First Draft: Orpheus brewmaster Jason Pellett

Pellett on getting lucky, pushing beer boundaries in the South, and why he’s obsessed with sours

Orpheus Brewing’s slogan — Don’t look back — is one that Jason Pellett takes to heart. “My philosophy’s always been ‘if there’s a lot of people going somewhere, let them do it,’” the 33-year-old brewmaster says. “It doesn’t mean it’s a bad place to go, but why would I do the same thing as everybody else?”

Orpheus — which opened its tasting room on May 24 and debuted its beer at the Porter on May 28 — is living by those words, creating beers that most Georgia breweries don’t, largely sours and inventive takes on saisons and India Pale Ales. About six years ago, while making ends meet as a trumpet player and a part-time teacher, Pellett realized that no one in Georgia was making the beers he was most interested in, so he took it upon himself. Those beers include Atalanta, a tart plum saison inspired by King of Pops, and a seasonal IPA series. Orpheus will start canning Atalanta, its summer IPA, and a dry-hopped sour saison called Serpent Bite in late June or early July.

Orpheus turned from a homebrewing fantasy into a commercial reality in 2011, when Porter co-owner Molly Gunn introduced Pellett to a couple investor friends. Taken with Pellett’s beer and vision, they spent a couple years developing a business plan and raising money before signing a lease on a space on Dutch Valley Place just off the Beltline, overlooking Piedmont Park. “There’s so much luck involved,” he says.

A few weeks after Orpheus’ launch, Creative Loafing caught up with Pellet and picked his brain about getting lucky, pushing beer boundaries in the South, and why he’s obsessed with sours.

Describe your first beer.

I remember sips of my dad’s beers when I was young. He would normally drink Lowenbrau. It was terrible. I was just a kid, and he would offer sips. I was touring with a jazz band when I turned 21, and we were hardly getting paid, but we would always have a bar tab. So I decided to take advantage and find a beer I liked, which was Warsteiner Dunkel. But then we got to a place in Charleston that didn’t have it, but they had Guinness. I tried it, and for quite a while, all I really drank was dark, British beers. I remember every single important beer I’ve had.

How did you get into brewing?

I was around 22 or so. I was into it, but I was cooking everything from scratch, baking my breads, making curry pastes — it just didn’t seem right to not also make my own beer.

How did you get into sours?

I got obsessed with them. I had my first one March 18, 2009. It was a Duchesse De Bourgogne, from Belgium’s Brouwerij Verhaeghe. That was about the only thing you could get on draft semi-regularly. Shortly after that, I discovered there were shelves of Cantillon and 3 Fonteinen at Green’s. Not anymore. That was the golden time for getting sours in Georgia.

What would you like to see change in Georgia’s beer culture?

I actually think the culture is great. Laws could change, but as far as the culture, more exposure to a wider variety of beer can only be a good thing. I think Georgia has done very well for what it has, which, I mean, it’s not like it has nothing. It has two of the greatest beer bars in the world. I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you if it wasn’t for the Porter and Brick Store, and neither would probably most of the brewers that you talk to now that are starting breweries. There wouldn’t be much of a beer culture without them.