Southern Brew News June/July 2011 : Page 1
By Owen Ogletree By Bill Plott Space Flight Center and numer-ous high tech companies have brought in an educated population with more disposable income than a lot of other Alabama cities. Olde Towne set up the scene for it, but they were more mainstream, not a lot of ex-perimentation. Sadly, Olde Towne, which had survived a devastating ﬁ re and the departure of the found-ing brewer Hankins, went under in February. But its legacy included creating a market for good beer. The three openings in the past year were: Straight to Ale, Blue Pants Brewery, and Yellowhammer Brewing Co. I 99+ BOTTLES. Clockwise from top-Brusin' Ales in Asheville, NC. Rich Carley and Scott Shor, owners of T he Charleston Beer Exchange -the hottest retail beer store in the city offering over 500 bottled beers and growlers of fresh draft to go. Proprietor Eddie Holley of Ale Yeah! Craft Beer Market in Oakhurst, GA near downtown Decatur. TOP PHOTO BY JASON ATALLAH, BOTTOM TWO PHOTOS BY OWEN OGLETREE he Southeast forms a ﬂ ourishing, prosperous frontier in today’s explosive growth of craft beer sales and awareness, and the local proliferation of retail stores specializing in craft beer plays a major role in this renaissance. T State by State News Tasting Notes .................... 6 Jubilee .............................. 7 Homebrew News ............... 8 Style Section .................... 9 Beer Wench's Kitchen ...... 10 Dr. Brewski ...................... 10 Tennessee ........11 Georgia ..........16 Alabama/Mississippi ....18 The Carolinas .......20 Florida ...........22 Louisiana ............23 PHOTO: OLDE TOWNE BREWING CO. ILLUSTRATION: HANS GRANHEIM Rich Carley of the popular Charleston Beer Exchange says, “We love it when a customer comes in for the ﬁ rst time, only drinks U.S. macros, doesn’t know what to make of the place, and a few weeks later they’re going home with See Beer Stores p. 4 n the space of six months last year, Huntsville, AL went from a city with one microbrewery to a city with four. But, by the end of this year, there may be ﬁ ve operating. “We’re calling ourselves the Alabama Beer Capital, and we’re going to have a Huntsville Beer Week, probably in August,” said Jim Trolinger, standing in a Hunts-ville beer bar called The Nook. That’s heady talk for a city that has never had a brew pub. Yet, it was home to Alabama’s ﬁ rst micro-brewery when Olde Towne Brewing Co . opened ﬁ ve years ago. Why the beer explosion in Huntsville? Credit it really to the strong Huntsville homebrewing commu-nity. You’ve got a lot of engineers and the like who love to tinker with things. Free the Hops brought the beers of dozens of new breweries into Alabama, expand-ing the state’s beer culture dramatically. In Huntsville, there was already a cos-mopolitan population looking for good beer. Redstone Arsenal, the Marshall Debuting at the Nook A key marketing compo-nent for all three has been The Nook, a beer bar that offers about 375 beers year round, See Huntsville p. 3
Craft Beer Stores?<br /> <br /> 99+ BOTTLES. Clockwise from top- Brusin' Ales in Asheville, NC. Rich Carley and Scott Shor, owners of The Charleston Beer Exchange - the hottest retail beer store in the city offering over 500 bottled beers and growlers of fresh draft to go. Proprietor Eddie Holley of Ale Yeah! Craft Beer Market in Oakhurst, GA near downtown Decatur.<br /> <br /> The Southeast forms a flourishing, prosperous frontier in today's explosive growth of craft beer sales and awareness, and the local proliferation of retail stores specializing in craft beer plays a major role in this renaissance.<br /> <br /> Rich Carley of the popular Charleston Beer Exchange says, "We love it when a customer comes in for the first time, only drinks U.S. macros, doesn't know what to make of the place, and a few weeks later they're going home withgrowlers of 11% double IPA! We've done a lot for spreading the love of craft beer in the Southeast and have made growlers a booming and exciting part of craft beer culture in the region."<br /> <br /> Only ten years ago, the idea of package stores around the Southeast focusing on craft beer, top quality imports and draft beer "to-go" via "growler" jugs seemed like an impossible fantasy to many beer lovers, but as a love of artisanal beer styles continues to sweep the Southeast, new stores are opening at a record pace. This article serves as a survey of only a few of the top craft beer specialty shops in the region.<br /> <br /> Sweet Malt in Alabama<br /> <br /> After years of campaigning to bring in more craft beer and raise the alcohol limit on beers sold in the state, Alabama beer lovers can finally enjoy the rewards of their success. Birmingham's venerable Vulcan Beverage stocks every craft beer that the state allows and encourages customers to design their own six packs. Vulcan's Mark Green calculates around one billion four million six pack combinations are possible. Gallon and half gallon growlers are filled from a wide lineup of taps pushed with a special mix of nitrogen and carbon dioxide gas. Green adds, "Birmingham has definitely become a craft beer town and major consumer, and Vulcan Beverage sometimes wipes out the entire Alabama beer inventory on certain brands."<br /> <br /> Almost every craft beer aficionado in Birmingham knows Jimmy Gorji of Highland Package Store. Jimmy stocks around 800 different brands of beer on draft and in bottles. "People here are really interested in new beers," he says. "Dogfish Head has been incredibly popular, and it seems that something new comes in every day. It's an exciting time."<br /> <br /> Missing High-Gs in Mississippi<br /> <br /> Frustration endures in Mississippi where outdated laws still prohibit sales of high gravity, gourmet beers. Only one microbrewery exists in the state and homebrewing remains illegal. Despite these challenges, the popular Corner Market in Hattiesburg and Smokestack package store in West Point make it a point to stock every beer remotely resembling a craft brand. The Corner Market even takes pride in stocking "party pig" mini kegs from Mississippi's Lazy Magnolia Brewery.<br /> <br /> A die-hard craft beer lover, Smokestack owner Phillip Portera hates having to travel outside of Mississippi to purchase craft beer for his own consumption. "The state is losing lots of tax dollars," he says. "People here want more craft beer, and brands like Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams and Rogue have shown huge recent growth, but it's hard for our distributors to talk other craft breweries into coming into Mississippi because brands over 6% alcohol are illegal in the state. It makes running a craft beer store difficult."<br /> <br /> Jazz, Country, & Craft Beer<br /> <br /> A distinct absence of restrictive alcohol laws in Louisiana makes it possible for Sidney's Wine Cellar, located in New Orleans' raucous French Quarter, to stock a very respectable range of Belgian strong ales, barleywines, German doppelbocks, imperial stouts and double IPAs. Sidney's staff encourages customers to choose a craft beer, pour it into a plastic cup and sip while walking the streets of the French Quarter.<br /> <br /> Nashville, Tennessee boasts three fine retails stores with an ample range of craft brews. Tennessee law requires high gravity beers over 6% ABV to be housed separately from the regular beers - usually in the wine and liquor section of the store. When in town, be sure to peruse the selections at Midtown Wine & Spirits, Frugal MacDoogal Wine & Liquor Warehouse and J. Barleycorn's. Midtown offers a range of cigars in their regular gravity beer section, while J. Barleycorn also stocks homebrewing supplies.<br /> <br /> Beer Shops in Georgia? Just Peachy<br /> <br /> Green's Discount Beverage has stood on a corner of historic Ponce De Leon Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia since 1936. For decades, Green's has made it a point to stock most of the beers available in the state, but alteration in state law in 2004 allowing high-gravity, gourmet beers to be sold led to explosive expansion of Green's craft beer section. The store went so far as to install a temperature and humidity controlled walk-in room for many of its more expensive and exceptional bottled beers. Green's craft beer manager Adam Tolsma notes, "We focus on rare beers, one-offs, seasonals and collaborations - many of which have only a few cases that make it to Georgia. I'd hazard we also have the most extensive specialty and craft keg selection in Atlanta."<br /> <br /> "Our mission is to share with all residents of the metro Atlanta area the wonders of craft beer," claims Eddie Holley of Ale Yeah! Craft Beer Market in Decatur. "We believe that beer is a profound art form that is hand-crafted by artisans who pour their hopes and dreams into their products. At Ale Yeah! We've also embraced a market concept and carry artisan cheeses, sausages, chocolates and pretzels that complement great beer. And for the home-brewer, we stock a wide array of fresh malts, grains, hops, yeast and supplies. Growlers are coming soon."<br /> <br /> Atlanta's Hop City Craft Beer & Wine ranks as the first completely craft beer and wine focused retail outlet in Atlanta. Look for approximately 1,700 different beers and 1,000 different wines at any given time, along with 16 rotating taps at the growler station and a popular section for homebrew supplies. "We remain active in multiple beer and wine events in the city and hold our own free tastings at a local coffee shop across the street," adds owner Kraig Torres.<br /> <br /> In the classic college town of Athens, Georgia, the two locations of Five Points Bottle Shop reign as the local craft beer champions. Owner Sachin Patel embodies a deep love for craft brews and travels to many countries and all parts of the U.S. to research outstanding ales and lagers. With close to 2,000 different bottles and kegs at the original Five Points location alone, the store has been forced to expand several times in the past few years. Earlier this year, Patel also opened an impressive new growler and homebrew supply shop (Five Points Growlers) in a facility at the rear of the Five Points Westside location.<br /> <br /> It's no accident that The Beer Growler in Athens ranks as the first growler store in the state - the owners are the guys who recently changed Georgia's laws to allow growler sales in retail stores. The Beer Growler sells 25 beers on tap and close to 100 in bottles. Co-owner Denny Young notes, "My two partners and I saw a niche that needed filling and worked with the state to have growlers legalized. All we sell is craft beer - no macros at all - and our customers like it that way."<br /> <br /> Florida Tradition; Carolinas Innovation<br /> <br /> Knightly Spirits in Orlando houses a hand-picked selection of 800+ craft beers in bottles and kegs (retailers are not yet allowed to fill growlers in Florida). 100 miles west of Orlando, the Clearwater institution known as The World of Beer has been pleasing beer fans in the Sunshine State for over 20 years. Starting life as a mom and pop convenience store, World of Beer has evolved into Tampa Bay's finest chain of specialty craft beer outlets.<br /> <br /> True South Carolina craft beer pioneers and evangelists Rich Carley and Scott Shor of the Charleston Beer Exchange are passionate about their business and its outstanding customer service. "Three years ago we had the opportunity to go into business for ourselves and decided to open a 'craft beer only' specialty store with a growler station in downtown Charleston," recalls Shor. "Everyone thought we were crazy, but the store worked because we love what we do. In 2010 we were able to open our second location in Greenville, and we hope to expand to other cities in the future."<br /> <br /> Brawley's Beverage in Charlotte, North Carolina is a dog friendly store offering close to 800 craft beer brands. Owner Mike Brawley grew up in a beer shop. His father owned Mike's Discount Beverage - one of the first wine and beer specialty stores in the Southeast. "I opened Brawley's in 2003," says Brawley. "Back then we were 50/50 beer/ wine, but now beer makes up 80% - beer having forced wine from our main room into the side room. I love wine too much to just get rid of it - I'm torn between two lovers, you could say."<br /> <br /> Asheville's Bruisin' Ales proved to everyone that a store selling craft beer exclusively could thrive in the Southeast. Most customers credit Bruisin' Ales success to its extensive selection, personal service, beer education, frequent tastings and the inviting atmosphere of the little shop. "Asheville and the region as a whole seemed to have been waiting for a store like ours when we opened in 2006," notes coowner Jason Atallah. "Our customers have been very receptive to varied styles, flavors and new breweries. The craft beer scene in the Southeast has really blossomed since we opened, and we're proud to be a part of it."
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The Booming Huntsville Beer Scene
In the space of six months last year, Huntsville, AL went from a city with one microbrewery to a city with four. But, by the end of this year, there may be five operating.<br /> <br /> “We’re calling ourselves the Alabama Beer Capital, and we’re going to have a Huntsville Beer Week, probably in August,” said Jim Trolinger, standing in a Huntsville beer bar called The Nook.<br /> <br /> That’s heady talk for a city that has never had a brew pub. Yet, it was home to Alabama’s first microbrewery when Olde Towne Brewing Co. Opened five years ago.<br /> <br /> Why the beer explosion in Huntsville?<br /> <br /> Credit it really to the strong Huntsville homebrewing community. You’ve got a lot of engineers and the like who love to tinker with things.<br /> <br /> Free the Hops brought the beers of dozens of new breweries into Alabama, expanding the state’s beer culture dramatically. In Huntsville, there was already a cosmopolitan population looking for good beer. Redstone Arsenal, the Marshall Space Flight Center and numerous high tech companies have brought in an educated population with more disposable income than a lot of other Alabama cities.<br /> <br /> Olde Towne set up the scene for it, but they were more mainstream, not a lot of experimentation. Sadly, Olde Towne, which had survived a devastating fi re and the departure of the founding brewer Hankins, went under in February. But its legacy included creating a market for good beer.<br /> <br /> The three openings in the past year were: Straight to Ale, Blue Pants Brewery, and Yellowhammer Brewing Co.<br /> <br /> Debuting at the Nook<br /> <br /> A key marketing component for all three has been The Nook, a beer bar that offers about 375 beers year round, including nearly 50 on tap. Each of the new Huntsville breweries debuted its first release at The Nook.<br /> <br /> “We do support the local breweries,” said Manager Beverly Dufour. “This is a non-smoking bar with no NASCAR beer (i.e., Bud/ Miller/Coors). It’s worked. It’s awesome. I’ve got the best clientele in the world.”<br /> <br /> The Nook was founded by Connell Allen, who longed for a watering hole that featured good beer and conversation. There is only one TV in his bar, and you have to hunt for it.<br /> <br /> Straight to Ale<br /> <br /> Straight to Ale was the first to join Olde Towne on the micro scene. Ironically, it will soon move into the Olde Towne facility.<br /> <br /> Straight to Ale’s first release last May was Monkeynaut IPA, named after those brave Simians who gave their all for space exploration. In keeping with the NASA theme, it was quickly followed by Wernher von Brown Ale.<br /> <br /> Honoring local homebrewers seems only fitting as the brewery was founded by a trio of homebrewers.<br /> <br /> “There were four of us in the driveway one Sunday brewing an old ale, which became Unobtainable. Three of us decided to get serious about it. The other two are Rick Tarvin and Chris Bramon. We were all brewers and three investors joined us,” said Perry.<br /> <br /> Straight to Ale set up shop in the old Lincoln Mill, a textile mill being gentrified with plans for shops, lofts and other upscale endeavors.<br /> <br /> They have about 30 taps in 20 locations around Huntsville. One pub, Bandito Southside, has had as many as five of their beers on tap at one time.<br /> <br /> “It’s crazy the way it’s taken off. We just hope we can support everybody. This is getting serious now. It’s been all volunteer. We may have to hire a couple of employees,” Perry said.<br /> <br /> If Straight to Ale has a philosophy to brewing it is in big beers with a lot of flavor.<br /> <br /> Blue Pants<br /> <br /> The Blue Pants Brewery is actually in Madison, a fast-growing city adjacent to Huntsville. It is the smallest brewery in Alabama, possibly the smallest in the United States, occupying 400-square-foot space in the back of metal building primarily occupied by Kustom Kinetics.<br /> <br /> “We have two mash tuns and two boil cans. We do about three barrels at a time. We’re putting about 12 barrels every two weeks,” said brewer Michael Spratley.<br /> <br /> To find Blue Pants, you need a street address and the knowledge that there is no sign. You go around back of the building and meet Spratley at the roll-up door that opens into the brewing space where four small fermenters have been set up.<br /> <br /> The setup is controlled with a laptop computer that monitors temperatures, turns on the heater and the pumps while he is away at “real” work.<br /> <br /> A Michigan graduate, Spratley said the idea of starting a brewery had ‘rolled around in my brain for a couple of years. He had homebrewed for three or four years and had the bug to expand. He looked into commercial systems, then looked into a garage setup but decided that wasn’t practical.<br /> <br /> Their first beer, Knickerbocker Red (7% abc, 63 IBUs), had a release party at The Nook on Oct. 2. They now have that and Corduroy Rye IPA in 15 separate places, four of which have multiple taps. Next up is Carpenter Pale Ale, a special IPA.<br /> <br /> The brewery’s name comes from the owners’ nicknames. “Blue” is Mike’s nickname for Allison. “Pants” is the nickname he had as a college student in Michigan. Mike does the brewing and Allison handles the marketing and promotions. Their goal is to grow from a 1.5-barrel system to a 15-barrel system by the end of the year.<br /> <br /> Yellowhammer<br /> <br /> Yellowhammer Brewing Co., is the new work home of Keith Yager, a graphic designer who took a buyout from his newspaper job at The Huntsville Times and jumped into full-time brewing.<br /> <br /> “I’d been planning on it about 10 years,” he said. “I’m from Pennsylvania. When I moved down here, I could not find much good beer outside of Samuel Adams. My mom got me a homebrew kit for Christmas. I don’t she had any idea where it would take me. I’ve always been into cooking and that process. I’m a graphic designer, so I’m into creative things.”<br /> <br /> So, last summer and he and three partners — Don Milligan, Eathon Couch and Challen Stevens — renovated a building that had been a cabinet shop. The result is a 2.5-barrel brewhouse. They have two mash tuns, two boil kettles, four four-barrel ferments and a three-barrel fermenter in the cold room. The product output is 4.5 kegs every two weeks.<br /> <br /> Yager is the brewer in the partnership. His first beers was released on Oct. 16, 2010, his 41st birthday.<br /> <br /> They were a Belgian White Ale (4.8% abv) and an American Pale Ale (6.7% abv).<br /> <br /> Both were debuted in a release party at The Nook. The Belgian is brewed without traditional adjuncts. The Pale is brewed with four malts and blend of Centennial, Columbus Amarillo and Simcoe hops.<br /> <br /> Yellowhammer’s name comes from the Alabama state bird.<br /> <br /> We want to embrace the good things in Alabama, to cast it in a positive light. Our Miracle Worker Triple draws its name from Helen Keller, her teacher Annie Sullivan and the play based on their lives. Another name is Hop Revival Double IPA,” he said.<br /> <br /> Yellowhammer’s long-range goal is to move into a seven-barrel brewhouse in a year. If they decide to stay in current building, it could accommodate up to a 15-barrel system.<br /> <br /> Two More on the Way<br /> <br /> Todd Seaton and Daniel Levis are the engineers behind Old Black Bear, a contract brewery that is expected to have its first beer on the market in June.<br /> <br /> Black Bear ESB will be the first release. Levis said that, if it is successful, they will look to bring out a Porter and a Dunkel by the end of the year. All of the beers are being brewed by Lazy Magnolia in Kiln, MS. The name comes from watching a black bear catch a fish. “It’s pretty awesome, pretty amazing. We thought that would be a pretty cool mascot for our company,” said Levis.<br /> <br /> Yet another engineer dipping into the mash tun is Steve Below, president of the Huntsville chapter of Free the Hops. He hopes to have Below the Radar up and running in July.<br /> <br /> “July is our mark on the wall for beer to be on tap in local establishments in Huntsville,” he said. Describing himself as “ a serious hophead,” Below said his five every day beers will reflect that bent:<br /> <br /> - -Imperial IPA, “dry hopped out the wazoo.”<br /> <br /> - -Black IPA with some smoked malt, dry hopped as well.<br /> <br /> - --Belgian Tripel.<br /> <br /> - -Two lawnmower beers, an Irish Red with a sturdy malt backbone, and a Pale Ale, made with green tea and lemon.<br /> <br /> Below is business developer and program manager for JBM, a company that does training, maintenance and logistics for three different radar system and counter IED (improvised explosive devices) systems. Their work is employed in Iraq and Afghanistan now. Obviously, the brewery’s name plays off of both Below’s name and occupation.<br /> <br /> “My last name, of course. Everybody says I’ve got to use that. No. 2 is I’m currently working with radar systems and have a master’s degree in optical and electromagnetic engineering. No. 3, I’m a homebrewer and you’ve got to stay below the radar , if you’re doing that,” he said.<br /> <br /> And, if that’s not enough, there are yet two more microbreweries and a brewpub in the talking stage in Huntsville. The possible additional micros are Two Stooges and Salty Nuts Brewing Co. The possible brewpub is not yet named.
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