We're drinking the flagship craft beer from every state in the Union, counting down from 50-1, to find which is home to the President of Beers.
#22 Brown Ale: Good People Brewing, Birmingham, Alabama
State: Most people only know of the state of Alabama for two things: football and being the buttendofjokes. But the latter generic slander isn’t entirely fair. It could be directed at any of the hot, humid, deeply religious welfare states in the South. I prefer to think of the Alabama I know, where the tea is sweet, the beaches are—err, were—awesome, and servers throw dinner rolls at you.
Brewery:Good People Brewing started up way back in 2007. It officially launched its first beer, Brown Ale, in 2008–one of only two commercial breweries in the state at the time—and has steadily grown as Alabama’s brewing laws evolved. Earlier this year, Good People opened up a larger brewing facility in downtown Birmingham.
Beer: As noted on the can, this English-style brown ale has been “legally brewed since 2008.” Seeing as how homebrewing remains illegal in the state, we have no idea how these law-abiding citizens perfected the recipe.
Difficulty of obtaining in Oregon: Nigh impossible. Good People does not distribute outside of the state and state law prohibits shipping alcohol to other states.
PHOTO: Cameron Browne
Good People Brown Ale is an intensely drinkable beer. This dark caramel-colored brew has a thick malty and roasty aroma and a taste to match. The sweet nose eases into a pleasant bitter finish—mild every step of the way but never flavorless. This brown ale is a beer any state would be happy to call its flagship, let alone a brewing newbie like Alabama.
Just how new to beer is Alabama?
Well, to use a personal example, my Alabamian cousins flew up to Oregon to visit us last summer. At a family barbecue, my cousin, John, walked up to me and said, “I don’t normally like beer, but this stuff is pretty good.” He was holding a pink Seagram’s Escape.
“Have you tried the Lime Melonade flavor? That beer’s pretty good, too,” said his wife.
By the end of the evening, I found out that, while these “beers” were good, the family favorite remained Bud Lite Lime.
It wasn’t until working on this project—and going through the arduous process of getting this beer to Oregon—that I found out just how this could be. Alabama is one of several states filled with bizarre restrictions on beer. Homebrewing is illegal. Brewpubs can only operate in a historic building or site in a historically “wet” county. Twenty-six counties in the state do not even allow the sale of alcohol.
Luckily, the beer scene is improving rapidly thanks to the efforts of Free the Hops, a group of Alabamians dedicated to modernizing the state. The ABV limit on beer was raised from 6 percent to 13.9 percent in 2009. The Brewery Modernization Act in 2011 allowed brewpubs to sell beer for off-premise consumption and removed the 80-seat restaurant requirement, increasing the number of active brewpubs in the state from zero to one so far. And finally, the Gourmet Bottle Bill went into effect in August 2012, raising the legal size limit for a beer container from 16 ounces to 25.4 ounces (750mL). Alabama finally moved on from tallboys to quality beer.
It’s a young beer scene but the stage is set for it to get big. The restrictions are being peeled away one at a time, new breweries and brewpubs are in the works, and 22nd is a very respectable finish by Good People Brown Ale.
It drank pretty good, indeed.
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