Jim Shamburger really wants to pour you a beer. A tall glass of Big Beach Brewing beer, to be exact.
In fact, the Gulf Shores dentist would have loved to have poured that beer back when the summer tourists started flocking south as the snowbirds headed north, but in the brewing industry, as in life, things rarely go as planned.
Now Shamburger is cautiously optimistic Gulf Shores’ first craft brewery will be up and running by Labor Day.
“I think we have maybe as many as six weeks more of construction but I’m hoping we can cram it into four,” Shamburger said, adding “once construction’s finished … we’ve got to have a few weeks to get the tanks full in the cellar.”
When those tanks are full, it will be the culmination of more than three years of planning, which at one time included a complete rebranding, from the original proposed location all the way down to the name of the brewery itself.
Barefoot Brewery was going to be too close to a church, according to neighbors who opposed the original plans. Big Beach Brewing will be in the heart of the city’s happening Waterway Village, joining Tacky Jack’s and Acme Oyster House in the tourist-friendly development.
Shamburger, who enjoys homebrewing and whose Irish red ale will be one of the first beers brewed at Big Beach, has brought on seasoned brewer Rod Murray to take the lead on brewing operations.
Murray has been homebrewing for more than 20 years, and brewing professionally for more than four years in Missouri, where he helped open Public House Brewing Co.’s brewpub and larger production facility.
At Big Beach, Murray will have a 10-barrel (310 gallons per batch) brewhouse to work with, which will pump out beers that will only see limited distribution outside of the brewpub.
To start, Big Beach plans to offer four beers on tap — an India pale ale, a cream ale, a traditional German hefeweizen and Shamburger’s Irish red, which he describes as “a very sessionable beer that folks who have not surrendered to the hops can enjoy.”
Shamburger plans to add a dark beer to the regular rotation — “probably a brown” — and then add seasonal offerings as the year passes — porters and Scotch ales in the winter, lighter beers in the summer.
Shamburger sees Big Beach as a hyperlocal brewery, with distribution to just a handful of accounts in Mobile County and a heavy focus on the Gulf Shores location. “We just have so many folks here down at the beach that know we’re coming and are already telling us they really want our beer. When a customer comes in [to a restaurant or bar] they always ask, ‘what have you got local,’ and of course we’ve got Fairhope, but they want to try something from the town where they are.”
I’ll toast to that.
Dan Murphy is a Certified Cicerone®, the founding brewer at Fairhope Brewing Co. Follow him on Instagram @Grand_Krewe and on Twitter @Beer_Man_Dan.