Beer Town: Checking out Dr. Scofflaw’s with its chief brewing officer

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Some four years after co-founders Matt Shirah and Travis Herman opened Scofflaw Brewing, Basement IPA is still its flagship beer. But the company continues to evolve and expand in multiple directions.

In addition to the main 50-barrel production brewery and 15-barrel pilot brewery in northwest Atlanta, last year Shirah and Herman debuted the sprawling 48-tap Scofflaw Beer Barn at State Farm Arena.

This year, on Halloween, no less, they revealed their biggest project to date. Dr. Scofflaw’s Laboratory and Beer Garden is one of the anchors at the Works, the 80-acre Selig development along Chattahoochee Avenue that includes a Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, a food hall, retail spaces, and a park.

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Recently, I took a tour of the 9,000-square-foot-plus, indoor-outdoor Dr. Scofflaw’s with Herman, who explained that the name is a tribute to his mad scientist alter ego.

Standing in front of a mural of the comic book-style character, I could see the resemblance.

“The Dr. Scofflaw character has been out about three years, now,” Herman said. “It started with cutouts and this just felt like a natural progression. The very first one was me in a white apothecary jacket with my hair all teased out and crazy welding goggles. We’ve done three or four renditions of that and a couple of beer labels.”

Far from mad, Herman is a real scientist, with a degree in chemistry and microbiology. He worked in pharmaceuticals doing commercial fermentations, before earning a brewing science degree at the University of California. He also spent time at two of California’s most esteemed breweries, Lost Abbey and Russian River, before moving to Atlanta and partnering with Shirah.

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Dr. Scofflaw’s is dedicated to experimentation. With more than 70 taps, and a sophisticated seven-barrel brewhouse, Herman and his crew can conjure a steady stream of one-off beers and get immediate feedback from visitors. And it may serve to tweak and improve core beers, too.

“It has all the bells and whistles, and it’s very similar to the 15-barrel system, with options for decoction, step-mashing, and a chilled whirlpool,” he said. "But we got so busy and so big so fast at Scofflaw, I never really got to use them. Now this place is going to be my playground. I expect it to be a lot of small-batch stuff, a lot of R&D stuff, and barrel-aged stuff. I have a lot of things I want to try.”

While at Dr. Scofflaw’s, I sampled Pacific Gravity, a lovely beer described as an “old school West Coast IPA brewed and dry hopped with Centennial, Chinook, Cascade.” A fairly big fruited sour, Isle of Guava, was a smooth surprise from the experimental side.

Walking around the grounds, which includes a covered patio, a takeout window, and an area for live music, Herman reflected on what it took to get to this point.

“Let’s be real. When you start a brewery, it’s all about the beer,” he said. "The ambiance comes in later on, after you have a following and money. This is our attempt at nice. But it’s still got enough of our style that it’s still Scofflaw.

“I’m really excited. I can’t wait to get it into full swing and really start turning out some of those things that people are like, ‘How did you do that?’ And I guess that’s things that haven’t even been invented, yet.”

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on Twitter and @ajcdining on Instagram.