Mobile Baykeeper HopsFest Draws Hundreds; Celebrates Legislation Allowing Beers with Higher Alcohol Content

(Press-Register/Victor Calhoun) Morgan Smith samples an import at HopsFest, an event in Mobile, Ala., that gave patrons a chance to sample craft beers from around the country and a few imports. It was held Saturday, March 20, 2010, in Cathedral Square in downtown Mobile.

Written by David Ferrara for

MOBILE, Ala. — MOBILE, Ala. — Many of the 53 types of beers offered at Cathedral Square on Saturday would have been illegal in the state at the same time last year.

The inaugural Mobile Baykeeper HopsFest, celebrating state legislation that allows beers with higher alcohol content, drew hundreds of gourmet beer aficionados.

Many of them did not appear to be the stereotypical beer drinker, like Leslie Ann Kilpatrick, a thin, 21-year-old blond wearing a white sun dress with a floral pattern. She wants to be a dancer.

“I love beer,” she said, as she sipped Abita Brewing Company’s Strawberry Harvest. Kilpatrick said she particularly enjoys tasting the different brews that have made it on to store shelves since the state cleared the way for beers with an alcohol content above six percent.

Then again, this wasn’t a typical beer festival, certainly not a pub crawl like the annual Dauphin Street Beer Festival.

Casi Callaway, the executive director of Baykeeper, said the theme of the event was “conserve water, drink beer.”

She added, “You’ve got to have clean water to have good beer, too.”

The event featured international craft beers from as far away as Belgium and Germany, and domestic beers from Vermont, Oregon, Michigan, and as close as Louisiana and Mississippi. Each of the beers had distinct, strong flavors, some with alcohol content that matches that of some wines.

But as John Lasseter, general manager of the craft division at Gulf Distributing Co., pointed out, “alcohol content within a beer should never be a selling point.”

The beers showcased Saturday promised more ingredients, more care, he said. Beers with names like Piraat, White Rascal, Jackamo, Indian Summer, Dos Perros, Red Brick Blonde and NOLA Hopitoulas. He described them as having dry, fruity, coffee, chocolate, aggressive and challenging flavors.

“This will give us the opportunity to greet the consumers,” Lasseter said, “and help them develop a taste for good, quality, high-end products.”

April and Lane King, of Pensacola, drove to Mobile specifically for those unique flavors.

“Why these kinds of beers? They taste good,” April King said. “I like beers that have a little bit of character and personality and not just flat Bud Light. Beers that don’t taste like carbonated water. Something that lets you remember that flavor.”

Her husband added, “I like to taste my beer. And emphasize the word taste.”

As more and more specialty brews flow into the state, brewers like Patrick Brown of Lazy Magnolia in Kiln, Miss., hope that the beer drinker’s palate will become more sophisticated.

“Now you’re starting to see a craft beer revolution,” he said.

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