Written by Dan Murphy for al.com and The Press Register
Editor’s Note: BW Beer Writer Dan Murphy and photographer Michael Dumas spent a weekend in early March touring all six of Alabama’s operating breweries. This is the first installment of a series of columns focusing on the state’s budding beer culture.
To the south, a backhoe reduces walls of a vacant warehouse to rubble, creating a cacophony of destruction that heralds the impending arrival of Regions Field, the future home of the Birmingham Barons minor league baseball team.
Just a block in the other direction, children laugh and play as a freight train rumbles slowly past Railroad Park, a new public space that has sparked a revival of a once derelict part of town in the shadows of Birmingham’s skyline.
That revival is the culmination of a fortunate series of events for Good People in the two years since they moved from a 1,900-square-foot basement in the city’s Southside to their current home. (114 14th St. S.)
And, just as the neighborhood is transforming around them, so too has the state’s beer culture since co-founders Michael Sellers and Jason Malone sold their first Brown Ale in 2008, when Good People was just one of two production breweries in Alabama.
“We were kind of the first ones here,” Sellers says. “Olde Towne [in Huntsville] was around at the time, but we were right there with them. … To watch the amount of craft beer that people are now turned on to, I think it’s really amazing.”
Olde Towne closed last year, leaving Good People as the oldest of six breweries now operating in the state. Its team of bearded brewers produce five year-round beers and a series of limited releases at their spacious 18,000-square-foot facility, and they’re poised to bring their goods to Lower Alabama.
Like many small breweries, Good People started out with draft-only offerings, but they’ve since installed the state’s only canning line, which they use to package 12 oz. cans of Brown Ale, IPA and Snake Handler, a double IPA that’s brewed once a quarter.
Pale Ale and Coffee Oatmeal Stout — both draft-only beers — round out Good People’s regular offerings.
They are all served on draft at the brewery’s tap room, where visitors can take a tour and taste the beer as they enjoy the view of gleaming stainless steel tanks in which it was made.
That visitor experience, vital to a small brewery’s efforts to connect with its customers, would not have been possible without last year’s passage of the Brewery Modernization Act (BMA). Among other things, the legislation, backed by the organization Free The Hops, made on-site tasting rooms legal for Alabama’s breweries.
“It’s one of the best things to happen to the beer industry in Alabama for a long time,” Sellers says of the BMA. “You get people in, you can educate people on beer, get your name out there.”
But, he admits, there’s room for improvement. Currently, tap rooms can only sell beer for on-site consumption, one pint at a time, but Sellers says they “would love the ability to fill [half-gallon] growlers here. Even if that was it, that would be fine. … [It’s] another revenue source that we don’t have the ability to tap into.”
Sellers says Good People plans to slowly roll out its products in Lower Alabama in the next few weeks.
“I think it’s just a great time to be in beer in Alabama,” he says. “There’s an explosion of interest in craft beer and what beer really means, what beer really is.”
That’s evident later in the evening at the brewery’s tap room, which, despite its out-of-the-way location, is bustling with customers sipping on Good People beers.
“We’re not surrounded by neighborhoods or any really sort of entertainment, but we’ve still maintained a really good crowd,” Sellers says. “The baseball field is obviously going to be a game-changer. It’ll be something that we’ll really have to step our game up for.”
What Good People say about their beers
Brown Ale — Brewed with two-row pale and five specialty malts, it’s malty in both flavor and smell. A heap of Cascade and Willamette add balance to this easy drinking ale. ABV: 5.8 percent. On draft and in 12 oz. cans.
Coffee Oatmeal Stout — Big coffee flavors dominate early, only to be wiped out by an enormous amount of Willamette hop flavors. One of Good People’s most requested beers. Complex and full of flavor, yet amazingly sessionable. Brewed with coffee from Primavera Coffee Roasters in Birmingham. ABV: 6.0 percent. Draft only.
IPA — Copper in color with herbal and earthy hops being most prevalent. Light caramel flavors balance out this unique ale. Hop lovers will enjoy this unfiltered, dry-hopped IPA. ABV: 7.2 percent. On draft and in cans.
Pale Ale — This classic American Pale Ale is floral to the nose and flavorful to the mouth. Two-row and five specialty malts create subtle caramel tones, while just the slap right amount of Cascade hops make our Pale Ale just a shade short of perfect. ABV: 5.6 percent. Draft only.
Snake Handler — A big, joyous celebration of all things hoppy (five different varieties). Large flavors and aroma of pine, citrus, flowers, spice, pineapple and grassiness complimented with a touch of biscuit and caramel backbone. Our most requested beer. ABV: 9.2 percent. On draft and in cans, but only brewed once per quarter.
Dan Murphy is a page designer and the resident beer nut at the Press-Register. He can be reached at email@example.com.