What you’re about to read is a love story. It’s a story as old as time: Man loves beer. Man decides to brew beer. Man can’t get grain to brew beer because of an ice storm. I think everyone can relate. This story is of the undying love of a brewery fighting against all odds to brew their first beer.
It all began on February 14th, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia when Valentine’s Day was cancelled and as a result Singin’ River Brewing Company’s first brew almost didn’t happen. What was anticipated as an exciting and monumental moment in the launch of the Shoals’ first brewery was almost a disaster due to an unexpected ice storm that had disrupted the bustling city of Atlanta, shutting off power and leaving the roadways from Atlanta to Alabama covered in ice and snow. However, up until this frigid February day, everything seemed to be falling into place for the first brew.
The installer commissioner from the brew house manufacturer had traveled to Florence for the week to ensure that everything was operating according to standards before brewing the first batch. Water brews had been conducted to make sure equipment was running smoothly and all that was left was to receive the shipment of grain from Atlanta to move forward with the planned recipe. With the installer only here until Friday, and beer promised to distributors, the timeline was tight and had little room for mistakes—much less a major ice storm across the entire Southeast. However, Atlanta was hit hard and the shipment of grain was delayed. Frantically, friends in the trucking industry were called and asked for favors to get grain from other parts of the country, but everyone’s truck was in Atlanta. With no other breweries in the Shoals area at the time, Singin’ River was stuck—if grain wasn’t found soon, the entire week of work was a waste and the first brew had to happen on time.
Determined to keep promises Rob began calling around the Huntsville area asking neighboring breweries to see if their grain could be purchased, and Blue Pants Brewery graciously agreed. So, in the midst of a winter storm, Rob, out of blind love and determination, got in his truck and began driving on icy, wintery roads through Northwest Alabama on the night of Thursday, February 13th so that beer could be brewed the next morning on Valentine’s Day. Despite the weather, Rob and the grain made it back safely–but there were still a few obstacles to overcome: with new grain purchased from an unknown malt house, George, our talented Head Brewer, had to make up a recipe on the fly. So, with little information about the grain, George created a British style ESB (Extra Special Bitters) due to its fairly forgiving style and because he wanted it to stand out from the regular offerings as Batch #1.
The process to create Batch #1 was a cold one, as it was brewed in our current building that was at the time just a warehouse with no heating or insulation. The below freezing temperatures made for a chilly first brew, but delivered a delicious, light colored amber ESB, flavored with British hops that went on to be distributed in March, and was served at the Taproom Grand Opening in May. And while the road to our first beer was a rocky one, the process provided George with the correct numbers to go on and brew our second beer, the Porter, now known as The Swamper, as well as Handy’s Gold, and our IPA.
Jokingly, the first batch is remembered as an almost disaster on “that Valentine’s Day”—but really it’s an unforgettable story that will forever mark the beginning of our brewery and was just the start of a multitude of mishaps and experiments that has led us to our love for brewing beer for the Shoals.