Saturday, 2 May 2015

Birmingham day two

I’m stopping in quite a nice hotel downtown, Hampton Inn & Suites-Downtown-Tutwiler. But the free breakfast buffet has paper plates and plastic cutlery. I’ve come across this a few times in the US. It looks really, really crap.

Stuart Carter picks me up after brekkie with his toddler son, Jamie. We head off on a slow ramble around Birmingham’s beery spots.

On the way to our first stop, Stuart explains the geography of Birmingham. Railway tracks run approximately East to West, slicing the town in two. With the Southside to the South and the Northside to the East. (Little pop culture reference there.) Most of the breweries are in the Southside, which makes sense as it’s the more industrial half of the city.

We start at Hop City, a bottle shop and growler filling station. It’s quite an impressive selection, including lots of beer from the UK and the rest of Europe. Even better, all those draught taps mean we can enjoy a glass of beer while we watch it piss down with rain outside. The weather continues to be dreadful.

Our second stop in North of the tracks. It’s still raining when we get there and I rush inside quickly to avoid a right soaking. You find some odd combinations in the US. Bottle & Bone is certainly one: restaurant, butcher and bottle shop. And I mean a proper butcher that makes its own bacon and sausages. There’s draught beer, too. A little Spartan, but the meat looks dead, dead good. A shame it isn’t quite time for lunch yet.

Back over the tracks again, the rain has finally stopped for a while as we pull up outside Avondale Brewing. A brewery Stuart tells me has been pivotal in revitalising what had been a very run-down part of town. I’m surprised to spot a room full of open fermenters as we enter. For their sour beers, Stuart tells me.

We chat to a bearded (aren’t they all) brewer a little but he’s very busy. The brewing crew is leaving for the CBC tomorrow and they have lots to finish up. I’m intrigued by one of their beer names: Brothel Brown. It seems the building used to house a seedy bar with a house of ill repute upstairs.

Remaining Southside, Trim Tab, another brewery, is next on the list. Quite a barn of a place is some sort of former workshop. Stuart recommends their ESB, but there’s only the very bottom of a keg left. The brewer squeezes a little out. It’s past its best but still nice. (Excuse the over-technical beer descriptions.  I’ve left my thesaurus at home.)

We decant to the taproom, where we can sample cask. Always my first choice, if I believe it’s been looked after. It’s an Old Ale, dark and full. It’s another space untouched by luxury. Like the Lucha libre-themed art.

Eating. I find it’s a good idea to indulge in it a couple of times a day. Barbecue seems a good idea. We try Saw's Soul Kitchen, just a few doors away. But it’s packed. Waiting in a small, crowded place for an indeterminate time with a toddler doesn’t seem a great idea.

Stuart suggests Jim 'N Nick's. I’m easy. Anything that makes life simple. The cheese biscuits are never-ending and they sell beer. I’m sold. We chomp down some barbecue while Jamie charms the women in next booth. Gets much harder when you get older, champ. Charming the ladies.

The rain is now gone, though the streets are drenched and every step challenges to engulf your shoe in red mud. We head for the final brewery in the set of four Birmingham breweries, Good People. I’ve already tried their beer.

The brewery is cavernous, industrial and opposite Regions Field, home of Birmingham Barons baseball team. There seems to be something going on there as part of the road is closed and people are milling about inside.

Stuart recommends Snake Handler IPA. Seems they shift as much as they can brew of it. I settle for an alternative IPA. But luckily once I’ve downed that, the Snake Handler IPA is back. And very nice it is, too, in a alcoholy way.  It’s a sessionable 9.3%.

We finish in in J. Clyde, an Englishy-style pub that has cask beer. The Trim Tab Old Ale. It’s still raining.

I won’t tell you the horrors of trying to find somewhere to eat later. Let’s just say the Paramount was closed and I ate in my hotel.

Hop City Beer & Wine Birmingham
2924 3rd Ave S,
Birmingham, AL 35233.

Bottle & Bone
2311 Richard Arrington Jr Blvd N #200,
Birmingham, AL 35203.

Avondale Brewing
201 41st St S,
Birmingham, AL 35222

Trim Tab Brewing
2721 5th Ave S,
Birmingham, AL 35233

Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q
1908 11th Ave S,
Birmingham, AL 35205.

Good People Brewing Company
114 14th St S,
Birmingham, AL 35233,

The J. Clyde
1312 Cobb Ln,
Birmingham, AL 35205

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The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer


kaiserhog said...

Ron: Surely someone in Birmingham could have found a good catfish house for some southern fried catfish and hushpuppies, the fish and chips of the South.

Michael+ said...

You missed some amazing food in B'ham, but you came for the beer and I hope you enjoyed. Sorry I missed your chat (vicars work on Sunday, you know) but thank you so much for signing my books. My secretary enjoyed the talk and the beer! Look forward to another chance to meet someday, as I'm stockpiling questions about AK!