This weekend, on Friday, June 4 and Saturday, June 5, Sloss Furnaces will once again play host to Magic City Brewfest (MCBF), the Southeast’s premier beer festival (that is, if we pretend North Carolina doesn’t exist). MCBF started in 2007 with two primary goals—to raise money for Free The Hops’ efforts to reform Alabama’s antiquated beer laws and to improve the beer culture in our state. Both goals were accomplished at the inaugural MCBF, and both remain at the core of the event today.
Just as in previous years, the MCBF this weekend will feature around 200 different beers from across the United States and all over the world. Of particular interest to many Birmingham residents is the special lineup from local brewery Good People. In addition to pouring plenty of their Pale Ale and Hitchhiker IPA, Good People will show off some very limited quantities of four new beers you’ve never tasted. These special releases will be tapped according to a schedule that includes limited amounts of brews from Yazoo, Lazy Magnolia, Stevens Point, Moylan’s, Eerie, Tommyknocker and O’Fallon.
Most notable of Good People’s special releases is El Gordo, also known as “Double Fatso.” The nickname for the beer comes from the fact that El Gordo is based on the same recipe as Fatso imperial stout, except the ingredients have nearly been doubled. While Fatso clocks in at 8.5 percent alcohol, El Gordo is just a shade under 14 percent. I recently had a sample of this monster, and I’m being honest when I say it holds its own in the company of other elite imperial stouts, such as Three Floyds Dark Lord and The Bruery Black Tuesday. Brewer Jason Malone decided he wanted a beer like El Gordo to serve a special purpose at MCBF. He has requested that it be sold for $3 per 5-oz. serving with 100 percent of the money from sales benefiting Free The Hops’ continuing efforts to reform Alabama’s beer laws.
Also in Good People’s lineup of special releases are Brussels Stout, Mr. Dynamite and Hippie IPA. The first two are funky and/or sour beers, with Brussels Stout obviously being a stout and Mr. Dynamite being a brown ale. Hippie IPA is yet another installment of Malone’s experimentation with very hoppy beers.
Another notable special release is Back Forty Biere de Garde. Back Forty is an Alabama beer company that currently has its beer contract brewed, but the guys there are working on building a brewery in Gadsden which will hopefully be operational by the end of this year. Biere de Garde is a Belgian style of beer that’s pretty rare in North America and I’m looking forward to tasting an Alabama version.
In addition to all of these limited-quantity special releases, there will be about 100 different beers at MCBF that are new to Alabama since last year’s festival. That’s an impressive number for Alabama, and it’s mostly because of the success of Free The Hops. This festival is both a benefit for FTH and a celebration of all the organization has already accomplished.
Not only does MCBF offer the best opportunity for Birmingham residents to sample a wide variety of beers, but a large number of brew masters and brewery reps will be present to answer questions about the beers and breweries. It’s a rare opportunity to find out the stories behind the beers without traveling hundreds of miles to visit breweries in Colorado and California.
Attendees who purchase a ticket that includes food will be treated to offerings from the J. Clyde, Area 41 Pizza, The Mill at Five Points, Zea Rotisserie, Big Sky Bread Company, Bottletree Cafe and John’s City Diner. Folks who opt for a “beer only” ticket will still have the option of buying food by the plate from separate food vendors.
Everyone at the event will get to enjoy music from a variety of local music acts, including Neil Couvillion, Cary Hudson, Highwater, The Noble- Freeland Band, and The Stop.
MCBF is a family-friendly event (especially at the Saturday afternoon session) and kids get in free. Additionally, designated drivers get in free when accompanying a paid ticket holder.
As of press time, only a limited number of “beer only” tickets remain available; all “beer and food” tickets are sold out. Last year’s Brewfest sold out in advance and no tickets were available at the gate. For information, visit www.magiccitybrewfest.com.
“Hopped Up” is a weekly brew review by Danner Kline, founder of Free the Hops and co-organizer of the annual Magic City Brewfest. Send your feedback to email@example.com