Photos Cameron Flaisch
Scofflaw: A person who flouts the law, especially by failing to comply with a law that is difficult to enforce effectively.
If the term scofflaw brings to mind thoughts of a rebellious and unconventional nature, then a brewery with an unconventional start is a perfect fit.“We were really rowdy in the beginning when we first came onto the market, and I did it to get attention,” says Founder Matt Shirah. “I wanted to let people know that we were authentic.”
Prior to beginning their company, Founder Matt Shirah and Brewmaster Travis Herman each had careers in drastically different fields than brewing. Shirah was working on Wall Street as he describes, “I was doing your typical work in Manhattan, Fortune 500 stuff, the kind that doesn’t let you spend enough time with your family.”
Herman was working in microbiology as a vaccine developer, creating vaccines that were using yeast as the backbone. And although their careers might have appeared to be far cry from the beer industry, Shirah’s business sense and Herman’s scientific mind would later become the perfect pairing for success. The two were introduced by JP Watts, who now serves as the company’s COO. At the outset of the company in 2016, Herman and his family were living in Scottsdale, Ariz., an area known for its desert climate which surprisingly enough, played a significant role in the development of their brand.
First, Herman depicts the time he tried to ride out an Arizona dust storm, or haboob, in his swimming pool. “I didn’t see what the big deal was, so I sat in the pool and watched one blow over. But that’s dust blown in from the desert floor and after that I was so sick, it was two weeks of sitting on the couch. During this time we were trying to come up with a name for the brewery and I watched a Ken Burns documentary on the origin of the word scofflaw. I thought it was just a really cool word that wasn’t in the mainstream.”
“And he sent it to me and I said, ‘That’s it!’” interjected Shirah.
Within the few years since Shirah and Herman first landed on the name for their brand, Scofflaw Brewing Co. has seen an explosion of growth. What first began as a small operation working out of Shirah’s mother’s basement, has expanded into a 50-plus staff working in an 18,000 square-foot facility located in the Bolton neighborhood of the west side of Atlanta. “The main thing we try to do is create jobs,” says Shirah.“I feel like we’ve done a good job of creating a culture with our employees where everyone is here for one another. Everybody here knows that we’re behind them if they need anything.”
Through it all, the duo still serves up their flagship brew appropriately named Basement, a fitting homage to their starting point. “When we first started we’d have lines of five, ten, then 50, then 400 people deep, so I’d just open up a tap somewhere and start giving beers out, trying to keep people happy,” says Shirah. “We just had a small six-handle-box style bar and so there’d be lines wrapped around the tasting room and out the door.”
“That’s when I said we needed to build a real bar,” Watts chuckles.
“People didn’t mind waiting a little bit and we were doing all we could to take care of them,” adds Matt.
The brewery has an energy unto itself, with a rhythmic hum of both machinery and employees confident in their expertise that propels the brews from grain to can in about 14 to 17 days.
Here, fragrant hops that are deserving of their own line of scented candles are used to create not only the six core brews that Scofflaw has grown to be known for, but will also be used to create one of the brewer’s latest ideas or experiments.
“Any time we have open fermentation space, we’ll let the brewers try something new to see what works,” Watts explains. In a break from customary brewery layouts, Shirah wanted there to be little separation between the actual brewery and the taproom. “I want someone to be able to come in and drink a beer, and be able to look up and see the person making it,” he says.
The taproom seems to be created to foster a sense of community, with long wooden cafeteria-style tables spanning the width of the room and board games scattered throughout, inviting beer-drinkers to make new friends over a flight of beers and a spirited game of scrabble. From here, patrons can enjoy over 20 beers on tap, with roughly half a dozen options available to-go. The same funky, rebellious vibes that the brand evokes are reflected throughout the taproom, with everything from custom chalk art drawn by the same artist who designed each brew’s can, to a life-size goat meets biker sculpture that flanks the bar, to the graffiti-splashed bathrooms that are specifically color coordinated to make visitors question whether they’ve entered through the wrong door after one too many beers.
At only three and a half years in, Scofflaw has gone through its’ sixth cellar expansion in order to keep up with the consumer’s demand for their hoppy, tropical brews, and it doesn’t look like they’re stopping anytime soon.
Aside from the home base brewery and taproom, the company has added a Beer Barn inside the State Farm Arena for thirsty basketball or concert patrons, and is in the process of expanding to a secondary R&D brewery at The Works ATL. “I’m also looking at some real estate now to build a small brewing operation in East Nashville,” says Shirah, noting that V3 Magazine is the first publication sharing that news.
When asked what they attribute that explosion of growth to Herman remarks, “It’s amazing how many people just like to drink!”
“I think it was a combination of a really good story, Matt’s attitude, good timing, really good beer, and that the more time you spend with us, you’ll see that we’re real,” adds Watts.
Looking forward, the team is focused on offering high quality service in order to keep up with the ever-growing demand. “We have an unbelievable team in the tasting room, who all love to work with each other, and all look out for each other, and provide exemplary service,” says Shirah proudly.
When it comes to their patrons, Shirah describes the Scofflaw crowd as not limited to young, rowdy bar-goers, saying, “It’s not one single demographic. The other day I was talking to a 91-year-old woman who was telling me how cool the energy was in here. And we’ll have so many parents come in that I’ve seen it look like Disneyland out there before, because there are so many strollers.” The brewery works to foster this type of community among parents particularly, offering events for children like Easter Egg hunts and photos with Santa, to name a few.
This level of community engagement is not limited to holidays either, as the team works to ensure that Scofflaw operates as a force for good. “Wherever you are, get involved in the community but don’t expect a reward from it,” Shirah says. “Just do it because you want to do it. We do good things for the community, because that’s what is important to us.” Throughout the years Scofflaw has hosted events benefitting a multitude of causes from cancer or arthritis research, to autism awareness, to petting zoos benefitting local elementary schools.
Ultimately, Shirah describes the goal of Scofflaw as much more than creating beer alone. “Beer is not what it’s about. What we’re doing is facilitating relationships with a product that tastes good.”
- SHHHH!!! DON’T ASK WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE BASEMENT! DEVELOPED IN OUR ORIGINAL UNDERGROUND BREWERY, THIS JUICY AND DANK IPA IS LOADED WITH CITRA HOPS IN EVERY SIP. BUT YOU HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR PARENT’S BASEMENT TO GET IT.
- POG Basement
- MEET BASEMENT’S OUTGOING LITTLE BROTHER. A LITTLE LESS BUSINESS, A LOT MORE PARTY. WE ADD IN PASSIONFRUIT, ORANGE AND GUAVA FOR A BIG ASS TROPICAL KICK TAKING YOU OUT OF THE BASEMENT AND STRAIGHT TO THE ISLANDS
- IF YOU CAN PIN DOWN A HOOLIGAN, YOU’LL GET PUNCHED-UP AROMAS FROM GALAXY AND MOSAIC HOPS WITH NOTES OF PASSION FRUIT, MANGO, AND PINEAPPLE. A TRUE OUTLIER… THIS COMPLEX UNFILTERED BEER IS UNLIKE ANY OTHER.
- Double Jeopardy
- THIS JUICY DOUBLE IPA IS WORTH THE RISK! TROPICAL HOPS LEAD DJ’S INTENSE CITRUS FLAVOR AND AROMA, THEN FINISHES WITH A BITTERSWEET BOOZY TINGLE. ITS ONLY OFFENSE IS NOT BEING TRIED TWICE, SO IF CONVICTED, BEWARE OF THE BLACKOUT!
- Dirty Beaches
- WE GOT DOWN AND DIRTY WITH OUR TROPICAL WHEAT. A SPIRITED COLLAB WITH VICTORY BRANDS. THIS HYBRID WHEAT & IPA WHETS YOUR PALATE. JUST LIKE YOU BEACHES LIKE IT. EASY DRINKING WITH A SOFT CREAMY BODY AND WAVES OF TROPICAL FRUIT AROMAS. DIRTY BEACHES IS FILTHY GOOD.
- JAYWALKER IS OUR EASY DRINKING IPA, BUT THIS IPA IS ANYTHING BUT PEDESTRIAN. USING SIMCOE, AMARILLO AND CASCADE HOPS, JAYWALKER IS LIGHT IN BODY BUT NOT IN FLAVOR. IT’S JUST THE TICKET. CROSS THAT LINE, PAY THE FINE!
www.scofflawbeer.com: In 1924, a wealthy Massachusetts prohibitionist named Delcevare King sponsored a contest in which he asked participants to coin an appropriate word to mean “a lawless drinker.” King sought a word that would cast violators or prohibition laws in a light of shame. Two respondents came up independently with the winning word: Scofflaw, formed by combining the verb scoff and the noun law. Henry Dale and Kate Butler, also of Massachusetts, split King’s $200 price. Improbably, despite some early scoffing from language critics, scofflaw managed to pick up steam in the English language and expand to a meaning that went beyond its prohibition roots, referring to one who violates any law, not just laws related to drinking.