A little over a decade ago, Justin Crandall fell in love with the entire home brewing process. From the hops through fermentation, it was something that fit with the electrical engineer’s nature.
And since he began crafting his own beer, Crandall has also had a desire to share it with others.
“The science and cooking kind of melded together for me. I’ve been home brewing for 13 years ... pretty much that whole time I wanted to open a brewery,” he said.
After attending classes and pouring plenty of pints, Crandall decided that this particular dream may become a reality. He and his wife, who is an ophthalmologist, own an eye care business in Jesup. Once that became a thriving practice, Crandall got the chance to pursue his dream of owning a brewery. Of course, like most pursuits, it took a good deal of work.
“I went to brewer’s school and would get up at 5 a.m. to do my classes,” he said. “And we also have two young kids ... so it was kind of a lot.”
His hard work paid off. Crandall opened Hop Soul Brewery at 271 Warren Mason Blvd. in Brunswick in mid-March. The location, off Hwy 341, offers counter service for those looking to order pizzas, salads and appetizers.
“We have a chef and we make everything from scratch,” he said. “We’ll be adding more things in the future.”
Cashiers also check the IDs and each patron is given an armband. Beer cards are purchased pre-loaded with a limited amount of funds on each card.
Once finished with the cashier, guests take the card to the “beer buffet” which offers descriptions of each brew on tap. The electronic screens allow guests to put their card in the machine in exchange for the beer. They can sample tastes or pour a full glass under the watchful eye of an employee stationed nearby to answer questions or offer assistance. The screens also show how much money is left on the card as the sampling commences.
From there, patrons take their brews to indoor or outdoor seating with games for adults and children. Employees then deliver food orders to the tables. While the system is a bit unconventional, Crandall feels like it’s a solid method, one that is often used in larger cities.
“Having another business, I wanted something that didn’t require a lot of employees so I can focus on the brewing side,” he said. “I really like the self pour idea so you didn’t have to deal with bartenders and that whole deal. A lot of people have never seen this even in the bigger cities.”
Each day, Hop Soul offers a mix of 10 beers on tap, with several made in house. The flavors and styles vary from light to heavier.
“Two are ciders. We also have wine on tap. The rest are all kinds of ales, lagers, IPAs, sour beers,” he said. “I’m still getting feedback on what people like here. We also distribute. We’re at Tipsy’s, King and Prince and Mellow Mushroom.”
Crandall is still nailing down his flavors and will continue to experiment. Personally, he favors hoppy beers but knows that doesn’t suit everyone’s pallet.
Some of their standards in-house beers include Chunky Monkey, a peanut butter-chocolate brown ale; Hopthomologist, named for Crandall’s wife; Peach Blonde Roots; Oats on Boats, a pale ale; SSIPA, a New England IPA; and Captain Cranberry Cider, among others.
He feels the ever-evolving selection will keep guests coming back to the brewery.
“I love IPAs, double IPAs, anything with hops in it. But I love pretty much all kinds of beers. In my 13 years, I’ve brewed everything from more modern to more classical,” he said. “I try to have a mix so that everyone has something they like.”