Four years ago, there were only six craft beer breweries in the state of Alabama. Now, there are 26, and more are in the works to be opened in the next few years. According to the Brewers Association, a group that represents smaller breweries across the nation, craft breweries all across the country are on the rise, showing a 15.3 percent increase from 2012 to 2013. The explosion of craft breweries in Alabama can be attributed to the Free the Hops Gourmet Beer bill that passed in 2009, raising the limit on alcohol by volume in beer from 6 percent to 13.9 percent.
In 2009, Chad Smith saw the possibilities for craft beer after the law passed, and decided to open the Alcove Tavern, a local bar that specializes in serving craft beer that you might not be able to find elsewhere. Now, as the popularity and demand of craft beer continues to grow, Smith has teamed up with business partner Brad Lee to open Loosa Brews, a completely new take on the way people can purchase and consume craft beer.
If you drive down to Loosa Brews on 20th Ave., you will find a wide variety of bottled and canned craft beers, and even a selection of wine. But the main feature at Loosa Brews that sets it apart from everyone else is the growler station, which has 63 beers on tap. You can purchase either a 32 or 64 ounce growler jug, and fill it with fresh beer of your choice from the wide variety of taps and take it home with you.
Smith said that the growler station offers customers with the opportunity to purchase a fresher, higher quality beer, rather than buying it bottled or canned. The beer served on tap is transferred directly from the brewery in a keg, without being subjected to light or air. When you purchase bottled or canned beer, it has been exposed to more light and air, and the bottling date is typically older than the draft, according to Smith.
Another benefit of the growler station is that it gives customers the opportunity to take home beer made by local breweries that you can’t buy packaged. Some smaller breweries’ beer can be found only in specific restaurants or bars, or in some cases it can be consumed only at the brewery itself. With the growler station at Loosa Brews, people can now taste and take home local Alabama beer that previously would have been hard to find. And the selection of local beers is certainly not lacking.
“We have eight dedicated taps for the two local Tuscaloosa breweries, four for Druid City and four for Black Warrior,” Smith said. “At any given point we have about 30 beers from Alabama breweries on tap.”
Another feature of Loosa Brews is its selection of home-brewing supplies and ingredients. According to Smith, if people wanted to try their hand at home-brewing in the past, they would have to turn to the internet or drive out of town to find the necessary supplies. But with the craft beer rise in popularity, Smith thinks that home-brewing beer could be on the rise in Tuscaloosa as well.
“We plan to become more intricately involved with the home brew community in Tuscaloosa by hosting meetings and providing workshops on how to brew at home,” Smith said. “We plan to grow our retail home brew offerings tremendously over the next year by catering to the needs and requests of our local home brewers.”
The public has responded very positively to the opening of Loosa Brews. The business is unlike anything Tuscaloosa has seen before, offering a completely unique way to shop for beer. When you first walk in, you can look to your left and see what looks like a living room set up, complete with comfortable seating and antique decorations. The main part of the store features shelves of bottled and canned beer, and a smaller selection of bottled wine. Then in the back, you will find the growler station with a bar set up, offering customers the opportunity to drink beer on the premises while they shop.
“Our handmade shelves from antique hardwoods and imported reclaimed doors and shutters adds to the experience and leaves behind the sterile shopping environments that most people are accustomed to,” Smith said. “Couple this with the ability to consume any of our 63 beers on tap while you shop or just hang out with your friends and the result is a brand new concept that everyone seems to like a lot.”
Smith says that the customers Loosa Brews has seen is a mixture of young and old. The appreciation of craft beer can be found in younger, of age college students as well as older appreciators of beer. With the people of Tuscaloosa getting more and more into craft beer, Loosa Brews has given them a store to fit all of their needs.
“Craft beer is on the rise and is not going anywhere,” Smith said. “As it continues to grow, Loosa Brews aims to be the biggest craft beer and home brew supplier for West Alabama.”
Loosa Brews is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from noon to 10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. and Sundays from 2 to 8 p.m.

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