BIRMINGHAM is a longer haul than some of the cities I’ve discussed in this series, but it’s a great city with a solid beer culture and worth visiting for business or pleasure.
In the 90’s when the craft beer movement was starting up, Alabama was largely left out due to some pretty archaic alcohol laws. In fact there was really only one option for craft beer, the Mill Bakery and Eatery, in the Five Points area.
The Mill closed before the millennium rolled over but it did have an impact and comes back into the Birmingham craft beer story.
Alabama wised up pretty quickly when it came to the tax revenue and tourism benefits craft beer held. Laws were changed opening the floodgates to a number of breweries and bottle shops.
Good People Brewing: Good People’s space is big — it was a former mattress factory — but the brewing operations and canning line only take up about two-thirds of the space. The rest is a large bar and seating section. Good People doesn’t serve food so the tasting area is a bar, but it also doesn’t have a typical bar feel to it. Good People is also incredibly fortunate. The location they chose for the brewery just happened to be across the street from what is now the brand new Birmingham Barons baseball stadium. Good People rose from the ashes of The Mill. The founders of Good People used The Mill’s space and equipment to cut their teeth on large scale brewing. Good People Brewing can be found at 114 14th St S Birmingham and at www.goodpeoplebrewing.com.
Avondale Brewing Company: Avondale was one of the start ups in the Birmingham scene but was recently purchased by Good People. They remain a distinct brewery and location but now fall under Good People’s umbrella.
Cahaba Brewing Co: Founded in 2011 Cahaba Brewing has grown quickly. Their original location was a small 8000 sq. foot 3.5 bbl brewery but in 2015 Cahaba moved into a 15,000 sq foot space with a 30 bbl brewhouse. They have a huge taproom to go along with their new brewery at 4500 5th Ave South Building C Birmingham, www.cahababrewing.com/.
Trimtab Brewing: A trimtab is a small, unassuming piece of equipment on ships and aircraft. It’s the small rudder on the larger rudder. But the guys at Trimtab see it as metaphor for something much larger. The trimtab takes almost no effort to move, but creates huge impacts far beyond what its size would signify. In local beer fashion Trim Tab Brewing sees craft beer is a way to spread ideas and to support the people, organizations, and ideas that embody small sources of big change. Find them at 2721 5th Ave S, Birmingham and trimtabbrewing.com/
Back Forty Beer Company: The back forty is an agricultural term referring to the forty acres furthest from the barn making them the most over looked and difficult to maintain but also the richest and untapped resource on the farm. Back Forty Beer Company is located in Gadsden but they are opening a brewery and restaurant near one of Birmingham cultural and historic centers, Sloss Furnaces later in 2018.
Highland Package Store. I’ve visited Highlands a few times and my reaction has been extreme each time. I’ve walked out with difficult to find bottles and I’ve walked out with nothing. This time was one of those unsuccessful trips but I expect that the next time I’ll find more than I can carry. They also have a small selection of local beers on their growler station. Highland Package Store is at Store, 2228-A Highland Ave. South, Birmingham and at highlandpackagestore.com.
Birmingham’s newest bottle shop is Atlanta-based Hop City. The bottle selection is great but the real reason to visit is the tap bar. Hop City has over 60 taps that they serve in growlers, tasters and pints. Hop City Birmingham is found at 2924 Third Ave South Birmingham, AL 35233 and at www.hopcitybeer.com.
The surprise bottle shop in Birmingham is the Homewood Piggly Wiggly. For those not in the know, the Pig is a grocery store. But this Piggly Wiggly has an on staff cicerone who obviously has a good handle on great beer. The beer section was small, just a corner of the store but that small space is consistently loaded with high quality craft beer.
There are numerous bars in the area catering to the craft beer aficionado but for my money the The J. Clyde is the place to visit. The food at The J. Clyde is very good and they are also the only bar in Alabama to serve cask conditioned ales on traditional British beer engines. The J. Clyde can be found at 1312 Cobb Lane and at jclyde.com.
Birmingham has grown into a nice beer destination. There are plenty of opportunities to pick up some new beers you may not have run across and several breweries to visit. Birmingham has a vibrant craft beer scene and as Alabama continues to loosen its alcohol related laws I see it continuing to grow. If you can’t make it to Birmingham give some of their breweries beers a try. Many are available in Savannah.