Huntsville Beer Week Celebrates Alabama’s Craft Beer Industry
By Tonya Vots
Within the past three years, local breweries including Straight to Ale, Yellowhammer Brewing, and Blue Pants Brewing, have expanded the craft brew selection in North Alabama. With each new brewery, the craft brew community strengthens. To celebrate local and regional craft beer, breweries, distributors and businesses have teamed up to present Huntsville Beer Week from September 9 to 18, 2011.
The people who produce the Rocket City Brewfest are the same ones behind this endeavor.
“We have a lot of community support from local businesses, and we wanted a way to promote their business and craft beer,” says organizer Dan Roberts. “We’re all beer nerds and have heard of other Beer Weeks, so we started floating the idea around.”
When Jim Trolinger, a retired engineer and beer-geek extraordinaire, started spreading the word that Huntsville Beer Week would be September 8-19, things started to gel.
“That was in July,” Roberts says. “This was really hatched in July—Jim is the idea man for Huntsville Beer Week.”
With craft beer as a common cause, it didn’t take long to rally the support of local and regional breweries. While the local breweries are indeed the stars here, the support of established Southeastern breweries including Yazoo, Sweetwater, Terrapin, Wild Heaven, Thomas Creek, Lazy Magnolia and Highland Brewing lends clout. Other Alabama breweries – Good People Brewing and Avondale Brewing of Birmingham and Back Forty Beer Co. of Gadsden – will be on hand to round out the Alabama slate.
At least eight businesses have volunteered their establishments to host beer specials, tap takeovers and meet-the-brewer events for the week. Other beer-savvy businesses are strong supporters.
The week kicks off on Friday with Southern HOPSpitality, an evening of beer sampling and Southern rock. It will mark the debut of another Huntsville brewery, Old Black Bear Brewing. Because there is not a main sponsor for the week, proceeds from Southern HOPSpitality will fund promotion for the week including posters and radio ads. Grassroots beer advocacy group Free the Hops donated web hosting space to help spread the word.
Roberts explained why Huntsville has become a hotbed for craft breweries.
“The reason is that Huntsville has a strong homebrewing community—maybe it’s because there are so many engineers here,” he said. “Now that some of the restrictions placed on beer in Alabama have been loosened, these guys are thinking about going commercial. In truth, probably less than 1 percent will actually go through with it, but when you’re talking about hundreds of homebrewers, that’s a lot of breweries.”
More North Alabama craft beer is on the horizon. Below the Radar in Huntsville is expected to start production before the end of the year, and Salty Nut Brewing plans to start in 2012. While these breweries may not have beer currently available for sale, expect either or both to have a presence during Huntsville Beer Week.
As a statewide showcase of how far Alabama has come along the craft beer road, the inaugural Huntsville Beer Week is sure to please brew fans.
“It’s a beer festival for beer fans,” Roberts says. “If people see the growing Alabama beer scene, it’s worth a trip.”
For a schedule of the week’s activities and tickets, visit www.huntsvillebeerweek.com.