A pint at Serda Brewing Co. in Mobile, Ala.

Opening a brewery is a labor of love for a lot of reasons.  One of the primary reasons is because of the long time it can take for a brewery to go from being someone’s idea to becoming a reality that craft beer lovers can visit.

A great example of this process is Serda Brewing Company in Mobile, Ala. The idea started with John Serda and his father Ed in 2013, but did not come to fruition until late in 2017.  The plan started to come together after the father-son duo found a vacant former Goodyear Tire Store in downtown, but even after identifying the building it took several months before the company was brewing beer.  What visitors see now is a far cry from what used to exist on the site, as guests pull up to a fully-renovated building with bright, vibrant colors proclaiming the rebirth of the site.

A view of the main entrance.

My wife Katie and I walked to the brewery from our downtown hotel, so we did not have to worry about parking out car.  However, there is plenty of parking available behind the brewery and on adjacent streets.  Walking up to the building there are two potential entrances: one to the taproom and one to the production facility.

Entrances to the taproom and production facility.

We walked into the taproom, surveyed the taproom seating arrangements and orders a pair of flights.  But before I delve into beers we should take a look around the taproom as there are several seating options for visitors.

The beer menu is to the right of the bar.

The beer list.

Visitors pass a large merchandise area almost immediately after walking into the taproom.

An overview of the merchandise available for sale.

So after ordering our flights, Katie and I saw down at a high-top table to have our first taste of beer from Serda Brewing Company.

One advantage of visiting a brewery a few months after it has opened is that they tend to progress beyond just their flagship beers and usually offer a few one-off brews.  So I ordered a flight of flagship beers while Katie put together a flight of one-off brews.  My flight consisted of Hook Line & Lager (a German pilsner), Tidewater (a Vienna-style lager), Mobile Bay IPA (an international IPA), and Clear Prop (a Baltic porter).  Katie’s flight included Espresso Porter (an American porter), Home Port (a hefeweizen), a Randall-version of Mobile Bay IPA with a variety of fruits, and Kellerbier (an unfiltered pilsner).  Out of the eight brews, my favorites were the Espresso Porter, which was very smooth but had a big espresso nose and pronounced coffee notes, and Clear Prop, which has nice roasted flavors but was not heavy.

The brewery focuses on German styles with a unique American twist.  That is clear in the German pilsner, Vienna-style lager, hefeweizen, and other beers on draft when I visited.

After finishing our flights, I explored the production side of the brewery and captured pictures of the brewery’s three-vessel, 30-barrel brewhouse.  They also have four 60-barrel fermenters and two 60-barrel brite tanks.

In addition to the indoor space, Serda Brewing also has an extensive outdoor space.  There is an alley behind the brewery that regularly hosts food trucks.

An overview of Food Truck Alley.

Additionally, there are tables underneath tents that extend out from the production building that offer visitors plenty of outdoor space to enjoy a beer.

An overview of outdoor seating.

Overall, the brewery and taproom are very inviting with splashes of bright color incorporated into the logo, the taproom decor, and even the awnings covering the outdoor space.  The beers are approachable and well-executed by head brewer Todd Hicks, who has over 20 years of professional brewing experience.  Serda Brewing is downtown Mobile’s first craft brewery, which makes it accessible to residents and visitors alike.

A pint at Fairhope Brewing Co. in Fairhope, Ala.

A town of approximately 15,000 people may not seem like the ideal location for a brewery, but it was precisely the place Brian Kane and Jim Foley thought would be perfect for a brewery.  Just over five years ago, the pair opened Fairhope Brewing Company in Fairhope, Ala.  Not only has the brewery survived for five years, it has thrived and expanded about three years ago.

The brewery consists of two buildings, one used exclusively for production and one that serves as a taproom.  The production facility recently had a mural added to it while the taproom sits next door.

An overview of the mural on the brewery’s brewhouse.

Local artist Sarah Rutledge Fischer painted the mural, which covers the entire length of the production facility.  Next door the taproom occupies a brick-faced building that features the brewery’s logo above the front door.

An overview of the brewery’s taproom.

My wife Katie and I arrived early on a Saturday afternoon when the brewery was hosting the Mobile Baykeeper organization and released Hop in the Bay IPA with sales of the beer going to support the charity.

Mobile Baykeeper information table at the Hop in the Bay release party.

Shortly after arriving, we met with assistant brewer Brandon Fischer and co-owner Brian Kane.  Katie and I waited a few minutes as some other folks joined us for a tour of the facility.  The tour starts by taking people from the taproom building into the production building under a covered walkway.  Visitors immediately see the large fermentation tanks when they arrive in the production building, but we went past them to the grain mill.

Like most breweries, we moved from the grain to the brewhouse, which is a 30-barrel system.

The brewery’s mash tuns.

Immediately in front of the brewhouse are the fermenters.

An overview of the brewery’s fermenters.

If you stand with your back to the brewhouse the fermenters are immediately in front of you and to the left are a pair of brite tanks.  With the brewery’s bottling line not far away.

The next stop was the taproom storage space, which contains additional grains not stored in the production building and the brewery’s barrel program.

Not officially part of a tour because of space constraints, the brewery does have a smaller brewhouse and fermentation tanks in the taproom that are utilized for taproom only production.  As we wrapped up the tour, I was able to take a quick photo of the space.

A glimpse of the brewery’s taproom brewhouse system.

If you’re interested in participating in a tour, the brewery regularly runs them on Saturdays at noon.  More details can be found on Fairhope Brewing’s website.

After concluding the tour, Katie and I ordered a flight and talk more with Brandon and Brian about Fairhope’s history and their beer.  Brandon emphasized that the brewery focuses on “making beer we want to drink” instead of necessarily chasing trends.  However, that doesn’t mean visitors won’t find unique and experimental beers in the taproom.

On my flight, I order Tarts & Crafts (a cherry Berliner Weisse), Fairhope 51 (an American pale ale), UP-Dog (a Mosaic pale ale), Everyday Ale (an American blonde), and Liter of Cola (a Belgian saison).  Katie ordered Cheap Sunglasses (a Kölsch), Carole (a sour with ginger and orange peel), A Long Came a Cider Strawberry-Lime (a strawberry-lime cider), Dauphin (a New England IPA), and Hop in the Bay IPA (a session IPA).  Between the two of us we had a good mix of Fairhope’s year-round beers and some taproom-only brews.  Among my favorites were Cheap Sunglasses, which was crisp and clean and a fantastic beer to enjoy during the summer.  We both enjoyed Dauphin, as well.  However, our favorite taster was the strawberry-lime cider, which was a great mix of sweet and tart along with the apple base.  In fact, we enjoyed it so much that we purchased a 32-oz. crowler to take home with us.

While sampling our beers, I asked Brian more about the history of the brewery and what led to choosing Fairhope as the location.  He said that from all of traveling he and his wife Michele did around the U.S. that they particularly enjoyed visiting small-town breweries and the small town concept.  So Fairhope was appealing to the Mobile-native because as he said, “The town carries its own weight.  It is well-known for arts and crafts.”  Plus it has great water that only has to be filtered for particulates, so there is not additional expense to treating the water for brewing.

With an emphasis on being a small-town brewery the name was easy for Brian and his other partner Jim Foley to settle upon.  The logo, which features a capital letter “F” with a pelican inside it, took more time to agree upon.  Working with a design firm, the team struggled to agree upon a design because it initially centered around sunsets, but they felt like that would not translate well onto T-shirts and other items.  Eventually the graphic artist came up with the “F” with the pelican occupying negative space.  The pelican was the animal of choice because of their prominent appearance at the Grand Hotel in downtown Fairhope just a few miles away.

After the conversation with Brian and Brandon, Katie and I stayed around the taproom and enjoyed some food from the Bleus Burger food truck while watching people fill the place to support Mobile Baykeeper and listen to The Orange Constant perform.

Although the taproom was full when we left, it has lots of space and tables for visitors to enjoy a beer while watching TV, listening to a band, or just talking with friends.  Food trucks are regularly at the brewery on the weekends, but guests are welcome to bring their own food anytime.  The beers at Fairhope Brewing Company are a blend of approachable flavors for newcomers to craft beer like the Everyday Ale and experimental like UP-Dog for the adventurous beer drinker who wants to try something new when visiting a brewery.