When discussing craft beer hot spots in the United States, there are definite standouts: Oregon, Colorado and Vermont, to name a few. But the south? Up until recently, this geographical area wouldn’t have been on anyone’s beer-radar, thanks to liquor laws that not only limited distribution, but also regulated the ABV that could be brewed. And, to be honest, it was a bit of a craft beer desert down there.
But times, they are a changin’. Thanks to grassroots efforts like Raise Your Pints in Mississippi and Free the Hops in Alabama, breweries are finally being allowed to expand their offerings, including brews that come in above the prior 6% ABV limit. New outfits are popping open like cotton bolls in the field and the results are worth the wait.
You may have heard of Good People Brewing, but have you tried:
Back Forty Beer Company, Gadsden
Back Forty’s Naked Pig Pale Ale not only made me sit up and pay attention to Alabama’s brewing scene, but it also it also convinced one of the pickiest palates alive (my mom) to like (at least one) hoppy beer. All of their beers are well-balanced and smooth: the Truck Stop Honey brown ale, a medium-bodied dark ale brewed with local Alabama wildflower honey, is perfect for porch sipping.
Avondale Brewing Company, Birmingham
Avondale started with a focus on yeast—the flagships are based on proprietary yeast cultivated exclusively for Avondale—and the Spring Street Saison is a wonderful illustration of the importance of the ingredient. Expanding into various styles, the brewery decided to dedicate a space to sours and barrel-aged brews in fall 2016.
You may know Sweetwater Brewing, but why not try:
Creature Comforts Brewing Co, Athens
One of the most lauded—and fastest growing—breweries in Georgia, Creature Comforts is expanding, opening a second location at the end of 2017. This three-year old outfit is producing high-quality pours, like the Tropicália, while sourcing new flavors like a South African hop varietal.
Monday Night Brewing, Atlanta
With the mantra of “brewing beers for the weeknights,” Monday Night Brewing is known for well–balanced ales that won’t ruin your next work day. And, while the Eye Patch Ale is exceptional, this brewery is also expanding. You’ll find their new space, focusing on barrel-aged and sour beers, opening summer 2017 in Atlanta’s BeltLine.
You know Abita Brewing Company, but have you tried:
Great Raft Brewing, Shreveport
Not even four years old, Great Raft Brewing is consistently ranked among the best in Louisiana’s craft beer scene for just that: it consistently produces clean, balanced and stylistically-true beer. From the At Arm’s Length IPL to the Commotion APA, this brewery is worth making a special trip to try.
Bayou Teche Brewing, Arnaudville
It’s a difficult thing, creating beer that encompasses the flavor, music and culture of an area, but Bayou Teche has figured out the formula. This farmhouse brewery focuses on beers with distinctly Cajun influences, like the Saison D’Écrevisses is a Belgian-style Saison that is only available during its eponymous time: crawfish season.
You may know Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company, but have you tried*:
Southern Prohibition Brewing, Hattiesburg
Known colloquially as “SoPro,” Southern Prohibition was the first outfit to can their beers in MS. With a solid lineup of flagship beers, like the Jack the Sipper ESB, check out the Rotator Series for limited tastes like the Dark Saison.
The first microbrewery in the capital city, Lucky Town creates true-to-style staples while still venturing outside of the box. The Pub Ale, an English Mild, is easy drinking and refreshing while the Flare Incident, an oatmeal stout, is good enough for breakfast.
You know Yazoo, but why not try:
Calfkiller Brewing Company, Sparta
Don’t let the name throw you off. This outfit brews incredible beers with “unparalleled drinkability paradoxically balanced by uncompromised complexity.” Translated: Twists on traditional styles, while remaining super quaffable. And how can you not like something called “Sergio’s Ole Evil-Ass Devil Bullshit Ale”?
Bearded Iris Brewing, Nashville
One of Nashville’s newest breweries (it’s barely a year old), Bearded Iris is making its mark with noteworthy IPAs and DIPAs. The taproom is worth a visit in and of itself, so belly up with a Homestyle, a Mosaic IPA, or the Amarillo Frills, an almost exclusively Amarillo-hopped DIPA.
So make your plans to saunter south of the Mason Dixon line. These breweries are more than happy to pull you a pint and have you sit for a spell.
Note: Georgia and Mississippi are the only states that prohibit breweries from selling their beers on their premises. While you can sample the wares on-site, you’ll have to go elsewhere to take some for the road.