Brewing beer in a college town known for tailgating, fraternity parties and celebrating national championships may seem like a no-brainer.
That’s what concerned Bo Hicks and Elliot Roberts.
“We had the idea one day that somebody might start a brewery that didn’t particularly care about the community and just wanted to capitalize on the university being here,” Hicks said.
So the two homebrewers outlined a business plan on the back of a napkin for what would become Druid City Brewing Co., which they opened in November 2012.
“It’s sort of been amazing from what we planned to how it evolved and to what it’s become,” said Hicks, co-owner and brewer at Druid City. “It’s something I’m really proud to have here in Tuscaloosa and to be a part of the community.”
Being part of the community means displaying art from Alabama artists on the wall, playing albums from Alabama musicians and hosting regional live acts regularly at the brewery.
It’s also in their name.
Tuscaloosa got the nickname “The Druid City” because of the large water oaks that once were dominant in downtown. The Druids were ancient Celtic people who worshipped oak trees, hence the connection. The local hospital was named Druid City Hospital (now DCH Regional Medical Center) and before integration, there was Druid City High School.
“When we opened we didn’t want to be, ‘Oh, we’re Tuscaloosa Brewing.’ We wanted to have a little bit of quirk and something that was a little more down home for people that were really familiar with Tuscaloosa,” Hicks said.
Then, there’s the chalkboard.
The chalkboard in the brewery changes frequently to include a temporary art creation that is often a play on an old album cover or a classical piece of art but usually substitutes the main subjects with University of Alabama football figures.
Coaches Paul “Bear” Bryant and Nick Saban stand in for Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon, respectively, on the most recent art work, which mimics the duo’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album cover.
While the chalkboard may be the focal point of the taproom, the centerpiece of the brewery is the beer.
Druid City Wheat, Druid City Pale Ale, Lamplighter IPA, Riverside Saison and Tuskaloosa Stout are regular offerings. One of the standout beers is the Downtown North Porter, a rich, imperial porter that takes its name from Northport, the city across the Black Warrior River from Tuscaloosa.
“It’s like drinking a black velvet painting of Elvis. It is delicious,” Hicks said. “It’ll bring a tear to a glass eye.”
Druid City also works with area farmers such as Snow’s Bend Farm to take fruits that may not look good enough to sell but can be used to flavor some specialty brews.
Druid City Brewing Co.
The Product: Beers in a variety of classic styles available on tap at multiple outlets.
Take home: A growler of Downtown North Porter (prices vary).
607 14th St., Tuscaloosa
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(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)