–by Kathy Rothman

Happy Belated National Beer Day! Seems like everyday is now a National some or the other day, but this one, I really enjoy. I try to enjoy this day as much as my body will allow; especially if I travel. In this case, I just happened to do so.

Over the past year, every city that I have been to seems to have a new brewery or slew of breweries. I get very excited when I ask a local where to go and I see their eyes light up with some hometown pride while they speak of a place they love to frequent. Many times these new local businesses are helping to revitalize a part of their city that has been through some tough times. Making the old new again, while creating dozens of jobs for the local economy.

Breweries are also a dream come true for people who have also wanted to brew professionally. Many of these brewers started out in very different professions, whether in the tech world, on the bench, winemakers (rumor is that it takes a lot of good beer to make great wine), or just simply amateur craft brewers, and it has taken them years to make the switch. They take great pride in their craft and put everything they have to not only make great beer, but to make their brewery into a place where people want to spend their time.

avondaleI found a good example of a brewery like this in what I thought was an unlikely place: Birmingham, Alabama. Mainly because I had never been to Alabama and I had no idea what to expect, but Birmingham is a city that blew me away. First of all, it is in the Deep South and their Southern Hospitality was on point! This city has seen its ups and downs. Their main industry used to be steel, but with steel production going overseas, this once great city has had many pitfalls to overcome. So, what did they do? They eventually became the center of the medical industry for their state, funneling through the University of Alabama at Birmingham. With that, came people. Those people brought money, and a boost to the local economy.

The brewery I am truly fond of in Birmingham is called Avondale Brewing Company, located in the up and coming neighborhood of Avondale. The building that the brewery is in has been around since 1895 and has served many different purposes. From a Firehouse to a pharmacy to a brothel, this all brick building has survived over 100 years. And although they choose to remain behind the scenes, kudos to the Lake brothers and head brewer Craig Shaw for envisioning what this diamond in the rough could become.

The Belgian-inspired brews are fantastic and the outdoor bar and seating area with a live music stage is definitely a great place to visit. The brewery has done a great job in telling the story of this city through beer, like, the story of Miss Fancy, the beer-drinking elephant that was a resident of the Avondale Zoo during prohibition times:

It all began when a circus owner’s misfortune at a game of cards bestowed the city of Avondale with a great gift. His prize attraction, Miss Fancy the Elephant, would inadvertently become the city’s greatest spokesperson. Known as the Queen of Avondale, Miss Fancy performed a wonder of tricks at her home in Avondale Zoo. During prohibition, City Hall kept a special Miss Fancy reserve on hand at all time in order to treat her stomach ailment. When her stomach starting acting up, Mr. Todd would call the prohibition officers down to the zoo for a little hooch action. The use of malts, traditional hops, a proprietary yeast blend and Belgian candi sugar creates a very special beer named after a very special elephant. Miss Fancy’s Tripel is remarkably smooth and refreshing for such a high ABV beer. CAUTION! Miss Fancy’s Tripel is brewed for humans but strong enough for elephants.

She is now the center of the ABC (Avondale Brewing Company) logo. Maybe you could try the “Meredith” Marzen. Meredith was a former “tenant” of the bordello days and has been known to pay a visit to staff or what they call a “lucky customer.” There are many other beers to reflect upon, but the brewery is ultimately dedicated to telling the story of Birmingham, one delicious sip at a time.

If you’re ever in Birmingham, be sure to make a visit, not just for the great beer, but also to learn a bit of history about this city that time almost forgot.

For more information on this brewery visit: