Words by Nicole Letts
Photos by Peter Murray
An expat army ranger and a European backpacker walk into a bar. . .
No, this isn’t the beginning of a corny dad joke, but of a love story. Sam and Sara Kazmer met in an Irish pub in Florence. They fell in love with each other in Tacoma, with food in Argentina, and with beer in Belgium. So, it should come as no surprise that when it came time to name their brewery, Elsewhere, wanderlust was front of mind. “We wanted to take people out of the daily grind and put them somewhere else. Let us give you a South American food program, a German beer, and a pub that doesn't have the typical brewery vibe,” recalls Sara.
It was during their many travels abroad that Sam and Sara became fascinated with beer. “When you go to pubs in England and Germany, they have wine, they have hard alcohol, and they have beer. They just happen to make the beer. So it’s more about the experience, and they make the beer to be the beverage that’s served,” Sara explains.
In 2017, while stationed in Washington State, Sam had a parachuting accident that left him with a lot of broken bones, a medical retirement, and an excessive amount of time for home brewing. Around this time, a brewery opened within walking distance of the couple’s apartment. Sara, a marketing expert tired of a commute to Seattle and the grind that went with it, took a break from her day job to manage the brewery and to learn more about the back end of brewery operations.
Inspired by Sam's passion, by Sara's new field, and by the growing beer industry, the two decided to take a leap of faith. They spent over a year traveling and speaking with brewery owners throughout North America, South America, and Europe. Then they headed back to Atlanta, Sam’s hometown, to open their own brewpub. Elsewhere was born. The brewery located in Atlanta's Grant Park neighborhood has over 10 beers on tap and a hearty Argentinian-inspired menu. Here, Sam and Sara transport visitors beyond Atlanta into the world of craft beer.
Tell me about the accident that ultimately put you, Sam, on the brewery path.The unit I was with in Washington was an airborne ranger unit. We did an annual airborne seizure exercise. My parachute collapsed on that particular night. I burned in, landed on the tarmac, and broke my leg and pelvis and part of my back. That was in July of 2015. I actually started home brewing in September. I had exhausted Netflix, so I was looking for a way to get up and exercise a little bit. When I say exercise, I mean walk around the house with my crutches because I couldn't really walk. [Brewing] was a hobby, but I really enjoyed it. A traumatic experience like that makes you think.
Sara, is that when your expertise kicked in too?
I took my branding [background] and knew I wanted to create a more robust story to start a brewery because there were 5,000 breweries in the country at the time. That's when we turned his medical retirement into a year of traveling. We took a gap year, backpacked, and met with various brewmasters and owners, in all of these different places, to develop the feel of our beer program, food program, and atmosphere.
Besides the accident, what do you think was the real catalyst and inspiration behind wanting to open a brewery specifically?
Sara: We would go to these towns in Germany and in Belgium, and these breweries only make three beer recipes. These people have been drinking these three beers for a century, and they're not sick of them. That was a light bulb moment. We took our recipes for pilsners, Hefeweizens, and saisons. They're low alcohol, so people can drink them over and over and not get drunk and not get full, and that's what we wanted to bring back here. Most of our beer is between 4 and 6 percent proof. We’re surrounded by families here, and they want a 4 percent beer so when they’re done, they can go be Mom and Dad, and not want to cry.
To switch gears a little bit, let’s talk about your food program. What inspires you about Argentinian food specifically?Sara: We were in Buenos Aires and starving for lunch one day. There was some tiny, hole-in-the-wall place where it just smelled like grilled meat.
Sam: Actual smoke was coming out from the door.
Sara: We walked in, and there was a narrow bar that sat 10 people as well as two tables. There were two taps on the bar, and behind it was this giant fireplace. The bartenders were flipping the meat and pouring the beer, and it was just this simple concept of hard meat with this light lager. It just paired so well together. We hadn't seen this before.
Why do you think your menu pairs so well with your beers?
Sara: Have you ever heard of a cicerone before? It's kind of like the beer equivalent to a sommelier. With a lot of these dishes, you can take beer and a dish and make a totally different combination.
Sam: Me, Sara, and our GM, we're all certified cicerones. Our GM's an advanced cicerone, and our brewmaster is basically a beer judge. Then our chef, he spent six years down at the Versace Mansion in Miami, so he's got a huge fine-dining background.
You opened in the middle of the pandemic. How has the first year been? What are you doing to combat the fallout?
Sara: We have a membership program, much like Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, you sign up for six months or a year to buy beer ahead of time, and it’s sold to you at a discount. It is kind of like a loyalty program.
Sam: The membership literally allowed us to survive in the month of August. It allowed us to pay our rent and our payroll.
Sara: We didn't want to do a Kickstarter fund to raise money. At the time, there were huge funds going on for people that were closing their doors, and there were so many other great causes like Black Lives Matter. So for us to be like, "We're starting a brewery. Give us money," it just felt wrong.
Sam: But we had a product that we could exchange, so we used it.
What is your vision for Elsewhere?
Sara: We want this place to be approachable, to be the neighborhood pub that you can go get dinner twice a week and not break the bank. There are also so many more feminine touches in here than in most breweries. The atmosphere and the design is a huge part of it.
Sam: And the flavors of the beer too. It’s important for us to be inclusive. We have beer. We have gin. We have whiskey. We've got two beers that we use grape must in. They pour pink. They taste very wine-forward. So we try to fill that gap as well. You're never going to make everybody happy, but we give it a college try.
Sara: There's no dude beers or chick beers here. It's a place for everyone to enjoy everything.