After heading out of Mississippi but before crossing over into Florida, we stopped off at Fairhope Brewing Co located within “the dangly bits of Alabama” in the city of Fairhope on Friday, 1/24/14. Breweries were at one time sparse in the state, but after multiple law changes over the past 5 years, the Alabama brewery scene went from 1 operating, manufacturing brewery to about 25. Some examples of recent law changes include the Gourmet Beer Bill passed in May of 2009 which raised the ABV of beers allowed to be sold in the state and the Brewery Modernization Act in June of 2011 which, amongst other things, made taprooms legal.
The owner, Brian Krane, is originally from Mobile, AL and after him and his wife, Michele, spent some time living in Juneau, AK falling in love with craft beer, they became aware of the law changes going on back in Alabama and decided to act. Teaming up with Dan Murphy, their head brewer, Gabe Harris, president of the advocacy group Free the Hops, and Jim Foley, a friend from law school, they were able to open up Fairhope Brewing Co. They currently have about 60 accounts in lower Alabama as well as a few in Birmingham, and surpassed their goal by producing a little over 600bbl of beer last year using a 10bbl brewhouse, five 10bbl fermenters, and 2 bright tanks.
Fairhope Brewing Co has 4 year-round offerings. First is the Everyday Ale – an American Blonde ale that utilizes British Maris Otter malt and Kent Golding hops in a way that allows the beer to pair perfectly with beautiful days along the Eastern Shore’s bay. Next is a classic American pale ale that was at one time the head brewer’s 51st home brew recipe, Fairhope 51, which flaunts a unique combination of American-made Falconer’s Flight hops and German hops. Third is the Painted Black IPA, which, if you’re familiar with the Rolling Stones song, has ‘dark-as-night’ color and is full of citrus and pine aromas with the intense hop profile you would expect from an American IPA. Completing the selection of year-round beers is an unfiltered and unpasteurized traditional German-style Hefeweissen known as Section Street Wheat.
Their head brewer Dan, who was at one time a home brewer and beer writer for a local newspaper, spoke to us while we were there and told us that their clientele appreciates hop forward beer. Take the Causeway IPA is the most popular beer at Fairhope among the craft beer enthusiasts in the area, and it originally started as a summer seasonal when it was the first beer in their Fairhop series. After it gained much popularity, the brewery had to work out hop contracts to ensure the beer could be on the taps more often as a part of their occasional line-up, and luckily they have been able to solidify that through 2016. Another occasional brew is a “Brewsician” collaboration with local musician and friend to the brewery, Grayson Capps, that is known as Lil Poison Brown Ale. We were lucky enough to try a cask-conditioned version of this while we were there, and it was delicious. Complementing the year-round and occasional offerings are multiple different brews released under their small-batch series, Fairhop series, and Jubilees. The brewery also made a spring seasonal under the tag Rescue Dog Red which was accompanied by an adoption event they had outside the brewery where about 5 dogs were adopted; proceeds from the beer during and after the event went towards The Haven, and around $1,400 was raised and donated last year.
Live music fills the room every Friday, so we got to check out the awesome sounds of the Underhill Family Orchestra while we were there enjoying some good brews. They don’t serve food, but they occasionally have food trucks (like the night we visited) and they also have food menus for local restaurants and allow their guests to bring in food. Dan also told us about obscure holidays they like to celebrate, like Groundhog Day and Jubilee, so be sure not to miss those special occasions. Big thanks to Dan and Brian for putting up with us on their busy music-filled cask release night!
You can find their taproom hours here.
Author: Michael Roberts