The city is thirsty, and the wait for the much-anticipated Birmingham District Brewing Co. is almost over. The brewery and taproom opens its doors at The Battery (the historic BEBCO building on 2nd Avenue South) on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 5 p.m. Bham Now has the scoop, including the brewmaster responsible for scaling up the founders’ home brew recipes.
1. The Story Behind The Name
When you read Birmingham District Brewing Co.’s genesis story, you might venture a wild guess that one of the founders is a geologist. And you’d be right—that’s Cale Sellers.
The story covers a span from the Cambrian period, more than 500 million years ago, to modern day. “Birmingham District” refers not to the city, but a 75-mile belt of iron ore between Springville and Vance. And iron ore isn’t the only resource locked by time in the rock.
“The historic Birmingham District has everything you need to make steel—iron, limestone, coal—within a 30-mile radius. It’s the only place in the world that in that tight of a radius has all three.”Cale Sellers, founder, Birmingham District Brewing Co.
Simply put, what’s in the rocks led to the seemingly magical rise of an industrial city. (Sound familiar?) Birmingham District Brewing Co. is a nod to that history.
2. Founding Family
Sellers fell in love with craft beer and his wife in college, and when they married, he joined a family who loves beer as much as he does. His father-in-law, Brad Kueven, has brewed since the ’90s, and he gave Sellers his first home brewing equipment. His brother-in-law, John Kueven, brews, too.
Making beer was only a labor of love (and a bonus for friends and neighbors) until Thanksgiving three years ago. That’s when the family did more than talk turkey; they decided to found a brewery.
Birmingham District Brewing Co.‘s seven founders include six family members—Jennifer and Cale Sellers, Cheri and Brad Kueven, and Maggie and John Kueven—plus, Matt Gray (friend and beer-lover, marketing and media relations).
3. The Talent From Louisiana
When it came to scaling up the home brew recipes for Birmingham District Brewing Co.’s 10-barrel system, they hired an expert. That’s James Sumpter, head brewer, who learned the craft at Abita Brewing Company in Louisiana.
Sumpter joined Abita as an entry-level brewer right after college, where he earned a degree in graphic design. In six years, he worked his way up to research and development, running Abita’s pilot system. Compared to Abita’s 200-barrel production floor, the 10-barrel system at Birmingham District Brewing Co. is a refreshing change.
“From day one, all I’ve known is big brewing. This is the smallest system I’ve ever worked on professionally. I’m looking forward to being able to have the freedom to create and really have some fun. We still want to cater to what the market is dictating, but at the same time, we want to be able to come into Birmingham and introduce some things that maybe beer drinkers haven’t had. So that was a big draw for me.”James Sumpter, head brewer, Birmingham District Brewing Co.
4. The Brews
The initial lineup of beers at Birmingham District Brewing Co. is the result of lots of home brewing, many neighbors coming over for taste tests and research in the form of visiting some 50 breweries around the country. On opening day, Nov. 10, 2018, here’s what you can expect:
- Lose Your Way New England IPA, 6.5% abv
- Red Mountain Red Ale, 5.5% abv
- The Descent American Stout, 7% abv
- Maingate Blonde, 5% abv
- American Wheat, 4.7% abv
- Seasonal brew: Oktoberfest, Marzen, 5.8% abv
- Plus, two surprise limited releases on Saturday!
“We wanted to come out with drinkable beer, not too wild, so that everyone has something to drink when they come in. Then we’ll start rolling out some more creative things and let the public drive where to go with our flagships. If they need to be tweaked, we’ll definitely tweak them and be flexible.”Cale Sellers, founder, Birmingham District Brewing Co.
And, yes, the Nov. 10 grand opening means you get to celebrate Oktoberfest all over again with Birmingham District Brewing Co.’s seasonal selection.
“It’s one of my favorite styles,” Sumpter said. “We wanted to bring it to the market to show we can make a good Oktoberfest. It’s pretty traditional. We’re using all German malts and German hops.”
5. Good Neighbors
The brewery’s location in The Battery comes with a great set of neighbors in a happening part of the city. Other businesses slated for The Battery include True40, a fitness studio that is already open, Birmingham Pedal Tours and two restaurants coming soon—Wasabi Juan’s and Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken out of Memphis.
“It seems like the right mix. We’re not competing against each other. We all complement each other. We have a common covered courtyard, so you can get your food as Wasabi Juan’s or Gus’s and come to the courtyard. And if you want to, have a beer. We all play well together and hopefully will build on each other’s success.”Cale Sellers, founder, Birmingham District Brewing Co.
6. “People Are Thirsty”
Birmingham’s brewery scene has taken off in the past several years, and by all accounts people want more, particularly in the location of The Battery, which gets a lot of foot traffic. Back in August, one citizen became so impatient for Birmingham District Brewing Co. to finish its buildout that he took action. Hence, the sign above.
“We were here hanging the glycol lines when a guy from next door at the Birmingham School of Law put up the sign, tapped on the window, waved at us, touched his watch and walked off,” Sellers said. “So we’re trying our hardest to help the people who are thirsty.”
7. Design And Architecture
Designed by local architect Tyler Price, the interior of Birmingham District Brewing Co. pays homage to Birmingham’s industrial past with lots of steel.
One of the most striking design features is a set of old window frames dividing the taproom from the brew house. The frames come from the original windows along the 22nd Avenue side of the building, which is over 100 years old.
“We knew we had to bring in new windows for the storefront, but we didn’t want to get rid of them. We wanted to preserve the history of the building,” Sellers said.
Now without glass, the antique frames visually separate the brew house from the taproom while allowing you to smell and hear everything happening inside.
- A grinder polished up the original concrete floors.
- Large, hewn beams above the bar come from Evolutia, a reclaimed wood company in Birmingham. During World War II, the beams were part of floating docks for submarines. After the war, the docks were sunk in Mobile Bay. The wood was dredged from the bay and salvaged in the 2000s.
- Alabama Casters of Pelham created the metal sign and the metal furniture bases.
- Magic City Woodworks crafted all tabletops and chairs.
- Steel City Tap Co. designed the taps.
8. Dogs, Kids And Games
With a family-friendly courtyard and interior, Birmingham District Brewing Co. welcomes dogs, kids and you. Games include cornhole, giant Jenga and giant Connect Four, among others.
9. Grand Opening
Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, is the big day. Birmingham District Brewing Co. will open its doors to the public at 5 p.m. Food trucks, including Wasabi Juan’s, will be there, too, and the big college games will be on the big screen TVs.
“We really want to show off the taproom and talk to people about our journey here. Come out and see us.”Cale Sellers, founder, Birmingham District Brewing Co.
Birmingham District Brewing Co. at The Battery is located at 2201 2nd Avenue South. To learn more about renting space at The Battery, visit thebatterybhm.com.