Written by Dan Murphy for al.com and The Press Register
Editorâ€™s Note: BW Beer Writer Dan Murphy and photographer Michael Dumas spent a weekend in early March touring all six of Alabamaâ€™s operating breweries. This is the first installment of a series of columns focusing on the stateâ€™s budding beer culture.Â
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 Birminghamâ€™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 cityâ€™s Southside to their current home. (114 14th St. S.)
And, just as the neighborhood is transforming around them, so too has the stateâ€™sÂ beerÂ 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.
â€œWe were kind of the first ones here,â€ Sellers says. â€œOlde 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 itâ€™s really amazing.â€
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 theyâ€™re poised to bring their goods to Lower Alabama.
Like many small breweries, Good People started out with draft-only offerings, but theyâ€™ve since installed the stateâ€™s only canning line, which they use to package 12 oz. cans of Brown Ale, IPA and Snake Handler, a double IPA thatâ€™s brewed once a quarter.
Pale Ale and Coffee Oatmeal Stout â€” both draft-only beers â€” round out Good Peopleâ€™s regular offerings.
They are all served on draft at the breweryâ€™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 breweryâ€™s efforts to connect with its customers, would not have been possible without last yearâ€™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 Alabamaâ€™s breweries.
â€œItâ€™s one of the best things to happen to the beer industry in Alabama for a long time,â€ Sellers says of the BMA. â€œYou get people in, you can educate people on beer, get your name out there.â€
But, he admits, thereâ€™s room for improvement. Currently, tap rooms can only sell beer for on-site consumption, one pint at a time, but Sellers says they â€œwould love the ability to fill [half-gallon] growlers here. Even if that was it, that would be fine. … [Itâ€™s] another revenue source that we donâ€™t have the ability to tap into.â€
Sellers says Good People plans to slowly roll out its products in Lower Alabama in the next few weeks.
â€œI think itâ€™s just a great time to be in beer in Alabama,â€ he says. â€œThereâ€™s an explosion of interest in craft beer and what beer really means, what beer really is.â€
Thatâ€™s evident later in the evening at the breweryâ€™s tap room, which, despite its out-of-the-way location, is bustling with customers sipping on Good People beers.
â€œWeâ€™re not surrounded by neighborhoods or any really sort of entertainment, but weâ€™ve still maintained a really good crowd,â€ Sellers says. â€œThe baseball field is obviously going to be a game-changer. Itâ€™ll be something that weâ€™ll really have to step our game up for.â€
What Good People say about their beers
Brown Ale â€”Â Brewed with two-row pale and five specialty malts, itâ€™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 StoutÂ â€” Big coffee flavors dominate early, only to be wiped out by an enormous amount of Willamette hop flavors. One of Good Peopleâ€™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 â€”Â 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 AleÂ â€” This classic American Pale Ale is floral to the nose and flavorful to the mouth.Â 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 HandlerÂ â€” 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.