Field Trips: Big Beach Brewing
All photos by Kevin Gibson. When we visited Big Beach Brewing last year, the small Gulf Shores, Ala., brewery was just installing its brewing system, anticipating a late summer release. The brewery is now open, and brings a fun and unique flair for beach vacationers in its Mind Your Ps & Qs (which stands for “pints” and “quarts” in this usage) program.
The program is simple: If you’re visiting the Orange Beach/Gulf Shores area on vacation, and you know friends or family will be there in a week or a month or three months, you can pre-buy a pint or a growler for them as a gift. The sales go onto a board behind the bar, awaiting pickup when your friends arrive.
Of course, there’s also some pretty tasty beer to be had at Big Beach Brewing Company. There’s a nice variety that head brewer Rod Murray has concocted, including a cream ale, an Irish stout, a hefeweizen, a saison, a Kolsch, and more. My go-to during my frequent visits were a delicious and quaffable Mosaic-hopped APA, a winner from the first sniff to the last drink. It was crisp and light bodied, with tropical flavors, and without a ton of bitterness. The S.O.B. session IPA was a nice, drinkable summer weather choice as well.
One fine example of the accessibility of Murray’s brews was the Small-Town Brown, with its nicely restrained malt flavor, and light to medium body. It’s just a well-executed and eminently enjoyable mild brown.
The brewery itself turned out magnificently, with a modern-meets-reclaimed feel: Edison lighting, a lounge with a fireplace, board games, three big garage bay doors, and plenty of patio seating. There’s also an upstairs deck for sharing samplers with friends or just having an imbibing session as a break from the beach. There is rotating small-plate food and snacks, but carry-ons and delivery are welcome.
One of my favorite aspects of the place was a bar installed at a window overlooking the brewery. If the bar and lounge are full, you can pull up a stool and watch Murray and his staff brew the next batch.
A flight of four samples is $8, while pints start at a reasonable $5. Growler sales also are available, but be forewarned that according to Alabama law, an individual can purchase no more than 228 ounces of fresh beer per day from any brewery, anywhere in the state. As in, if you buy three growlers at Big Beach, you can’t legally drive to the nearest brewery and buy three more there.
The way this is “tracked” is that anytime a customer buys a growler, he or she has to sign a log book to confirm the purchase so that, theoretically, ABC agents could track how many growlers that customer purchased on that day. Big Beach was using a small, dog-eared, spiral note pad, and one regular who was there with his wife, bought a growler. The bartender asked him to sign, and both had a good chuckle as the customer did so before the bartender explained to me the “system.”
“I just signed it Mickey and Minnie Mouse,” the customer said. I assume he was joking, but I didn’t see it for myself. I wish now I had asked to see the book to see if other “celebrities” had signed out growlers.
So if you find yourself in Gulf Shores and want several growlers to share in your condo or hotel room, be sure to bring a friend with you.
Big Beach Brewing is located at 300 E. 24th Ave. in Gulf Shores; hours are Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight.