Jason Piccolo is not a salesman.
“The biggest difference between us and other places is we don’t sell you on anything,” he asserts. “I know that when I go into a place like this, I’m not going to be sold on something. I’m either looking for something or open to anything. If I’m in the mood to get something, I will, and if I’m not, I won’t. I give that same respect to everyone who walks in.”
That attitude is what makes White Whale Craft Ales so successful. With his wife Jocelyn, Piccolo decided to open White Whale after leaving a toxic job in Atlanta.
“My wife and I were talking about our next steps, and we were like, ‘What could we do in Savannah?’’ Piccolo remembers. “Savannah is a unique little special place that’s kind of in a time warp and goes to its own drum. There’s some beauty to that, some frustration to that, but right in the middle, there’s opportunity.”
At White Whale, craft beers abound from all regions. Piccolo picks the beers based on what their dedicated customers want. They also have drafts so you can drink in the store.
“People can come in and enjoy a beer list that’s unique,” says Piccolo. “You can count on one hand the places in town that have a tap list as diverse as ours. There’s people doing great stuff here, but sometimes you just don’t want to go to a bar. Our crowd is young parents, people walking their dogs, older people ... we get groups of women who come in here and play games because they don’t want to be picked up at the bar. We have a really eclectic group of folks.”
Directly south of Forsyth Park, White Whale is out of the to-go cup jurisdiction, a problem for some.
“We’ve pissed a lot of people off by telling them the law,” Piccolo laughs. “People get so upset with us, from Cincinnati, Iowa, Chicago. They’re like, ‘So I want a roadie of this,’ and I’m like, I can’t. It’s a $200 ticket. Would you rather fly home or pay the city $200?”
Closing in on two years open, White Whale has become exactly what Piccolo wanted it to be.
“The biggest thing we wanted here was to be a clubhouse for beer,” he says. “This is a passion project until it stars to kick over.” — Rachael Flora
Runner-up:World of Beer