Band of Brothers hosts events and diverse crowdsBy Sam West | 02/14/2017 12:46pm
CW / Jake Stevens, Graphic illustration CW / Kylie Cowden
Band of Brothers Brewing has the largest taproom by square footage of any of Tuscaloosa's breweries. Cut out of a warehouse space in the shadow of the Drish House, the building features a stylish bar area, a tasting room with giant shipping spools overturned to form makeshift tables, a dance floor, a stage, and of course, a half dozen or so massive vats where Band of Brothers' four beers are made each day.
Though it is the biggest, Band of Brothers is the youngest taproom in town. It opened in 2015 with a trio of beers, joining a burgeoning microbrewing scene in both Tuscaloosa and the South. Jeremiah and Jeremy Donald, the taproom's titular brothers, run the business with the assistance of two investors, and fireman Quintin Brown. Jeremiah Donald described the local scene as "growing."
"Tuscaloosa, we're still pretty young as far as the beer scene," he said. "The reception from Tuscaloosa in general is just phenomenal. Druid City, those guys paved the way for beer here in Tuscaloosa. Black Warrior came right in, expanded from there, and then we came in trying to pitch in and help out."
View Full Gallery
In addition to its size, Tuscaloosa's youngest brewery boasts a diverse crowd. During my visit I saw college kids, townies and leather jacket-clad bikers. All were greeted like old friends by the staff. Lawrence Edwards, who acts as the taproom's event planner and public relations guru, described the brewery's crowd as ranging in age from 21 to 65.
"It's all over the board. People ask me, 'How is your crowd?' or 'What type of crowd do you have?' It's everybody," Edwards said.
Band of Brothers hosts events, including trivia, Texas Hold 'Em, food truck rallies and crawfish boils. Edwards also said he tries to keep live local music in the bar four nights a week, in as many different styles as possible. The taproom is also open to families and kids.
The brewery features four beers, including the Station One Saison, the Monk on the Radio Beligan Blonde and the Voodoo Mild English Mild. The Donald brothers have been exposed to brewing their entire life, growing up in Clark County, which Jeremiah Donald described as a small community with a lot of moonshine and muscadine wine.
Jeremiah, the older brother, acts as the taproom's brewmaster. He still maintains a full-time job as a telehealth specialist at a hospital in addition to his work at the brewery, a process he describes as "burning the candle at both ends, and also in the middle."
During a tour of the shop floor, Donald was in his element, surrounded by massive vats of lager and ale and bubbling buckets of runoff. He described the creative process as a constant series of adjustments. He's always working on new beers – including a soon-to-be-released brew called "Jezebel." He even makes slight tweaks to beers that have already been released, adjusting subtle elements like carbonation, foam level and flavor.
He said the process of having others judge his work was scary and went back and forth on whether he thought his beer belonged to himself as the brewmaster, or its public.
"I'm at the point where I've achieved where I set out to do. However, there maybe still things that I want to change about it," he said. "However, sometimes you've got to let the f**king horse roam."
He said there was no rivalry whatsoever between Band of Brothers, Druid City and Black Warrior brewing, and he respected the owners of those businesses as colleagues.
"Those guys were instrumental in helping us out, get started, and still help us out, so we owe a debt of gratitude to those guys," he said. "And those guys owe a debt of gratitude to people who helped them out. And that's one thing you'll find unique about the brewing industry, is the amount of the willingness to help anyone else become a part of it."
With a cigarette in one hand and a half-finished beer sitting next to him, Donald loosened up to elaborate on the spirit of his brewery and his personal philosophy. He asked if I swore, saying he hadn't heard any vulgarity from me, which struck him as unusual. His inspiration for beer-making from across the ocean and back in history, in Belgian monks who brew beer.
"I appreciate their f**king style, their dedication, their devotion, not only to the aspect of brewing beer, but how they can extrapolate from one beer the aspects and wisdom of life," he said.
Donald said monks in Belgium take a vow of poverty, yet still charge $20 for a four-pack of their microbrews. This extra money goes to maintaining the brewery and to charity in their community. In addition to their charity, the brewmaster also appreciated their dedication, in the form of a quote: "beer brewed with love will be consumed in the same manner."
"The mind state that you're in when you're brewing affects the quality and the outcome of that beer," he said. "If you cannot devote your attention, and if you cannot devote each and every time the necessary attention that is due to that beer, you're not going to be able to maintain that quality, and you're not going to be able to sustain that throughout."
He said when making beer, he thought of himself as a medieval artisan making a sword for a knight or king. He puts everything he has into each batch and takes great pride in his work.
The name of the brewery comes from the literal biological brotherhood between Jeremiah and Jeremy, but also the metaphorical brotherhoods of monks and soldiers. Of the five partners who own Band of Brothers, a majority have military experience.
"Everything falls back upon that Belgian monastery, monastic tradition of brewing beer," he said. "Man, everything but the cursing."