Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Today's column: A new arrival and heralded return

Beer lovers will have to wait just a little longer to get Alabama brew in bottles, but in the meantime there is a suitable substitute newly available from just a little farther north.

Things are finally brewing again up in Huntsville, as Olde Towne Brewing Co. gets back in business after a fire in July 2007. Founder and brewmaster Don Alan Hankins reports the company is finally filling kegs at its new plant, and Olde Towne is now available from tap handles around the Rocket City.

Meanwhile, Nashville's Yazoo Brewing Co. made its entrance into the state this summer, with six-packs on sale in the Birmingham and Huntsville areas.

Hankins says Olde Towne is preparing for a grand re-opening party Saturday at Huntsville's Lowe Mill, complete with live music, lots of food, and of course the beer.

"This is kind of our payback to the city from us," Hankins said, in recognition of the support local beer fans lent the brewery after the fire. There were community-sponsored fundraisers including a concerts, and lots of e-mails and phone calls from folks eager to learn when Olde Towne would return.

Hankins says the company is filling keg orders through distributors in the Huntsville area first, and plans to follow that with the return of their draft product to Birmingham soon. A hefeweizen, amber ale and pale ale are already available, and a pilsner should make its return this weekend.

Olde Towne's new bottling equipment is expected to arrive by the end of the month. Hankins said the bottled brew will go to Huntsville first sometime in September, and then out to other markets where it was available before the fire, perhaps in November. That would include Calhoun County.

Meanwhile, you'll have to drive to Birmingham or Huntsville to get it, but Yazoo has a hefeweizen, a pale ale and what they bill as a Mexican-influenced version of a German altbier, basically an amber ale, labeled "Dos Perros Ale."

The pale is a bit sweeter than other versions of this style, and has a nicely bitter hops finish. Dos Perros is a hearty brown, with nice mellow malts sure to be enjoyed fans of beers like Newcastle Brown Ale and Lazy Magnolia's Southern Pecan.

As for the future, Olde Towne's Hankins says a series of seasonal brews — draft only — will follow the four standbys. That will likely start this fall with a pumpkin ale, and then something new for the winter, a coffee-and-tea-flavored stout.

For now, both these brands will require some driving for Anniston-area folks to acquire. But be sure to ask the staff at your favorite shops and haunts to stock the beers you'd like to try.