Huntsville has a new brewery!!! Let’s all toast Green Bus Brewery with a pint of Hop Bus IPA!!Back in 2009 craft beer in Huntsville was in its infancy. Prior to this beer with an alcohol content of more than 6% was banned from the state. Other prohibition era laws remained of the books and essentially stifled an industry that was thriving and benefiting other states throughout the country. In 2005, a group of passionate beer lovers started the Free the Hops movement to change the laws and bring more sophisticated beer drinking habits to the state. And once change started there was no stopping it. Throughout Alabama craft breweries started expanding, but no place took to it like Huntsville. Maybe it’s all of our out-of-state brew drinking transplants, maybe it’s our high populations of beer-loving engineers, but whatever the reason, Huntsville loves craft beer!Now that we’ve hit 2016 Green Bus will be the 8th brewery in Madison County. I had the pleasure of dropping into the Grand Opening.The Grand Opening lasted all day and I picked a time that I thought would be dead, but I would be wrong. There were tons of people, lots of beer, food, games, live music, raffles, and a guy in lederhosen. ‘Tis the season I suppose. They even had the infamous green bus! It was covered with stickers from all the other local breweries. I love how the craft beer industry in Alabama is so supportive of each other. I can’t tell you how many times brewers have told me ‘when one of us succeeds we all do’.I’d loved to have tasted the beer, but unfortunately I am currently under a strict gluten-free diet (doctor’s orders) so alas I could only photograph it. I will say it was quite pretty and the drinkers around me seemed immensely happy.
Several weeks ago, I read a newspaper article about a prohibition-era hidden tunnel underneath a pecan shop in Decatur, AL. I knew as soon as I read the article I knew I had to investigate. I trekked out the Tennessee Valley Pecan Co. and popped into the shop.The shop itself it well worth the trip, even without the secret booze den. The pecan company sells a large variety of the most delicious pecans, coffee, and Piper & Leaf teas. The shop is adorable with many squirrel themed products. I also learned that there are numerous types of pecans. Who knew?! I ordered a coffee and some dark chocolate pecans and asked to see the secret tunnel. Owner David Armistead was very obliging and explained to me how they found the tunnel, a bit of its history and what was down there. He showed me to the tunnel which they left exposed with a piece of plexiglass over the top. Through the hole you can see the scary rickety ladder, whiskey crates, and remaining prohibition debris. David kindly invited me to come back on a different day to go down into the tunnel. I’ll admit it was a pretty scary hole to go into. I was glad I had been working out because if I was any wider I would not have fit in. It was super thrilling and a bit scary. We found old beer bottles, whiskey boxes and even pecan shells.It was also an adventure to get myself, camera, and tripod down this very steep ladder.
It is said that the goddess Aphrodite aka Venus was born after Cronus castrated his father Uranus and threw his … um … er… ‘member’ into the sea. (ouch!) Sea-foam formed where Uranus’s genitals fell into the water and from this foam Venus sprang forth, fully formed and a goddess to be reckoned with.
I don’t believe the craft beer, Heady Topper, has quite as dramatic of an origin story, but the beer is as revered, loved, and sought-after as the great Venus herself. I recently had the pleasure of encountering this highly ranked, elusive beer while on a trip to see my family in upstate New York.
While in New York, I was posting various photographs of local brews to my Instagram account and a friend jokingly commented that if I wanted to bring her back a souvenir, she would love some craft beer.
“What do you want?” I asked.
“Heady Topper if it’s available! Never had it.. only heard the folklore,” she said.
Sure, why not, I thought. Little did I know the journey she was sending me on. The ‘folklore’ comment should have been my tipoff.
Over the next couple of days, I glanced at the grocery store’s beer selection but didn’t see anything, so I decided to research it. It was then that I learned how complicated it was to get this beer.
Heady Topper was ranked by Beer Advocate as the # 1 beer starting in 2013. It is currently ranked # 2 on the list, but could move back to the number 1 spot at anytime. It is hard to get because it is a world-class beer that is only distributed in Vermont. Heady Topper often sells out within the hour and people wait in long lines to get it. There are even a story of 1 can of beer selling for as much as $42. After learning all of this, I was ready to throw in the towel and just send my friend a post card, but my Dad got quite inspired about getting his hands on some. We had a trip planned to Burlington, so he started watching the brewery’s website to see where Heady would be distributed.
He learned that it would arrive at City Market on Tuesday.On the big day, we got a late start and didn’t get into Burlington until 12:30 pm. I figured we had missed out, but then we saw this sign.The most important part of the sign was that the beer wouldn’t be brought out until 2pm, so we hadn’t missed out! My father was very excited and after a visit to customer service to inquire about the appropriate Heady purchasing protocol, he promptly got in line. I kept on asking if he was sure he wanted to wait for an hour for a beer we’d never even heard of a week earlier, but he was adamant that he was in it for the long haul.
My mother and I went across the street to a local bookstore as my father bonded with his line-mates. Some were newbies like himself, but others were Heady fanatics that raved about how much they LOVED this beer.
At one point, a woman came by and observed the growing line of Heady shoppers.
“You know, there is perfectly good beer that you don’t have to wait in line for!” she exclaimed. She shook her head at their ridiculous fanaticism.
As she walked away the man behind my father said, “That used to be me, wondering why someone would stand in line for beer. Then I had Heady and now here I am, standing in line.”
By 2pm, over 50 were waiting for the beer. There was no limit on how much a customer could purchase, so everyone had to hope the person in front of them didn’t buy everything. My father was 5th in line, so he was able to get his prize quickly: a case of Heady Topper.
My mother and I met with him at a nearby restaurant to celebrate his victory. I noticed that the menu featured another beer from The Alchemist brewery so I ordered it.
“I’m sorry,” said the waitress. “We’re all out, but we do have Heady Topper.”
“Perfect!” I said, and my mother, father and I all ordered some.
On the ride home to New York, a double rainbow smiled down upon us. Heady Topper IS magical!!
….At times soft and quiet,
other times loud and boisterous.
This was how the Yuchi Indians
described the Tennessee River
as it poured over the rocks and reefs
of the shoals.
− Singin’ River Brewing Co.
My first leg of the Florence Restaurant Week blog tour began at Singin River Brewing Co. and it was the perfect way to start.
Rob and Michelle Jones started the Singin River Brewing Co. just over a year ago. They celebrated their 1 year anniversary May 1st. Rob has been experimenting with brewing since the 90’s and Michelle discovered her love of craft beer through Rob after they started dating. The two of them have been touring craft breweries throughout the States since they met. Their shared passion for craft beer turned into a career with the creation of Singin’ River Brewing, Florence’s only craft brewery!
My husband (Olivier) and I visited the brewery/taproom early Friday evening, when it was “soft and quiet”. I’ve been to Singin’ River when it was packed with loud, boisterous patrons and though that’s a fun time to visit, it isn’t very conducive to good photography and leisurely chats with friendly bartenders.
The taproom is gorgeous, which if you visit a lot of taprooms, you’ll quickly find this isn’t always the case. There are beautifully designed rustic tables and chairs throughout. Carefully matching artwork adorns the walls and the bar is a stylish combination of corrugated metal and raw wood.
When I visit a taproom the first time I usually start with a flight of flagship beers so I can get a feel for the general style of the brews. It is a great way to try a little bit of everything without emptying the wallet and over-indulging. The flight cost only $5.
Daniel was our very helpful bartender. In addition to bar tending he is also a photographer (what luck!), so he was able to give me beers that were tasty, as well as beautiful. He also helped me scope out good locations to photograph them in.
The flight (from left to right): Handy’s Gold, Dopplemaibock, Renaissance City Red, and Porter.
Olivier and I have very different palates, so usually if he isn’t thrilled with a beer I know I’ll love it and vice versa. This makes us the perfect drinking partners! I loved all the beers, but my favorite was the Renaissance City Red and Olivier’s was the Dopplemaibock.
I also tried the Hard Pear Cider, which was nice and light. It was a perfect ‘summer evening watching fireflies on the porch swing’ drink. It was very bubbly, which gave it a celebratory feel. I really wish they bottled this one. (hint hint)
For my last drink I had the Cornbread Saison, which was interesting in a good way. It is brewed with jalapeños so it has a spicy kick to it, which sounds weird, but it is actually really good.
After Daniel explained to us how to play Cricket, we played darts for a while. Sadly, I lost, but it was a close game (mostly because I was cheating).
We had a great evening and will definitely be back the next time we are in Florence!
- TUE 5PM-8PM
- THUR 5PM-9PM
- FRI 5PM-9PM
- SAT 2PM-9PM
Disclosure: I was invited to participate in the Florence Restaurant Week by Florence Main Street. My hotel was paid for by them to make it easier for me to participate and I received a $10 gift card from Singin’ River. I paid the remaining balance out of my own pocket and all thoughts and opinions about the brewery are my own.
This recipe was created by the always-talented Lily Plauché for an article we did together for NoAla Magazine. Some articles can be tiresome to work on, but whenever beer is involved it is always a pleasure and this one was no exception.
We both got to visit Straight to Ale, a great brewery in Huntsville, sample their delicious fares, and got the grand tour of the brewery. As with every brewery I have ever visited the people were very accommodating and lovely. Though I’m sure there out there, I have yet to meet a mean brewer.
IPA Ice Pops
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
1 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries
1 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 cup Straight to Ale Monkeynaut IPA beer
9 wooden craft sticks
1. In a medium pot, combine sugar, water, strawberries, and pineapple. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Let cool.
2. Place fruit mixture and beer in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Pour into ice pop molds, insert wooden craft stick into each, and freeze 8 hours or until firm.
These are a soft-frozen treat due to the high alcohol content. Dip the molds briefly into hot water to assist in removing from the pops the molds. You can also freeze them in small paper cups if you don’t have ice pop molds.
So this week every state in the US hit freezing level temperatures. Even Hawaii! Brrrrrr!
In southern states we are ill-equipped to deal with frigid weather, so people are pretty miserable. Not Buffalo, New York, 7 feet of snow miserable, but still cold enough to complain loudly about it to whomever will listen. To help us all get through what promises to be a chilly winter here is a recipe for a delicious and more importantly warm sandwich: the Porter Braised Brisket Sandwich. It is made with craft beer, so you can sip on the leftovers and get toasty.
This recipe was created by the super-talented Lily Plauché. The recipe was originally posted in a craft beer article in NoAla magazine.
The recipe features beer from Florence, Alabama brewery: Singin River Brewing. The brewery was super fun, with excellent beer and super stylish decor. It is an hour and a half drive for me, but well worth the trip.
Porter Braised Brisket Sandwiches
Recipe by Lily Plauché
The main purpose of the beer in this recipe is to tenderize the meat while providing another layer of flavor. Use the meat for these sandwiches, in quesadillas, or serve as a stew over potatoes or rice.
4 pounds beef brisket, trimmed, cut into 3-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup Singin’ River Porter
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups beef broth
8 sandwich buns
1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Sprinkle brisket with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large ovenproof Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add half of brisket, browning on all sides. Remove brisket and set aside. Brown remaining half of brisket in Dutch oven; remove and set aside.
2. Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic to the pot; cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add beer, stirring to remove any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Stir in tomato paste and broth. Return brisket to the pot, nestling it nicely into the liquid. Cover and bake until brisket is very tender and can easily be shredded with a fork, about 3 hours.
3. Shred brisket with 2 forks; serve the meat on buns topped with slaw.
In the states the air is starting to chill, the leaves are developing a rosy hue and most importantly (especially in the southern regions of the states) tailgating season has started. This means weekends filled with American football and lots of beer and food. I recently wrote article for a local magazine, NoAla, about Alabama’s exploding craft beer industry and different dishes you can make with the local brew. It wasn’t specifically for tailgaters, but they would love these dishes.
2 pounds chicken wings
½ cup cherry juice
1 cup Yellowhammer Dark Hammer beer (Belgian Quad)
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
½ teaspoon ground coriander
1 lime, cut into wedges
1. Heat oven to 425°F. Arrange chicken wings on a foil-lined baking sheet with sides.
2. In a medium pot, combine juice, beer, sugar, soy sauce, molasses, vinegar, pepper, and coriander. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, watching carefully as it can boil over. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced to 1 cup (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat.