The local brewing scene just keeps on growing. It’s getting to the point where in less than an hour’s drive you’re going to run into a Southern brewery. Well, traveling east or west, anyway. Suffice it to say that the Panhandle is flush with the good stuff.
But what about our neighbors? While Alabama had to wait a long time to see their brewing regulations join the rest of the 21st century, they got there and quickly began to produce quality beverages. Back Forty, Straight To Ale, Good People, Blue Pants… all great breweries, all making great beer.
In my ten months working in Mobile I kept hearing rumor and conjecture, all of it pointing to bizarre and illogical rules governing the opening of a brewery. Supposedly, it had to be in a building that had been previously-used as a brewery. Not many of those around, especially after Prohibition. Alabama and Mississippi were the last two states to even allow alcohol sales to resume decades after Prohibition was repealed. With much of the state electing to remain dry, no point in operating a brewery.
Thankfully, all of that is in the past and Alabama is getting the beer they deserve. Case in point is Fairhope Brewing Co. The earliest seeds of their growth were being planted back when I was in Mobile. That was 2011. By December 2012, their first batches of beer were fermenting. I attended the grand opening the next month.
Originally, or so I was told, the idea was to keep their beer in their beautiful, spacious tap room only, maybe sign distribution rights and sell a little in town. Then, like Navin R. Johnson, they decided they needed a little bit more. All they need is Fairhope and Mobile. Oh, and this Birmingham, too. Fairhope, Mobile, Birmingham and that’s… and Tuscaloosa, too.
Steve Martin movie references aside, I’m glad they kept reaching because now they’re in Pensacola. They hosted a launch party at a Pensacola Blue Wahoos’ game not too long ago where I met the whole gang. I’ve been around a lot of brewers in my time, but these guys are some of the nicest I’ve ever known!
I don’t know HOW any of the other Alabama brewers hadn’t thought of it first, but Fairhope nailed it with naming a beer S’Wheat Home. This pale wheat ale is clear straw yellow with a head as delicate and fluffy as whipped egg whites. Fairhope has taken the added step of including orange and tangerine peel to contrast the natural lemon notes wheat imparts to beer. Scents of fresh rind linger over wet grain. Very light hop bitterness allows the citrus flavors to take center stage with a lingering finish reminding me of the taste of homemade orange cream.
Nice guys making nice beer. We’ve got some good neighbors around here!