BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — This weekend Birmingham played host to a sold-out Magic City Brewfest at Sloss Furnace, featuring more than 200 different beers from more than 70 craft breweries around the nation. Although 2013 marked the seventh annual Brewfest, it was the first since homebrew became legal in Alabama, thanks to legislation passed in May.
Because home-brewers in Alabama can now share recipes and bond over their successes and struggles, Brewfest has a renewed "electricity" in the air, said Gabe Harris, president of Free the Hops, the grassroots nonprofit that worked to help pass the homebrew bill.
"It feels great to have home-brew legal in Alabama," Harris said. "Every craft brewer at Brewfest started out as a home-brewer, and everyone is really excited to be here this year."
Because craft brewers across the state feel passionately about spreading the homebrew "gospel," the Home-brew Association set up a tent at Brewfest specifically to educate people about the brewing process.
"We've had tons of people at the tent asking some really intelligent questions," Harris said.
Spencer Overton, homebrew manager at Birmingham brewery and bar Hop City, said Birmingham is now on the "cutting edge" of craft beer.
"As breweries around the state begin to grow, Birmingham is going to become known as a place where beer is part of the culture, like Asheville, North Carolina or Boulder, Colorado."
Overton is the first to admit that his optimism is very new: In September of last year, Hop City was raided by the Alcoholic Beverage Control board shortly after opening its doors. All home-brew equipment was confiscated.
"It wasn't the best way to start out," Overton said. "I was worried the bill would not pass, and I was really worried about my job. I came to Hop City to be the home-brew manager. If home-brew didn't pass, I wasn't sure what I was going to do."