With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.
For the sake of clarity and with an eye toward avoiding any bias, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. So the first state to take the plunge is sweet home Alabama which stands 23rd in total population (around 4.8 million) and sustains a state brewers guild of 27 brewers. While the state is still catching up to the rest of the country, as evidenced by their standing of 50th in per-capita economic impact for the industry, their total production from 2009 to 2013 increased from 1,000 to 30,000 barrels per year and saw an increase of 47% from the previous year.
The story of craft beer in Alabama is really all about overcoming prohibitive legislation and a movement to make the laws more beneficial for smaller brewing operations. For instance Alabama only allows brewpubs to be located “in a wet county or wet municipality, in which county beer was brewed for public consumption prior to the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1919.”
Before 2009, beer brewed in Alabama was restricted to an ABV of 6.0% or less, but thanks to the “Free The Hops” movement formed in 2006, bills were introduced in the state House and Senate to raise the limit to the current level, 13.9% ABV or less. In 2012, another law was passed to increase beer container size from 16 to 25.4 ounces. It wasn’t until 2013 that a law was passed to enable homebrewing, yet those residing in dry counties, minors and convicted felons are still prohibited from brewing their own beer.
Three Breweries We Like and You Might Wanna Check Out
Avondale Brewing Company – Birmingham, AL – One of the younger breweries in the state, open since 2011, Avondale is to our knowledge the only brewer to possess open-fermentation tanks. Using a special yeast cultivated exclusively for the brewery and housed in a 117 year old former fire station, bank, pharmacy and brothel, they certainly have a unique stake in Alabama’s craft scene.
Back Forty Beer Company – Gadsden, AL – One of the state’s larger craft brewers and its last winner of a GABF medal in 2010 for their Truck Stop Honey Brown Ale, Back Forty was also named one of the top 100 small businesses in America by the US Chamber of Commerce. They also just started serving food this week, including items cultivated from their spent grain by local farmers.
Good People Brewing Company – Birmingham, AL – Sporting one of the highest rated tap lists in the state, Good People has been expanding their operations and distribution extensively over the past few years. With a great variety of seasonal and small batch offerings, a new canning operation, plus their convenient location next to Regions Field ballpark, we see nothing but good things in their future.
Learn More About the 27 Members of Alabama’s Brewers Guild Here