There are a lot of ways to measure when a town “has made it.” For Bo Hicks and Elliott Roberts opening a craft brewery in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was their way of putting the city on the map. In 2012, the pair opened Druid City Brewing in a refurbished butcher shop. Several years later the brewery continues to be an integral part of the community.
Co-owner Bo Hicks began working in craft beer at Hales Tavern on The Strip. Eventually Hicks and Roberts started homebrewing together. Like many homebrewers, the duo joked about opening a brewery together. Eventually Roberts had a friend draft a business plan and the pair recruited investors. In November 2012, Druid City Brewing Company opened its doors. The pair brewed their first beer on Black Friday and distributed it to three bars in town (Egan’s, The Alcove, and Wilhagan’s).
Story behind the name
Tuscaloosa is probably best known as the home of Alabama Crimson Tide football, but there is more to the city than iconic gridiron stars. It served as Alabama’s capital from 1826 to 1846. In 1831, the state’s capstone university opened in the city. In the 1840s, city leaders planted oak trees throughout downtown, which led to it being called “The Oak City.” Tuscaloosa became known as “The Druid City” because of ancient Celts who worshiped oak trees.
Before the advent of interstates, the Moon Winx Lodge on U.S. Route 11 served as a beacon to travelers approaching Tuscaloosa. Its iconic neon sign welcomed movie star Robert Mitchum, jazz legend Sun Ra, and others on the outskirts of town. Druid City Brewing brings together these two historic elements of Tuscaloosa history.
Visiting the brewery
The brewery splits half of its space between the taproom and the production facility. Due to space limitations, Druid City Brewing has several wooden picnic tables outside for additional seating. The brewery regularly hosts live music performances on the weekends, typically featuring local musicians and sometimes regional touring acts.
Additionally, the taproom features artwork for sale from local artists. However, the artwork that generates the most interest is not for sale. The chalkboard behind the bar has featured a variety of designs over the years with some mimicking famous record album covers, world-famous pieces of art like “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” or TV show opening credits. A few constants tie all the pieces together: artist Rich Marcks, irreverent humor, and a connection to University of Alabama athletics.
Druid City Brewing has four flagship beers: an IPA, a pale ale, a porter, and a wheat. The Lamplighter IPA (now re-branded as Moonlighter IPA) is a West Coast-style IPA with big grapefruit notes. Hop-forward beer drinkers will thoroughly enjoy this beer. The pale ale is balanced with a good floral aroma. Downtown North Porter (since renamed Parkview Porter) is smooth and balanced with chocolate and coffee notes. The wheat is the most accessible beer for people who are not typically craft beer drinkers. There is also a hint of coriander, but it does not overpower the palate. Hicks and Roberts brewed the wheat beer for a friend’s wedding before opening the brewery, but its popularity at the reception helped convince them to open Druid City Brewing. Additionally, the brewery offers a variety of taproom exclusives like a watermelon wheat or pilsner.
Touring the brewery
Currently Druid City Brewing does not offer public tours. However, co-owner Elliott Roberts gave me a tour of the facility. The brewery currently operates a three-barrel brewhouse with a pair of seven-barrel and ten-barrel fermentation tanks. Additionally, the brewery is undergoing an expansion due to its partnership with Straight to Ale (read more here).
Getting to the brewery
Druid City Brewing is about a 5-minute drive from downtown Tuscaloosa. Tuscaloosa Transit Authority (TTA) operates a bus route along 15th Street, which takes 8 minutes to reach Parkview Center from the city’s Intermodal Facility Terminal. The bus operates Mondays to Fridays from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is two miles or about a 40-minute walk from downtown.
Address: 607 14th Street, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401
Regular Hours: Monday to Friday 4 to 10 p.m.; Saturday noon to 10 p.m.; Sunday noon to 9 p.m.
Note: The global pandemic may affect hours and services. Check the brewery’s social media accounts for the most up-to-date information.
Accessibility: There are no steps in the taproom.