Before he left to found Creature Comforts in Athens, David Stein developed the recipe for the much beloved, and often elusive, Tropicalia IPA at Twain’s, while pioneering several more beers there.
Stein’s successor, Chase Medlin, followed with some crave-worthy creations of his own, and is set to debut a new craft brewery, Locomotion Brewing Co., in Chamblee, which should be open to the public in spring 2017.
Now, Mike Castagno is stepping in to the head brewer’s boots, bringing with him a wealth of experience as a research chemist, and a bunch of awards as a homebrewer.
I caught up with Castagno and Twain’s co-owner Ethan Wurtzel last week, while the team was getting ready to deliver some kegs to the Decatur Beer Festival.
Castagno, who’s also a certified beer judge, credits his long involvement with the American Homebrewers Association and his Atlanta homebrew club, the Covert Hops Society, with putting him on the path to professional brewing.
“I’ve been homebrewing for 11 years, and I love to cook, and I tried to pull those ideas together and apply as much chemistry and engineering knowledge as I have to the process,” Castagno said. “I’ve been judging beer for the Beer Judge Certification Program since 2009.”
“We met Mike three or four years ago, and we were really impressed with his knowledge and the beers he was making as a homebrewer,” Wurtzel said. “So he was in the back of our minds as Chase was getting ready to move on to open his own brewery.
“Chase will be here for a little while longer to help Mike get started. But, ultimately, it’s about the beer. And we think Mike is going to be making some fantastic beer here.”
Asked what sort of beer he plans to debut, Castagno said he’ll be reaching back into some his favorite homebrew recipes.
“I’d say I have about 20 recipes that have won gold medals somewhere in competition,” Castagno said. “My American pale is pretty well known. Also, my English ESB and brown ale, and lambic and wild beers.
“I’ve been working on an American version of a gose for about four years, so I look forward to making that on a larger scale. I do a lot of work with Belgian-style beers. I’ve developed quite a few techniques to make some really interesting, dry, crisp saisons. And, recently, I’ve been doing a lot of research on lagers.”
Of course, the fact that he’ll be creating his beers in a brewery restaurant with a chef counterpart isn’t lost on Castagno.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Savannah Sasser, our head chef, and sitting down and talking with her about pairing beer and food,” Castagno said. “Maybe we’ll try taking one dish and pairing it with three samples of different styles, like hoppy, malty or sour, to see what customers enjoy. I think that would be a really fun thing.