Druid City Brewing supports local art, musicBy Serena Bailey | 02/14/2017 12:46pm
Tuscaloosa's first brewery is distinctly local with a story all its own.
When Bo Hicks and Elliott Roberts decided to open Tuscaloosa’s first brewery, Druid City Brewing, they wanted a logo that was signature to Tuscaloosa, but not associated with The University of Alabama. They went with a piece of artwork Hicks used to pass all the time when he would come into town as a kid: the Moon Winx Lodge sign.
“The University can be very protective of its brand, in my opinion sometimes to a fault…we didn’t want to tread on that,” Hicks said. “And people are like, ‘Why don’t you make a Nick Saban beer?’ and that’s just not what we're about. The University is such a huge part of Tuscaloosa, really the reason we're here, but also at the same time there’s other things going on.”
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That emphasis on “other things going on,” particularly art-wise, is one of the things that has given Druid City its distinct identity, Hicks and Roberts said. The two home brewed before opening Druid City, and Roberts said the idea to open a brewery came about while making a brew in his driveway.
“One day Bo and I were brewing a beer in my driveway, and we’d had a couple that we’d brewed and said, ‘We should open a brewery,’ and Bo said, ‘Okay, let's do it. What do we need to do?' and I thought, ‘Oh crap he’s serious,’” Roberts said.
After a launch party at Egan’s where the popular band Alabama Shakes performed under the fake name Boys Room, they opened Druid City Brewing on Black Friday as Tuscaloosa’s first brewery.
“None of us had a business or a big one like this, so it was a lot of learning,” Hicks said. “Thankfully everybody in the city from Mayor Maddox on down were really helpful because there weren’t a lot of regulations on the books.”
Hicks thought a brewery would be a way to add to the Tuscaloosa art scene. Druid City, he said, is committed to bringing in original music, being kind of quirky and making good beer.
“I thought it would be a natural avenue to increase the livability of Tuscaloosa,” Hicks said. “I think one of the problems Tuscaloosa has is that there’s not enough things like a brewery sometimes that will help keep a lot of the artistic people around. There’s a lot of flight, there's a lot of movement to Birmingham or Atlanta or Nashville.”
Every month, Druid City Brewing showcases a different local artist by putting their work on the walls. They also have a chalkboard in the taproom where they commission art from local artists that parody what’s happening in the news, particularly football news.
Usually drawn by one of two local artists, Ryan Watson or Rich Marcks, Hicks said the chalkboard art has sort of developed a life of its own, with the images sometimes going viral. Over the summer, Marcks did a large piece depicting the coaches of the SEC at The Last Supper. Currently, the board is a parody of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” called “Goodbye Crimson Road” to commemorate Lane Kiffin’s departure.
“I think it’s a great way to sort of turn the prism in on ourselves,” Hicks said. ‘Even though we’re huge fans, it’s also a game. You should have fun with it. I hate it when Alabama loses, but the sun will rise. So we started essentially poking fun at ourselves.”
Hicks is also proud of the relationships the brewery has built with different bands over the years and their role in showcasing local talent.
“I think a large part of our identity is the support of weird things and the support of music,” he said. “That’s something that’s really big. From only playing vinyls in there and letting the customer pick them out. A lot of them are Alabama bands and even, when we can, local bands.”
The man who brings those bands in is Tyler Marshall, who books events for the brewery. He said they’ve built many of their line-ups through word-of-mouth by bands telling other performers about their experience at Druid City.
“I love it when I already know most of them or they’re returning bands because it’s like friends coming back into town, and you just have a good time, and I happen to set up some equipment for you, you rock out and we’ll hang out again after the show,” he said. “Even when touring bands come here we try to show them some gold ole southern hospitality.”
Druid City Brewing has four year-round brews which they make on site and also sell to different restaurants in town: their pale ale, the Lamplighter India pale ale, the Belgian wheat and the Downtown North Porter, which Hicks described as “like drinking a velvet painting of Elvis.”
For Roberts, the beer is his favorite part, especially when he gets to talk about it with other people. Since Druid City Brewing is the first brewery to open on Sundays, he said they sometimes get people from out of town who want to hit every brewery in Tuscaloosa, and they start with Druid City.
“The most rewarding part is talking to people about what they enjoy about our beer, what they enjoy about other beers and just talking about beer,” he said. “Which I’ve always enjoyed. Now I just get to talk about our beer.”
Druid City Brewing is located at 607 14th Street and is open Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays noon to 10 p.m. and Sundays noon to 9 p.m.