Bo Hicks and Elliott Roberts weren’t childhood friends working to turn a dream into reality. Instead, they came to know each other through a local homebrew club, and after realizing the practicality of sharing brewing equipment, the two decided it was time for Tuscaloosa to have its own brewery.
“We didn’t have any previous professional experience with brewing, but we had some semi-professional experience with beer,” Roberts said. “We were big fans of craft beer.”
Hicks, friends with brewers at Good People Brewing Company in Birmingham, said he became involved with the local movements and started brewing as more a fun hobby.
“I fell in love with the activity, and people responded well to the beer at tailgates and other events, so why not?”
Both Hicks and Roberts agreed that many cities the size of Tuscaloosa had at least two breweries already. With both of them being Tuscaloosa natives, the idea of starting Druid City Brewing Company seemed fitting.
“I think the culture of beer has changed,” Hicks said. “People embrace the regional flavors more now, and a town can build its pride around it. Tuscaloosa lends itself to craft beer and is an incubator for beer palates.”
The brewery, Druid City Brewing Company, will be located near the Parkview Shopping Center on 14th Street. Once operating, it will offer wheat and pale ale beers.
“Our thoughts were that a wheat beer is a great, easy-to-drink summer beer,” Roberts said. “The pale ale has a more hoppy taste, similar to Sweetwater 420. We both like hoppy beer.”
They also chose to offer the wheat beer because it lends itself to both connoisseurs and those unfamiliar with craft beers, without scaring newcomers off. While not wanting to start off too bold, Hicks and Roberts do eventually want to branch out with their beer flavors.
“We are looking to do more adventurous stuff, try some wild combinations in the future,” Hicks said. “Brewing is like cooking – it has so many different nuances.”
The beers will be sold draft at first and will be available at The Alcove, Wilhagan’s, Egan’s and Corks N Tops, and at other locations as the business grows.
“We are looking to grow fast, but not too fast because that can be harmful to a business,” Hicks said. “We try to be really thoughtful and want to keep our beer where people can have access to it.”
Hicks said that while the bars offering their product are not top student locations, students are a market they want to appeal to.
“We would love for college kids, of age, to enjoy our beer, and we hope to be in places where they are in the future,” Hicks said. “We want to appeal to everyone, from the professionals to the college kids. Because of the University’s recent growth to over 30,000 students, that’s a market you’ve got to court.”
Fortunately for the pair of brewers, not all students veer to the typical party drink of choice, a light beer that’s corporate and soulless.
Josh Hill, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, said he prefers craft beers and likes the variety of them.
“They are a lot different from typical mainstream beers. I am excited we are going to have something local and look forward to trying it,” Hill said. “It’s going to be pretty cool to have a brewery, and because it’s a college town, it seems appropriate.”
Roberts said students would play a crucial part in the brewery’s recognition by being able to spread the word about their products.
“We hope that one day, UA students can be evangelists for our product and be helpful when we try to expand outside of Tuscaloosa to Birmingham, Atlanta and other areas,” Roberts said.
The company is set to start brewing on Oct. 1, with beers becoming available in bars by November, but the dates are not official.
“We are making sure we do everything correctly and are pushing hard to get the beer out by football season, our favorite season,” Hicks said. “But if not, definitely by softball season.”
Both Hicks and Roberts view this business venture as a community project and have strived to keep all aspects as local as possible by using local banks, insurers and marketing companies.
“We want to be able to see people at community events with our beer,” Roberts said. “Enjoying Tuscaloosa beer at Tuscaloosa activities.”