emory-wire

Ale in a Day's Work

In great part because Jonathan Baker 05B had a hard time getting up on Friday mornings, Monday Night Brewing was born.

By Elizabeth Cobb Durel

Jonathan Baker 05B and Peter Kiley, Brewmaster

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Monday Night Brewing began in an Atlanta garage in 2006. Jonathan Baker 05B was a member of a Bible study that met at 6:00 a.m. on Friday mornings. “For guys in our mid-twenties, 6:00 a.m. came very early on Fridays,” says Baker. The group realized they wanted to get to know each other socially as well, so soon, the studies moved to Monday nights. It was the middle of the beer home-brewing kit heyday, so along with their Bibles, a few of the guys brought their kits.

“Three of us really took to it,” says Baker. “We ended up being the three guys that branched off and made it a dream job.” They spent five years developing recipes and learning the industry before getting into commercial brewing in 2011.

Along with Bible study and beer brewing, Monday nights were also about eating. “You’ve got to go to work the next day so you can't have six beers,” says Baker, which led to Monday Night Brewing focusing on flavorful beers meant to be sipped and savored. It set them apart in the beginning, and as craft beers became more popular, Monday Night Brewing developed a reputation for small batch IPA and barrel aged beers, which recently led to a dedicated facility to the trendy barrel aged sour beers.

What began as a Bible study in a garage with a few guys, a brewing kit, and dinner has expanded into two Atlanta-based tap rooms—one in West Midtown and one in the West End open seven days a week.

Only sold in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, Monday Night Brewing intends to stay close to home and to keep strengthening their hometown roots. “In general we don't have aspirations to be a national brand,” says Baker. “Frankly that just doesn't sound very fun.”

 

Monday Night Brewing Cofounders

The co-founders of Monday Night Brewing: Jonathan Baker 05B, CMO, Jeff Heck, CEO and Joel Iverson, COO.

Photo by JTrav

Recently, Baker stepped away from his barrels and vats to talk with EmoryWire for a bit: 

Was this your first foray into entrepreneurship?

Well, I had a lawn mowing business back in high school, so yes, Monday Night Brewing is my first high-risk foray into entrepreneurship.

What's your best-selling beer?

Slap Fight, a West Coast style, just really solid everyday India Pale Ale.

What’s the hot new thing in beer?

The wine-afication of beer if you will, the tequila barrel aged and bourbon barrel aged stouts, the higher end beers designed to pair with food. They are the kinds of heavy beers you’re not going to find at Publix because they're too expensive and the larger format bottles.

That sounds super strong.

It depends on how you make them. A beer in a bourbon barrel for two years will taste a lot different from one out there for three months.

Your beer names are pretty memorable (i.e. Slap Fight, Han Brolo).

In Han Brolo we use lactose in that beer and also some interesting malts which makes it chewy, like Chewbacca. Slap Fight hits you in the face with hops.

Did you mean to become a brewer?

No, I didn't even like beer that much until I started brewing it and gained an appreciation for the process and you're working with the living organism, yeast, which makes it half art, half science. Even more than the beverage, I fell in love with the community of beer. It is a beverage that can break down walls between people and start conversations. Beer transcends socioeconomic and racial divides.

On beer snobbery

I'm not a beer snob. For instance, Miller Lite is a really well-made beer. There's just a different time and place for every beer.

What’s the time and place for a beer from Monday Night Brewing?

With friends and good conversation. We intentionally have food pairings on all of our beers. And, some of the barrel aged beers and the sours are special occasion beers.

On failure and recovery

We fail all the time. We were trying to make a Christmas Ale and we ended up putting way too much spruce extract. It just tasted like Pine Sol. As long as you acknowledge failure and learn from it, you won’t make those mistakes again. Failure is inevitable and always comes before success.

Best advice

My dad said your legacy is not what you do, but who you do it with and the people you helped along the way. Stopping and thinking about the human side of entrepreneurship is often overlooked.

Worst advice

Start a brewery. But, you've got to be a little bit contrarian to be an entrepreneur.

What makes you the most proud?

Building something that not only supports people's livelihood but also is something people are passionate about and connect with at a personal level. Building a brand people associate with their city and their lifestyle.

What's your secret talent?

I write poetry.

What kind of poetry? Are we talking beer limericks or are we talking about sonnets?

No, it's usually pretty angsty.

So, you could be a Death Cab for Cutie song?

Exactly.

Editor's Note: Elizabeth Cobb Durel has an appreciation for a well brewed sour ale, but is still going to get the mister a Monday Night Brewing Blind Pirate tie for Father’s Day.

Jonathan Baker is a 2018 Emory Entrepreneur Award winner, sponsored by Emory Entrepreneur Network. Watch his acceptance speech below, and find out how you can meet alumni entrepreneurs like him.

Jonathan Baker's Acceptance