Craft beer makers in Alabama have gone from outlaws to entrepreneurs. For years, home brewing was against the law here. However, that is where many of Alabama’s craft brewmasters learned their craft. Times have changed in the state and so have the laws. Here is a look at how the beer industry is bringing tourists to Alabama.
South Alabama is home to many of the state’s tourist attractions like the U.S.S. Alabama battleship, Dauphin Island and of course, the beaches. Now, there is also a thirst quenching draw to the Alabama’s coastal region. Fairhope Brewing Company is Alabama’s only craft brewery south of Montgomery. Michelle and Brian Kane help run the brewery.
“We all love beer. When Brian and I moved back from Alaska, we’d been in the Pacific Northwest for nearly five years." says Kane. "We knew the craft beer industry was huge, it was a culture almost up there.”
Michelle says, “We came down here and we noticed that the laws had changed and kinda decided we needed to start a brewery.”
Kane says she would actually like to see more breweries start up along the coast.
“We had a good quote from somebody who said 'Craft breweries are not in competition until every craft brewery is not selling everything that they make,' which is exactly what we’re doing and it is what every brewery around the state is doing,” she says.
For those Alabama beer fans who haven’t ventured to their local brewery yet, beer makers are prepared to come to you. The second annual Top of the Hops Craft Beer Festival in Orange Beach attracted craft brewers from all over the country to show what they can do. That includes seven breweries from Alabama. This is where we meet Gabe Harris, the president of Free the Hops, his group was instrumental in changing many of the beer laws in Alabama. He says there is actually a movement to establish an Alabama Beer Trail, and Harris says that is something the state can hang it’s hat on.
“When I go places, and everyone I talk to, when they go to different cities, they’re like, 'what is the local beer? Where is a local brewery I can check out?' “It is a definite draw for people to come in and bring people to Alabama.”
The festival scene is not only limited to the coast. Throughout the year craft beer drinkers make their way across the state to try the new offerings from breweries. This weekend in Tuscaloosa is the Alabama Brewfest. Bill Lloyd is one of the organizers of the event. He says the craft beer culture is spreading everywhere.
“Particularly in the state of Alabama, where its expanding just tremendously, we probably have as many breweries opening in Alabama as we do anywhere else in country,” says Lloyd. “We’re trying to showcase those Alabama breweries, hence the name Alabama Brewfest.”
Festivals like Top of the Hops and Brewfest are popping up all over the state, so all interested parties can see for themselves, what’s brewing in Alabama.