This week, the coffee magazine Sprudge announced the winners of its inaugural “Sprudge Twenty”. (See the Instagram announcement and the winners tagged here). This class of twenty people are changing the coffee scene around the world. In the words of the magazine, the Sprudge Twenty are people:
[W]hose work challenges and excites us, from every step of the coffee value chain. It includes entrepreneurs and coffee producers (they’re often one and the same!), working baristas and cafe owners, career professionals and those whose careers are just starting, competition success stories and folks working quietly behind the scenes, leading by example.
And from the amazing list of nominees, there are two people from the Atlanta coffee scene who made the list: Sara Frinak and Daniel Brown. Sara is well-known as a volunteer and supporter of coffee events, both regionally in the Southeast, and nationally through the Specialty Coffee Association’s (SCA) USA competitions circuit. You can read more about Sara in this Barista Magazine profile and Sara’s involvement with green coffee in this Medium piece from Ally Coffee (where Sara works). (Perhaps a future spotlight about Sara may appear on this blog).
Daniel Brown at Gilly Brew Bar
Here is the blurb that accompanied the Sprudge piece about Daniel:
Daniel Brown is the founder of Gilly Brew Bar, a successful and important new coffee company based in the Stone Mountain suburb of Atlanta. Housed inside a historic 19th century home known as “The Mayor’s House”, purchased in 2015 by Brown and his wife, Shellane Brown, Gilly pushes quality and innovation across an ever-changing range of premium coffee “elixirs” featuring dried herbs, bitters, and aromatics. Brown was nominated by multiple people for The Sprudge Twenty, and in one nomination essay is described as “one of the most innovative, creative, savvy interpreters of the coffee experience I have ever encountered.”
Daniel’s nomination for this award was submitted by Justin Brostek (from Atlanta’s Read Shop) and Juanita Brown. I asked Justin if he wanted to contribute a quote to accompany this post, which he gladly agreed to do. Here is what Justin had to say about Daniel:
Daniel is, by far, one of the most influential voices in the coffee scene today. He’s proud but never egotistical, always insanely approachable and humble. He’s a trendsetter at heart—always looking for the next thing but never letting others tell him what that is—and his shop embodies that. It’s old, but with soul; fresh, but still timeless. Daniel is redefining mastery in the coffee industry—purism is one thing, but instead he chooses to tell the story of how coffee can be the foundation for art. And he’s doing all of this by serving—Daniel’s employees speak of how he’s never above the worst task in the shop. He’s built a family in a way every shop dreams they could build. I don’t think there’s another person in Atlanta who puts more love, acceptance, and creativity into the coffee scene than Daniel does.
I profiled Gilly Brew Bar last year with respect to their inventive summer elixirs (I visited Gilly Brew Bar approximately two weeks after their grand opening). More recently, I went back to Gilly Brew Bar in March to capture some more scenes from the coffee shop as well as to sample the Winter elixirs that were slowly being unwound from the menu in preparation for the release of the Spring elixirs.
A few of the photos from the visit in March appeared in this Instagram post (with the focus on the drinks). However, this blog post showcases a few more behind-the-scenes photos with Daniel performing his magic behind the bar.
An interesting story about the image below. After I captured it, I realized in post-processing that there was a chocolate drop that slowly cruised down onto the wooden ledge. On Instagram DMs, I asked Daniel whether he thought the drop was distracting (I also have a version where I cleaned it up in post), but he agreed that it worked for this particular image. I also liked it. And so this was the version I shared on Instagram. I think the metaphor here is that sometimes progress isn’t perfect but nevertheless beautiful. What do you think?
Last image in the series, which I think is representative. If you visit Gilly Brew Bar, you’re likely to find Daniel smiling or cracking jokes. He takes the craft of making amazing elixirs seriously while having fun. A vibrant personality such as Daniel’s adds to the experience (in every sense of the word) that you are likely to have when you visit Gilly Brew Bar.
Congratulations Daniel on being nominated to the Sprudge Twenty! So well-deserved!
If you haven’t yet checked out Gilly Brew Bar in Stone Mountain and what Daniel and his team are executing there, what have you been waiting for? I hope you make the trek to sample the Spring elixirs that are now on the menu.