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Beer Talk With Second Self Brewing Company's Jason Santamaria

Santamaria discusses pairing beer with food, the story behind Second Self brews, and when to expect cans from the brewery, among other topics.

Jason Santamaria.
Jason Santamaria.
Heidi Geldhauser

Second Self Beer Company was founded in 2010 by Jason Santamaria and Chris Doyle, who met as students at Georgia Tech in the early 2000s. Santamaria, the beer architect, and Doyle, the alchemist, saw their dream of opening a brewery become a reality in 2014, after several years of planning, fundraising, and building.

Second Self strives to make unique, original beers, each beer telling its story through flavors and textures that recall a specific time, place, or experience. Here Santamaria discusses all things beer and why everyone should "Sip into your Second Self."

Tell us a little bit about your backgrounds and what led to the creation of Second Self.

Chris and I met when we were students at Georgia Tech. We had a lot of things in common, and beer was one of them. Around that time, Georgia law had just changed to allow beer over 6 percent alcohol, which opened the market for craft beer to come into the state. I have a background in food and Chris is a process-oriented person, so he liked that aspect of it. We started as home brewers, working at home trying to make something new and different. We only brewed from a kit once — our very first beer was from a kit, but ever since then we've been making stuff up. Our Red Hop Rye is our first beer that we really came up with on our own and have honed to what we have now. After college, I went into sales and we started planning for Second Self. Chris went to get his MBA, as well as brewing school and then worked at SweetWater in preparation for this, as this has always been our goal. It was about a year of discovery, a year of developing a business plan, a year of fundraising, and a year of building.

Why the name Second Self?

Initially, Chris and I had our day jobs and we worked nights and weekends on Second Self. We began to see this brewery dream as our second selves. It's what we wanted to be and who we wanted to be and it became almost an alter-ego. Also, everything about us is in twos. We have two colors in all our logos, two sides to all the beer logos, there's two of us, and our logo is an S that is two 2s arranged to be an S. Our motto is "Sip into your Second Self."

How do feel Second Self stands out from other breweries in the growing craft beer scene around Atlanta?

First and foremost is our focus on flavor and quality. Take, for example, our Thai Wheat. In that beer we use fresh ginger, lemongrass, and galangal (a cousin of ginger, also called blue ginger). We don't use dry ingredients or extracts in our beers. We buy ingredients from the farmers market in the morning and put it in the beer that same morning. The Thai Wheat is inspired by a trip I took to Thailand in 2010; I wanted to create a beer that reminded me of Thailand, and the whole thing started around spices. I think we are unique because all of our beers are conceptual beers; there's a story behind all of them. Usually it's a trip, or experience, or a certain food. We didn't create just a Second Self IPA, or a Second Self Wheat, thinking that they would stand out. We think every beer we make is a new style of beer; that's kind of how we approach it. Also, with my background in food, food pairing is very important to me. I don't want the beers to overpower what you are eating. We try to make balanced beers that go well with various foods.

Do you remember what initially got you interested in making beer?

I come from a cooking background. My dad's family were all chefs, and my mom's side was a family of Southern cooks, so cooking has been a big part of my life. That's how I came to beer and home brewing. I saw cooking and beer coming together in home brewing. I get to create something new, I get to try things I love and learn a new process.

Tell us a bit about the recent struggles craft breweries face in Georgia, in terms of the laws and regulations.

Not being able to sell beer directly to our customers is aggravating. People ask for it every time they come in here; there is always someone looking to take some beer home or share it with friends. Also, selling beer directly from here would mean more revenue, which would allow us to bring a canning line in here, and we could hire a production manager. There would be huge benefits. Now, I have to tell my customers the possible places around town where they can find our beer, but I have no idea who has what beer at any given moment. For now, what we are allowed to do is charge people for a glass and technically give the beer away. If the law changed we have the ability to charge for the tour and glass. We could also fill up to 64 ounces to go, which means you can take a growler home.

Some rare craft beers, much like rare wines, develop cult followings. Are there any special beers you wish you could try or beers on your have-to-try list?

I used to go around the country and try to find these things. I don't know what happened, but a couple years ago I stopped, and now if a beer comes my way, I'm more than happy to have it. But, I don't wait in line or go seek things out. There are certain beers I've never had — Heady Topper out of Vermont comes to mind — but most of the big, rare stouts I've had at some point. Let's just say, I'm not flying down to Florida to wait in line to get a beer.

Can you tell us a little bit about current production, Second Self cans, and future plans?

Our annual capacity is around 2,400 to 2,500 barrels per year. We just got our first delivery of cans and we will have them ready to go next month. The Thai Wheat will be in cans the second week of April, and the Red Hop Rye will be in cans the week after that. We are actually using a mobile canner who will come in and can for us. Part of the goal is to have our own canning machine so we don't have to be reliant on the mobile canner and can do more canning. However, we need a canning machine and additional space beyond the space we have now for the canning. We've designed this space to be able to triple in size eventually, and cans are a big part of that. That's the plan for now.

People may not realize that pairing beer and food is similar to pairing wine and food. How do you handle the pairing of beer and food?

I've always wanted beer on the dinner table; that's part of our mission here. I think pairing with beer is a lot more fun. With beer, you have sugar to play with, you can have acids with sours, you have bitterness, you have tannins and a lot more flavor profiles to play with versus wine. Also, having carbonation in beer helps as it helps blend flavors on your tongue. If you are eating something fatty, carbonation can kind of lighten things up.

When can people come visit you at the brewery to taste your beer?

We are open for tours and tastings on Friday nights from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. You get a glass for $12, and the glass comes with six free samples of our beers. We also just started doing comedy nights on the last Monday of every month and that's been fun. The brewery is located on the Westside at 1311 Logan Circle NW.

What are you drinking these days when not drinking beer?

I've been on a wine journey for a couple of years — that's what I've been working on, just learning more about the entire wine industry that I don't know about. I also love a good craft cocktail, but I usually go out for those considering the work and ingredients that it takes to make a good one. I'm also a coffee nut. I started roasting my own coffee last year, just as something else to play with.

— Eater Atlanta contributor Dennis Attick

Second Self Beer Co

1311 Logan Circle NW, Atlanta, GA 30318 (678) 916-8035