Salty Nut News

Huntsville is the brewing capital of Alabama with Straight to Ale, Yellowhammer, and Blue Pants making great craft beers in the Rocket City.  Salty Nut Brewery is planning to have their “brews in bars by Mid-to-Late October!”  according to this Aleheads interview with founder Brent Cole:

We love craft beer and have a blast brewing beers that we come up with. It’s really exciting! The best part is brewing and then letting other craft beer lovers try our brews.  It’s rewarding to have someone enjoy drinking what we make!

We are a fully functional LLC now, we are in the process of signing a lease for our brewery location, we have ordered fermenters, and will be ordering the brewing equipment this week, and are also in the process of selecting a distributor.  We are trying to take all of the necessary steps to being set up correctly.  We will apply for our manufacturer’s license in October (yearly cycle renewal)…

Our first brew is our flagship brew; we are huge hop heads and love IPAs, so naturally we wanted to brew an IPA.  This one is called HopNaughty IPA.  We felt the name was fitting; it’s full of hops and…well…beer can make you naughty, so that’s that…

Alabama beer laws have come a long way thanks to the Free the Hops organization and the craft beer lovers in the State.  I think the future looks bright, and lest you think that sounds cheesy, let me explain: Hopefully, in the near future we can have larger container sizes which will allow for Alabamans to have more craft brews available to them.  This will open up the window for more styles and more flavors, which is what the beer lovers want.  Brewpubs will slowly but surely start to pop up and we hope to be in this market in the future. We want a one-stop shop for people to taste/try and take home our brews.

Thanks to all the Alabama legislators who voted for the Gourmet Beer Bill and the Brewery Modernization Act (aka the Jobs Bill).  It’s not often that you actually get to create jobs and expand freedoms through legislation – cheers!

Bentley to keep another promise

Governor Robert Bentley “said he intends to sign” the Brewery Modernization Act (SB192 – sponsored by our own Bill Holtzclaw R-2), according to Michael Tomberlin of The Birmingham News who wrote “Alabama Governor Bentley plans to sign beer bill into law”:

“When I represented my local community, I voted against Sunday alcohol sales and things of that nature,” Bentley said in an interview. “As governor, it’s a little bit different. I don’t feel I should impose my views on everybody in the state. The Legislature has had a chance to look at it and passed it. I’m sure I will sign it.”

The law will allow breweries to have taprooms and relax restrictions on brewpubs.  Our local brewers say:

“A tap room is already in the works,” said Dan Perry, one of the founders and brewers of Straight to Ale. “We haven’t nailed down the rest of our plans yet.”

Mike Spratley, brewer and owner of Huntsville’s Blue Pants Brewery, said the new law creates an avenue for growth for upstart breweries like Blue Pants.

“We’re putting together a scheme for the next phase of our growth,” he said. “Things like tours and a tap room will likely be in the plans going forward. We see that as a great way to grow the business.”

Free the Hops Vice President and political genius Dan Roberts said:

“That’s what it’s all about — enabling Alabama businesses to grow”

Governor Bentley is keeping a promise made during an interview on WVNN (Flashpoint on the radio):

Dr. Bentley opposed Free the Hops in the legislature (he says he consistently opposes alcohol and gambling); but I asked if as Governor he would sign the Gourmet Beer Bill – with some nuance, he said he would (since it would have passed the legislature). 

Thank you Dr. Love.

Huntsville breweries in Draft Magazine

Huntsville got a mention in the Draft Magazine feature story “12 breweries to watch in 2011″ (thanks to Damon for the tip):

Three new breweries in this tony Southern town bring Alabama’s brewery count to nine. The trio—Straight to Ale, Yellowhammer and Blue Pants—plans to keep the competition friendly in favor of elevating the city’s palate. “All I’m interested in is getting people to drink craft beer in general,” says Yellowhammer brewer Keith Yager. “The worst that could happen is that any one of us is bad, because then it turns everyone off.” Here’s what each outfit’s working on:

Straight to Ale
Launched in spring, this devil-themed brewery brews four regulars—Monkeynaught IPA, Lily Flagg Milk Stout, Wernher von Brown Ale and Brother Joseph’s Belgian Dubbel—plus several “occasionals” like a raspberry wheat. And it has already introduced a limited-edition lineup: the Right to Brew Series, a line of brews crafted in collaboration with guest homebrewers. The first, a Belgian quad, debuted in September.

Yellowhammer Brewery
Named after Alabama’s state bird, Yellowhammer introduced an IPA and a ginger-and-lime-leaf-spiked Belgian White in October; Yager will expand the lineup with a German altbier, a tripel and a kolsch next year.

Blue Pants Brewery

This quirky nanobrewery launched in October with Knickerbocker Red, a keg-conditioned, Cascade-hopped American red. Next up: Pinstripe Stout, an imperial version loaded with chocolate, coffee and vanilla.

These beers are available at The Nook, Mason’s, and 1892 East at Five Points.  Perhaps surprisingly, many of these beers are also available from Liquor Express (University / Pratt and Church), where you can buy half gallon and quart plastic jugs (tony Southern ‘growlers’) of draft beer to go.


Free the Hops (known around here as ‘Dan’) wrote a couple of articles about the next legislative session and the political climate for advancing beer laws in Alabama.  “The next term” addresses Governor Bentley:

The next Governor consistently voted against Free the Hops legislation as a state representative…

Free the Hops has never given endorsements in state elections – we’ll work with the members the people choose for us to work with…

For Governor-elect Robert Bentley, being a No vote in the legislature is a lot different than being a veto as Governor. During a radio interview in north Alabama during the primary, Bentley indicated to the listening audience that he would not have vetoed the Gourmet Beer Bill had it been sent to his desk as Governor. [Even better, Bentley actually said he would sign the Gourmet Beer Bill - Reactionary]

“The new legislative leaders, on beer” addresses presumptive Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh and Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard:

Senate President Pro Tempore
Senator Del Marsh (R-Anniston)

Senator Marsh has been on the Tourism and Marketing Committee, which has consistently voted in favor of our bills, since we first introduced the Gourmet Beer Bill. He has voted in favor of the Gourmet Beer Bill and Homebrew Legalization, and FTH members in his district report that he is responsive to their communication.

Speaker of the House
Representative Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn)

Since 2007, FTH members have relayed to us that Representative Hubbard supports our legislation, and he has consistently voted in favor of the Gourmet Beer Bill. Hubbard also completed the 2010 FTH Candidate Survey and reported that he supported raising the container size restriction, homebrew legalization, and the Brewery Modernization Act.

The rise of civilization

Fair and balanced Fox News wrote “Beer Lubricated the Rise of Civilization” (tip Instapundit):

Signs that people went to great lengths to obtain grains despite the hard work needed to make them edible, plus the knowledge that feasts were important community-building gatherings, support the idea that cereal grains were being turned into beer,  said archaeologist Brian Hayden at Simon Fraser University in Canada.

“Beer is sacred stuff in most traditional societies,” said Hayden, who is planning to submit research on the origins of beer to the journal Current Anthropology.

…”It’s not that drinking and brewing by itself helped start cultivation, it’s this context of feasts that links beer and the emergence of complex societies,” Hayden said.

…”Feasts are essential in traditional societies for… developing more complex kinds of societies,” Hayden explained. “Feasts are reciprocal — if I invite you to my feast, you have the obligation to invite me to yours…”

“In traditional feasts throughout the world, there are three ingredients that are almost universally present,” he said. “One is meat. The second is some kind of cereal grain… The third is alcohol, and because you need surplus grain to put into it, as well as time and effort, it’s produced almost only in traditional societies for special occasions to impress guests, make them happy, and alter their attitudes favorably toward hosts.”

Free the Hops fully supports “the rise of civilization”.

We’re doing our part by supporting the Brewery Modernization Act:

If passed, breweries can sell on-premises like a brewpub, or to wholesalers, or to both. Although the breweries must be licensed, they do not need to be located in an historic building, have no production cap, and can be located in any wet county or city. There is also no requirement for a brewery to operate a restaurant in order to sell beer on-premises, although they certainly can and many probably will.

The passage of the Gourmet Beer Bill led to the start up of three breweries in Huntsville (we have a total of four).   That is new economic activity.  The Brewery Modernization Act has the potential to create an entire new industry in Alabama – and that means JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!

Fine art is my challenge

…but folk art is my reward – She-She Vaughn

Free the Hops joined the Art Krewe at the Huntsville Museum of Art last night for ARToberfest, featuring local and regional artists (plus local and regional beer).  The event was a success – I think more than 400 people attended and the Art Krewe raised funds to support the museum’s educational programs.  Huntsville’s own Olde Towne brewery was represented, as well as Highlands, Sweetwater, and Yazoo.

Probably my favorite artist was She-She Vaughn, who paints fanciful folk art using a stick instead of a brush.  There were about a dozen artists there, discussing and selling their works – for example, Chief bought a cool hand-knit wool Sherpa cap and Greg bought a print of the Kaffeeklatsch.

While I was critical of the decision to locate the Museum of Art in Big Spring Park 20 years ago (and the encroachment of the expansion into the park), it is there and it is an outstanding cultural treasure for the City (the location really is fantastic – yes I see the contradiction).  The event was held on the north patio overlooking the pond – even with the construction it was very pleasant. 

The Museum has a large collection of breathtakingly beautiful Buccellati silver animals on display (created using la tecnica della lavorazione a pelo which provides incredibly intricate details).

Admission to the Huntsville Museum of Art is $7 for an adult, $3 per kid.  Membership at the museum is $35 for an Individual and $60 for a Family.  You paid for the museum, so you may as well visit.

Huntsville Brewmasters












Blue Pants Brewery introduced their Knickerbocker Red Ale (“a moderately hoppy, but balanced, aggressive American Red Ale with a good Cascade taste and a strong malty backbone”) to a crowd of more than 200 at The Nook on Saturday.  The weather was perfect for partying on the new patio – the laurels provide a sense of the outdoors even in the middle of the City.  Kudos to The Nook for building an enjoyable… nook.

Pictured above are some of the people who make beer happen in Huntsville;  representing Straight to Ale, Yellowhammer, Olde Towne, Blue Pants, and Alabev.  It may surprise you, but some of these people hadn’t met before yesterday.  Even though they are business competitors, they still showed up to support Blue Pants Brewing.

Blue Pants is available at The Nook and Mason’s.

Beer proteome deciphered

Beer news from the American Chemical Society (tip Instapundit):

In an advance that may give brewers powerful new ability to engineer the flavor and aroma of beer — the world’s favorite alcoholic beverage — scientists are publishing the most comprehensive deciphering of the beer’s “proteome” ever reported. Their report on the proteome (the set of proteins that make beer “beer”) appears in ACS’ monthly Journal of Proteome Research

They identified 20 barley proteins, 40 proteins from yeast, and two proteins from corn, representing the largest-ever portrait of the beer proteome. “These findings might help brewers in devising fermentation processes in which the release of yeast proteins could be minimized, if such components could alter the flavor of beer, or maximized in case of species improving beer’s aroma”…

I don’t know a proteome from a prion, but this is good news. Can we get genetically engineered ‘FrankenBeer’ in time for Halloween?

Local beer news update from Blue Pants Brewery:

Received my ABC license this afternoon.  We are officially good to go, and this Saturday [October 2nd] at Noon at the Nook is (Still) officially on!  Mason’s I believe will also start pouring at 5pm.   I’ll be at the bar all day trying to not drink all of my own product so that I can talk to all of you guys about the beer, the brewery, what you want to see in the future.  Feel free to come up and chat…

I also did an email interview with an editor from Draft Magazine who is doing a piece in the November issue about the breweries springing up in Huntsville.   Huntsville is going to be a big beer town soon, and as of the end of October will have more breweries than the entire state did at the beginning of the year.

Even more local beer news updated:

Yellowhammer Brewery will start pouring at The Nook at noon on October 16th.  They will start pouring at Mason’s on October 19th.  I dropped by the Yellowhammer Brewery today – it’s on Clinton Avenue fairly close to Governors Drive.  Brewmaster Keith Yager introduced me to their excellent Yellowhammer IPA and described their upcoming Belgian White Beer (witbier) made with ginger and coriander.

Huntsville is truly The Beer Capital of Alabama, thanks largely to Free the Hops and our own brew pioneers Olde Towne Brewing Company.  I should also mention the great folks at Supreme Beverage and Alabev / Birmingham Beverage who distribute our local craft beers.  Alabev distributes Huntsville’s Straight to Ale and Birmingham’s Good People in addition to Blue Pants and Yellowhammer.

I hope you’ll notice that the passage of the Gourmet Beer Bill generated a lot of business activity.  Those Alabama Legislators who voted for the Gourmet Beer Bill deserve credit for shaping the environment for job creation.  This year, Free the Hops is lobbying for the Brewery Modernization Act:

The Legislature finds that it is in the best interest of the public welfare of the State of Alabama to promote the growth of the state’s brewing industry…

Rocket City Brewfest 2010

Free the Hops is hosting the Rocket City Brewfest Friday night May 7th (7PM – 11PM) and Saturday afternoon May 8th (3PM – 7PM).  The Brewfest is at the Historic Huntsville Depot downtown (Church and Monroe).

Festival Tickets are $32 at the gate per session. Includes souvenir tasting glass, brewfest program and access to beer samples for the selected session.  Tickets bought online through Ticketmaster are $29.50  (additional tickets are $27).  Designated Drivers are free if accompanied by a ticketholder.

…funds raised from the Rocket City Brewfest go to help Free the Hops in its efforts at lobbying the state legislature.

Tips for a fun weekend:

Buy your tickets early.
Bring cash for food pairings (food tickets are $1 per ticket – we expect food prices to average about $5 – each restaurant sets their own prices).
Prepare for transportation home after the festival.
Respect the beer.
Respect the two ounce pour rule (ABC board policy).
Bring a chair if you’ll want to sit.
Drink water.
Appreciate the beer you’re drinking.
Be patient.
Thank a volunteer.
Bring cash for accessories (Brewfest gear, brewery gear, loaves of FredBread to go).
Educate yourself.

Food vendors are Bandito Burrito, FredBread, Mellow Mushroom, Roland’s Cajun, Schnitzel Ranch, and Stem ‘n Stein.

Friday night bands are Hot Soup and The Sideshow.  Saturday afternoon bands are Bourbon and Shamrocks and Angry Native.

Then there are the beers!

Some of our participating breweries plan to bring a limited amount of something special. The beers in this list will be available from a set time until they are gone. In most cases, a single 1/6 barrel keg will be available for each session. The items on this list are subject to change.

Thursday night (May 6) – several bars are hosting beer events:   The Nook, Bandito Southside, Stem ‘n Stein, and Mason’s.  Huntsville’s new brewery ‘Straight to Ale’ will have special tastings at each bar, plus many other brewers.

Brewery Modernization Act Fails This Year

From fellow blogger Dan:

Yesterday marked the last day of the legislative session. We had hoped two pro-beer bills would be passing. Unfortunately, neither did.

SB328, the Brewery Modernization Act, was the official Free the Hops bill for this session. Despite being a common-sense, pro-business bill that would create jobs and help a growing industry in Alabama (without costing a penny to the public purse), the House leadership decided not to put it on the agenda Thursday. We were instead relegated to a possible second agenda, meaning that if they got through with the first agenda and still wanted to work, we would be placed somewhere on a follow-up agenda. When things started slowing down Thursday, it was clear that we would not get our shot.

 Unfortunately, the Brewery Modernization Act had a big holdup early on in the session after the ABC expressed concerns with it. We certainly don’t want the state agency responsible for regulating alcohol to lobby against our bill, so we worked with them to address their concerns. After a long time, we were finally able to craft a substitute bill to move through the legislature.

 After that hurdle, SB328 sailed through the Senate and received a favorable report from the House Committee on Tourism and Travel. Unfortunately, all the delays meant we really only had the last 2 weeks to pass our bill through the House. They didn’t get to us.

 All things being equal, the Brewery Modernization Act made it very far for its first year. But all things aren’t equal. Free the Hops decided to go with this legislation because we thought it was a common sense bill to pass in an election year and with a down economy. With the growing brewing industry in Alabama, it just seemed like the right time.

 Straight to Ale is a new brewery in Huntsville expecting to debut in time for the Rocket City Brewfest. They are located in the Lincoln Mills development and have plans for a taproom at the brewery to showcase their selections. Unfortunately, they won’t be able to build their taproom for at least another year because the legislature decided not to consider the Brewery Modernization Act.

 Until last week, Back Forty Beer Company was looking at two locations to build their new brewery in Gadsden. One site was if the Brewery Modernization Act passed – it had space for a tasting room and was ideally located in the historic district of Gadsden. The other site was in an industrial park if it didn’t pass. Unfortunately, the legislature this year kept a growing business off Broad Street as Back Forty has to brew it’s beer in a hidden corner far away from public eyes.

 Good People Brewing in Birmingham recently moved into their new location and were hoping the Brewery Modernization Act would allow them to build a taproom at the new place. Instead, the public has to keep out of this growing business.

 Olde Towne in Huntsville has an extremely spacious brewery and would like to rent it out for events and hold promotional events of their own periodically. The legislature put an end to that idea.

 Montgomery Brewing Company has been around since 1995 and is the only brewpub licensee currently active in the state of Alabama, meaning it is the one place where you can enjoy a beer at the brewery. They already have a wholesaler network ready to distribute and market their beers outside of the brewery, but instead they must continue selling their beer on-premise only. They’re not allowed to expand their business by selling their beer to other bars, restaurants, and stores.

 I personally know of a few entrepreneurs who have the means and desire to open a brewpub in different cities in Alabama. Most, if not all, will put their plans on hold for now because, until the Brewery Modernization Act passes, they’re so restricted on where they can open and who they can sell to, the business risk is too high.

 These are some real-world examples of how the legislative inaction with regard to the Brewery Modernization Act is hindering economic development and expansion. We’re not talking abstract ideas and possibilities. There will be real repercussions due to the House’s decision not to consider this legislation.

Best in the Barrio

Dan and I road-tripped down to Montgomery yesterday for the Free the Hops Legislative Tasting at the RSA Plaza.  The Tasting provided FTH with an opportunity to speak with about 25 Legislators in support of this year’s Brewery Modernization Act – which should actually be called the Jobs and Industry Creation Act.

After the event, about a dozen FTH organizers went to the El Rey Burrito Lounge in the Old Cloverdale neighborhood of Montgomery (on East Fairview off I65).  Great place – nice atmosphere, tasty food, and great beer and wine selection.

The owner of El Rey joined us for awhile and thanked us for passing the Gourmet Beer Bill last year.  He said that passing that bill had made a world of difference in his business during these tough times.  In comparing his detailed year-to-year sales information – he told us how adding Gourmet Beer to his menu had improved sales enough to offset losses in other areas.  This is a real world anecdote of a FTH talking point – good beer is good for business.  The City of Montgomery has a growing restaurant, people have jobs, and taxes get collected.  Thank you to the Legislators who voted for the Gourmet Beer Bill last year.

This year’s Brewery Modernization Act will create jobs and help grow an industry that’s good for people and good for tourism.


Got to see my friend Jason of Good People from Birmingham.   We talked about getting their Coffee Oatmeal Stout to Mason’s in downtown Huntsville – I also got to introduce Representative Randy Hinshaw (D-21) to a sample of the stout (he was tentative in his praise, but IMO Randy just wasn’t used to the taste of this big beer).

Jason and I also spoke about brewfests.  FTH is gearing up for the Rocket City Brewfest on May 7 and 8, 2010 at the Depot Roundhouse.  With the rising popularity of brewfests around the country, breweries are having to make tough calls every weekend as to which events they will attend.  For example, Jason said that his brewery had three invitations for events held at the same time as the RCBF – he chose us because Huntsville is an important market for his company – but you get the picture.  Brewfest organizers are increasingly going to have to compete for breweries – and may have to start actually (gasp!) paying for the beer (at cost).

Being the inquisitive and obviously rude person that I am – I asked Jason if Good People was making a profit – I am happy to report that they are, and I’m happy for them – it means that they can keep making and selling great beer!

Dan at Straight to Ale brought a couple of fine beers – his brewery at Lincoln Mills will be opening soon, which along with Olde Towne makes Huntsville the beer capitol of Alabama with TWO breweries!


Got to see Brent Buchanan and Josh Pendergrass - a couple of the people behind the Public Strategy Associates ‘GOP Governor and Attorney General Poll’.  I also got to meet Matt Braynard from DC, who “worked for the Republican National Committee through three election cycles and was part of the initial team assembled by then Chairman Hailey Barbour to develop the Republican Party’s first national voter database” (the ‘Voter Vault’) – he’s a brilliant guy and very nice.

The poll of “likely Republican primary voters” showed Gubernatorial candidates Bradley Byrne at 20%, Roy Moore at 17%, Tim James at 8%, Robert Bentley at 4%, Kay Ivey at 3%, and Bill Johnson at 2% – with 46% of GOP primary voters Undecided.

The poll showed Attorney General candidates Troy King (incumbent) at 27% and Luther Strange (24%) – with 49% of GOP primary voters Undecided.

IMO this is a good opening poll for the GOP.  It shows that half of the primary voters have a candidate in mind and half are up for grabs (as could be expected).  For the gubernatorial candidates, it reinforces the ‘conventional wisdom’ of Byrne as the leading candidate with Roy Moore a close second.  The poll provides a check to the Moore folks who believe that Moore’s numbers were as high as the 30s or 40s, however, it also shows that Moore has a lot of strength with “very conservative” voters.

IMO the biggest “news” out of the poll is the relative weakness of the incumbent Attorney General Troy King – he is essentially tied with Luther Strange.

Thanks to Public Strategy Associates for conducting the poll – fun reading!


I also got to meet a lobbyist from Birmingham who is an investment banker.  We talked about the sewer mess (his firm wasn’t involved) – he doesn’t think that Jefferson County can walk from the sewer debt – that a bankruptcy judge would still make the County pay (and possibly appoint a ‘special master’).  We also talked about the legislature wanting to raid the Alabama Trust Fund – he said the legislature shouldn’t “invade the corpus” of the trust fund.