Druid City Brewing Company doesn’t look like much on the outside, in the back of the CitiTrends building in the Parkview Shopping Center on 14th Street, but the building’s exterior is no reflection of the creative process brewing on the inside.
The company, a part of the ever-growing craft brewing movement, is now open and bringing a little more culture to Tuscaloosa.
According to the Brewers Association website, the craft brewing industry grew 13 percent by volume in 2011 and 15 percent by dollars. Despite the trend, though, craft brewing has been largely inhibited in Alabama by state laws. But in the last three years, some of these restrictions on the beer industry were changed, opening the door a little wider for craft beer lovers.
Elliott Roberts and Bo Hicks, the founders of Druid City Brewing Company, said they believe Alabama is making progress but still has a long way to go.
“We were sort of doing the research on this,” Roberts said. “If Alabama had as many breweries per capita as Colorado we’d have like 140 plus. When you think about how we have probably eight or 10 in the state, and when you think about how Tuscaloosa doesn’t even have one – and Tuscaloosa loves beer, clearly, always has, at least in my time here – it’s just sad. We felt like someone was going to do it here and do it well, and we thought it might as well be us.”
For Hicks, the Tuscaloosa beer culture was not something he was sure existed until he visited bars like The Alcove, Egan’s and Wilhagans, and put on Suds of the South, a local beer festival that takes place over spring break.
“That’s where I get a lot of my recommendations for beers that I might not know, is through talking to different people and being adventurous and trying different beers,” Hicks said. “You exchange stories. Through the festival and going to places that have a large draft selection, you run into some of the like-minded people that really want to try new adventurous things in beer and not just the macro-American stuff.”
Druid City Brewing will be Tuscaloosa’s first brewery since Barrett’s Brewpub closed in 1999, and it has received an overwhelmingly positive response so far.
“The reception has been really great,” Roberts said. “The way most people vote is with their wallets and with their taste buds. I was joking with Bo the other day that I was sitting in Wilhagans the other day and heard the most beautiful sound in the world – ‘I’ll have another Druid City.’”
Roberts said it is easy to get people to try the first one because people in Tuscaloosa want support local business.
“If they are like ‘Oh great it’s local, but it’s terrible,’ then it really doesn’t do us a lot of good,” he said. “So that was the really awesome part – to hear them say, ‘Yeah, I’ll have another.’ It was also cool to hear them want to support Tuscaloosa so much.”
Currently, Druid City Brewing offers two beers, a pale ale and a wheat beer.
Roberts described their pale ale as a something between Sweetwater 420 and a Sierra Nevada. Hicks said they also wanted to include a wheat beer to appeal to both “beer nerds” and the “everyday person.”
“I’ve always told people that Tuscaloosa is sort of a beer palette incubator,” Hicks said. “You sort of go from drinking Natural Light or macro-American style beers to learning about craft beer. So when we were formulating our recipes, we were brewing a wheat because we were trying to brew every style possible, and because it got such a great reception from our friends who weren’t super beer nerds, we decided that we would make it. It is one I think beer nerds would be happy with, but also won’t scare away the customer.”
Initially, the beers will be available on tap at Wilhagans, Egan’s, The Alcove, Downtown Pub and Corks and Tops. In the future they hope to expand the business beyond just selling beer on draft to bottling or canning their creations. They hope to be able to put out 100 to 200 bottle batches in the spring.
“We are looking to do small runs of hand bottled 22 ounce bottles of some rare batch stuff that people can take for gifts,” he said. “Because Tuscaloosa is Mecca for a lot of people and a lot of students from out of town might want some to take their parents or somebody else they know that is really into beer culture, and say, ‘Hey this is where I am and this is what we are doing.’”
Hicks and Roberts said they hope Druid City Brewing can be a gateway for people wanting to learn to appreciate craft beers.
“Hopefully by being here we will create an even bigger beer culture and be able to get more people interested in that aspect of it as opposed to people drinking beer for an end gain to get drunk,” Hicks said. “We want people to respect the artisan nature of making the beer.”
Rowdy Spradling, a senior majoring in criminal justice and craft beer enthusiast, said he is excited about the brewery opening for that reason.
“I think it is something locals and visitors can try that is unique to Tuscaloosa, and I think it is going to be cool,” Spradling said. “As a local beer connoisseur, it is definitely something to be excited about here in town.”
Druid City Brewing Company will host several launch events at Egan’s, Wilhagans and The Alcove this week to celebrate their opening.
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