The old adage “shop local” is quickly expanding in Alabama to include “drink local.” Thanks to an influx of local breweries, the state has seen a spike in its local revenue, giving craft beer connoisseurs something to cheers about.
“When you have breweries pumping out solid beers, then you’re going to have people traveling to your city,” said Eric Meyer, who opened Cahaba Brewing Company in Birmingham in 2012. It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon in Cahaba’s tasting room and Meyer has his three kids and the family poodle in tow. He’s one of the target demographics, he said, for most breweries — a young professional with a couple kids who just wants a place to relax.
It’s folks like Meyer who are growing the state’s craft beer scene.
According to The Brewers Association, a non-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, Alabama produced 62,738 barrels of craft beer in 2017 — leaving a $616 million impact on the state’s economy. With 46 breweries now open across the state, local brew masters are saying those numbers will likely rise in 2018.
“Once the breweries started, that’s when the restaurants and bars really started to move in,” said Taylor Lander, chief operating officer for Avondale Brewing Company, which recently merged with Good People Brewing Company. “It generates money for the economy and it generates jobs, which I think is really important.”
While seated at a picnic table on Good People’s patio, sipping a beer in the midst of a busy “Thirsty Thursday” crowd waiting to see the Birmingham Barons play ball across the street at Regions Field, Lander mused that beer played a big role in sparking downtown’s resurgence.
When the state passed the Beer Modernization Act in 2011, it relaxed restrictions on brewpubs and allowed taprooms to open in breweries, Lander explained. Since then, major breweries across the state have been able to attract more customers. And, in effect, neighborhoods where breweries are located have enticed restaurants, bars and shops to move in as well. It creates a domino effect, Lander said.
“I really do think breweries take on the personality of their neighborhood, too,” she added. “Look at any brewery and you’re looking at a melting pot. You have all races, demographics, ages.”
As long as Alabama stays thirsty, local economies will feel the positive economic effects of breweries. In many ways, breweries are becoming the modern-day coffeehouse, Meyer said. They’re a place where patrons can come enjoy a cold one while escaping some of the stress of everyday life.
“It creates this common place where people can go visit with each other,” Meyer said while giving his dog a pat and drawing his daughter in for a hug. “And, hopefully, we offer a good product that you can enjoy.”