Somewhere on a barrier island near Clearwater, Florida, there’s a house. The specifics of the house aren’t super important, so let’s focus on its geographic location. It’s on the beach, of course, which is nice. And it’s not far from many of Florida’s brewing hotspots—7venth Sun in Dunedin, Cigar City in Tampa, Green Bench in St. Pete, and so on.
Oh, and the owner. He’s important. The house belongs to Brann Dailor, the 44-year-old Atlantan who’s played drums in a number of bands over the past few decades. Like a lot of people, it took him awhile to find his way into a reliable job that he loved. That job was manning the kit for the crushingly excellent, Grammy Award-winning Mastodon—one of the most notable metal bands on planet Earth. He’s been reporting to work for them since 2000.
That was also the year Dailor moved to Georgia’s capital from Massachusetts. Before that, he lived in Rochester, New York, with a friend named Bill Kelliher (adorably, Kelliher now lives just a few blocks from Dailor). They formed Mastodon with a couple of other gentlemen named Troy Sanders and Brent Hinds, and then they started doing the things that bands do—playing shows, releasing music, and so on. The crushing excellence wouldn’t come for a couple of years, and the Grammy for many more years after that, but it was a solid start. It didn’t occur to him at the time that he’d one day be able to buy a beach house with his heavy metal money, but that’s what’s on Dailor’s mind on this chilly March afternoon in Atlanta.
“I wish I was there right now,” he says.
He’s not being rude. It’s just that, while we’re standing here in his kitchen talking about dogs and beers and art, Cigar City’s annual Stoutstravaganza, Hunahpu’s Day, is about to kick off. On the plus side, easing back into what has already been a bit of a wild weekend for your narrator, we’ve just opened a Hazy IPA called Rowdy and Proud. The night before, a few miles up the road in Decatur, Three Taverns Brewery released the beer in honor of Atlanta United, the Major League Soccer team that has redefined what it means to be a sports fan in ATL. It’s a nice beer, one that helps me forget my hangover and helps Dailor forget the beach.
For a very particular kind of beer lover, it’s a delightful surprise to be sitting at The Porter Beer Bar or browsing the beer cave at Green’s Beverages or visiting any number of eastside Atlanta craft haunts—Brick Store Pub, Argosy, Midway Pub, the list goes on—and suddenly notice the famous drummer of a self-proclaimed “dad metal” band right there along with you.
“I have a marginal fame, I guess,” he says. “It’s not like there’s a horde of paparazzi everywhere you go. Some people come up and get their picture taken, but everyone’s really cool.”
Plus, Dailor says, the people who run the best ATL beer spots “know that [the members of Mastodon] live in town, and it’s not like they haven’t seen us out and about before.” Molly Gunn, who’s co-owned The Porter in Little Five Points—which happens to be located a thoroughly reasonable walk’s length from Dailor’s Edgewood home—for more than 10 years now, is one of those people.
“Brann comes in a lot,” she says. “He's always relaxed and likes to get a recommendation on draft. He's the most well-behaved rock star we've ever encountered. Unlike some other local musicians who shall remain nameless, we’ve never had to kick him out of The Porter."
But at the end of most days? Frankly, like a lot of beer enthusiasts, Dailor would rather be enjoying a cold one in his home.
“Where did you get this amazing thing?” I ask, motioning toward a rather arresting, wall-sized piece of art depicting a man—“THE KING OF SWORDS”—swallowing a number of dangerously sharp blades.
“My wife scored it before I met her. She got it from a tattoo artist guy in town that was heavily addicted to drugs and sold it for...money...for drugs,” Dailor replies, with a semi-comfortable laugh. “It’s an original Snap Wyatt from Florida. If you look at the backside, there’s tape everywhere and it’s about to fall apart. We kinda designed the house around it.”
His non-beach house is a thing to behold. From the outside, it’s tall and dark blue and extremely unassuming—it fits right in as a tasteful, newer-build like many others on ATL’s eastside. There’s plenty of yard for his Dalmatian, Thriller, a nice fence, loads of shrubbery. But inside, it’s something else entirely: equal parts kitschy and classy. There are knick-knacks everywhere, a whole wall of velvet paintings going up the staircase, and an entire room devoted to clowns. But more on that in a minute.
Before settling in The Peach State, Dailor spent his formative years in Rochester. This means, of course, that he’s a huge Genesee fan. (In fact, he’s @creamale on Instagram.) But aside from the nostalgic hometown beer of his youth, Dailor estimates that he didn’t try almost any beer that wasn’t a macro Lager until the early 2000s. And the inspiration to branch out came at the hands of another drummer of many bands, Dave Witte.
“When I met him, I was 16,” Dailor remembers. “He came up from New Jersey, stayed in my house, and played in my basement. We played in Niagara Falls the next day. We’ve been good friends ever since.”
“He was just so crazy about Stouts,” he continues. “Every time we’d play with him, he’d come with a cooler with a bunch of different Stouts. He had these cups, and he’d lay out the cups and start pouring.”
Dailor’s Stout obsession had it roots in that moment, and has continued to this day, almost 30 years later. “With Stouts, there are endless possibilities,” he says. “Those big, super-boozy Stouts that have been barrel-aged—they taste so good!”
While Dailor considers IPA his go-to style these days, Stouts still represent the majority of the beers in his makeshift closet-slash-beer-cellar in the basement. They’re the ones he likes to feed his confused friends when they end a night at his house at 3 a.m. And they’re the ones he seems to most readily discuss when pressed for his beer-preference specifics. You’ll remember he’s pretty bummed to be missing Hunahpu’s right now.
“I don’t have a lot of beer friends,” Dailor says. “The beer friends that I do have are more knowledgeable than I am. My next-door neighbor owns [excellent East Atlanta bar] the Midway. He’s always got a basement full of crazy beers. We call ’em ‘fence beers.’ There’s this fence out there that separates our houses. We’ll text each other: ‘I’ll meet you in the back.’ He’ll bring out a Cantillon or whatever.”
In the same way he’s thrilled by the possibilities of big, dark beers or the surprises coming from his neighbor’s basement, he frequently finds himself attracted to the weird and unknown. One beer maker that continually keeps him guessing is Mikkeller.
“I look to them for the oddball stuff,” Dailor says. “It’s almost like a Primus album. You don’t know what to expect, but it’s gonna be weird and it’s gonna be good. At least they’re trying to be different. They’re reaching.”
Much to Dailor’s delight, his band has collaborated with Mikkeller on a number of beers—a Farmhouse IPA here, a Czech Pilsner there, a bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout over yonder. In fact, Mastodon has made beers with breweries from all over the world. Mahrs Bräu in Germany. 3 Floyds in Indiana. Signature Brew in London. But they keep coming back to Mikkeller. As it turns out, the infatuation is mutual.
“Brann comes from a different world than most of Mikkeller's collaborators, but he always contributes great knowledge and curiosity about craft beer,” Mikkeller founder Mikkel Borg Bjergsø tells GBH. “It's been a great pleasure working with such a humble and passionate rock star.”
As we make our way upstairs to the clown room, we walk by several dozen velvet paintings. There’s Elvis, of course—a classic. Bruce Lee, yeah, that makes sense. There’s...JonBenét Ramsey? And there’s one that can only be referred to as “sexy E.T.” It’s an art collection the likes of which I’ve never seen.
Dailor got the first taste of his silky-smooth addiction when he was only eight years old. At a neighbor’s house taking his first karate lesson, he came face to face with a few easels. The man who was going to teach Dailor martial arts was apparently a bit of an artist. His specialty? The nude form. The easels were propping up depictions of naked people. The walls were covered as well. He was confused and interested and hooked, all at once.
In his early twenties, he got a tiger that now hangs in his stairwell. Then he put a couple pieces in a room together. Then his wife gave him a velvet unicorn for their anniversary. At that point, it had become A Thing. And when A Thing is velvety and feels right, who is anyone to stop it?
It’s time to address the clowns.
While it’s not entirely accurate to say that Joseph Grimaldi was the first clown, it was his performances in 18th-century England—everything from the make-up design to his energetic style to his riffs on the jesters and fools and harlequins of centuries previous—that established, popularized, and generally influenced the character of “the clown” to this day. It’s unlikely that Grimaldi imagined, at the time, that subsequent generations of characters influenced by his pioneering work would one day be exhibited in a marginally famous dad metal drummer’s home some 4,000 miles away.
To that end, I have just one, very simple, question: why are there so many clowns in this room?
“I don’t know. When we got here, we had these two bedrooms, and I said, ‘We should have a clown room,’” Dailor remembers. “And it just sort of developed from there.”
This is not a normal thought to think, of course, but allow him to explain. You see, his sister-in-law made the curtains. His friend made the chandelier. It actually really comes together when you see it all in one place. And it’s all truly unsettling.
“I was never afraid of them,” Dailor says. “I really just like the aesthetics of the clown. I like all the colors. They look insane. It’s fucking crazy. So a whole room of them is jarring—but in a good way for me.”
He’s got even more clown stuff that’s yet to make it into the room, too. Go big or go home, I guess. Except, in the case of Dailor, he happens to be doing both.
“And here we have the biggest clown of all,” Dailor says, gesturing to a positively regal and ridiculous painting of the President of the United States. The line itself is a joke, of course, one delivered from a guy who feels a certain type of way about that man to a couple other guys who also feel that same type of way about that same man. And yet, no one laughs. Like, we appreciate the humor, but maybe we’re just tired. Or maybe we’re scared. Not about the clowns this time, but for the country in which we live.
Back downstairs in the kitchen, I ask Dailor if he sees a future for himself in the beer business. After all, he’s kind of conquered this whole metal thing about as much as one can. Once you’ve toured the world many times over, taken home some awards, sold a bunch of records, truly made it as a professional musician, a feat that a very small percentage of human beings can ever hope to pull off, it’s time for a new challenge, right? What if he pursued a different passion? Would that be interesting?
Palpably excited by the question, he tells me he’d love to run a place that serves great beer one day. But he hasn’t given it any serious thought. OK, then: What if?
“It would be incredible to open an Atlanta WarPigs,” he says. “Some kind of collaboration like that. I’ve thought about it. My wife’s like, ‘You should do that!’ But I’m usually just thinking about drum beats.”