Friday June 6, 2014, 11:32 p.m. I just finished eating the sauciest piece of pizza I have ever eaten while standing under an interstate overpass in soaking wet clothes, but I’m happy. I had to end a night of standing in the rain and drinking samples of beer in a commemorative taster glass with eating a piece of pizza that was practically floating in grease. There was no other way around it, and I’m okay with that.
I was ending my night at the Magic City Brewfest with this Italian atrocity, but, in hindsight, the pizza wasn’t that bad aside from the sauce overload. The forecast stated that there would be a shower in the early afternoon and the weather would move out around the time the event was starting. Great, this was going to be perfect and I could enjoy the evening to its full potential. Wrong. Kayla and I get out of the car and immediately there is a slight mist of rain. I can deal with this, but as we’re approaching the line, the mist develops into drops and drops into buckets. At this point, I’m ready to go home, but I keep telling myself “The rain will stop. The rain will stop. The rain will stop.” Eventually the rain did stop, but not until we stood in line long enough to get completely soaked from head to toe. This was clearly a highlight for me, as it would be for anyone.
When I read the list of attendees for this year’s festival, I was a little less than excited, but I couldn’t complain. Usually, the lineup is amazing and there are so many new things to try and whatnot, but this year, the breweries were just a lot of things I’ve had before. I’m not sure if it was the rain attributing to this displeasure or what, but it was just a minor hiccup in the evening. As usual, there were some things on the list I knew I could get that I loved, and some things on the list I hadn’t tried yet. I knew Good People (Birmingham) was going to have El Gordo, a 13.9% Russian Imperial Stout that is one of the most intense beers you’ll ever try, so I could mark that one off the list, I knew that Cigar City (Tampa, FL) would be there and I could get Jai Alai, a fantastic IPA that you really have to experience at least once in your life, so I checked that off too, and I knew that Railyard Brewing (Montgomery) was going to be there so I could get my hands on the APA, Alabama Pale Ale that is by far one of the smoothest pale ales out there, so that was done, and all of these were just within 30 yards of each other. Things were starting to look up for us, and we still had so many booths to visit. We wrapped around and visited Stone (Escondido, CA) and I tried the Cali-Blegique Belgian IPA, which was a little more bitter and hoppier than their basic Stone IPA, but great nonetheless. We made our way up the other side and tried a few things here and there that jumped out at us, but nothing that was worth noting.
At this point, the rain had slacked up enough for us to venture into the outdoor section of the festival, which was much more impressive than the indoor offerings. We walked a bit and ran into the mother load of Alabama breweries. Places like Cahaba Brewing (Birmingham), Rocket Republic (Huntsville) Fairhope Brewing (Fairhope), Trim Tab (Birmingham), and Old Black Bear (Huntsville). I made my way through the crowd to the Fairhope booth to get my hands on their Painted Black IPA, which they didn’t have, so instead I decided on the S’Wheat Home Wheat Ale, a good choice that blended a lot of citrus peel and a nice crispness that’s perfect for Summer. We visited our friends at Druid City (Tuscaloosa) and had the Lamplighter IPA, which is always great, and they suggested we try the IPA from the booth next door by saying, “it’s a damn fine IPA.”
Singin’ River Brewing Company is a fairly new brewery based in Florence, AL with four offerings that evening, and their IPA was really the highlight of the night for me. It was masterfully balanced with perfect amounts of hops to malt and the flavor was just exceptional. This is the type of beer that would make me willing to drive to the middle of nowhere (Florence, Alabama) and drink multiples of it. I personally think this is what the brewfest is supposed to be about. You go to try new things and sometimes, you find a beer that completely blows you away from a place you had no idea existed. I’m sure it has to be nerve wracking for a new brewery to bring their beer to an event like that and put it alongside breweries that have distribution that reaches other states, and sometimes other countries. Kudos to Singin’ River, because their IPA made the whole night worth it for me.
The Alabama Cask Garden is a single booth housing multiple taps from only Alabama breweries who have brought a special batch just for the event. This is always a great place to try something new and different. Really though, the cask garden, in my opinion, is more for the brewers, because they just get so burnt out on regular beer that us normal folk drink constantly, so, it’s always something crazy from each brewery, but sometimes there are things that can excite everyone. Fairhope was supposed to bring their S’Wheat Tea Wheat that was sure to knock my socks off, but it never arrived and I was more than bummed out about that. Other breweries had unique brews like Cahaba’s Blonde with apples and cinnamon, and Avondale’s Saison with green tea. I’m not a huge fan of the Saison style, but if you’re into it, I guess that could have been cool.
In the end, 2014’s Magic City Brewfest fell a little short in comparison to previous years, but it still had its high points. The fact of the matter is that craft breweries and craft beer in general is booming in Alabama, and I’m so glad that we can have events like this to showcase the talent and passion that these brewers bring to the table with their beers. More importantly, I’m glad that the craft breweries in Alabama can come together for the good of the cause and put the competition for taps down for a while. A wise man once said to me “a rising tide floats all boats” meaning, what’s good for one brewery is great for another. Bringing attention to the industry with events like this only makes it that much more popular. Regardless of the weather, or if the breweries had cool t-shirts or not are such petty issues for me to hold on to, because in the end, we have something great here that can keep craft beer alive in Alabama.

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