Alabama is often cast as a political wasteland, purveyor of pushy evangelism and college football mecca (that last one is undoubtedly true), but it may surprise some to know that this Southern state has more to offer than Nick Saban worshippers and funny tweets about Roy Moore’s horse. Alabama is actually, in many ways, a hub of creativity, especially when it comes to food and drink (not to mention music).
The drink in question today is craft beer, a beverage which is available statewide in artful, plentiful droves. There’s an outpouring of local brews being served up in this corner of Dixie, and the number of craft breweries, pubs and the people who value them seems to have multiplied in recent years. Breweries like Birmingham’s popular stand-by Good People, Tuscaloosa’s Band of Brothers and Huntsville’s Blue Pants are producing some of the South’s most compelling flavors, and they’re doing it with heaps of southern hospitality, too. In doing what they do best, these Bama breweries create not only enjoyable batches of beer, but also colorful communities that promote art, culture and fellowship. Through this list we invite you to explore “Sweet Home Alabama” and the boggling variety of beer that make this state an American treasure.
This boozy Belgian pale ale is a fan favorite among brew-mongers in Tuscaloosa, which is home to The University of Alabama and the population’s resulting affinity for drinking and likewise activities. Band of Brothers has a heavyweight slate of creative and flavorful selections, but the Monk just might be their most compelling brew, if only for its amusingly peculiar name. It dwells on the darker spectrum of pale ales, but that makes it perfect for craft beer die-hards who aren’t in the mood to mess around with lighter fare. In turn, it won’t be off-putting to newbies either. It may not be the most casual of Alabama microbrews, but its forceful and overbearing characteristics are what make the Monk on the Radio such an interesting sip. Get it on draft when available, but if you can’t make it all the way to T-Town for a drink, the bottle will suffice just fine.
There’s nary a Mexican lager as summer-ready as this one. One of Good People’s most recent products, the Muchacho is a punchy, spritely take on Mexican lagers that’s destined to live on beaches and in lake-bound coolers. It’s no small task to produce a craft beer as widely adored as this one, but almost immediately following its (very well marketed and aestheticized) rollout the Muchacho found its way onto numerous restaurant menus and bar taps across the state. But it’s so good, it would simply be a crime to banish this astonishingly crisp seasonal special to only Alabama’s confines. Order a few six-packs of the Muchacho for your next grill-fest or poolside residency, and you’ll find yourself living out summer in just the fashion it was intended.
Strawberry-infused beers can be, at times, a tad brash. But this sassy little saison incorporates just a whisper of strawberry, a subtle back-up chorus to the jazzy coriander and orange elements that dominate the main stage. Blue Pants Brewery is actually located in the smallish, though fiercely claimed, Huntsville suburb of Madison, but their popular originals are enjoyed metrowide as well as in haunts and eateries across the South. There’s no time more perfect than summer for consuming a refreshing strawberry beer, so now’s the time to add this one to your rotation, if highly enjoyable fruity brews are your thing. If highly enjoyable fruity brews are not your thing, that’s, as we say in the South, a crying shame.
Druid City Brewing is an absolute gem-of-a-hangout spot: it’s compact, warmly lit and flush with friendly faces. If you can’t actually make it over Tuscaloosa to sit for a spell, just experiencing one of Druid City’s beers is a happy alternative. The Lamplighter, a classically bitter yet quietly tropical IPA, is our pick, but you really can’t go wrong. Alabama is home to a great variety of other IPAs, too—most definitely enough to encompass a list of their own. Good People’s flagship hoppy IPA and their Snake Handler IPA, bitterer still, are close relatives of the Lamplighter and honorable mentions for Alabama’s best.
ABV: 6.0 %
The perfect sip for both proselytes of a certain jam band and fans of a really solid American amber ale, the Grateful Red is as adept in flavor as it is in word play. Folklore probably doesn’t get enough credit for ushering craft beer culture into the heart of the Wiregrass region, but that’s exactly what they’ve done since their opening in 2013. And the Grateful Red is one of the brewery’s Core Beers, so it’s available all year round. Married to a German munich malt, this beer also finishes with a hoppy contour.
ABV: 5.2 %
The demanding name just rolls right off the tongue: “Can I get a TrimTab Paradise Now, now?” The Paradise Now is, subjectively, a sour disguised as a wheat ale, but this sneaky art of deception is forgivable when you consider the beer’s stunningly commanding flavor profile. It’s brewed with raspberry and tart cherry puree, so the tanginess of this summer seasonal shines through. When you’re drinking this starry Bama beer, you might even forget that it is, in fact, a beer. It floats with an almost champagne cocktail-like acidity, and it’s certainly one of the most memorable beers on this list.
ABV: 5 %
Say what you want about Alabama, but this state is not slim on yummy beers with tongue-and-cheek nomenclature. Perhaps the darkest and densest beer on this list, the Judge Roy Bean stout cleanly acknowledges fellow Fairhope business, the Fairhope Roasting Company, in a coffee-beer union. Fairhope Brewing is as famous for its beer names as it is for the beers they brew (this one is named after a famous judge who presided over West Texas in the 1800s), but this particular stout deserves your attention regardless of the nomenclature. Fairhope Roasting’s crisp cold brew is added to this heavier beer, yielding a decadent but tidy flavor.