What's Brewing in Alabama? Part 1

Oct 9, 2013

     Ales, Lagers and Stouts...the sound of hand crafted beer from a bottle or tap is one brew fans in the state had been waiting years to hear… and Alabama is becoming more and more welcoming to the craft beer industry. Yellowhammer Brewing, in Huntsville is one of the craft beer brands hoping to cash in on the favorable climate in Alabama. Keith Jaeger is the head brewer at Yellowhammer. He says when NASA came to town in the late 1950’s, German rocket engineers came along for the ride…

 “There’s a lot of German heritage in Huntsville and it did have some influence for sure." says Jaeger. "I’m a big fan of Belgian beers, and I love German beers as well and I also like the contrast those two styles give so that’s one of the reasons we decided to go in that direction.’

While walking through a room full of stainless steel tanks that resembles a mad scientist’s lab, Jaeger says Yellowhammer does more than just bring new kinds of beer to Huntsville, craft beer is also making an impact on the local economy.

However, Yellowhammer Brewery is not the only game in town. Huntsville is home to at least six craft breweries, and the next one we go to is across town. Straight to Ale is a much bigger operation, and Rick Tarvin is the man in charge. When it comes to making beer, Tarvin says Alabama was less than welcoming compared to other states…

 “I moved here about seven years ago, maybe a little bit longer now and I joined a home brew club and they told me it was illegal to home brew in Alabama," says Tarvin, "Dan, my partner,  had hopes of opening a brewery and he talked me into it.”

And business seems to be skyrocketing for Tarvin and his workers, his brewery currently sells beer throughout Alabama, into Tennessee, Mississippi and the Florida panhandle. However, Straight to Ale recently announced they are doubling their fermentation capacity and plan on expanding into the Atlanta market next year. Dan Roberts is the executive director of the Alabama Brewers’ Guild. He says the rise in interest in craft brewing is not only limited to Alabama. Like many small businesses, Roberts says Alabama’s breweries often have a grassroots beginning…

“Most breweries are organic businesses, they might have some outside funding some capital investment from outside sources, but for the most part they’re entrepreneurs," he says. "I mean they’re homebrewers for the most part.”

Roberts adds, the breweries, as a whole, have more than doubled their production numbers every year since 2009. Roberts says most breweries are now focusing on increasing their production to meet the demand for their product.

Be sure to join us for the second part in our series on the craft beer industry in Alabama as we take a look at what it’s like when you’re just getting started in the business.