A pint at Rocket Republic Brewing in Madison, Ala.

There are two notable industries in the area surrounding Huntsville, Ala.: space and craft beer.  When you bring the two industries together you get Rocket Republic Brewing Company in the suburb of Madison.

Eric and Tatum Crigger along with business partners John and Lynn Troy launched (no pun intended) Rocket Republic in 2013, and eventually opened their own brewhouse and taproom in 2015.  Like many professional brewers, Eric started as a homebrewer before taking a course on opening a brewery, and eventually realizing that dream.  The taproom came to fruition after the brewery’s initial success with contract brewery and the aid of an Indiegogo campaign.  So onto the taproom…

Visitors are inundated with the rocket theme because of Huntsville’s nickname as the “Rocket City” and its role in helping the United States land a man on the moon (read this piece for more details).  Through Redstone Arsenal and related businesses, the Huntsville area still employs a lot of people in the sciences.  So the name Rocket Republic is an homage to one of the industries that helped build Huntsville.

The brewery used to be a warehouse, which is the perfect location for a brewery and taproom because there is plenty of space for equipment and seating for guests.  Visitors to the brewery immediately walking into the seating area, which is primarily to the right of the door.

An overview of the seating area near the bar.

To the left of the door inside the taproom is the bar.

An overview of the bar.

So sitting down at the bar, my wife Katie and I ordered a flight.  We have drank a few beers from Rocket Republic, but wanted to take advantage of being at the brewery and the opportunity to sample some taproom-only beers.  We opted for a six-pour flight.  Naturally, the flight tray was shaped like a rocket.

An aerial view of a flight of beers.

We ordered some of their standards like AstroNut Brown Ale (an American brown ale), Mach One IPA (an American IPA), Apollo Amber (an American amber) along with some specialty beers like the Russian Imperial Stout, Solar Sour Blood Orange, and Solar Sour Dry Hopped.  Brown ale fans should definitely get the AstroNut Brown.  It was smooth with nice roasted flavors.  The Mach One IPA is a West Coast-style IPA, so it was big on grapefruit notes.  The Apollo Amber was a less hoppy than the typical American amber, and was much more mellow and smooth.

When we visited, there were four versions of the Solar Sour on draft.  We could have chosen the original, blood orange, raspberry, or dry-hopped version.  We opted for the dry-hopped and blood orange variants.  The Solar Sour Blood Orange was a bit sweet and kind of tangy from the orange.  The sour was spot on, but the orange was a bit too powerful for my tastes.  The Solar Sour Dry Hopped has a great mouthfeel and tartness with just a hint of citrus from the Citra and Falconer’s Flight hops.  The Russian Imperial Stout was very smooth and not at all boozy despite it 8.1% ABV.

We did not  opt for more beers, but not surprisingly there were plenty of other options on draft on the day we visited.

There is obviously much more to the brewery and taproom than the bar area.  So I explored more of the expansive former warehouse and captured pictures of the brewing equipment and other seating areas.

An overview of some seating with empty kegs in the background.

Much of the decoration around the brewery relates to the space and rocket theme, so visitors can see that in the cold storage area with rockets on top of the structure and space scenes in the “portholes.”  Just beyond the storage space is the brewing equipment.

An overview of the fermentation tanks and kegs.

Although there were no special events or food trucks at the taproom when Katie and I visited, there are numerous events and live music performances at the brewery each week.  Food trucks are usually on site Mondays through Saturdays as well.  An up-to-date list of events and food trucks can be found online.

Whether you’re into rockets and space or just trying to find good beer, visitors should be pleasantly pleased with their visit to Rocket Republic Brewing Company where you don’t have to choose between rockets and beer.  Instead you have blast off for a good time with an AstroNut Brown Ale or discuss the inner workings of the Milky Way Galaxy while sipping on a Cosmic Cookie.

A pint at Blue Pants Brewery in Madison, Ala.

There are a lot of things you can do with an old cotton warehouse.  Building a brewery was an ideal fit because of the need for floor space to house all the brewing equipment.  It is a far cry from where Blue Pants Brewery started off Slaughter Road in a 400-square-foot space.  Now when visitors to the brewery and taproom arrive, they immediately see an expansive building with ample parking.

Main entrance to the brewery.

Visitors immediately enter the taproom.

An overview of the seating area.

The taproom maximizes the available space with a nice merchandise area.

A view of the merchandise for sale.

Uniquely among the merchandise is a cooler, so visitors can take home their new favorite beer and also some liquor that is distilled on site.

A view of on-site produced spirits for sale.

However, I came to drink beer not spirits.  So back to the bar…

I had visit the brewery on a previous occasion, so my wife Katie and I opted to split a flight of beers.

A flight of beers.

We ordered Caramel Apple Pinstripe (a milk stout with caramel and apples), Schwarzbier (a dark lager), Candy Bar Pinstripe Stout on nitro (a milk stout with candy bar flavors), and Hopfenweiss (a hoppy weisse).  Craft beer drinkers in Alabama know Blue Pants’s pinstripe stout and its numerous variants, and the candy bar version is one of my favorites.  It was even smoother and more enjoyable having it served on nitrogen instead of with carbon dioxide.  The Caramel Apple Pinstripe was big on caramel flavors with just a hint of apple.  It was reminiscent of a fall festival.  The Schwarzbier was smooth and not overly smoky.  The Hopfenweiss was a hoppy wheat beer with a bit of bitterness on the finish.  We In addition to the flight we ordered the Helles, which is a great classic German-style lager that is just a bit sweet and very light.

In addition to the indoor space, the taproom has a very extensive outdoor space.

An overview of the outdoor space.

The outdoor space includes a handful of fire pits, picnic tables, and outdoor sofas.  So regardless of the weather, visitors to the Blue Pants taproom will find plenty of space to enjoy their beers.

Speaking of beers, Blue Pants also has a crowler machine on site.  Although all Alabama breweries are able to fill a glass growler for customers, a few go the extra step and have a crowler machine on site that allows you to purchase a 32-ounce can of your favorite beer and not have to worry about bringing your own growler or buying one in case you forget to bring your own.  Katie and I decided we would take home a crowler of Caramel Apple Pinstripe because we haven’t seen available in packaging around our town.

A view of a finished crowler.

The label for the crowler was really cool.  Every brewery has their own way of labeling a crowler, but I loved the humor of the name tag that Blue Pants used.  Not surprisingly, the beer was just as great a few days later at home as it was at the brewery.  Hooray for crowlers!

And hooray for Blue Pants Brewery and its diverse offering of beers.  There’s virtually something for everyone who visits the taproom.  If you like darker beers, you need to try whatever pinstripe stout variety is on draft, but if you prefer lighter beers you can find an equally tasty India pale ale, too.

A pint at Salty Nut Brewery in Huntsville, Ala.

Proof that the craft beer scene is growing in Huntsville is clearly visible through the history of Salty Nut Brewery.  Brent Cole and Daniel Yant along with a team of partners opened the brewery in 2013 off Evangel Circle near the UA Huntsville campus.  In January 2016, the brewery relocated to its current location in Downtown Huntsville off Clinton Avenue in the spaced previously occupied by Yellowhammer Brewing.

Although Salty Nut has changed the space to meet its needs, the general structure has not changed.  One building serves as the taproom while another building houses the brewing and fermentation equipment.

Main entrance to the taproom alongside the production building.

Visitors immediately walk into the seating area before finding the bar, which is in the back of the taproom.

An overview of the seating area at the brewery.

After navigating the crowd watching TV when we visited, my wife Katie and I made our way to the bar.

We opted to order a flight of all the beers (and ciders) on draft, so while waiting for the bartender to fill the flight I took a picture of the merchandise area across from the bar.

Merchandise area across from the bar.

Due to the brewery’s name the merchandise features a lot of squirrel and acorn themed items.  However, the story behind the brewery’s name is just as interesting as the merchandise.  Cole and Yant played the video game “Rock Band” and had named their fictional band Salty Nut, so it seemed like the natural choice when the duo started a brewery together.

Before long we had our flight, so we headed to a table to enjoy it.

A flight of beers in a specially-made acorn flight tray.

The flight tray we used is very unique, and not an item most visitors get to use when they visit the brewery.  With eight slots, it typically holds a sample of each beer on draft.  If you don’t order ALL the beers, you get a typical flight tray.  So because we ordered everything on the menu, we got the unique acorn-shaped flight tray.

When we ordered all eight beers on draft we got a wide variety of styles and flavors.  Our flight consisted of: Imperial Moustache Red (an Irish red ale), Hop Naughty (an American IPA), Hawt Blonde (a blonde ale), Pom Diggity Cider (a pomegranate flavored cider), Koopa-Cabra Kölsch (a German Kölsch), Maibock (a German maibock), Straight Up Cider (a classic cider), and Long Live the Chief (a double IPA).  Of the eight brews we had, I enjoyed Pom Diggity Cider the best.  It was sweet, but not overly sweet and had an interesting flavor profile.  I’m not big on pomegranate, but it added something really unique and enjoyable to the cider.  On the strictly beer side, I especially enjoyed Maibock.  It’s a malt-forward ale that is lower on the IBUs.  By comparison, my wife Katie liked the Imperial Moustache Red the best, which is great evidence that we all have different tastes when it comes to beers.  Fans of the classic hop-forward IPAs should try Hop Naughty, which is the first beer Cole developed as a homebrewer.

In addition to the interior space, Salty Nut also has an extensive beer garden.  It’s great for springtime and summertime visits, but even during cooler weather it’s still quite enjoyable with a few strategically placed fire pits.

When you venture outside you can also investigate the production side of the brewery, which is housed in a separate building from the taproom.  I didn’t get to go on a tour, so I didn’t get to explore the production side in great detail, but there is a window open that allows visitors to see the fermentation tanks.

A view of the brewery’s fermentation tanks.

Back inside the taproom art fans will find a variety of unique items adorning the walls.  Salty Nut plays up the squirrel and nut motif.  Across from the bar is a wall with a variety of items, but by far the coolest decoration was a small wooden plaque hanging above the men’s restroom that says: “Welcome to the nut house.”

That may be the most appropriate description of the brewery Cole, Yant, and their partners have developed.  Salty Nut Brewery’s taproom sits under a billboard in a former industrial area of Huntsville.  They brewed a beer called Unimpeachable Pale Ale to mock the governor of Alabama and his affair with a top aide.  They have someone dressed up in a squirrel costume handing out sacks of nuts at beer festivals.  So when you visit the taproom, you’ve definitely arrived at the nut house.  You’ll find the jolliest bunch of people drinking beer at this nut house.

A pint at Yellowhammer Brewing in Huntsville, Ala.

When work on Campus 805 started, Yellowhammer Brewing was the first tenant to break ground and ultimately the first to open its doors.  The opening is notable for many reasons.

The opening meant that the redevelopment of the 13-acre Stone Middle School property into Campus 805 was becoming a reality.  It also meant that Yellowhammer, which was started by a quartet of guys in 2010, had become one of the premier breweries in Huntsville, and was part of a major attraction for craft beer lovers throughout the state of Alabama and even surrounding states.

Yellowhammer occupies a new building on the Campus 805 landscape with plenty of parking surrounding it.  So visitors may get slightly different views of the property when walking to the entrance.  However, it is impossible to miss the iconic imagery of Alabama’s state bird, the yellowhammer (actually called the northern flicker; here’s a more detailed explanation).

Main entrance to the brewery.

Walking down the hallway to the taproom is a piece of art that connects the past of Stone Middle School to the present of Yellowhammer Brewing.

Artwork dedicated to Campus 805 as you enter the taproom.

As to be expected, the taproom is quite expansive.  It’s so large that I struggled to capture it in one shot.  It was easier to capture a shot of the bar before turning my focus on the width of the space.

Behind the bar is a window into the brewing area.  So while the taproom separates the two areas of the brewery, visitors can at least see the fermentation tanks and other equipment.

A view of the taps and view into the brewery itself.

Yes, that is a a crowler machine on the counter behind the bar itself.  My wife Katie and I did not purchase any beer to take home with us, but I am always excited when i see a crowler machine at a brewery.  They are much more useful than using the traditional glass growler to take beer home.  I prefer crowlers because I don’t have to store anything after finishing the beer, I can recycle the aluminum can from the typical 32-oz. crowler and not worry about the growing collection of growlers cluttering the beer room.

We visited Yellowhammer in the early afternoon just after lunch, so we did not take advantage of the food available at Earth and Stone Wood Fired Pizza.  In addition to pizza they also serve calzones, salads, some small-plate items like meatballs, and “adult” ice cream like bourbon butter pecan.

An overview of Earth and Stone Fired Pizza, which is connected to the brewery.

So without the need to eat, although I’ve seen the lines for pizza so I know it’s good food, Katie and I ordered a flight of beers.

A flight of beers.

Yellowhammer Brewing is available throughout Alabama, so I’ve had many of the brewery’s beers on multiple occasions.  So choosing the flight was about sampling beers only available at the taproom, brews we had not seen in our hometown of Tuscaloosa, or just beers we hadn’t tried before.  Despite Yellowhammer’s extensive beer list, it was relatively easy for Katie and I to build a flight together.

We chose…
Tobacco Road, which is an imperial amber ale.
Imperial Rebellion, which is a variant of their year-round Rebellion.
Nussknacker, which is a holiday bock.
Berliner Weisse, which is a tart German-style ale.
7th Anniversary, which is a Belgian tripel.
Bride of Frankenhammer, which is a Belgian strong ale aged in red wine barrels on cherries.

We also had two additional tasters because there were more beers than we wanted to sample that didn’t fit onto the flight of six.  So we ordered Belgian Pear Pale Ale, which is a Belgian pale with pears, and New England, which is a New England-style India Pale Ale.

Out of the eight beers I sampled, the beers I rated the best on Untappd were Nussknacker and 7th Anniversary.  Nussknacker is a good malty winter beer with just the right amount of spices that allow it to pleasantly warm you and make you think about your favorite holiday memories.  7th Anniversary is a potent Belgian tripel that celebrates the brewery’s seven years of operation.  It is boozy, but not overpowering and very smooth for a beer checking in at 13.8% ABV.

After finishing our beers, I explored the taproom a bit more and found some maps that were very interesting.  I liked them partially because I’m a geographer, and I’ve always loved maps, but also because of what information the maps contained.

As visitors head toward the back door to leave the brewery, you will see two large wooden-mounted maps with stickers on them.  One shows Alabama and its 67 counties with stickers brought by visitors showing the approximate location of each brewery in the state, and in some cases the stickers are actually from craft beer bars.  Next to the Alabama map is a map of the United States with stickers from breweries throughout the country.  These maps are two of the cooler customer-interactive pieces I’ve ever seen at a brewery.

The third map is in the taproom mounted on a wall.  The map shows the 10th Prohibition District and varying levels of public sentiment for “illicit distilling and unlawful selling, transporting, and possession” or alcohol.  The map dates to 1930, which made it exciting to see it preserved in a brewery.

The weirdest feature is something not everybody gets to see unless you wander into the men’s bathroom…

A view of the keg urinals in the bathroom.

In typical craft brewery style, Yellowhammer utilized a pair of old kegs for urinals in the men’s restroom.

When I visited the brewery was undergoing major expansion in an effort to double its overall space, partially to brew more beer and partially to add more entertainment space.  I didn’t tour the brewing side, but did get to see some of the progress made with the outdoor space.

Overview of the patio.

The patio was empty when I visited because it was early on a Friday afternoon, but the stage in the back allows a variety of entertainers to pack in the crowds.

Although I had visited Yellowhammer Brewing, it was a great time and always enjoyable seeing the new small-batch beers on draft.  I can’t wait to see what the new entertainment space looks like, especially in the spring when I can sit on the patio sipping a Belgian White while listening to some live music.

A pint at Mad Malts Brewing in Huntsville, Ala.

A trio with a fondness for beer and an irreverent nature for naming traditions, led Chris Bramon, Jeff Peck, and Tracy Mullins to start The Brew Stooges in 2013.  The success the trio enjoyed was short-lived after receiving a cease-and-desist order from the C3 Entertainment, which owns the rights to the Three Stooges.  However, the group kept the wacky theme alive with the re-named company: Mad Malts Brewing.

The taproom is located in the building that used to house Mullins’s former business, Complete Plumbing.  Due to its former life the building is located in an industrial area near the intersection of Oakwood Avenue and Meridian Street.  There are some houses on surrounding streets, which can make parking difficult for visitors.  The issue is so important that the brewery posts a parking notice on its website reminding people not to park in front of houses or R&R Racing.  Once visitors park, they clearly see signage for the brewery.

Main entrance to the brewery.

The taproom is truly an all-in-one space with the equipment immediately to the right once people enter the facility.  On the Friday night that I visited the brewery with my wife Katie, a band was playing immediately in front of the fermentation tanks (more on the music later).  Just past the fermentation tanks is the cooler and draft wall.

We immediately ordered a flight of beers, which spanned the spectrum from standards like a Russian imperial stout to the experimental blood orange IPA.

A labeled flight of beers.

Splitting a flight with my wife allowed me the opportunity to sample a greater variety of beers, especially ones that I would not necessarily try on my own.  The flight included a yam beer, two different flavored porters, a flavored India pale ale, a dark sour, and a Russian imperial stout.  Katie and I split a pint of the Double Rye, too.  Out of the seven beers I sampled that night, my favorite was the Russian imperial stout.  It was malty with molasses and coffee flavors, and very smooth.  Yam I Am was also very good, and I especially enjoyed that Becky added a unique touch with the brown sugar rim.  The beer itself was very solid with a wonderful fall/Thanksgiving mix of spices, but the addition of the brown-sugar made the beer-drinking experience slightly more enjoyable.

The brewery has three areas for visitors: the downstairs immediately in front of the brewing equipment, an upstairs living room that is complete with couches, and an outdoor beer garden with picnic tables and a porch swing.

Sitting downstairs, I got a great view of the band playing in front of the brewing equipment.  The downstairs features about four six-foot-long tables designed to be used communally by visitors.

A view of a band performing in front of the fermentation tanks seen from the upstairs living room.

Upstairs has a different setup and vibe.  It is truly like a living room if your living room overlooked a working brewery.  It has couches, a few smaller tables for guests, and a collection of board games.  Overall it’s a much more intimate setting than the downstairs.

An overview of the upstairs living room.

The outdoor space was unoccupied when I visited partially because of the cool, fall temperatures, and assuredly in part because of the band playing that night.  The crowd gathered downstairs was intently listening and singing along to the songs as the band played a lot of songs from the late-1970s and 1980s.  Despite the lack of customer interest in being outdoors that night, it is a great setup.

The folks at Mad Malts may not call it a beer garden, but the outdoor space is reminiscent of one.  There is a trio of picnic tables, and a big, wooden porch swing.  There are also two grills that can be used during the summer and early fall.

Whether you sit downstairs, upstairs, or outdoors you are sure to enjoy the scene at the Mad Malts Brewing taproom.  The crowd is laid-back and fun.  The staff is friendly and helpful.  And the beers are unlike something you’ll mind most anywhere else.

A pint at Straight to Ale Brewing in Huntsville, Ala.

One of the earliest craft breweries to open in Huntsville was Straight to Ale Brewing.  The brewery originally opened on Leeman Ferry Road in a former industrial area across from Joe W. Davis Stadium, then the home of the Southern League’s Huntsville Stars.  Like many things in the Rocket City over the past few years, progress led to some notable changes.  The Stars left town (and became the Biloxi Shuckers), and the craft beer scene in the city took off.

Following a massive overhaul of the former Stone Middle School property just west of downtown, Straight to Ale relocated from its original facility south of downtown to the new Campus 805.  There is much more history to the brewery than I’m going to delve into in a blog post, so I’m going to focus on the present and the brewery’s expansive space at Campus 805.

There are two entrances to the brewery: one being an entrance from the school’s former driveway and another from the greenspace in the middle of Campus 805. My wife Katie and I entered from Butler Green.

Entering from Butler Green visitors pass by the outside bar, which wasn’t busy at the time we passed through because it was just before five o’clock and partially because it was cooler outside.

A view of the outdoor bar.

Despite a small crowd at the time we passed through, the outside bar is a great place to enjoy during the spring and summer months.  After walking through the brewing facility (more on that later), visitors arrive at the taproom.

An overview of the taproom.

There are a lot of things that are unique about Straight to Ale and its facility, which I will delve into one at a time.  One of the most notable differences between Straight to Ale and many other breweries is that the brewery has a full kitchen.  When the brewery opened at its previous location, a food truck opened in the brewery’s parking lot.  The food truck did so well and was so popular that when the brewery relocated that it was logical to partner with the food truck to operate the kitchen.

Trying to describe the menu is nearly impossible because it covers a bit of everything.  It includes traditional American fare, Korean, Tex-Mex, and more.  Katie and I ordered a combination platter of  chicken wings and St. Louis-style ribs.

A plate of wings with Jerk Buffalo sauce and crispy Asian ribs covered in Mogwai Teriyaki sauce.

The ribs traditionally come covered in Mogwai Teriyaki sauce, which is delicious.  You can get other sauces, but there’s no reason to choose anything besides the Mogwai Teriyaki.  There are a lot of choices for topping the chicken wings ranging from BBQ to the mouth-burning xXxtraHot Diablo, which is a nine-pepper blend.  Katie and I opted for Jerk Buffalo upon the recommendation of Matt Cooper, who later took us on a tour of the facility.  The Jerk Buffalo sauce was outstanding as it combined traditional buffalo sauce with Jamaican jerk spices to create a deliciously, unique blend of flavors.

After finishing our dinner, we got a personal tour of the brewery from Matt Cooper.  Cooper a.k.a Coop is a sales rep covering north Alabama, and worked for the brewery in a variety of positions before recently transitioning into sales.

Before we left the taproom though, I had to snap one last picture.

A view of beer for sale and the Monkeynaut cutout.

It’s common place to see breweries selling beer to take home, but I wanted to capture the Monkeynaut cutout.  You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a cutout.  Leaving the taproom we found some artwork.

Some artwork near the Speakeasy.

Right after the artwork most visitors will see a set of old lockers, and probably think nothing of them.  After all, you’re in a former middle school so it’s not surprising to see a set of lockers.  However, the lockers hide the brewery’s speakeasy.

Coop explains some of the history behind the Speakeasy.

As Coop explained, the Speakeasy used to be the former band room.  The lockers hide what used to be a private practice room before opening up to the huge space that used to be the band room.

The Speakeasy is truly unique.  It is designed to be like a Speakeasy during Prohibition, and is the only place at the brewery where you can order Shelta Cavern Spirits.  The available spirits are gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey.  The spirits are also brewed on site.  The vibe in the Speakeasy is purposefully quite different from the taproom.  There is a movie screen that continuously shows black-and-white films from Turner Classic Movies.

Down the hall from the Speakeasy is the game room.

An overview of pinball machines and pool tables as part of the game room.

The game room has pool tables and pinball machines, and at one point had a pinball league.  I’m not sure exactly how a pinball league operates, but it sounds like a cool idea.

The amazing thing about Straight to Ale is that so far everything I’ve written about focuses on drinking beer, eating food, sipping liquor, and playing games.  It’s almost as if they don’t brew beer on site.  Of course, that’s not the case.  So onto making beer…

After taking Katie and I to the brewery’s gigantic cold storage room, Coop took us around to the old gymnasium.  That is where Straight to Ale brews beer, and if you enter the brewery from Butler Green it is what you see before reaching the taproom.

The basketball goals are leftover from the old gymnasium, and a regular part of activities for workers at the brewery.  At the time we passed through, guys were playing a game and also tossing around a Frisbee with the movable disc golf goals.  The brewery used to have some equipment at its Leeman Ferry Road facility, but recently relocated everything and closed that location because of Alabama alcohol laws that made it more difficult to brew at two places.

Previously I mentioned Shelta Caverns Spirits, which are served in the Speakeasy.  Those are also distilled at the Campus 805 location, but technically in a distinct space different from the brewery.

A view of the still used by Shelta Cavern Spirits.

In a fenced in space with a lock is the still that head distiller Bojangle uses to produce the gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey available in the Speakeasy.  As Coop explained, the name comes from Shelta Cave, which is just north of Huntsville.  During Prohibition it was used as a speakeasy and dance hall, so when Straight to Ale decided to produce spirits it was the logical local name.

Seeing the brewing equipment and still was the end of our tour, but people wanting to tour the brewery don’t have to know someone to see all the behind-the-scenes stuff.  Straight to Ale offers free tours on Saturdays at 2 p.m.  As awesome as it was to see all the behind-the-scenes stuff, I haven’t discussed the main reason people visit a brewery’s taproom: beer.

Straight to Ale brews a variety of beers, many with humorous local-inspired names.  Monkeynaut, one of the brewery’s four year-round beers, is an India pale ale that derives its name from Miss Baker, which is the monkey that NASA launched into space.  After returning from space Miss Baker lived at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, so it made sense to name a beer after one of the city’s key industries and local legends.  Stout at the Devil isn’t named after any local legend, but is an oatmeal stout brewed with caramel coffee that was named best new stout in Alabama by Beer Guys Radio (read the full list here).

Straight to Ale has been around long enough to gain a well-earned reputation for producing great beers, but visiting a brewery’s taproom isn’t about sampling beers you can buy at your local craft beer store.  Visiting the taproom is about sampling the unique one-offs and experimental small batches.  During this visit I got to sample Pumpkin Lily, which is a one-off from the brewery’s year-round Lily Flagg milk stout.  It was smooth and malty with some great pumpkin and spice notes.  I also drank Black Kvass Ale, which is typically made with dark rye and popular in Eastern Europe.  It was quite different from other beers I’ve drank, but very enjoyable.

However, I was most excited to try the latest version of Juicy Bunny, which is Straight to Ale’s take on a New England IPA.  It didn’t look hazy and cloudy like the typical New England IPA, but it was a great combination of citrus flavors with minimal bitterness.  It was tapped in honor of Drew, one of the brewers, and his final day working at Straight to Ale.  Although the brewery had bottled and distributed the first batch of Juicy Bunny, the batch that was tapped that day has not been distributed throughout the state.

As with many larger breweries, Straight to Ale offers something for just about everybody’s palate.  So whether you like hoppy IPAs, chocolatey and coffee influenced stouts, or lighter wheat ales, you can find something to suit your beer drinking needs.  If you’re not a beer drinker, you may enjoy the spirits available in the Speakeasy.  If you don’t drink at all and you’re just hanging out with friends, you’ll still enjoy all the Straight to Ale offers when you feast on the delicious food options from Ale’s Kitchen.  Without a doubt, this is a full-service brewery.

A pint at Goat Island Brewing in Cullman, Ala.

When people survey the map of craft breweries in Alabama, one stands out as being convenient but maybe not as convenient as visitors may expect.  Goat Island Brewing in Cullman appears to be conveniently located off Interstate 65 north of Birmingham, which is true.  However, Cullman (respectfully) is not a city many people throughout the South much less in Alabama set out to visit because it offers other cultural or historical sights.

So if you have the goal of visiting each craft brewery in Alabama (like I do), you have to specifically set a goal of stopping in Cullman just to have a drink at Goat Island.  So recently my now-wife and I decided to visit the brewery because of a traffic backup on I-65 as we were heading to Nashville.  It was certainly an impromptu visit, but one that we both thoroughly enjoyed.

Main entrance to the brewery.

The brewery has a large seating space, as the brewery is in a large former industrial building.  There are numerous tables with four to six chairs at them to the left and a long bar to the right when you enter the building.

The draft wall.

Along the draft wall there is a display of Goat Island Brewing paraphernalia customers can purchase ranging from stickers to t-shirts and more.

A display of Goat Island Brewing gear available at the brewery.

The space at the brewery is nicely setup, but we stopped (and others stop) because of the beer.  The brewery had seven beers on tap (with an eighth – a hefeweizen – set to be tapped the following week).  The brewery has a wide distribution throughout central Alabama, so I had drank four of the beers before visiting the brewery itself.  So I ordered the Palomino Pale Ale and Big Bridge IPA.

Both sides of the five-ounce glasses.

The pale ale and IPA were both true to style.  Neither were overly hoppy, so if you avoid craft beers because you dislike the bitter taste both of these brews are quite acceptable for new craft beer drinkers.

I also decided to try the Son of a Bridge Jumper Double IPA, which had a bit more bite to it.  However, at only 7.8% ABV it is not as potent as some other double IPAs available on the market.

Additionally, from past experience I can endorse the Thrill Hill Vanilla Porter and the Richter’s Pilsner as two of my favorite beers by Goat Island.  Thrill Hill blends vanilla notes in nicely while not overpowering the beer.  Richter’s Pilsner is an excellent German-style pilsner, which means it is more malty than hoppy.  According to one of the brewery’s owners the recipe came from an old photo of Cullman (read the story here).

Additionally, the brewery celebrates its first history by framing a used bag of grain from its first brew.

Used bag of grain celebrating the brewery’s first brew, which took place in March 2016.

Incorporating Cullman’s German heritage into the brewery there are a pair of quotes regarding beer from famous Germans.

Wise words about the consumption of beer.

One critically important thing to consider about visiting the brewery is that you cannot stop by for a beer on Sunday because the county does not permit alcohol sales on that day of the week.  Additionally, there is no food available for sale at the brewery.  However, local vendors often serve food for purchase outside of the brewery or you can order food to be delivered.  Red Mountain Crawfish was serving up crawfish and shrimp along with the fixings when we stopped by the brewery.

Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed my impromptu stop at Goat Island Brewing.  It took a bit to arrive at the brewery off Interstate 65, but the beer was taproom setup was welcoming to all people.  The food available from a local vendor was tasty.  Most importantly the beer itself was excellent and offers a variety of options for the craft beer drinker’s palate.