Hops, strands and rock 'n' roll bands: 'Beeristas' share favorite brews, tunes

Hops, strands and rock 'n' roll bands: 'Beeristas' share favorite brews, tunes

The word tavern conjures images of big, almost cartoonish, icy mugs sloshing over with brown ale. Or perhaps you think of a small, cabin-like nook, full to the brim with medieval villagers and drunken kooks. Taverns are the stuff of tales, but it just so happens that Tuscaloosa plays host to the real thing. 

Two homey drinking establishments –Loosa Brews and Alcove Tavern– call the Druid City home. They serve beers from Tuscaloosa's three local breweries: Druid City Brewing, Black Warrior Brewing Company and Band of Brothers Brewing Co. National and international beers are often on tap as well. You can entertain yourself with arcade and board games at the Christmas light adorned Loosa. At Alcove, there are also  tropical-themed cocktails for a nightcap. In addition to each pub's cozy environment and accoutrements, there are folks behind the counter who know their beers backward and forward. Professors of lagers, hops, ales and malts, these 'beeristas' can recommend beverages to anyone, from the apprehensive novices to the most seasoned beer nerds.

We spoke with three beeristas to get the good word on the best local beers, background jams and games to play while you guzzle. Here's what they said: 

Favorite Tuscaloosa beer:

Derek Thompson, general manager at Alcove: My favorite Tuscaloosa beer is probably going be the Druid City North Porter. I’m a big fan of Druid City just because they’re one of the first breweries in town and the North Porter, I think, is just one of the best beers made in town. It’s just really flavorful, dark, very enjoyable beer.

Bailey Shoenberger, Loosa bartender: Black Warrior always has really great small batch beers. They do a really good job of having specialty brews all year long. Right now, they have an imperial stout, really smooth. Stouts are probably one of my favorite styles and with the weather getting colder. It’s just the most refreshing and keeps you warm.

Most interesting and/or busy night at work:

Shoenberger: My favorite night to work is Thursday night, which are Tap Takeovers. So one brewery, either locally or just somewhere in the country, usually comes and they bring out their reps. You usually get a free pint glass. Sometimes they have really cool ones. So when Terrapin came with the Star Wars theme, it was the day that the Star Wars movie came out, so people came dressed up as Princess Leia and the whole shebang.

Gaines: Usually on Tuesday we do a flight night which is where we have three 6 oz. pours and we use our old ping-pong paddles. We refurbished them to use as flight paddles. What we’re starting to do is a flight program where we have a designated flight and a beer university thing. Like if you order the designated flight, you get a little sheet with what beers are on it and why they are the way they are, things like that, to help train our customers.

How do you tailor beer recommendations?

Gaines: The first thing I say when someone walks up is, "Hey, what are you guys in the mood for?" If they want something a little darker, sometimes they mean they want a stout if they like coffee. It’s really just asking what tastes they’re going for.

Thompson: The first thing I ask them is what they normally drink and if they’re in the mood for something lighter or something heavier. Those are my first two questions.

What's the best beer and song combination? 

Gaines: I would say Blackberry Farm Classic Saison and The Byrds’ “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”

Thompson: That’s the craziest question I’ve ever been asked. I do a lot of beer and shot combos, but beer and song combo? I would probably like any IPA with any Jimi Hendrix song. 

Shoenberger: Probably a solid imperial stout and “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It’s just kind of dark and in the feels and uplifty. 

How do you choose which beers to keep on tap?

Gaines: When I’m placing orders on Wednesdays, I look at what the tap wall’s looking like. I try to keep on a wide spread of different styles, like we have designated taps for saisons, Belgians, stouts. And then we just try and keep everything in the middle from light beers, kölsches, ales to IPAs, pale ales, and hoppy beers. We have the Alabama side with 31 taps and 31 taps on the international side, which is regional and international. 

Thompson: I have different beer distributors and people from different beer companies come by and they’ll sample me on what they’ve got, new products, things that are upcoming. I just try to determine what would be best for the bar. 

What's one thing you wish people knew more about when it comes to beer?

Thompson: I wish people knew that just because the beer has a crazy name or might have a fruit in the description that it’s not necessarily a fruity beer and it could really be something that they actually enjoy. 

Shoenberger: I wish that people would feel more comfortable experimenting with different styles because I think a lot of people walk into Loosa and they kind of want to either impress their friends or they just get overwhelmed by our menu and how many items we have. I wish people knew more to just try something that looks weird, just ask us for a sample of anything. Loosa is a great environment to learn more about crazy styles. You might hate it, but at least you tried it and you might find you like something new.

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