Sunshine and plants. Andre and Big Boi. Pizza and beer. Few duos are quite as iconic. And the much-hyped Inner Voice Brewing puts the latter combo to the test when it opens in the former Big Tex restaurant space in Decatur next month, with popular Irwin Street Market takeout joint Glide Pizza serving slices and pies.
“We wanted to offer food, but didn’t want to take on the responsibility of going the whole brewpub route,” Inner Voice co-founder Rhett Caseman tells Eater. He’s referring to Georgia’s puzzling beer law (there are many) requiring a brewpub (which can pour liquor and beer from other breweries) to produce 50 percent of its revenue through food. Instituted decades ago, it remains a burdensome sticking point for small beer businesses.
Instead, Caseman and co-founder Josh Johnson licensed their downtown Decatur business as a brewery. Georgia breweries aren’t required to serve food, but as the state’s beer makers continue to diversify, thanks to recent legislation, food has become an important component.
Enter Glide Pizza.
Caseman says owner Rob Birdsong’s Brooklyn-style pies were the first thing that came to mind when he and Johnson started considering food for Inner Voice.
“The boys at Inner Voice were gracious enough to cut a slice window in the wall for us, which means we will sell slices and pies to the brewery customers [and also] serve the community at-large via the window, just like Irwin Street Market.” Birdsong says, who expects to begin serving at the brewery later this fall.
The walk-up window is now part of “the Glide DNA”, he adds.
Pizza delivery is also “a big priority” in Decatur, which begins on week one and includes the electric Edison bikes (or “Glide rides”) used to deliver orders in Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward.
This partnership between Inner Voice and Glide Pizza is a unique one for Atlanta. Breweries here, which face some of the most archaic and restrictive beer laws in the country, were only allowed to start selling on-site food as recently as 2017. Since then, some local breweries have gone beyond food trucks and pop-ups, including having an in-house kitchen. But it appears there’s not yet been a collaboration between a brewery and restaurant quite like this. Glide Pizza and Inner Voice will operate under the same roof and as separate businesses, with Birdsong subleasing the kitchen from the brewery.
Brick Store Pub, the longtime local beer bar considered to serve some of the world’s best beers, is just a short walk from Inner Voice. Caseman and Johnson frequent the pub, Brick Store beer manager Dan Fontaine says, who is excited to see a brewery opening nearby.
“The staff loves them,” Fontaine says. “Having a brewery in downtown Decatur will be great. People are excited about that. The space is really beautiful, and the food will be on point.”
Caseman and Johnson met while working together at Monday Night Brewing. After state Senate Bill 85 was signed into law in 2017, allowing direct sales at breweries and distilleries, the pair began plotting their own place. They got jobs at Variant Brewing in Roswell to gain more experience, while continuing to develop a business plan for their brewery. Caseman and Johnson signed the lease for the Big Tex space off West Ponce in January 2020. Along the way, they’ve impressed some notable folks.
“Our experience with Josh started at the beginning of the pandemic,” Halfway Crooks Beer co-founder Shawn Bainbridge says. “The world was upside down. We needed some help. Josh offered knowledgeable advice and helped improve our processes. Rhett is also a great dude. He knows as much about beer as he does the Atlanta Hawks, which is a lot. Their beer will be like their space —beautiful, with an attention to detail.”
Inner Voice brings a unique aesthetic. Gone are the days where Georgia breweries were forced to open in vast factory-like spaces, cranking out beer for grocery stores to make ends meet. Increasingly, breweries are staying small, embracing distinct personalities reflecting the tastes of the owners, and building out enjoyable, sometimes Instagram-worthy taprooms. Caseman and Johnson worked with Local Architects and Open Air, amongst others, to bring their vision for the design of Inner Voice to life, often teased on Instagram.
“There’s a shift happening of what the typical background of a brewery owner is, what a typical brewery looks like, and how they’re presented to the consumer,” says Caseman.
Like many of Atlanta’s latest wave of small breweries, including Halfway Crooks, Sabbath, and Elsewhere, Inner Voice plans to sell as much beer as possible directly to patrons, helping to set a new standard for how Georgia beer makers sell product. In a state where the lion’s share of legislative power lies in the hands of wholesalers who are better organized, have more money, and regularly lobby politicians, this smaller model powered by direct sales is a way of taking back some power. Unlike restaurants, Georgia breweries aren’t allowed to home deliver. These businesses can instead choose to sell all (or most of) the beer produced without widespread distribution.
“That was always pretty much the plan,” Caseman says. “Our hope is to sell the majority of our beer, including cans, across our counter. We’ll distribute some kegs, but it’ll be through a boutique distributor and strictly just for marketing purposes.”
Partnering with an ascendent brand like Glide Pizza to help sell beer doesn’t hurt.
Caseman isn’t ready to reveal the complete opening tap list just yet, but insists he and Johnson are actively brewing beers now and are “totally willing to dump a batch” if it doesn’t match their exacting standards. However, the brewery will feature a dozen taps and include a Kolsch, a pale wheat, a pale ale, a few New England-style IPAs, a couple of fruited sours, a stout, and a seltzer.
As for Birdsong, he sees the Glide Pizza-Inner Voice alliance as a logical continuation of his personal ethos of teaming up with local businesses and owners he respects. This includes collaborations for delivery using Kirkwood-based Edison Electric Bicycles, selling Georgia’s Montane Sparkling Water, and serving a pie on the menu featuring Reynoldstown restaurant Home Grown’s pimento cheese. Now there’s the pizza and beer partnership with Inner Voice Brewing.
“This is a super exciting time for Georgia craft beer. We’re just pumped to be a part of it,” says Caseman.
“We hear from folks all the time that we should open up in fill-in-the-blank Atlanta neighborhood,” Birdsong adds. “Opening in Decatur is a step toward meeting those requests. It feels good to do fun things with people we admire.”
308 West Ponce de Leon Avenue, Decatur. innervoicebrewing.beer.
Austin L. Ray is an award-winning journalist who has written for Rolling Stone, Good Beer Hunting, Creative Loafing (RIP), The Outline, the A.V. Club, Atlanta magazine, Vulture, Oxford American, First We Feast, more than a few places he’s forgotten over the years, and one terrible gas station periodical. He loves gardening, making people laugh, listening to rap music, hoodie weather, and Twitter. Zach Galifianakis once screamed in his face.