We packed our stuff back in Birmingham, headed north, stayed the night at Point Mallard Campground in Decatur, AL, and then made our way to Blue Pants Brewery in Madison on 2/17/14. Right as we walked up to the brewery, we noticed the beautiful 4,000 sq ft patio containing tables, chairs, and a stage outside. Apparently they utilize that space by bringing in musicians to perform on a weekly basis, as well as allowing patrons to hang out there anytime they’re open.
Blue Pants Brewery was founded by Mike and Allison Spratley in August of 2010, with a lot of help from their family. The name came about from a combination of each of their nicknames; Allison was called ‘Blue’ due to her bright blue eyes and Mike’s nickname in college was ‘Pants.’ Before starting the company, Mike was an aerospace engineer and was quite bored with his job. After the law changed to allow beers above 6.3% ABV in Alabama, he saw an opportunity to switch up his life path and open up a brewery. They started in a 400 sq ft space off of Slaughter Road with a 1.5 bbl brewhouse built out of stainless 55 gal drums he had converted, which they used for a little over a year while still working their full-time jobs. Once it became obvious that they needed more room and capacity for growth, they moved over to their current 10,000 sq ft facility on the other side of town and upgraded to a 15 bbl brewhouse.
As of right now Blue Pants is the only brewery in Madison and, since he is a native to the town, Mike remembers when there wasn’t much to do in town. It is currently the 10th largest city in the state, but is also the fastest growing city in Alabama. They are lucky to have received a lot of support from the city council, mayors, and townspeople; everybody has really been embracing their local brewery. As a matter of fact, Mayor Paul Finley’s going away party was at the brewery and they have done fundraisers for local representatives of the state government. Distribution of their beer can be found throughout Alabama, Tennessee, and now Mississippi after adding them about a month ago. In their first full year, Blue Pants produced around 200 barrels and was able to increase that to around 540 bbl after moving into their new facility. Last year they did close to 2,000 bbl and are projecting somewhere in the realm of 4,500 – 5,400 this year, so clearly they have been successful and have had to consistently add more tanks to keep up with the demand.
The whole crew was bottling while we were there, using a bottling line that they are in the process of purchasing from some people who used to use it as a mobile unit. A fresh bottle of Knickerbocker Red was handed to us almost immediately, and I must say that it hit the spot. Along with the Knickerbocker Red, there are two other core beers: Workman Alabama Common and Amber Waders of Grain Amber Lager. All of the beer names are pants-based (if that wasn’t obvious already), so they also have a line of beers under the tag ‘Big & Tall’ enabling them to do a big beer that is different every time they brew without having to come up with a bazillion pants-themed names to do so. Bourbon-aged Wee Heavy was the first in that series, Cabernet Barrel Belgian Red came second, and they are currently aging Big & Tall #3 – a barleywine aged in both Cabernet and Bourbon barrels. On top of that, Blue Pants has seasonal offerings like the Tuxedo Black IPA, Spare Pair Pale Ale, Slip Rose Strawberry, and Pinstripe Stout.
Expanding on the Pinstripe Stout is the Pinstripe Festival, where they brew twelve variants of the Pinstripe and offer them to attendees. Everyone votes on their favorite version which goes on to be brewed at the following festival, but none of the other variants are brewed again. Bourbon Pinstripe won the first year and, although it technically won again, the Nitro Pinstripe came in a close second this year, so they are going to do a Nitro Bourbon Pinstripe at the next festival. They also hold challenges each year; the first year patrons had to drink a 22oz of the Habanero Pinstripe and keep it down in order to win a shirt, and this year they held a Pinstripe Wisconsin Beer Bong challenge where people had to down a 22oz of any Pinstripe variant of their choice and then eat the pickled egg found at the bottom. Apparently most people were doing it with the Siracha Pinstripe and said it wasn’t half bad.
Inside the brewery you will find the walls lined with 125 mugs, which are for the people in their Mug Club. People in the club pay $75 for the first year and $50 to renew in order to get all kinds of benefits, like getting to try new beers first and receiving discounts on special events. You will find food trucks there on occasion and there is live music on Thursday and Friday nights (sometimes Saturday nights as well). One of their employees, Derek Weidenthal, aka Weedy, is going through the Siebel Institute’s International Brewing Program in Chicago and Germany, and is maintaining a blog that you can find here. Big thanks to Mike for taking time out of his bottling day to speak with us, as well as Matt Cochrane for serving us our flights and being an overall great guy!
Author: Michael Roberts