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After years of anticipation, Haint Blue Brewing Co. opened its taphouse at the former Crystal Ice House building at 806 Monroe St. last month.
Anyone who cares anything about craft beer in Mobile probably knows at least a bit about the saga that has been the Haint Blue Brewing Co. and the old Crystal Ice House over the past two years or so. While stationed in Washington State, owner Keith Sherrill got plugged into the craft beer scene in the Northwest, and when he and his wife decided to move back to Alabama to be close to family following his retirement from the Army, he planned on opening a brewery.
He purchased the old Ice House in 2016, even before he had left Washington, and began making plans for the brewery. He convinced his brother-in-law, Matt Wheeler, to sign on as brewmaster, and they hoped to open within a year. The Ice House’s haints, however, seemed to have it in for Sherrill, and he faced a number of legal obstacles that delayed the opening of the brewery.
Undeterred, Sherrill contracted with Mississippi’s Lazy Magnolia to produce Haint Blue’s beers before the brewery in Mobile was completed. As a result, its two flagship brews have been widely available both on tap and in bottles in Mobile and Baldwin counties for a while now, building up a dedicated following well before the brewery opened last month.
Haint Blue’s India Pale Ale is an excellent, well-balanced IPA. It is hoppy, but not overpowering, with some very subtle citrus notes. It’s an everyday beer, and, in many ways, what an IPA should taste like, unencumbered by all the extra stuff that seems to now go into many IPAs. The Marianne, on the other hand, is more unique — a strong (7.8% ABV), hoppy, hazy saison, with saffron spices. The Afghanistan veteran Sherrill calls it “the beer that fights terrorism,” as the saffron is purchased from Afghan farmers, providing them with economic opportunities.
I met Keith Sherrill for a pint not long after the brewery’s opening and was surprised neither the IPA nor the Marianne was on tap at the Ice House. Like most taprooms, Haint Blue offers brews that are only available on-site; unlike most breweries, it only had three beers on tap, none of which were the flagships the brewery was already known for. Even more surprisingly, all three beers — the “Jarrett,” the “Lewis,” and the “Diane” — were IPAs, flying in the face of the cornucopia of styles most craft breweries like to put out today.
I asked Sherrill about this and he told me he planned on “producing a few good options,” instead of a wide-variety of brews, focusing mainly on different types of IPAs at the Ice House. He said at least two of the beers on tap would always be IPAs, occasionally mixing in something different, like a porter. I tried the “Diane,” a light, smooth ale with citrus notes. It reminded me of many of the beers that come out in the summertime, and was defiantly in a West Coast style.
At $6.50 and $7, pints are a little pricier than at the other local breweries, and no cash, only plastic is accepted. The interior of the Ice House is a quirky, comfortable area — an eclectic mix of the old and new, with modern tile and glass contrasted with century-old church pews and old schoolroom chairs. Local artist and musician Abe Partridge did both the mural inside the taproom and the design of the Ice House pint glasses; his folk art adds a unique touch to Haint Blue, as do the 150 very unique blown glass tumblers behind the counter that are personalized and reserved for those who contributed to the brewery’s initial crowdfunding campaign.
Sherrill said he wants to build “fellowship through beer,” and has created a wonderful neighborhood space for people to come together. The brewery is open every day but Monday, so stop by and (finally!) enjoy a beer at the old Ice House!