ALL OF us at Brew/Drink/Run support local beer. In Savannah we’re blessed with several great options, but we also like to promote all of Georgia’s breweries.
As such we don’t talk much about breweries in other states, and particularly not Alabama breweries. But recent events have opened a door to have that comparison.
This pleases me to no end because -- please don’t hold this against me -- I’m originally from Alabama and attended the University of Alabama, so I know all about the great beers being produced just across the state line.
Georgia and Alabama share some brewing history as both states had some very restrictive alcohol laws following prohibition. While Georgia slowly and fitfully changed its laws over the past few decades, Alabama was slower in its approach.
The Alabama legislators made a major law change in 2013 with a few additions over the intervening years, and thus Alabama went from one of the worst states for beer companies to one of the best. With such a late start that did mean that Alabama was behind the curve for brewing companies to start up.
Georgia had a head start with breweries like Terrapin and Sweet Water brewing, paving the way legally for craft beer and paving the way for smaller breweries to pop up. Alabama did not have one of these leaders, so most everything in craft beer there has happened in the past few years.
In the spirit of good competition here are some of the best breweries to be found in Alabama, side by side with some of my picks for best Georgia breweries.
Let’s start with Athens and Tuscaloosa, the homes of this year’s leaders of NCAA football.
Black Warrior Brewing Company has its roots in the rich Birmingham and Tuscaloosa home brewing scene. Co-owner and head brewer Jason Spikes formed a friendship with co-owners Joe Fuller and Eric Hull at their day job. That friendship, born out of an interest in home brewing and mountain biking, led to the creation of Black Warrior Brewing Company. Opening their doors in late 2013 Black Warrior Brewing Company is located in the heart of Tuscaloosa’s thriving downtown area. Make sure you try their Apricot Wheat beer.
Druid City Brewing: When the brewers of Black Warrior were not perfecting their own homebrews they were collaborating with their friends and fellow homebrewers Bo Hicks and Elliott Roberts. Hicks and Roberts also dreamed of owning their own production brewery. Slightly older than Black Warrior, they sold their first beer in 2012 only later opening their tap room. Druid City, in addition to making good beer is known for its collaboration with local artists. Druid City commissions these artists to create football inspired chalk drawings on the board behind it’s bar. A few years ago artist Rich Marcks created a Last Supper inspired piece featuring all the SEC head coaches. Nick Saban, of course, replaced Jesus, and Georgia coach and former Alabama player and coach Kirby Smart was substituted as Judas. Give their TusKaloosa (the original spelling of the city’s name and the Indian chief the city is named after) Stout a go when visiting.
Creature Comforts: Located in the downtown area and housed in a former Goodyear tire building Creature Comforts is a must visit when in Athens. Like many breweries in Alabama and Georgia, Creature Comforts is relatively new on the scene but has made a fast impact across the state and is now producing some of Georgia’s most exciting beer. The brewery has a huge seated area and a large outdoor space that regularly hosts local music acts. Seek out Tropicália, Creature Comforts citrusy, fruity IPA.
The Southern Brewing Company: “Everything! It’s all great” That is what I heard most often when I asked what I should make sure I try from Southern Brewing Company (SBC). The newest brewery on the Athens craft beer scene, SBC was founded only three years ago but is already earning a reputation for making exciting but grounded beers. Co-Founders Brian Roth and Rick Goddard have years of experience on the corporate end of beer making, Roth as wholesaler, with a stop in Athens to earn a sculpture degree at UGA, and Goddard as a beer lobbyist in D.C. A kolsch beer is not supposed to be an exciting beer but SBC’s Ironmaker kolsch is as good as you’ll find.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to mention of few other Alabama breweries. Good People is Birmingham’s largest brewery. You can find their brews here in Savannah. Straight to Ale is a very exciting brewery located in Huntsville. You can also find some of their brews here in Georgia. Lesser known but very exciting is Blue Pants Brewing. They are making some very interesting barrel aged beers based around their core Pinstripe stout.
All of these breweries are located in North Alabama - down south, Fairhope Brewing reigns. They have a very exciting sour program and are worth seeking out.
No matter the outcome of the game, choosing beers from one of these breweries will make you a winner.