Let there be no doubt: Alabama is giddy over Gourmet Bottle Bill (SB294) introduced by Free the Hops. Effective August 1, 2012, the bill raised the maximum allowable bottle size to 25.4 ounces from the previous limit of 16 ounces, permitting sales of the 22-ounce and 750-milliliter bottles commonly used by many craft breweries. The bill removed the final barrier which has long kept the best beers in the world from the Alabama market. Craft beer lovers have been racing to their local bottle shops to discover what new treats the bill has afforded them. Never one to be beaten to the top, The Brew Sherpa set up base camp with Greg Pugliese at the local Neighborhood Hops and Vine for a recent expedition up the mountain of newly available beers.
While The Brew Sherpa was sipping on a Rodenbach Grand Cruand admiring the Hops and Vines’ cornucopia of newly available bombers, Martin from Birmingham Budweiser Distributing Company dropped in to make sure the shelves were filled with the best craft beers under his charge. Martin, a craft beer lover himself, was only too eager to chat about the myriad of great beers now available to us. He also revealed that BB Distributing had embarked on a keg aging program for its high gravity craft beers. As Martin explained it, it’s about quality and the genuine love of beer. With the same care a sommelier gives the wines in his charge, Martin carefully selects some of the higher gravity craft beers kegs to squirrel away for a couple of years. When the time is right – or perhaps more accurately, when patience is lost – he bestows one of those perfectly-aged kegs upon a worthy retailer to dispense to the craft beer lovers of Birmingham. Recently, a two-year old keg of Old Ruffian, Great Divide’s barley wine made its way to Neighborhood Hops & Vine and was enjoyed by those fortunate customers who happened to shop there before the keg kicked. For many of those customers, the serendipitous discovery was their Golden Ticket into the exciting and delectable world of craft beer. Martin assures me that he’s cached several kegs away for the future and while he was tight-lipped about which kegs and where they were going, be sure that The Brew Sherpa will check back regularly with Neighborhood Hops & Vine in hopes of scoring a taste from one of them.
There is a mountain of fantastic beers coming to Alabama right now and The Brew Sherpa will do whatever is possible to keep you from getting buried in the avalanche. Talk to your local bottle shops and beer bars, and follow The Brew Sherpa on Twitter so you know when to go for the summit!