Recently, I caught up with Bainbridge and Van Ginderachter at Halfway Crooks, where they were simultaneously brewing a batch of beer and working with a crew that was putting the finishing touches on the taproom.
Bainbridge grew up in Georgia, graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in electrical engineering, and took a research job in computer engineering. Van Ginderachter grew up in Belgium, graduated from brewing school, and worked at several Belgian breweries before moving to Atlanta to become the brewmaster at Three Taverns in Decatur.
Like so many others building new breweries in Georgia right now, Bainbridge and Van Ginderachter said the 2017 changes in state law that allowed breweries to sell beer directly to consumers prompted them to pursue a plan for Halfway Crooks.
“When Shawn and I started talking, we knew we really wanted to control our product, and have a direct relationship with our customers,” Van Ginderachter said. “You can’t do all that with distribution.”
“I think you can tell the whole story of your beer to the customers,” Bainbridge said. “Today, when you go to the grocery store and see thousands of beers on the shelf, how do you choose? Where do you start? It’s kind of the reason this feels like a bar versus a brewery.
“We wanted to make this place feel unique to our personalities. This is a refection of both Joran and I in the design. And the architect did a great job bringing that together. I think it’s important today to really be authentic to who you are instead of just trying to pick something out of the air.”
As to the kind of beer they intend to brew, Bainbridge and Van Ginderachter said lager was what they easily agreed on as a mainstay, and other styles would follow in turn.
“We like drinking lagers,” Bainbridge declared, wearing a Halfway Crooks signature ball cap that reflected that sentiment. “Our palates have gotten fatigued on IPAs, and seeing the same things over and over. I think the consumer is starting to see that, too.”
“Right now, we have an American pale ale, a Belgian pale ale, a lager, a saison and a table beer,” Van Ginderachter said. “We actually have two brewing systems. We have our 10-barrel system that we brew all of our bigger batches on. Then we have Shawn’s homebrew system that we brew some smaller batches on. We also have four lagering tanks behind the bar that are also serving tanks.”
Asked to describe the big idea behind Halfway Crooks, Bainbridge and Van Ginderachter agreed that “quality over quantity” was it.
“Quality over quantity, and a close relationship with our customers, for sure,” Van Ginderachter said. “And definitely a neighborhood place. Not only just the neighborhood here. But also a bar where you can walk in on a Friday, and you don’t have to text anybody, because you know that someone you know will be here and you can just hang out.”
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