers can also consume up to 32 ounces of beer on site, either in the shop or on the spacious patio out front that Brad built himself. There's even a humidor on premise for those who like a good cigar with their stout or porter. Eater recently sat down with Tomlinson to talk beer, Lincolns, and his plans to be a fixture for years to come in Georgia's craft beer scene.
Tell us a little bit about your background and the genesis for Lincoln Fill Station.
I'm a self-contractor for Fedex and I had already grown that business and was thinking about another business to get into while drinking beer at Summits. I realized there weren't any options between Decatur and Athens along this corridor that had any type of craft beer outside of going into a bar or restaurant. I originally thought of just doing a growler shop. After getting my partner Michael "Tiny" McClannan on board, we found this spot in Snellville and things have been great. We really started this as a place where we would want to hang out and drink great beer. We're not just a growler shop as many people think, we are a craft beer market and we also have on-premise consumption now. We have 62 taps with one nitro line and one pump engine for cask beers. We try to keep a variety of beers on draft and in the shop at all times, with a focus on Georgia beer.
How have you connected with the community and Georgia's craft beer scene?
We have a huge following right now in this community. We recently had our one year anniversary and sold 350 tickets for our beer festival, during which we had 86 beers on tap. We continue to meet with a lot of Georgia breweries and try to support them as much as we can by going to all of their events and anniversary parties. We try to keep something from all the Georgia brewers on tap at all times. We've been able to get some really cool stuff from breweries, as we make sure we support them and they've been very supportive of us. In a normal week over 20 of our taps are dedicated to Georgia beers.
Can you say a little bit about the special events and tap takeovers you do?
We do regular tap takeovers on Fridays. A lot of places do tap takeovers, but you'll never see a tap takeover like here. We did one with Green Flash Brewing and put 15 of their beers on tap. We had more than 100 people here for that takeover. I really like to do those events, and it takes a lot of resources from us, but it sets an example in the beer community about the types of events we are willing to do. I now have people every week wanting to do an event here. It helps us connect and build relationships with brewers and breweries that might remember us the next time there is special allocated beer release.
Do you have any plans to get into brewing beer?
We do have a couple brewers lined up for my next project, which will be doing a brew pub out here as there is nothing like that in the Loganville area. We're looking at what there is in Athens and what's happening in Decatur and will marry a couple things together. We're looking to get the right chef and partnering with the right brewer so we can do something similar to what they do at, like, Twain's in Decatur. I'd rather be more of a beer bar in the future and do away with some of the package. That won't take flight here, but we will make it work in the future at another location. For now I'm going to focus on doing the brewpub in Snellville or Loganville and then it will be game on from there.
This seems like a dream job to many people, but what is it really like to open and operate a craft beer market?
The biggest challenge is trying to keep up with all the new beer coming out and not getting upset when we don't get allocated a specific beer. I'm still new, I get that. I don't expect to get stuff that some of the more established beer pubs in the metro area get. We happen to have some of the country's best beer pubs around Atlanta and we're competing against them when trying to get access to new releases and special beers. It also takes a lot to plan the events and tap takeovers and manage dozens of kegs beers that we've ordered that we don't have storage for here. I've got 50 kegs in the cooler at my wife's bakery. We're sitting on thousands of dollars of beer, but we need to do that to compete.
Where did the name Lincoln Fill Station come from?
I'm a big Lincoln guy, so cars. I have a 1958 Continental that I was driving when we first opened the shop. It's currently at my friend's house in Idaho, totally stripped down and getting redone. It's a beautiful car that will be my daily driver when it comes back. I've been driving Lincolns since I was 20. Just picture me in those commercials with Matthew McConaughey. Man, I've been driving Lincolns since before he even knew what a Lincoln was. My other businesses also have Lincoln-something in the name. Also, my favorite president is Abraham Lincoln, and my dad sort of looked like Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln is everywhere around here. Our bar top is all pennies. If you go in the hallway in our restrooms there are Lincoln car pictures everywhere. In fact, if you look at our logo, the barrel in the center with the star is similar to the Lincoln emblem stretched out to look like a keg with a tap handle coming off.
What are your favorite beers for drinking?
For me, it's all stouts, coffee stouts, and coffee-milk stouts. Barrel-aged stuff, that's the stuff I like. I lean toward those styles and also toward a good kolsch or pilsner. I'm not a big IPA guy. I'm getting there, but I don't like the bitter hop presence in many IPAs. If I had it my way, half the draft wall here would be big stouts and porters.
What are you drinking these days when not drinking beer?
Bourbon. I'm a huge Bourbon guy. I probably have 60 to 70 bottles of bourbon at home right now. Basically, anything that's a small batch under $40, I'll give it a try. I like Elmer T. Lee and Basil Hayden's. I also have my series of Pappy Van Winkles that I get from a friend who owns a liquor store, so I pay what I should for it. I'm not one of those guys who chases Pappy 15 year for $600 a pop these days. It's not worth the hunt. I'd actually really love to add a Bourbon bar here, but we can't do that within the city limits.