Beer Town: What’s old is new as Brick Store Pub opens Cask Bar

Dave Blanchard pulls a pint of cask-conditioned Bell’s Two Hearted IPA at the new Cask Bar at the Brick Store Pub in Decatur. Bob Townsend for The AJC
Caption
Dave Blanchard pulls a pint of cask-conditioned Bell’s Two Hearted IPA at the new Cask Bar at the Brick Store Pub in Decatur. Bob Townsend for The AJC

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Brick Store Pub recently marked its 24th anniversary. And though the occasion wasn’t as festive as usual, the opening of the new Cask Bar — designed to serve only British-style cask-conditioned ale on draft — was cause for celebration.

Dave Blanchard, Mike Gallagher and Tom Moore partnered to open the Brick Store in Decatur on June 27, 1997. Since then, the beloved neighborhood spot has been recognized as one of the best beer bars in the world.

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

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

During the pandemic, the downstairs section of the pub, notable for its iconic horseshoe bar, was reconfigured for social distancing. Meanwhile, a new beer garden installed at the back of the building became a wildly popular destination, and soon will feature its own food truck-style kitchen.

“Upstairs and to the left,” or what famously became known as the Belgian Bar, remains closed to the public. Back down a step or two, though, the cozy mezzanine that once served as a secluded dining area was reimagined as the Cask Bar.

It features four hand-pumped beer engines for pulling pints, a beautiful bar top fashioned from pieces of the Brick Store’s original wood flooring, a row of upholstered bar stools, and three rustic round tables that feel rather exclusive. Most surprisingly, there’s a TV hidden under a mirror on the wall behind the bar, though it’s only revealed when there’s a weekend soccer match.

ExploreBeer Town: Brick Store Pub joins the Knighthood of the Brewers’ Paddle
Friends gather for cask-condition ale, lunch, and a soccer match at the Brick Store Pub’s new Cask Bar. (Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Friends gather for cask-condition ale, lunch, and a soccer match at the Brick Store Pub’s new Cask Bar. (Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Last week, I joined Blanchard at one of the tables, along with Owen Ogletree, a Georgia-based beer writer, who founded the annual Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting.

“I fell in love with cask on my many visits to the U.K.,” Ogletree said. “The soft, natural carbonation allows all the malt, yeast and hop character to shine through, without being covered up. It’s an ancient process. Britain is hanging on to it because it’s part of their history and culture. I’m glad to see hand pumps at the Brick Store. This is boutique beer to the extreme.”

“We’ve tinkered with cask ale since the first day we opened,” Blanchard said. “We had a beer engine, and the beer engine has been on and off over the years. But we found there were so many things that were done so poorly that cask ale got a terrible rap.”

ExploreDeKalb County dining and beer news
Brewtopia Events' Owen Ogletree and Brick Store Pub co-owner Dave Blanchard at the new Cask Bar. (Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
Brewtopia Events' Owen Ogletree and Brick Store Pub co-owner Dave Blanchard at the new Cask Bar. (Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

During the pandemic, transforming the mezzanine into the Cask Bar became a pet project for Blanchard. His architect brother, Rick, helped with the plans. And they soon realized that because the Brick Store’s vintage beer cellar is located directly behind the back wall, it could double as the perfect place to keep the casks.

“We thought, maybe we should just serve our cask ale right out of the cellar at the perfect temp, and that’s how it began,” Blanchard said. “And we realized that this area wasn’t that great, anyway, so what if we made it into a boutique cask ale bar?”

Of course, along with a beautiful bar, there was a need for beautiful cask beer. As it turned out, two iconic craft breweries, Bell’s and Sierra Nevada, were onboard.

“We already had a really good relationship with Bell’s, and we were getting a consistent shipment of Bell’s Two Hearted that we were pouring on the beer engine downstairs for the last year-and-a-half or so,” Blanchard said.

“We’d been having talks with Sierra Nevada about doing something similar with their Pale Ale. Then one day, their brewers from Mills River (North Carolina) came down and checked out what we were doing with the bar, and they definitely wanted to be in on it, too. That was the thing that made me feel like this could really work.”

Currently, Brick Store Pub is the only place to find cask-conditioned Sierra Nevada Pale Ale served from a beer engine. Bell’s Two Hearted and Wild Heaven E.S.B. are on draft, too. And more cask-condition ales from Atlanta breweries, including Creature Comforts, Good Word, Halfway Crooks, and Three Taverns, are on the way.

ExploreMAP: Breweries, brewpubs to try in metro Atlanta

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

About the Author