Immediately after the leg's first stop at Georgia Beer Company we hit the road so we could enjoy a few hours at the beach before the second show at Big Beach Brewing Company in Gulf Shores, Alabama. This put us on the road through the wee hours, and our GPS took us off the interstates for a somewhat spooky, dark, desolate drive through the swamps connecting rural panhandle Florida with Alabama. We made it through just fine, but it is definitely the sort of area where a breakdown in the middle of the night could be rather terrifying (unless you dig various types of large reptiles, mosquitos the size of your fist, etc.).
The show at Big Beach was mid-afternoon due to a few big college football games (and you don't want to interfere with college football in Alabama just like you don't interfere with college hoops in Kentucky. Ironically, Alabama played Kentucky on this day and beat them mercilessly... evidently nobody told Alabama that running up the score was considered to be bad form, so they drummed them 3-63. Yep, that's a football score!), so we arrived early enough to have morning and early afternoon on the beach. If you've never been, the beaches along this coast are great... powdery white sand, minimal touristy/high-rise areas, and clear water. In November the water temperature was a bit cooler than I like, which kinda sucked because the surf wasn't that bad. Regardless, the sun was out, the sky was blue and without any clouds, so we were pretty happy.
Big Beach Brewing Co. - Gulf Shores, AL
Beers are available on tap, in growlers, and large cans at the brewery, and on top at restaurants and drinking establishments throughout the Gulf region.
Played: 04/13/2019, 11/21/20
This was actually my second time playing Big Beach Brewing, and I was glad to be back. The surroundings are very friendly and inviting... parking is a sandy lot shaded by trees, a cozy rustic stage in the beer garden, and plenty of music enthusiasts that dig what I bring. Our new lights looked really cool here, too, as they painted a big tree behind above the stage with ever-changing psychedelic colors (see photos below).
The brewery is only a few blocks from the beach in a nice little residential area, so the crowd seems like a very chill crowd of beach-town locals and regulars, and of course beer tourists coming to check out what the brewery has to offer. Very family friendly, but not overly populated with kids... a good crossover crowd age wise with a smattering of young families and, of course, pooches.
Brad was with me on our first time here as well, and once again played a set between my two sets, so the music was non-stop and it gave me a bit more time to socialize and have an extra brew or two.
My (our, actually) first pour of the day was their quite good Oktoberfest Marzen (5.7%). True to tradition, Big Beach's is on the lighter side of the Oktoberfest color spectrum, which can range anywhere from a deep golden hue, to amber, to a reddish brown. This one was a lighter amber in color, with a nice crisp light to medium body, and a flavor that was a well balanced blend of breadiness with touches of toasty malt. To my tastes this was just perfect, as I don't particularly like Oktoberfests that are too malty, or that have too much of that sappiness that ambers can suffer from. Good flavor with a crisp and clean finish... quite good!
Area 251 Hazy IPA (6.5%) was a really nice beer to follow a few hours on the beach, when you have that saltiness on your lips and are feeling a little sun-baked. Full of hoppy juiciness provided by four different hops, Area 251 greats you with a pour that almost looks like pineapple juice, a nice citrusy tropical aroma, and lightly carbonated medium body. One of those IPAs that at first make you wonder if there is indeed juice in the recipe, but then a little bitterness on the finish lets you know that it is all, in fact, the hops creating the magic.
Hundred Daze IPA (6.9%) takes the IPA love affair with hoppiness up a few notches (69 IBU). Dry hopped using several hop strains, this baby packs a powerful dose of hop flavor with touches of fruit, pineyness, and pepper coupled with a fair amount of bitterness. This is an IPA for those who like 'em hoppy... which I do, within reason. Hundred Daze falls on the outer limits of reason, delivering a strong wallop of hops and underlying malt that really call for your attention at first, but then allow the palate to adjust and enjoy what it has to offer. Light beer drinkers beware... hop lovers, indulge!
There were several other pale ales of various strains (doubles, more hazes, “Gulf Coast” IPAs, etc.) on the menu, indicating that the folks at Big Beach were enjoying a period of successful hop experimentation, and good for them, as much of the craft brewing crowd actually seemed to break somewhat away from offering a wide variety of pale ales this year in favor of playing a lot more with fruit and additives, etc... so it's nice to find a place that doesn't forget the IPA diehards.
Something I had looked forward to, and was a little disappointed I didn't find on the menu this time, was a selection of fruited sours. Normally I wouldn't care so much, but a standout beer from my first visit was a Mango Shark Mango Guava Smoothie Sour, which was really fantastic and had nailed the artform of sours, using a little lactose to add to the creaminess and really create a body that matched the fruited content. Hey, it's great to have a constantly changing beer selection, so kudos to Big Beach for that, but they were so great with the Mango Shark that I was hoping to try a different variation on a milkshake or smoothie sour this time. I guess I'll just hope for one on my next visit...
(Speaking of my previous visit, you can read my previous blog about Big Beach by clicking the date above... some of the beers I drank this time I realized afterward I have previously written about, so go check them out...)
My last brew of the visit was the Game, Blouses Blueberry Maple Vanilla Imperial Stout (9%). Let's just take a few seconds to absorb that name. My initial reaction was mixed, as I love a good stout (imperial or otherwise) to finish the night, and a 9% imperial stout sounds right up my alley. Vanilla stout sounds good to me. Maple... ehh... I'm not a huge maple fan, like it on pancakes, but as long as its not too dominant in a stout it could be ok. Blueberry.... I'm not sure how that even goes with the rest of them... but on the other hand blueberry pancakes are good, and they go with maple... so I'm a little hesitant but game for the experience. As usual, it was worth taking the leap, as it was a damn tasty way to wrap things up. I don't recall really noticing the blueberry much at all, but the underlying stout was rich and creamy, and the vanilla was really the feature, with only the mildest of maple hints coming through... so it all balanced out perfectly for my tastes. At 9% the alcohol also had a presence but without being too boozy. I loved it... in fact I might have loved a second one as well.
We stuck around the brewery for a bit after the show, then headed to another joint just down the road that was recommended for dinner. We got a couple of rounds of drinks that we drank near a fire pit out back, and the owner was waiting on us and brought us menues... then forgot about us... so he was very gracious and gave us our drinks for free. The only other place we could find open was a dirty looking Chinese take-out place. IT. WAS NOT. GOOD.
But crappy Chinese food aside, it was a great day that started with a sunny day at the beach, another fun and tasty visit at Big Beach Brewery, and a few free doses of Jameson at the other place. We retired to the hotel and looked forward to the next day's adventures just down the coast at Pensacola Beach, and the Pensacola Bay Brewery....
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