Photo courtesy Braided River Brewing Co.
With two new breweries set to open before the end of the year and more established local beermakers looking to make changes, a sudsy renaissance seems to be on the horizon in the Port City.
Old Majestic Brewing Company, which is on tap for an October or November opening on St. Louis Street, is awaiting the installation of piping before it can receive a business license and jump other regulatory hurdles in the brewing process, co-owner John Minton said.
“As soon as we get that done and get our permit, we’ll start brewing in two to three weeks,” he said. “Our lighter beers don’t need as much time as our darker beers. Perfection takes time.”
Old Majestic, a name inspired by Mobile itself, has reached an agreement with Gulf Distributing to send its beer out to restaurants and stores, but the taproom will be a testing ground for the company’s signature craft brews, Minton said.
“We’re going to start taproom sales first to help determine what the best sellers are and put them out,” Minton said. “We hope to start coming out soon after the taproom opens.”
Speaking of those brews, Old Majestic is planning four or five flagship beers, including Amber Waves of Grain; a Belgian-style Old Majestic Blonde; a smoked molasses porter called Eliza Battle, named for a steamship that sank on the Tombigbee River; an American stout called Four Fathers; and an IPA called Boeuf Gras, or fat ox.
“It has a nice black currant aftertaste,” Minton said. “It’s easy drinking.”
The taproom at 656 St. Louis Street will not prepare food itself, but food will be available there for purchase, Minton said. The taproom will also feature televisions and a projector for sports.
Like Old Majestic, Braided River is also on St. Louis Street and looking to open later this year, although an opening date is not as firm, owner and founder David Nelson said.
Nelson said the brewery is expecting a mid-October delivery of its brewing equipment. From there it would have to be installed before it can be permitted.
“There are a lot of hoops to jump through,” he said. “We’re trying to line it up. We hope to be open and selling beer before the end of the year.”
The name “Braided River” refers to the rivers that cross each other in a delta, like the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. Nelson said the term also refers to the brewing of beer and how it helps cross the paths of so many different people along the way. The name is also inspired by Nelson’s love of the outdoors.
Nelson said he was inspired to open a brewery here after moving to Mobile from North Carolina two years ago for his wife’s new job and noticing the burgeoning scene.
“The craft beer scene here looked like it did in North Carolina 10 years ago,” he said.
Braided River’s flagship brews will consist of a German kolsch, a crisp IPA and two seasonal selections, including a passion fruit sour and a Carribbean-style stout, Nelson said. A portion of the proceeds from those seasonal brews will benefit Mobile Baykeeper and the Alabama Coastal Foundation, Nelson said.
While the new guys on the block are working to open up, the older breweries are both retooling in a way. For John Serda, owner of Serda Brewing, the changes will help the company better compete with a burgeoning craft beer market.
“Our beer will drastically change soon,” he said in an interview with Lagniappe.
The brewery is still making tweaks to its brewing process, Serda said, and the beer is “getting better and better.” The brewery has made changes to its taproom as well. In addition to serving large, soft pretzels, the taproom serves prepared pizza on nights when a food truck is not available.
“People enjoy our food offerings,” Serda said.
When food trucks are available, Serda partners with them on certain days to offer savings. For instance, he said the taproom offers a burger and beer special for $10 on certain days and a taco and beer special for $10 on Tuesdays. The taproom offers trivia on Thursdays.
Serda also serves wine in its taproom for patrons who aren’t beer drinkers.
In another change for the brewery, Serda confirmed the building and property it sits on has changed hands. This means the brewery will have new landlords, he said.
“I think it’ll be good,” Serda said.
Among the upcoming events at Serda is its Oktoberfest celebration slated for Sept. 21.
Over at Haint Blue Brewing, founder Keith Sherrill is in the process of moving all beer-making to their building on Monroe Street downtown from Lazy Magnolia in Mississippi.
Sherrill said the changes include a switch to fresher hops and less of a supply, which will lead to higher prices. Sherrill was busy Friday, Sept. 6, reassuring those who buy his beers the quality with increase along with the price.
“I’m going around today reassuring them that while we’re going to have less beer, it’s going to be better and it’s going to be from here,” he said.
One change will be the age of the hops he purchases going forward. Sherrill said right now hops from 2016 through 2018 are available. Haint Blue will only purchase 2018 hops for its beers. In addition, the brewery will opt for the full-cone hops, rather than the pellets other breweries use in the beer-making process.
“It looks more like something you would eat,” Sherrill said of full-cone hops.
Sherrill will offer Cain and Kazoola and the brewery’s signature IPA for distribution in cans and kegs, while the taproom will include other offerings on a smaller scale.
The support for Haint Blue locally has been good, Sherrill said, as the taproom can’t keep most beers in stock for more than about three weeks.
Iron Hand, in DeTonti Square, is a brewpub, meaning its craft beer selections can only be consumed on premises. However, unlike these other breweries, Rebecca Williams and her husband offer a menu full of made-from-scratch, British-inspired pub classics. The pub has added house-made hummus to the menu.
The pub offers trivia on Wednesdays and has a happy hour with specials every night of the week in which they are open.
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