Avondale Brewing Co.: Revitalizing a Neighborhood.

201 41st Street South, Birmingham, AL 35222, http://www.avondalebrewing.com Beer has always been a cornerstone of society and civilization. That sentence could be the start of a book but here I only want to point out that pubs used to brew their beer on premises or bought it from a brewery close by. Places that sold beer were mankind’s Facebook for thousands of years and often the stronghold of civil society. Just ask yourself where would this country be without the Green Dragon Tavern? For a long time Avondale was missing those vital places for social gathering but a few entrepreneurs are trying to turn this neighborhood around. The latest and what I believe most powerful addition is the Avondale Brewing Company (ABC). The brothers Coby and Hunter Lake and their partner Chris Donaldson are young successful real estate developers that saw great potential in Avondale as well as in the booming craft beer movement. They teamed up with passionate home brewer Craig Shaw and together pushed all obstacles aside (bankers, thieves, red tape) to open a brewery close to the remodeled Avondale Park that once housed Birmingham’s first Zoo. The brewery makes beer in open fermenters in the tradition of Belgian brew houses. I am tempted to classify the beers as a little fancy and a lot less hoppy than many craft brews that offer the Pacific Northwest style uberhops to the newly converted American lager drinkers. I have been to the tap room several Sundays in a row and accidentally became part of a coffee stout tasting. Throughout each batch was good but one  (2/12/12) was outstanding with lots of cacao flavor and a light Sumatran roast from the local FinerGrind Coffee Roasters. I never tasted a better coffee stout. Besides those experimental batches, the regular taps are of high quality and I am always disappointed when I am the designated driver and have to stop after the second pint. The brewery offers an event room on the second floor, a backyard that could easily be turned into a beer garden, and a somehow cozy tap room that is dominated by old brick, reclaimed wood and the wooden brew vats. On a mild day, when the garage doors are rolled up and the laugh of happy customers mixes with easy listening live tunes, the brewery oozes relaxation and spills live onto 41st Street and beyond. Avondale Brewing is a beacon of community, a new stronghold of face to face social networking and a great step towards the revitalization of a historical neighborhood in Birmingham.