If a shop is called “Southern Napa,” it’s all about wine, right? Guess again.
If you’re talking about the Southern Napa at 2304 Main Street in Daphne, I’m afraid you’d be wrong. But in this case, a wrong answer is a good thing. Let me explain.
Southern Napa is indeed a wine shop and a wine bar, with a fairly comprehensive selection of the world’s wines, but it also has at least 99 different craft beers — or will have them by May 10, when the shop’s owners will host their second annual 99 Bottles of Beer on the Lawn. This mega-event features not only beer, but also a 5-kilometer race to make you thirsty and music by Willie Sugarcapps to engage those senses not preoccupied by suds.
In the run-up to May 10, Southern Napa is featuring one new beer daily on its Facebook page and, of course, in the shop. So far, the list includes Lasso India Pale Ale from the Great Divide Brewing Company (an inviting mingling of hops, malt, and just a whiff of banana); Messiah Nut Brown Ale from the Schmaltz Brewing Company (“the beer you’ve been waiting for”); Spare Pair from the Blue Pants Brewery in Madison, Ala.; Sofie, a member of the Goose Island Vintage Ales series (a distinctively different Belgian-style saison); and even a Pear Cider from Spire Mountain — an award-winning line of ciders produced by the Fish Brewing Company (maker of the uber-quaffable Reel Ales line) in Olympia, Wash.
If the beer list is any indication, and I believe it is, 99 Bottles of Beer on the Lawn will rock. It will kill. It will do whatever the hippest word of 2014 is to be outstanding, outrageous and out of this world. The list already kills, and it’s only March — there’s a month-and-a-half more beer days to come! I’m truly jazzed about this event, and I am monitoring Facebook daily to see what’s next on the line-up. This will be an amazing chance to try new brews and find new favorites.
But to talk wine for a minute, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention Southern Napa’s wide selection of wines, not only from California, but also from France, Germany, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Portugal, whew! One of my favorites is Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Seven Hills Winery in Washington state — a delicious, well-structured Cabernet from a small producer in the Columbia Valley, distributed by A&G Beverages.
You can buy wine to take home, or enjoy it at one of Southern Napa’s comfy seating areas. There is a by-the-glass tasting menu, or you can get a whole bottle — and you don’t have to go hungry because the kitchen whips up “Bistro Plates” to accompany your wine.
Want to try before you buy? Southern Napa can help there, too, with its “Wine Station” tasting machines. Some clever person probably got the idea from those record-store booths where you used to be able to listen to individual tracks before you bought an album (yes, I’m feeling seriously old at this moment), but Wine Stations dispense little samples to let you preview a bottle. You buy a card, insert it into the Wine Station, choose either a 1.5-, 3- or 6-ounce sample, and the machine serves it up.
If you need more help, just ask Carrie Cox — one of Southern Napa’s co-owners and a woman who knows her grapes. She will even pair wine with your own food, if you just bring it into the shop.
More Wiregrass, please!
One beer that sadly won’t be making an appearance on Southern Napa’s lawn is Wiregrass Post-Prohibition Ale, because it’s all gone! This collaborative effort involving Cigar City Brewing (Tampa), Folklore Brewing and Meadery (Dothan), and the MOOLA homebrew club was undertaken to commemorate Alabama’s legalization of home brewing last year, with the beer first appearing in October 2013.
It apparently really was a limited release (sold only in Alabama and at Cigar City’s tap room), because I can’t find any more, anywhere, apart from the three cans still in my fridge (and they’re not for sale).
If you were lucky enough to try Wiregrass, then you know it was a high-quality brew with exceptional balance between malt and hop flavors, and substantial body for an extra-pale ale. It started life as MOOLA’s recipe for a “pre-prohibition lager,” which the guys at Cigar City and Folklore brewed as an ale, adding a blend of New Zealand hops.
Wiregrass had many of the usual citrus notes contributed by hops, but also tasted of grass — fresh grass, new-mown grass, really nice — yes — grass. It was dry, but not ultra-dry like the sort of IPA that makes you thirstier than before you drank it. For me, it also had the faintest charcoal edge. I tried it with several different foods — both at home at the LoDa Bier Garten, where it was on tap — but ultimately I liked it best all by itself.
I’ve heard MOOLA is trying to persuade Cigar City to brew more Wiregrass — possibly a batch each May, the month in which Alabama’s homebrew law changed. I don’t know if they’ve been successful or not, but I’d like to add my voice and say “Cigar City, please, please brew more of this fine beer!” MOOLA, by the way, stands for the “Malty Orgasmics of Lower Alabama,” which I hope I can print in a family newspaper.
There’s an app for that (brewery)
Now, if you find yourself touring the United States and wondering if there’s anything to drink where you are, look no further than your smartphone. Three apps you should keep on a screen near you include: Brewery Map (“your pocket guide to breweries”) by Pintlabs, Beer Map by Free Beer Solutions, and Find Craft Beer by Micro Integration Services.
Each costs just 99 cents on an Android device. Gone are the days of wandering into strange bars and hoping to find palatable potables. Better drinking through technology. Cheers!