Tuscaloosa is, of course, best known for football, but in the past few years it has also developed into a significant craft brewing locale, currently home to three breweries. On a recent visit to T-Town, I decided to check them out. I found a number to great beers, and three very distinctive taprooms.
Opened in 2012, Druid City Brewing Co. was Tuscaloosa’s first brewery. Best known for its Downtown North Porter, which won the top beer prize at the 2016 Alabama Craft Beer Festival, it now puts out six beers that can be found on tap at bars in and around the city. Its quirky little taproom, however, is worth a visit.
Located in the back of a strip mall off 15th Street, the tiny taproom has a small bar that seats about eight people, and a handful of scattered tables. Outside there is much more seating in a makeshift patio within the roped-off parking lot. I was there on a non-football weekend Friday night, and it was packed. There was a DJ outside and trivia going on, while a number of people were playing board games and enjoying the beer inside.
There were only three beers on tap that night — the porter, the Lamplighter IPA and the Druid City Wheat — but if the beer is good, that is all you need. I ordered the Grapefruit Shandy, which was the wheat ale (5 percent alcohol by volume) with a generous splash of real grapefruit juice. It was refreshing and perfect for a steamy late-summer Alabama evening.
Leaving Druid City, I headed to Black Warrior Brewing Co., located on University Avenue in the heart of Tuscaloosa’s entertainment district, about a mile from the Denny Chimes. Its taproom was much more like an upscale downtown pub, with a long, beautiful wooden bar, booths and some seating out front on University. The shiny tanks holding the brew are clearly visible, reminding everyone that it is indeed a working brewery.
Inside I was confronted with a large menu of beers, so I asked my beertender, Forrest (who happened to be from Baldwin County), to give me some recommendations for a flight of four samples from the available 13 on tap. He steered me to the Broad Street Brown, The One and Only Mosaic, the Lock 17 IPA and the Blood Orange Double IPA. I was not disappointed.
The brown ale was excellent, rich with malt flavors, almost like a light porter. It would be one to have if you were having more than one. The Mosaic was very interesting — a hoppy pale ale with some spice and fruit flavorings (Forrest’s favorite). The Lock 17 was a good, strong India pale ale with a deep color, while the Blood Orange IPA was superb — smooth orange taste at the beginning, followed by a powerful finish and, at 8.4 percent ABV, strong enough to knock down Big Al.
In addition to its wide selection of beers, some of which are available in bottles, Black Warrior also makes its own wine. The taproom also features cold brew coffee on tap, which can be added to any beer — something I’ve never seen before. I had a taste of the cold brew mixed with the Broad Street Brown. It was tasty, but the coffee (which was strong) was too overpowering for me — it needed more beer in the mix.
The newest of Tuscaloosa’s craft brewers is the Band of Brothers Brewing Co., located by the railroad tracks on 23rd Avenue. No typical T-Town tavern, it is situated inside a warehouse — which serves as the brewery, loading dock and taproom — and had a very different feel than either Black Warrior or Druid City. I stopped by early on a Saturday afternoon, when things were still quiet (save the forklifts), and had a great time talking beer, music and football with some of the regulars. There were five beers on tap and I took a sample of each before going with the White Widow IPA, which was strong and hoppy despite its light color. I had to leave, but was happy to find out three Band of Brothers brews are available in bottles in Mobile, so keep an eye out for them. I’ll definitely be back, though.
If you don’t want to schlep all the way to Tuscaloosa for some Alabama craft beer, good news is (almost) here. Serda’s Brewing Co. on Government Street will host a “sneak peek” of the brewery, with food trucks and merchandise for sale, on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 1-6 p.m. Unfortunately no beer is available yet, but you can check out what we all hope will soon be a Mobile staple.
Photo: Provided – In addition to a wide selection of beers, some of which are available in bottles, Black Warrior Brewing also makes its own wine and cold-brew coffee.