Monday, December 6, 2021

Ironshield Brewing Bucks Modern Craft Beer Trends


Ironshield's Glen Sprouse in the brewery's malt storage room.
Ironshield Brewing
394 N. Clayton Street, Lawrenceville, Georgia
By Owen Ogletree
In our modern craft beer world filled with offbeat trends and unconventional styles, Ironshield Brewing focuses much of its energy, passion, and determination in the creation and promotion of classic beers that showcase outstanding technical merit and appeal. How does this young Georgia brewery market these traditional beers? Education is the key. 
Glen Sprouse, Ironshield's founder and brewmaster, expresses amazement that many of his taproom patrons have never tasted many styles of authentic German-style lagers. Ironshield's taproom servers discuss the fascinating histories of these beer styles and provide tasting samples. More often than not, this creates a new appreciation for Ironshield's beers and expands the drinkers' horizons. 
Sprouse fell in love with German lagers at quite an early age. "I was raised in an army family, and we seemed to live in all the towns with 'fort' in the name," he explains. "I remember being a kid in Stuttgart, Germany, with my family touring wineries and breweries on the weekends. I had my first sip of helles lager at five years old, and, even at that young age, I thought it was wonderful."
Sprouse's brewing roots in the Atlanta area run deep. He started Phoenix Brewpub in 1996 and stayed with the brewery for a time after it became Five Seasons Brewing. The restaurant aspect of the business made for a constant source of frustration for Sprouse. Upon leaving Five Seasons in 2008, he transitioned into brewery consulting and automation while putting together a grand plan for his dream brewery. Ironshield Brewing eventually opened its doors in mid-2020, with COVID creating enormous challenges. Ironshield made it through the rough parts of the pandemic by using its vast, well-equipped brewing facility for contract brewing for other companies. 
Sprouse adds, "Our contract business dried up a bit when the fall COVID shutdown took place, but it took off again in early 2021 when we increased our contract volume six-fold in four months. Right now, we are at capacity with contract brewing, and this keeps the tanks full. Our Ironshield beers are doing extremely well too, with our taproom business doubling in the last six months." 
Ironshield's flavorsome house beers showcase traditional, high-quality ingredients that come together in mouthwatering fashion. Flagship examples include Karneval Kolsch, Heroes Helles, Seven Sisters Munchner Lager, Half Cork'd Irish Red Ale, Sgt. Mackenzie Scottish Ale and Nitro Dry Irish Stout. Ironshield's 7% ABV Warhammer Maibock debuted in the early spring of 2021 with an outstanding malt profile and alcohol warmth, and the luscious lager quickly became one of the brewery's best-selling beers. So as not to ignore trends completely, Sprouse also plans to release a hazy New England-style IPA called Hop Legends
Glen Sprouse and Jason Carroll
Jason Carroll, Ironshield's head brewer, hails from Cork in Ireland and lists a ton of brewing experience on his impressive résumé. Carroll contributed valuable insight into the formulation of Ironshield's Irish red ale and nitrogenated stout, and he worked with Sprouse at his home kitchen table in the early days to plan out brewery automation and recipe formulation. "I met Glen Sprouse when I worked at a brewery in Peachtree City where Glen was a consultant," Carroll recalls. "We took the Ironshield concept from something raw to something solid and productive. The experience has been rewarding, and our beer has been solid from the first batch. We love keeping traditional styles on the forefront and educating customers as to why these styles are so worthy of attention."
Part of what draws Sprouse to classic lager styles stems from the fact that these beers exhibit an impressive range of aromas and flavors simply from the four traditional Reinheitsgebot ingredients of water, malt, hops and yeast. Sprouse explains, "Lagers are complex, yet subtle. The challenge in making a great lager is that every single step must be correct. Lagers show every fault and take longer to produce, so we must have more tanks for lagering and keeping up our volume. We also believe that filtering our lagers produces sparkling clarity and allows the beautiful malt and hop profiles to shine through."
Master brewer Glenn Sprouse checks the progress of a brew.
October 2 saw Ironshield's annual Oktoberfest celebration take place in the taproom and beer garden. Patrons loved the German food trucks, traditional music and décor, and Sprouse's sublime Oktoberfest lager served in traditional steins.
Sprouse holds esteem and affection for Ironshield's staff and customers. "Our gifted staff has been a blessing," he says. "It has been tough finding workers during these challenging times, but our people show up, get things done and love our customers. We don't really go for a certain customer demographic, as we want everyone to share a love for our beers. Most of our regulars are more mature, but it doesn't take long for younger beer drinkers to come to Ironshield, fall in love with our beers and feel at home." 
Published Originally in:

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Best-of-Show Craft Beer Blind Competition 2021


Owen Ogletree gathered brewers and beer judges Neal Engleman, The Beer Wench, Ashton Smith, Samantha Eaves, Tim Schiavone and Ben Halter to sample and comment on 12 exceptional examples of classic craft beers on the market now. This blind beer evaluation was done in a "best-of-show" format, and beers were commented upon and ranked according to Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) style guidelines. First, second and third places were awarded to the beers we felt represented their styles in an extraordinary fashion. Photos by Ashton Smith. 
Munich Helles - 4A.
Arches Brewing Heritage Helles Lager.
- Golden color; clear; beautiful white foam; mild aromas of flowers, honey and pilsner malt; flavor notes of honeysuckle, light jasmine, just a hint of corn.

German-style Landbier/Kellerbier - 7C Pale Kellerbier.
Good Word Brewing & Public House Chronovisor Landbier.
- Brilliant clarity; gorgeous golden color; herbal note; grassy, hoppy nose; flavors of flowers, hops, light citrus, pleasant bitterness, egg white hint; sulfur hint; ends dry, clean and hoppy. 

Marzen - BJCP 6A.
Tucker Brewing Company Tucktoberfest Marzen Lager.
- Spot-on copper color for style; excellent clarity; good head retention; maple and caramel nuances; dark toasted bread; herbal; grassy; cracker-like note; nice dry finish. 

Helles Bock - BJCP 4C.
Creature Comforts / Burial Beer Company Culture Keeper Maibock.
- Hint of chill haze; attractive golden color and white foam; floral hops; citrus hint; grassy; flavors of sweet malt, sugar, pale malt; hoppy finish is pleasant but may be too much for style; quite floral; finish seems a bit too bitter for this malty style. 

New World Cider - BJCP C1A.
Urban Tree Fan Cider.
- Nice gold color with light carbonation; apple note dominates; fruity; clean; hint of dark sugar and acidity; well-balanced between sweetness and apple nuances; lovely apple note comes through mid-palate; dry finish; refreshing; simple, yet pleasant and elegant. 
American IPA - BJCP 21A.
Creature Comforts Tropicalia India Pale Ale.
- Deep gold color; slight haze; aromas of candied oranges, citrus, pine resin and dank hops; good malt/hop balance; clean malt goes well with rich hops and mild bitterness; nice dry finish; bold citrus and piney hops are the star of this IPA. 

Double IPA - BJCP 22A.
Akademia Brewing Parallel Shift West Coast Style DIPA.
- Quite hazy and opaque; dark gold/orange color; nose seems like candy sugar, earthy malt, light caramel hint; flavors of earthy malt, orange, apricot, tropical fruits and hops. 

Doppelbock - BJCP 9A.
Birds Fly South Ale Project Sometimes Goats.
- Great clarity; deep tan head with nice retention; brown/mahogany color with a ruby/orange hue; aromas of chocolate, raisins, prunes, dates, dark sugar; flavors of leather, dark sugar, cherry hint, light fruit; hint of alcohol warmth; melanoidin finish balanced with a hint of hops; dark, toasty malts; slightly bitter finish. 

Schwarzbier - BJCP 8B.
Wild Heaven Beer Schwarz Helmet.
- Dark brown color that's almost black; good clarity; light tan head; aromas of roasted malt, coffee, hint of dark sugar and caramel; flavors come across as moderate; dark malt; roasted malt is soft on the finish; pleasing bitterness in the end from dark malts and light hops; nice and dry; a great dark lager. 

American Barleywine - BJCP 22C.
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine 2021.
- This amazing barleywine was voted best beer of the bunch. Mahogany color; dark auburn; deep amber/copper hue; aromas of dark caramel, lots of American hops, raisins, leather, pine, wood; flavors of massive hops and clean, rich malt; well-rounded and packed with flavor; not harsh at all; hop character is outstanding; beautiful, long hop finish; a big, bold, breathtaking beer. 

Imperial Stout - BJCP 20C.
Bold Monk Brother Ivan.
- Deep black hue with a dark tan head; small amount of particulate matter in the beer; aromas of spice, roasted malt, smoke hint, dark cocoa, bitter chocolate, Maduro cigars and subtle fruit. Flavors of dark malt; dark bitter chocolate; anise and chocolate candy. Luscious, full mouthfeel. 

Imperial Stout with vanilla, chai, coffee and oatmeal - BJCP 20C.
Terrapin Vanilla Chai Late Wake-n-Bake Coffee Oatmeal Imperial Stout 2020 Reserve.
- Deep black color with dark head. Aromas of green coffee and roasted malts. Flavors reminiscent of peppers, chai latte, spices, dark sugar, viscous oatmeal, caramel and dark sugar. Ends sweet with a warming alcohol hint. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Winners at our 25th-Anniversary Classic City Brew Fest

I want to thank everyone who made yesterday's 25th-anniversary Classic City Brew Fest so much fun: great volunteers, wonderful brewers/distributors, Jim Cook, Athens Area Humane Society, and the awesome staff at Hotel Indigo Athens Downtown. If you were able to attend, thanks so much!

We had a wonderful variety of cask ales from Georgia breweries, and the crowd awarded these casks as People's Choice:

FIRST: Burnt Hickory Brewery Cherry Pie Sister Disco Berliner Weisse

SECOND: Akademia Brewing Company Phobia the 13th Imperial Stout

THIRD: Athentic Brewing Company Barleywine

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Cask Ale List: Classic City Brew Fest - 8-28-2021

Look below for the exciting list of exclusive cask ales that will be available at our 25th-anniversary CLASSIC CITY BREW FEST in Athens, Georgia on Saturday, August 28, 2021. This list can change without notice. 

·        Akademia Brewing Phobia the 13th is our 13% ABV rich and robust Phobia Imperial Stout with additions of vanilla beans, cinnamon and Oreos.

·        Arches Brewing Bob's Your Uncle ESB. At 5.5% ABV, this ale offers a medium/light body accentuated by mild fruitiness and an emphasis on hop aroma rather than hop bitterness. Look for a dark copper color with notes of toffee and earthy tea.

·        Athentic Brewing Barleywine comes in at 10.6% ABV and was produced from a 100% two-row grain bill that was triple mashed and boiled overnight on our direct fire system to impart deep caramel and toffee notes with a luxurious mouthfeel. Hop aromatics arise from Idaho Gem and Cascade hops.

·        Atlanta Brewing Southern Pale. Our 6% ABV southern classic ale was cask-conditioned to bring the flavor. Citra and Denali hops give this brew slight tropical notes that help the southern heat fade away from one pint to the next.

·        Beacon Brewing Funky Goosey is a gooseberry Brett Saison dry-hopped with Centennial. It's a blend of three Saisons, all inoculated with different strains of Brettanomyces and a Belgian Saison yeast.

·        Blackbird Farms Brewery Xmas in August. This full-bodied Porter from Lilburn's newest craft brewery is loaded with fresh additions of cherries, nutmeg and cinnamon for a truly inspired cask ale. 6% ABV.

·        Blue Tarp Turncoat Hippies Hazy IPA is a soft, creamy, hazy brew that's dry-hopped with Enigma and Loral. If a turncoat is not an enigma, we don't know what is.

·        Bold Monk Bourbon Barrel-Aged The Way Tripel with raspberries. Flavors and aromas of raspberry, honey, wood and vanillin play beautifully with melon/citrus hop notes and spicy Trappist yeast phenolics. 8.8% ABV.

·        Braselton Brewing Braseltoberfest! A 6.4% ABV German Fest Bier that's malty and delicious. Prost!

·        Burnt Hickory Cherry Pie Sister Disco Berliner Weisse. This fruited pastry kettle-soured ale comes in at 5% ABV and 15 IBUs. Tart like fruit, yet sweet like the crust, this is the cask that some beer nerds will tell you they hate, but they will secretly drink it all.

·        Cherry Street Grease Monkey is a 10% ABV bourbon barrel-aged English-style Barleywine blended with bananas, hazelnuts and cinnamon. It was crafted in honor of the mechanics, machine heads and bruisers that bust the daily grind.

·        Creature Comforts Railway Ale is a "New World Bitter" with 4.3% ABV and US Chinook and New Zealand Pacific Sunrise hops. Inspired by the fine cask ales we enjoyed a couple of years ago in Manchester, England; our version is lightly dry-hopped and supremely drinkable.

·        Dachshund Brewing Biscotti Brown Ale - A light brown, malty ale with notes of almond, vanilla bean and a hint of chocolate for a delicious hand-dipped biscotti experience.

·        Eventide Brewing Blackberry Smoke Kolsch. Blackberry puree was added to our traditional Kolsch-style ale to create a fun fruit beer for summer. Blackberry comes through immediately on the nose, along with the floral characteristics of German noble hops.

·        Flowing Cups "Porter? I Hardly Know Her..." is a 5.2% ABV roasty American Porter with macadamia nuts. It's dark, sweet and chocolatey with an appealing nutty flavor. 

·        Gate City Light Lager. This refreshing golden lager stands out in the crowd because of generous dry-hopping with Zuper Saazer hops. 4.3% ABV and 8 IBUs.

·        Good Word Friends in High Places ranks as a 4.5% ABV English-style Bitter that's dry-hopped with Brambling Cross. The beer comes from a collaboration with Wooden Robot Brewery and Brasserie de la Senne.

·        High Card Brewing Planet of the Vampires is a crisp, golden Pilsner made with generous additions of blood oranges for an exceptional citrus bite and eye-catching hue.

·        Hippin' Hops Chocolate Stout. This fantastic 11.3% ABV stout comes from Georgia's first black-owned brick-and-mortar brewery that's located in East Atlanta Village. Expect robust notes of cocoa, espresso and dark fruit esters in this potent brew.

·        Indio Brewing Puff Nutty. This oatmeal stout was brewed with Madagascar vanilla beans, Georgia peanuts and eight pounds of Nicaraguan cacao nibs. Expect aromas and flavors reminiscent of Little Debbie Nutty Buddy bars and Reese's Puffs Cereal.

·        Khonso Brewing Hey Ya! is a fun take on a Belgian-style Golden Strong Ale brewed to make folks "shake it." Made with orange peel, a hint of cardamom and single-hopped with Mandarina Bavaria, this 9% ABV ale makes for a flavorful beer experience.

·        Left Nut Brewing 42 - An 11% ABV British-style Barleywine aged in new American oak barrels crafted by Gainesville Cooperage. After 7.5 months in the barrel, this beer holds the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.

·        Lincoln Fill Station / Cherry Street Lincoln's Summer of Love is a delicate imperial sour ale brewed with fresh cherries and blackberries along with a touch of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon. 8% ABV.

·        Max Lager's Excommunication. This Flanders-style Red Ale was fermented with our house mixed-culture yeast strain for six months in our Solera barrel program. After initial fermentation, the beer was conditioned in a port wine/whiskey barrel for an additional four months. This special cask contains mission fig puree to highlight the dark fruit flavor and contrast beautifully with the rich tartness.

·        MAZURT The Time of Returning is a 9.5% ABV "Nordic Quad" aged in an Independent Distilling bourbon barrel. Generations have passed since Ragnar worshipped the old gods. Aegir, the god of sea and brewing, provided the yeast to brew this otherworldly elixir with grains and sugar aged in oak barrels as brewed for the banquets of the gods. This is the Season of What, now is The Time of Returning. Done in collaboration with Southern Brewing Company.

·        Monday Night Wish You Were Here. Our malty Drafty Kilt Scottish ale melds with additions of coffee, vanilla and macadamia nuts in this scrumptious cask ale that packs lovely notes of toffee, fruit, roasted nuts and espresso.

·        Monkey Wrench Adventures in Guava Land. Made with real pink guava and fresh basil, this exceptional sour ale is sure to invoke your adventurous side. 4.7% ABV.

·        Moon River Wacky Wit-Chata - Our 2017 Great American Beer Festival gold medalist Wacky Wit gets a horchata-inspired dose of flavor from additions of lactose, vanilla and cinnamon in this exclusive cask. 4.1% ABV.

·        New Realm LutraCrisp Lager is the brewery's popular Italian-style Pilsner that offers a beautiful, light malt profile balanced by gorgeous additions of Saphir and Cascade hops.

·        Normaltown Brewing "It's Pronounced Fronkensteen" is a delightfully tart ale conditioned on toasted coconut and vanilla beans for complexity. We also added a touch of lactose for an appealing mouthfeel and finish.

·        Orpheus Brewing Imperial Stout. This luscious, rich and roasty dark ale offers notes of caramelized sugar and nougat produced from a long overnight boil. This fruity, coffee-like strong ale comes in at 10% ABV.

·        Pontoon C’est la Açaí Berliner Weisse. This kettle-soured ale was brewed with whole açaí berries, strawberries, Sauvignon Blanc grapes and local apples for a wonderful depth of fruit intensity and complexity.

·        Rainy Day Brewery Brew-No-You-Know is an old-school American brown ale boasting dark malt notes of cocoa and roasted nuts - all balanced by American hops. It's direct and straightforward but filled with all the character you'd want in this style.

·        Red Hare The Drunken Hare is a special cask of our Hasenpfeffer Oktoberfest lager with additions of bourbon-soaked oak chips for a smooth, nutty and malty treat. 6% ABV.

·        Reformation Brewery Curuba Collision is a spicy rye pale ale conditioned in the cask with fresh vanilla, strawberries and curuba (banana passionfruit) for a delightful explosion of flavors.

·        Round Trip Oktoberfest. This remarkable beer was lagered at cold temperatures for five weeks, and the cask version includes additions of oak chips soaked in port wine for additional complexity.

·        Sabbath Brewing Trapped in the Grasp of a Memory is our oak-aged Hazy Raw Ale DIPA brewed with floor-malted barley, flaked wheat, Citra Cryo, Ekuanot Cryo and TRI2304 Cryo hops.

·        Schoolhouse Brewing Evil Queen. The Evil Queen is at it again - this time using her skills to take a Quad to the next level. This 13.5% ABV Belgian-style Dark Strong Ale was aged in apple brandy barrels for 12 months and boasts a dark reddish hue, subtle sweetness and notes of raisin, toffee, fig and apple pie.

·        Service Brewing Caramel Macchiato Golden Stout is an 8.5% ABV ale blended with PERC cold brew coffee and salted caramel. Delicious coffee shines through the honey-like malt bill that provides mouth-watering toffee notes.

·        Southern Brewing Company / Owen Ogletree Collaboration Cask. In a nod to the Old Fashioned cocktail, we took Cuchulainn Red Ale and aged it in a barrel that once held ASW Irish whiskey made with the same Loughran malt that we use for Cuchulainn. Additions of Woodford Reserve bourbon cherries and Angostura aromatic bitters add a mouth-watering cocktail nuance.

·        Southern Brewing Company Dulche de Leche Moon Eyes Imperial Stout is a 9.5% ABV dark ale. Decadent, rich caramel and lactose sugars meld with our Moon Eyes Imperial Stout to create this one-of-kind cask treat.

·        Steady Hand Celestial Orifices. This 6% ABV hazy IPA was dry-hopped with aromatic Comet, Bravo and Calypso hops. Expect notes of tropical fruit, grapefruit and orange with hints of sweet cannabis-like terpenes.

·        StillFire Brewing Thoroughly Good Bourbon Barrel-Aged Scotch Ale. Our 13.5% ABV award-winning Scotch Ale was given a 16-month quarantine in an ASW bourbon barrel. The result is truly "one bourbon, one Scotch, and one beer."

·        SweetWater Brewing HAZY Habanero Mango. This special cask contains our 6.3% ABV HAZY IPA that's juicy, fruity and slightly sweet with just a touch of enjoyable heat in the finish from the peppers.

·        Terrapin Casktime Pale Ale is our Pastime Pale Ale generously dry-hopped with Citra, Simcoe, Mosaic and Galaxy for an extra punch. Malts include two-row pale, flaked oats, malted wheat, Vienna and Red X. We used both pelletized and Cryo hops for an extra smooth hop presence.

·        The Queenswood Pub La Lucy was created in memory of Chelsy Giles, a beloved Terrapin employee who passed away last month. La Lucy is the name of Chelsy's cat, and Chelsy would have loved this Imperial Gose ale almost as much as she loved her kitty. The sour beer packs fresh mango and Tajin (a blend of mild chili peppers, lime and sea salt). Chelsy would say, "This beer is worthy of a flower crown."

·        Three Taverns Old Bones is a 5% ABV English-style Old Ale brewed out of a passion for classic English pub ales. Delightfully simple, yet subtly complex, this elegant beer is brewed with an intentional blend of floor-malted Maris Otter malt, medium English crystal malt, black malt and a touch of flaked wheat. Notes of toffee, baked biscuits, black cherries and molasses are prevalent, along with stone fruit esters from the English yeast.

·        Urban Tree Hopped Up on Peach. This cider is packed with aromatic and floral hops at the start and then finished with Georgia peach juice. Enjoy the bright, citrusy flavors of one of our favorite seasonal ciders that's ready-made for summer.

·        Variant Brewing Over the Top Imperial Pastry Stout. This 13% ABV Imperial Stout was brewed with maple syrup, toasted coconut, double-stuffed Oreos and cassia bark.

·        Wild Heaven Townsend's Landlord Ale is an authentic British-style Best Bitter style brewed with Baird's Maris Otter malt, UK Burton yeast and Styrian Golding and Willamette hops. 4% ABV.

·        Wild Leap Tonic Boom. This impressive blonde ale was brewed with juniper and peppercorns and then aged for six months in a fragrant gin barrel. 8.5% ABV.

·        Wrecking Bar Brewer's Droop Oak-Aged ESB. Our exceptional British-style Extra Strong Bitter (ESB) was oak-aged to accentuate the ale's toasty caramel character and woody hop essence with a pleasing note of vanilla.  

Monday, May 31, 2021

How Brick Store Pub Endured the Pandemic

 Article by Owen Ogletree

Photos courtesy of Brick Store Pub and Jim Smith
L-R: Brick Store owners Tom Moore, Mike Gallagher and Dave Blanchard.
1997 saw the American craft beer movement just starting to take hold. Three buddies from Athens, Georgia (Dave Blanchard, Mike Gallagher and Tom Moore) had decided to open a specialty beer pub on a slightly downtrodden block in downtown Decatur, Georgia. Many people thought the three guys were nuts. No one predicted how the Brick Store Pub would help change the face of craft beer in Georgia, bring new life to the area and become one of the nation's best craft beer bars. 
The Brick Store's front door leads into the atmospheric and welcoming main bar that's loaded with delectable craft beers, while the stairs to the left of the bar take patrons up to the atmospheric Belgian Bar that pours an exceptional range of hand-picked Belgian beers from taps and bottles. The pub's indoor areas have been impacted by the COVID pandemic, much like other bars and restaurants. The creative and resourceful Brick Store owners adapted and kept the craft beer, tasty food and genial fun flowing without hesitation. 
The pandemic has undoubtedly changed life for the owners and staff of Brick Store. Tedious details, constant attention to keeping surfaces extra sanitary, preparing more take-out food, dealing with limited indoor seating and managing a large beer garden leads to long hours and anxiety among the staff. Mike Gallagher says that what is at the core of the Brick Store has not changed. "We continue to offer wonderful food and drinks, welcome people into a great atmosphere and offer the highest level of hospitality. Overcoming anxiety and indecision while trying to protect our families, our staff, our customers and our business has been challenging."
Challenges During COVID
Regular Brick Store patrons know that the owners and staff run a top-notch establishment with strict attention to detail. Customer safety during COVID has not been an exception, and strict guidelines were implemented that include masks, social distancing, frequent hand washing and a "one guest at a time limit" in the bathrooms. Dave Blanchard notes, "Our workers are serious about these measures, and we know these guidelines have worked extremely well so far. We love getting daily compliments from our guests regarding our attention to safety."
Along with increased sanitary practices and social distancing, the Brick Store owners continue to monitor ever-changing safety updates and recommendations. Mike Gallagher adds, "We put in an air purification system and do frequent filter changes on our HVAC system. We always have doors open and windows cracked for airflow. Training our staff and holding each other accountable for being vigilant with these procedures have been important."
What's Old is New Again
Patrons who have not visited the Brick Store in a few months will be surprised by the changes since COVID hit. In February, renovations for the entire pub began with new furniture and fixtures, updated kitchen equipment, an overhauled beer system and new booths and seating arrangements downstairs. The cozy upstairs Belgian Bar has been temporarily closed since the initial pandemic shutdown, but the owners hope to find a safe way to reopen it within a few weeks. 
Brick Store has set up QR codes around the pub that allow customers to point cameras to view the menus. Customers are encouraged to keep visits to 90 minutes or less, and opening hours have been shortened. "We still have a great seasonal food menu and killer beer list, and we're selling more cocktails than ever," notes Gallagher.
A Light in the Darkness
Lessons learned by Brick Store's staff during the pandemic revolve around patience, open-mindedness, creativity and digging deep. "We’ve put new emphasis on listening to staff, guests, science and our community," Blanchard declares.
When asked if anything positive has come from this pandemic experience, the Brick Store owners answer with resounding positivity. "Aside from extra time to accomplish many renovations, we've been able to reconnect with the pub, the staff and the guests," Blanchard explains. "It's been an unforgettable 'we're all in this together' type of experience, and we haven't worked this hard since we first opened. We've come up with new ideas that will benefit us forever. Our exterior 'stroll through' window and beer garden are two prime examples of ideas that would have never happened if not for the pandemic."
Brick Store even opened a type of "soup kitchen" back in early March that served the staff and community. Free food gave the pub a chance to open its doors for those in need, and the owners all admit that this felt really good. Blanchard says he is "counting down the days until we can show everyone all we've done and how good the Brick Store Pub will be for the next whole bunch of years."
The establishment of a new beer garden to the rear of the pub formed a significant epiphany for Gallagher. "Our staff pushed the idea of a beer garden, and it has worked out so well that I imagine it will always be there," he says. "It has been a special and magical place for staff and guests to gather safely, and it has enabled us during this pandemic to continue to feel like we are a hub for our community."
Emerging from the Pandemic
Where does the Brick Store go from here? What does the future hold? With a passionate desire to keep the pub on the public's radar as a world-class craft beer destination, the owners never seem to rest on their accomplishments. This goal involves remaining true to their original vision, making the most of each situation, keeping the staff employed and earning trust and dollars from guests. "I think it's been huge for us to be able to buy from small local farms, breweries and distilleries," Gallagher notes. "If we want to still have these small businesses around on the other side of the pandemic, we need to continue to spend our money this way. This fills our hearts and allows us to offer the best and freshest beer and food while supporting our friends."
The Brick Store owners would like to thank all their loyal customers for the overwhelming support and positive feedback during the last few months. Readers looking for a safe pub can rest assured that the Brick Store has all the bases covered. Blanchard adds, "Our hearts are full from all the love and support we've received, and we hope to return this love to everyone for a very long time to come." 
Gallagher tears up as he describes the amazing support shown by the community. "From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everyone who donated to our GoFundMe for our staff, ordered food to go and enjoyed our beer garden, pub and front patio. We absolutely would not be here without your support - and this includes not only dollars spent but also the good wishes, the cheering us on, the letters and all the small gestures of encouragement."
Blanchard, Gallagher and Moore have established long-term, deep and meaningful friendships over the years through their pub. Brick Store patrons won’t be surprised to see everyone at the pub wearing a mask, but the owners hope that everyone will sense the smiles underneath.