A few weeks back, I spoke with Fairhope brewer Tim Heath about the brewery’s decision to offer draft beer to-go exclusively in 32-ounce aluminum cans, known as Crowlers.
As it turns out, Fairhope is hardly alone in the decision to fill the popular cans from brewery taprooms. Eight other Alabama breweries — Cahaba, Good People, Yellowhammer, Straight to Ale, Blue Pants, Salty Nut, Singin’ River and Rocket Republic — were primed and ready to offer Crowler fills on June 1, when the law allowing off-premise beer sales went into effect.
If you’re on the fence about a road trip to the state’s numerous breweries, perhaps the notion of a growler or Crowler of Salty Nuts’ Unimpeachable Pale Ale, an ode to Gov. Robert Bentley’s current, ummm, affairs, will sway you.
Word from the breweries is sales from taprooms have been brisk since the law took effect.
Crooked Stave makes Alabama debut
Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project may be less than four years old, but the Colorado brewery has garnered a national reputation for its sour and barrel-aged beers, and now its offerings are available throughout Alabama.
For the first few years, Crooked Stave founder and brewer Chad Yakobson would contract brew wort (unfermented beer) at a local brewery, then transfer it to his barrel facility in Denver, where he’d ferment the beer, add fruit or other ingredients and allow it to age in the barrels.
In that time, Crooked Stave earned two Great American Beer Festival medals for wild and barrel-aged beers and has since started brewing its own wort onsite, giving Yakobson greater control over the final product.
My wife and I recently cracked open a bottle of Serenata Notturna Blueberry, a 12 percent ABV Belgian Golden Strong Ale aged in oak barrels with blueberries, and it took much less time to fall in love with the beer than it took to write that description.
This beer has so much going on, and at times I was convinced I was drinking a full-bodied red wine. As with any beer with a high alcohol content, let this one warm up a bit before enjoying the rich body, subtle oak, jammy blueberry and pleasant tartness that combine to serenade your taste buds. You’re not going to want to reach for this one to cool off from doing yard work, but it makes for a great nightcap. Pour into your favorite brandy snifter or Belgian tulip glass and enjoy.
Highland Brewing revamping its portfolio
Highland Brewing Co. announced this week it is in the process of upending its entire portfolio and will release more new packaged beer than it has in a decade, starting with Highland Mandarina IPA, an aromatic, citrus India pale ale brewed with California oranges.
“We combine Mandarina Bavaria and Hull Melon dry hops with hundreds of pounds of whole pureed oranges to create a unique orange blossom aroma and orange zest flavor in this fruit IPA,” said Hollie Stephenson, head brewer at the Asheville, North Carolina, brewery.
Mandarina IPA will be available locally by the end of the month, and is just a sneak peek at what the brewery has in store.
“Highland is the pioneer of craft brewing in Asheville, and we’re still reaching,” Leah Wong Ashburn, president of Highland Brewing Co., said. “Excitement for new beers like Mandarina IPA is palpable from our fans, longtime and new, and our staff. Test batching with new hops and real oranges is invaluable, and Hollie and the brew team have done it right.”
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.