Costick has a good thing brewing in suburban Atlanta
by Chuck Gordon

Paul Costick ’03 fondly recalls going with his parents and the family pooch down to their local pub in Southampton, on the southern coast of England. His mum and dad would have a leisurely pint or two, the dog would lounge on the floor, and young Paul would sip on a lemonade and breathe in the sights and sounds of English pub life.

In his current hometown, Peachtree City, Georgia, he’s re-created that easygoing beer culture, American style. A year and a half ago, Costick and three buddies opened Line Creek Brewing Company, the first brewery in Fayette County, just south of Atlanta. The 12,000-square-foot operation has seven fermenters, a large indoor taproom and plenty of outdoor seating.

The on-premises drinking space has clearly quenched a deep thirst. “We’re blown away by the volume numbers we’re seeing in the taproom,” Costick says. “And by the feedback as well. We’ve probably tripled our expectations of taproom volume.”

Paul Costick holding a beer at Line Creek Brewing

Line Creek is following a national trend that has seen more and more people move from light, lager-style beers to more-complex pours, such as India Pale Ales, sours, wheat beers and stouts. Although beer sales overall were down slightly in 2018, craft-beer sales were up 4 percent and now account for over 13 percent of the market.

Markets such as Atlanta and Charlotte, where a new brewery opens up seemingly every week, are seeing tremendous growth in the availability of craft-brew taps. The outskirts of those cities – such as Peachtree City – are finally getting in on the act.

The way people drink has also changed, with more imbibers looking to savor a pint at a family-friendly place rather than knock back can after can. Costick likens today’s beer drinkers to wine connoisseurs, and Line Creek caters to that ethos.

“No one’s getting wasted,” he says. “We’re not drinking liquor. It’s not a nightclub. We’re pet-friendly. We’re kid-friendly. Our space is designed just for people to relax.”

Settling down

Costick moved to Peachtree City not long after graduating from Wingate. His wife, Peachtree City native Lauren Kopec Costick, also played soccer at Wingate, though she left after two years to attend pharmacy school at Mercer University. Lauren eventually opened a pharmacy, while Paul coached soccer for a bit before going into healthcare sales, marketing and public relations.

They’ve made Peachtree City their home, but after trips to North Carolina to see friends, Costick began to think something was missing in his adopted hometown.

“The town’s grown, but it lacked a little bit of grit,” Costick says. “I’d come up to Charlotte and I’d see Triple C and the Unknown Brewing Company and all these great spots, and I wanted to bring something like that back to my hometown, the town I’ve called home for 15 years.”

A glass of Line Creek beer

Costick is in charge of business development at Line Creek. His Wingate marketing degree comes in handy as he ensures that the branding remains consistent while the brewery wheels out more and more seasonal products. In addition to mainstays First Crush (hazy IPA), Maverick (lager) and Wayward Sun (golden ale), each season Line Creek offers up limited-run beers, such as the Chinchillin’ session IPA and Tenacious B blueberry saison in the summer and a vanilla-and-pistachio porter (Meller Feller) in the winter.

“We always come back to the beer and the branding. It’s our mantra, basically,” Costick says. “The beer has to be good; it has to be the right styles for the market. The branding has to pop. Shelf space is getting really congested. There’s lots of new breweries, lots of packaging types. If you’re walking through a store in Charlotte and you’re looking for a beer and you don’t know anything about the brewery, you’re looking for a brand that pops.”

Line Creek’s branding, designed by a local graphic artist, is clean and attractive. As for the beer, well, it’s been a big hit. “It’s kind of blown us away, really, to walk into Wal-Mart and see a five-foot stack of Line Creek beer there that people are going to buy,” Costick says.

Line Creek usually sells four or five styles in retail stores, with a few more on tap at the brewery. None are the English-style ales and bitters that Costick’s relatives enjoy in the British Isles, and the closest thing to a mainstream American offering would be the Maverick lager.

In fact, Costick has always leaned more toward specialty American beers, since he became of legal drinking age while he was at Wingate.

“I was into more of your craft beers even back in college,” he says. “Sam Adams were the big players back then, and I would drink that over a Bud Light – when I was 21, of course.”

At Wingate, most of Costick’s time outside of class was devoted to soccer. After all, that’s what brought him here in the first place.

Maturing as a Bulldog

Costick came to Wingate on a soccer scholarship. He had interest from Division I schools but really connected with the Bulldog coaching staff. “Coach (Gary) Hamill, as soon as I spoke to the guy, he felt like my dad,” Costick says. “It just felt like I wanted to play for the guy. We hit it off from day one.”

Costick and another Hamill recruit, Welshman Tarik Guendouzi ’03, flew to Charlotte together in August of 1999. Neither had been to North Carolina before, and Costick jokes that he felt a little “buyer beware” creeping in as the pair made their way along a congested U.S. 74 to Wingate, long before the Monroe Expressway made trips to and from Charlotte a snap. “The pamphlet I was sent said it was 20 minutes from the airport!” he says.

The rest of his experience in eastern Union County, Costick says, was great. As a freshman midfielder, he scored the only goal as Wingate won the South Atlantic Conference tournament over Tusculum. The Bulldogs would go on to reach the NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen.

"I matured a lot there and I’m very, very grateful for the time I spent there. It gave me a lot of grounding and it helped me mature. Probably the best experience of my life.”

Later in Costick’s career, Hamill moved him to defense. “I was too fat for midfield,” Costick says with a laugh.

“The part that he struggled with most was the pace of the game in the US, which is not unusual for any English kid,” Hamill says, noting the muddy conditions of most English soccer fields. “Technically, he was one of the best players we had.”

Costick was also a positive force in the locker room, Hamill says. “Fun-loving guy, prankster, jokester,” his coach says. “He was very people-oriented.”

Costick says his four years at Wingate, thousands of miles away from home, helped shape him into the type of guy who’s comfortable launching and running a brewery.

“Looking back, you can always say, ‘I wish I’d done this better, could have done that,’” Costick says. “I wish I’d been a better student in a lot of areas. Hindsight’s 20/20. I matured a lot there and I’m very, very grateful for the time I spent there. It gave me a lot of grounding and it helped me mature. Obviously, I met my wife there, and I made some lifelong friends that I still keep in contact with to this day. Absolutely amazing experience. Probably the best experience of my life.”

Long-range outlook

Professionally, Costick is hoping that one day he’ll look back on his work at Line Creek with similar enthusiasm. The idea to open a brewery had been, ahem, brewing for a while before Costick and his fellow co-founders, Brian Messer, Matt Ramsey and Paul Schwinne, began planning the venture in earnest late in 2016.

They were anticipating the August 2017 passage of Senate Bill 85, a Georgia law that allows breweries and brewpubs to sell up to 3,000 barrels of beer each year. It was a game-changer for the state’s craft-beer industry. Previously, patrons had to pay around $10 for a brewery tour, which came with a few tokens for beer tastings. It was a roundabout way to serve customers, and it kept the brewery business from taking off in the state. As of August 2018, Georgia was 50th in the nation in breweries per capita.

Costick and his mates have been more than happy to help fill that need. They get lots of taproom traffic, and sales of Line Creek cases and six packs are brisk at Publix, Kroger, Wal-Mart and other big retail outlets in Fayette County and nearby Coweta County. “We’re doing amazing locally, much better than we ever thought,” Costick says.

But although Line Creek is committed to being a gathering place for residents of Peachtree City and nearby towns, a huge opportunity lies just up the road in Atlanta. Alas, that’s a tougher nut to crack. So far, Line Creek has been featured on tap in many of Atlanta’s top restaurants, but usually only for a week or two, as restaurants typically have a few core offerings and rotate others in and out. But it’s early days, and the company is going to keep plugging away, hoping Line Creek’s tasty brews will start to gain a following in the big city.

“Growing up into Atlanta, it’s a different undertaking,” Costick says. “It’s a different entity. There are established breweries. You’re dealing with 5 million people, vs. 50,000 locally. It’s just a different challenge.”

It’s one that Costick and Line Creek will gladly take on, one craft beer at a time.

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