Saturdays at 2pm
Each person gets 4 tickets for 4 samples - before, during, or after the tour.
As Straight to Ale works to complete their new brewery at Campus 805 in Huntsville, Alabama, I decided to do the tour at the current brewery. The tours are offered every Saturday at 2pm with a first-come, first served approach on the free tours. Usually they will take up to 30 people on the tour. A second tour is added if there is a large enough crowd to warrant it.
I met a couple of friends at the taproom a few minutes before 2pm. We let the staff know we were there for the tour and each received four tickets. The tickets were for samples and then a drawing would be held at the end of the tour for some prizes. We decided to go ahead and get our first sample as we waited for others to show up for the tour.
When a large enough crowd had gathered, we were instructed to head through a doorway into the brewery area of the building. In the brewery, there was a large clear area that included a window into the taproom. Joy! You can always get another sample or order a pour of beer during the tour! Once the herd had assembled in the brewery, our guide gave us a quick history of Straight to Ale. He discussed the dark times before you could buy beer over 6% ABV and homebrewing was illegal in the state; along with how Straight to Ale was essentially born within a day of the loosening of ABV restrictions in Alabama. Straight to Ale actually started in Lincoln Mill just north of downtown Huntsville. This facility was bought from Old Towne Brewery when they decided to shut down. The new owners converted the garage into a tap room and started making beer. While at this location, they've added some tanks they got from Sweetwater Brewing, a canning system, and have been creating one of the largest beer barrelling operations in the state. Once the new brewery at Campus 805 opens, Straight to Ale will have the largest brew capacity in Alabama.
Once the history lesson was done, it was time for some beer basics. The basic ingredients were discussed; during which containers of malt, hop pellets, and yeast were passed through the group. After then, we were literally walked through the brewing process from milling the malt through canning or barrelling. We learned that the spent grains, once removed from the mash tun, are given to a local farmer for cattle feed. Straight to Ale gets some free beef from that farmer in exchange.
Although there were large stacks of labeled cans in the corner of the brewery, what caught many people's eyes were the blank black cans sitting on a few pallets near the canning line. Straight to Ale recently bought these blank cans to put seasonal beers into. They are able to design and print labels to affix to these cans as needed.
The tour wound down with a Q&A period and a quick browsing of the walls lined with bourbon, tequila, and wine barrels aging various beers - each labeled with the beer, the barrel type, and when the barrel is expected to be opened for consumption. The group slowly made its way back into the taproom where there were a few tickets pulled out of a fishbowl for free StA swag. Hey! Don't you know, I won a pint glass and a can-shaped glass!
It is hard to see a downside to spending a little more than an hour having some beer and doing the free tour. I've actually done the tour here on three occasions and can say that the guides altered their tours depending on how beer-knowledgible the group was.The guides are very open for questions, so the info provided can vary depending on the questions asked by the group. I've seen a basic tour aimed for the beer newb and had a tour where some home brewers helped steer the tour into more detailed discussion of the brewing process. Food trucks usually show up around 4pm, so it certainly is a nice idea to hang out, have a couple of full pours of the beer samples you liked best, and eat some great chow some Saturday afternoon this spring/summer.
Hopefully, the new brewery will open before June and tours will be available there. When they are, a new tour review will be posted here at ZiggyZoggy.