Brothers-in-law hope to bring Gwinnett its very first brewery

Marty Mazzawi is a dentist, part of a multi-generational family dynasty that's cared for southern Gwinnett's molars and incisors for a few decades.

John Reynolds is a "quality assurance manager" at a software company, which is probably more exciting than it sounds.

They're brothers-in-law that, clearly, possess a bunch of brains and ambition, but they share a fondness for beer, too — one so strong that they're gunning to bring Gwinnett County its very first craft brewery.

And they're damn close to pulling it off, too.

"Part of what's made us really excited," Reynolds said last week, "is how excited everybody else is getting about it as well."

'Pretty darn cool'

On Sept. 7, the Lawrenceville City Council will consider a rezoning request that would pave the way for Mazzawi and Reynolds to bring their brewery (tentatively named Slowdown Brewing Company) to a former trouser factory at 407 N. Clayton St., just a few blocks north of the main downtown square.

If and once the zoning is approved, the circa-1910 building would lose its current look ("Big Blue Eyesore," let's call it) and gain a more eye-pleasing one splashed with wood and warm yellows. Build-out would take two to three months, Mazzawi said, and preserve the building's character while making room for a 10-barrel brewhouse (initially) and tasting room.

"The building we got," Mazzawi said, "is pretty darn cool inside."

If all of the required licensing and permitting goes as planned, the brewery could be up and running by early 2017. The goal is to start with tastings and tours, with full-on distribution further down the road.

What, exactly, they'll offer is still in the works — but an IPA, a blonde, a brown ale and a Belgian trippel are likely candidates.

"I want to do very approachable beers, especially for the Lawrenceville market," Reynolds said. "The craft beer revolution is still taking foot."

Secret Santa

Somehow, everything started with a Christmas gift.

A few years back, Mazzawi picked Reynolds' name in the family Secret Santa drawing, and opted to buy him a homebrew kit. Reynolds dug it.

At the same time, Mazzawi was launching a coffee shop. He floated the idea of packing some of his coffee and asking a brewery to make a coffee stout. Last September, they decided that was dumb — why didn't they just start their own brewery?

And why not Lawrenceville?

'Just makes sense'

Gwinnett County isn't exactly known as a bastion for craft beer, or craft beer drinkers.

Unlike some of its suburban counterparts (Kennesaw, Alpharetta, even Woodstock and Cumming), it has no brewery of its own. Wrecking Bar, an intown Atlanta brewpub, has talked about opening a brewery on a farm in Loganvillebut currently only grows produce there.

That said, if anywhere in Gwinnett is ready, it may be downtown Lawrenceville. Non-stereotypically-suburban, craft-beer-serving restaurants like The Local Republic and Universal Joint have already developed big followings, and various events and festivals (not to mention the critically acclaimed Aurora Theatre) draw diverse crowds.

The city itself seems to be on board, too. Lisa Sherman, Lawrenceville's director of communications and community development, said a brewery "just makes sense for our vision."

"Destination establishments like breweries and restaurants support the ‘sense of place’ essential to building a strong and active community," Sherman said. "We encourage, welcome and seek-out original locations such as the one Mr. Mazzawi and his team are creating with this new brewery because we want that destination downtown to serve residents, visitors and professionals alike."