In his 50 years among us Jeff Kressin has been a lot of things pilot, husband, father, Air Force officer, entrepreneur, Alpaca farmer, consultant, franchise owner and more. But now he is doing something really important, bringing world-class beer to thirsty downtowners! I am kidding of course, but his vision has filled a void in Middle Georgia and the Downtown Macon location is usually packed.
While growlers have been around for a while, Middle Georgia has just started to come on board. While Carriage Hills Bottle Shop and Ocmulgee Traders are 2 places offering growler refills (or a quick pint), nobody is doing it on the scale of Kessler’s places. Jeff was introduced to the booming craft beer industry by his good friend Tom Butler at an Atlanta growler shop and the wheels started turning. “Tom, my son Nate and I then began to challenge each other with who could make the best craft beer at home (and who had the best gear) so that we could learn everything possible about the industry. ”
Apparently, Tom jumped into making his own beer with both feet. Several months into the obsession, he became convinced that he could make the World’s best Hefeweizen (Bavarian Wheat Beer) beating even his favorite, Paulaner. He even went so far as to call the company to see if he could trick them into giving up secret ingredients – didn’t happen!
So, Jeff recalls, “Tom calls me up one day and says, ‘It’s finished! I have a perfect match only even better than Paulaner’s Hefeweizen, you have to come try it and see for yourself.’ Knowing I have that exact product on my shelf at the store, I swing by and grab one to bring to the house so we can do a side by side comparison. We break out the glasses, and pour them both and it was obvious they were not even close in color. After smelling the aroma, I asked ‘Did you put skunk butt in this?’ The taste however, was not far off. It was funny to see how quickly he had gained so much confidence in such a short time. I am happy to say, after crushing his confidence with tough love and the truth, Tom is now an exceptional home brewer producing beer consistently that rivals many well-known beers from around the World and if I could offer his beer on our taps, you’d all be amazed.”
During this experimental time, Jeff and crew immersed themselves in the business of learning craft beer and the industry before opening their first store called Lazy Dog Growler in Warner Robins. “When I began searching for a second location for my business, I was seriously considering Columbus and Stockbridge Georgia as the primary contenders, with North Macon as a possible option. It was ironic that Tim Hughes from the Macon Chamber contacted me and asked if I would consider opening a second location in downtown Macon. He was so articulate, professional and polite that I told him I would give him the opportunity to share with me the reasons why I should consider historic Macon.”
Jeff continues, “Tim took the time to line up a host of people to help sell the virtues of the City. The day of our initial tour, I met officials from the city, developers and several business owners in the downtown area. The more research I did, the more I liked the idea of a store in downtown Macon. The next hurdle was getting the laws changed to accommodate the Just Tap’d business model. This was no small feat either, but the Macon Chamber, in collaboration with the Executive Director of Urban Development Alex Morrison, spearheaded the effort on my behalf to get the job done. Macon has a great deal of art, culture, history and entertainment, all you have to do is open your eyes and take a little time to appreciate all that Macon has to offer.”
And what has been the community’s response? “We have received an overwhelming and very humbling, positive response from the community. Since we have opened, we have added a second bathroom, tripled our seating capacity and are now in the middle of an expansion project that will provide a terrific private venue in the basement as well as a food service so our customers don’t have to bring food in like they do now. This will provide a much more convenient and positive experience when hanging out with friends, loved ones, or business acquaintances.”
The future for Jeff’s latest adventure looks very bright. “We recently (very quietly) unveiled an affiliate program where aspiring, or seasoned, entrepreneurs can start their own Just Tap’d business under our banner without the high costs and constraints normally associated with a franchise business model. Lazy Dog Growler, now Just Tap’d, pioneered the current business model in the State of Georgia, whereby you can not only get yourself a growler fill, but drink pints on-site.”
As far as the downtown location, Jeff has some changes, “It was only logical that we would begin offering some form of food service as well. So, that is where we are headed now. We are well underway with construction of our kitchen and an exclusive beer cellar venue that can be used for busy night overflow and special events. I envision one more significant step in the evolutionary process of building our brand, but I will hold that in reserve for now while we focus on the current project, so stay tuned for more great things to come in the future!”
And for all the beer-loving Maconites, I will end with a hearty thank you to the Macon Chamber for all you have done to bring Just Tap’d to Macon!