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.
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.
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.
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.
Immediately in front of the brewhouse are the 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.
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.