Big Beach Brewing Opening Soon
All photos by Kevin Gibson.
A change in Alabama laws governing on-site beer sales looks like a happy coincidence for Big Beach Brewing Company, which is set to open in August as Gulf Shores’ first ever craft brewery.
Owned by Jim and Julie Shamburger, Big Beach is located at the corner of 24th Avenue and East 2nd Street, in a custom-designed building containing just over 4,100 square feet in space, according to a report by AL.com. The brewery and tap room will include indoor and outdoor seating, an indoor/outdoor fireplace, plus space for outdoor games such as bocce ball, cornhole and horseshoes.
But another, unplanned draw to the brewery will be the new laws regarding beer sales, which went into effect June 1. The prime benefit of the changes is fairly simple: Previously, Alabama breweries couldn’t sell packaged beer, crowlers or growlers for off-site use directly to customers, and now they can.
All sales by Alabama breweries, aside from beer sold by the glass, previously went through distributors as part of the three-tier system, but both the distributor and retail outlets take large percentages of profit. By selling beer directly to customers, the brewery benefits from a much higher profit margin. It’s also a great convenience to patrons.
“We’re fortunate to be opening up at this time,” Big Beach general manager Evan Komyati said. “Hopefully, we’re hitting at the right time. It will be real nice for us to be able to sell directly to people – that was the hardest thing we had to fight for.”
In addition, the Alabama Brewers Guild estimates that 300 people work in Alabama-based breweries or brewpubs. A study by Jacksonville State University estimates that total could increase by more than 650 jobs over the next five years as a result of the new law, with an additional economic output of more than $100 million.
I got a personal tour of Big Beach courtesy of Komyati, who is understandably excited about the timing of the new law. In fact, I was lucky enough to drop by when parts of the brewing system were being delivered.
Komyati noted that there will 10 taps at Big Beach. The brewery will employ a 10-barrel system with 10 bright tanks that will serve the taps directly. Food won’t be served on premise, but customers will be free to bring in food.
Thanks in part to the fireplace and reclaimed wood bar and table tops – the wood came from California – Komyati said the brewery will have a “rustic” feel, while also maintaining a modern edge.
Head brewer Rod Murray indicated there will be perhaps four to five flagship beers, with the remainder of the taps pouring rotating and seasonal brews. Expect an IPA, an Irish red, a German hefeweizen and a cream ale as being staples. In addition, he plans to brew a Northern English brown ale, which he said will be similar to a Newcastle.
For winter, expect a robust porter and possibly a chocolate stout, and summer seasonals could include kolsch and fruited wheat beers. Murray also may brew a Scottish ale. He previously brewed at Public House Brewing in St. James, Mo., where he said beers tended to be “sessionable.”
He noted that it was during his time in Germany while in the army that his love for beer and brewing was born. He fell in love with German hefeweizens, which became a staple for him.
“I really love the style,” he said. “It’s super refreshing.”
He also loves light, crisp cream ales, a style that, he says, “defines me.”
With a view of the Portage Creek canal plus plenty of other restaurants and attractions in the neighborhood, what residents of and visitors to Gulf Shores can expect is simply a great place to hang out with friends or family, according to Komyati.
“We really hope to have a great community here,” he said, “and we want this to be another place for people to come – a place for people to hang out.”