Atlanta Classics: Brick Store Pub celebrates 25 years

Brick Store Pub co-owners (from left) Tom Moore, Mike Gallagher and Dave Blanchard enjoy a hand-pulled pint at the Cask Bar. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Brick Store Pub co-owners (from left) Tom Moore, Mike Gallagher and Dave Blanchard enjoy a hand-pulled pint at the Cask Bar. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Back when Dave Blanchard, Tom Moore and Mike Gallagher partnered to open Brick Store Pub on June 27, 1997, the friends from the University of Georgia had no idea that the run-down brick storefront on East Court Square in Decatur would become a beloved neighborhood institution — let alone, one of the most celebrated beer bars in the world.

“We didn’t open as a beer bar; we just opened as a bar,” Moore remembered. “And, I think people were pleasantly surprised that the food was good compared to most bars at the time.”

Soon after passage of the 2004 Georgia law that made higher alcohol beers legal in the state, the partners added what became known as the Belgian Bar, celebrating distinctive Belgian beers, such as St. Bernardus and Orval. In return, the Belgian Brewers Guild honored Brick Store in 2016 with the Knighthood of the Brewers’ Paddle for “loyal services to the brewing profession.”

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Along with the Belgian Bar, the addition of a beer cellar, in what once had been a bank vault, provided a place for hundreds of vintage and limited-edition bottles to be stored, aged and offered on a special reserve list.

Brick Store has continued to evolve since then, with some of the most popular transformations during the past two-plus years.

When the pandemic closed the bar for a time, the partners took the opportunity to gut and revamp the kitchen. And, after that, two more major projects were born.

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Brick Store Pub Sausage Root Vegetable Mash with pickled mustard seeds paired with Westmalle Trappist Ale. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Brick Store Pub Sausage Root Vegetable Mash with pickled mustard seeds paired with Westmalle Trappist Ale. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Combined ShapeCaption
Brick Store Pub Sausage Root Vegetable Mash with pickled mustard seeds paired with Westmalle Trappist Ale. (Mia Yakel for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Mia Yakel

Credit: Mia Yakel

“The last few years have been the hardest in the 25 years we’ve had the pub,” Gallagher said. “But, like many things in life, it’s also been the most rewarding in many ways. We had to roll up our sleeves and get creative.”

In 2021, Brick Store opened a new area designed to serve only British-style, cask-conditioned ale on draft. Up above the main bar, the cozy mezzanine that once served as a secluded dining area was reimagined and renamed the Cask Bar.

And, in the early days of the pandemic, an outdoor beer garden sprang up in a back alleyway previously used for staff parking, recycling and trash pickup. Through at least three iterations, it has blossomed into an inviting outdoor space where there’s often a wait for a seat.

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Expect lederhosen while raising a stein to Oktoberfest in Brick Store's new beer garden. Courtesy Brick Store Pub

Credit: Handout

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Credit: Handout

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Expect lederhosen while raising a stein to Oktoberfest in Brick Store's new beer garden. Courtesy Brick Store Pub

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

“I don’t think it’s too hyperbolic to say the beer garden saved Brick Store during the pandemic,” Gallagher said.

While the garden was “a game-changer” and “clearly had to stay,” Blanchard said, it was such a hit that “it wasn’t sustainable for our kitchen or our staff.”

The answer turned out to be a permanent food truck parked in the back of the beer garden. In addition to a separate menu, with items available only outside, the truck is equipped with a bar that features 12 taps, including a side-pull faucet, and four draft cocktails.

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Frank Boon (left) of Boon Brewery honors Dave Blanchard of Brick Store Pub as a knight of the Brewers Paddle. CONTRIBUTED BY: Belgian Brewers.

Credit: Bob Townsend

Frank Boon (left) of Boon Brewery honors Dave Blanchard of Brick Store Pub as a knight of the Brewers Paddle. CONTRIBUTED BY: Belgian Brewers.

Credit: Bob Townsend

Combined ShapeCaption
Frank Boon (left) of Boon Brewery honors Dave Blanchard of Brick Store Pub as a knight of the Brewers Paddle. CONTRIBUTED BY: Belgian Brewers.

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

The tag line for Brick Store’s 25th anniversary week is “Celebrating 25 years of Community, Craft and Culture.”

“We could have the world’s greatest beer selection, but that wouldn’t mean anything if we didn’t have the community and the culture around us,” said recently returned Brick Store beer manager Neil Callaghan. “That’s what makes this pub unique. That’s what brought me back.”

Starting June 20, there will be guest chefs and special beers every day, culminating in a grand celebration on June 25.

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“I swear, I can remember the 20th anniversary like it was yesterday, and I cannot believe we’re already at 25,” Blanchard said. “Having to turn around with the pandemic, and going from day to day, while trying to plan this huge to-do, is challenging.”

“It feels different than I thought it would, because of the last couple of years,” Gallagher said. “It’s this harried sense of being pulled in a lot of different directions. And, at the same time, it’s more deeply rooted and appreciative of our team, our community, and our regular customers. I’m in awe of all the support we’ve gotten. It’s our ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ type moment.”

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