Gabe Harris, one of the organizers of the event from Free the Hops, contends that the event is decidedly different from Magic City Brewfest, which is perhaps the feather in the nonprofit advocacy group’s cap. Brewfest is a summer event, which makes it easier to bring in lighter beers such as lagers, witbiers, and hefeweizens, and the need to rehydrate makes it easier for attendees to move from beer to beer with alacrity. In other words, it’s kind of a party.
FestivAle, on the other hand, has a distinctly relaxed pace and style appropriate to the change in seasons. The brews available tend to be heavier, more versatile, and rarer ales and stouts, which lend themselves to more deliberate drinking (lest you end up feeling like you’ve eaten an entire loaf of bread). The six-ounce samples are also larger than those of Brewfest, encouraging real appreciation of the drinks.
The selection of beers is also distinguished by being more intentionally local than that of Brewfest. Good People’s El Gordo Russian Imperial Stout, Avondale’s No Joka Mocha Stout, and Cahaba’s Ryezome Stout are just a few of the local brews that will be on hand from the heavier end of the spectrum. Several of FestivAle’s beers will also be uniquely randallized—in other words, infused with such flavors as pumpkin and coffee beans that accentuate, rather than overpower, the taste of the beer—that will make the event truly one of a kind.
Free the Hops is a grassroots non-profit seeking to pull Alabama, sometimes kicking and screaming, out of the 19th Century when it comes to beer. Thanks to their efforts, the Gourmet Beer Bill was passed, allowing for the sale and production of high gravity beer, as well as more recent legislation legalizing taproom sales at breweries and the use of larger bottles, or bombers, in distribution.
These accomplishments have not merely revolutionized the state of beer in Alabama, they’ve effectively created the beer scene in Birmingham. In a state that frequently wonders why it can’t have nice things moments before shooting itself in the foot, it’s events like FestivAle that remind us how far we’ve come.
Free the Hops’ Fall FestivAle will take place Friday, November 2 from 7-11 p.m. at Old Car Heaven. Old Car Heaven is located at 115 35th St. S. Tickets are $27 in advance, $37 at the door, and they buy six pours (additional pours are a dollar a piece). Designated drivers get in free. For more information, visit fallfestivale.com.