Back in ‘Bama, Full Steam Ahead: Crafting the Home Brew Story

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Michael and Ryan with the 2014 Back Forty Beer Co. family, shot on site at the brewery yesterday.

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The team in 2012!

What a difference two years can make.  As Michael prepares to set sail on Quantum Class with Michael’s Genuine Pub in the fall, we flash back in order to cruise forward into uncharted waters with Back Forty Beer Co.  For this first American gastropub on the high seas, as with its progenitor in the Design District, good food and good beverage go hand in hand.  Michael’s menu of Snacks, Charcuterie & Cheese and Sweets is complemented by American craft cocktails & spirits, beer and wine at the hands of Beverage Director Ryan Goodspeed and Wine Director Eric Larkee on the flip side.

Today our focus is craft beer, with Michael and Ryan making the trip north to Gadsden, Alabama this week for some southern hospitality, with a crew from Royal Caribbean in tow to capture it all.  Michael’s new role as Quantum Experience Advisor for Culinary affords us a unique opportunity not only to influence food and beverage offerings class-wide, but to educate the cruising public on his fresh, simple, pure approach fortified by relationships with suppliers. What better setting than a family reunion with our partners in Michael’s Genuine Home Brew?

“Gadsden is great! It’s been fun having Michael and Ryan in town for a few days,” says Back Forty’s Director of Operations Tripp Collins.  “Gadsden hasn’t changed a whole lot from the outside looking in but there are a lot of things on the horizon in terms of economic development.”

When we began working with Back Forty in March 2012, the brewery had just released its first production batch of beer from 4, 30-barrel (bbl) fermentors.  The facility is now home to 6, 30 bbl tanks and 5, 60 bbl tanks, and there are plans for 5 more 60 bbls this summer.  And only four months after introducing Naked Pig Pale Ale and Truck Stop Honey Brown Ale in aluminum cans, the brewery just announced Freckle Belly IPA and Fence Post Session Ale in 12-ounce cans.  This, while continuing to package its complete line of year-round craft beers in 12 and 22-ounce glass bottles, making Back Forty the first Alabama brewery to offer all three options.

“Right now, we are in full swing with our Summer Seasonal, Paw Paw’s Peach Wheat. Wheat base with peaches. Crisp, refreshing and smells like Summer,” Tripp adds.  “I am really excited about our Rye Saison that we will put out in July, its a small batch, draft only release. Rye malt, local rosemary, juniper berries, peppercorns should work well in the style.”

Back Forty’s name is inspired by an old agricultural term referring to the 40 acres of land situated furthest from the barn. The back 40 acres are historically the most challenging land to maintain and are often overlooked due to their remote location.  Likewise, Alabama has historically been seen as the wasteland for craft beer in America, dominated by mass produced light beer.  By digging a little deeper into its rarely-used, fertile soil, the company has successfully cultivated Alabama’s market for craft, overcoming multiple challenges including a prohibition-era legal environment.  At the end of the day, it comes down to great product, and these guys and gals have their liquid down pat.

After the crew scouted Back Forty’s 27,000 Sq. Ft. 1940’s-built warehouse, Tripp and his family invited the whole team back to the house for a back porch, southern-style meal.

“We did not allow Michael to cook,” Tripp continues. “I had a few boxes of local produced delivered. Several types of lettuces, carrots, beets, onion, and cucumber were the base for smoked turkey from a nearby BBQ restaurant and chicken that I grilled and smoked at the house. We picked up some Conecuh sausage out of Evergreen and topped it with homemade pimento cheese. Of course there were several Home Brews consumed along with plenty of BFBC cans. Everyone from the brewery was there. It was just a good night of food, beer and friends.  I cannot discuss any particular anecdotes due to the fact there was moonshine involved…”

Michael and Ryan kept us all up to speed at HQ with lots of video and Instagramming, from revisiting Saw’s BBQ for lunch to learning about the Caraaroma malt that makes up only about 3% of the grain bill for Home Brew but really defines its flavor profile.  There may even be Back Forty Beer Co. mash in the future of Harry’s Pizzeria pizza dough!  All in all a very productive and trip.  Birmingham-based James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Hastings even popped an appearance last night, to the reminiscent delight of team genuine.

“The Royal Caribbean crew has been great to work with,” Tripp reflects.  “We still get excited seeing our beer in new places, getting to see it set sail is going to be amazing. We ware still working out the details on specific BFBC beers on the ship. I hope the story told through this webisode will go a long way in opening that door for our beers along side MGHB on the Quantum of the Seas.”

Cheers to that!

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