Friday I traveled a few hours north of Montgomery, AL to Hunstville, AL... and wouldn't you know that the first song I heard when I hit the highway was “Sweet Home Alabama” (seriously... I posted a vid of the event on the Facebook page). I was then hoping for a “Southern Man”, but to no avail...
Huntsville is also known as the Rocket City, largely because of its rich history (and current role) as a hub of engineering and development of rocket and aeronautical technology for NASA and the military. There is a big joint Army/NASA facility here, and all the big related firms are here. There's also the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, and the Davidson Center for Space Exploration.
As you pass them on the highway you can see a giant Saturn V rocket (developed here, and lifted the astronauts towards the moon), various other rockets, and a space shuttle perched atop its giant tank and booster rockets. Lots to see and visit in terms of museums and displays, well worth the stop.
As you'd imagine, due to this rich history and current industry the community very much revolves around related science, and even science fiction. Which brings us to our stop in Huntsville, the just-turned-one InnerSpace Brewing Company. My visit brought us in on a special night... not only was it the first anniversary of the brewery's first legal pour, but also the birthday of founder Stewart Money, who was manning the bar.
InnerSpace Brewing Company - Huntsville, AL
Beers are currently available at the taproom and various restaurants and drinking establishments in northern Alabama. Wider distribution is planned for 2020.
InnerSpace Brewing is a Farm House and Saison forward facility, balancing the brewing traditions of the past with the forward looking worlds of real space exploration and space related science fiction. The selection consists of a handful of flagships and a constantly changing list of new brews.
The brewery has an industrial sort of vibe, with an apparent love of all things rocket or space related. Above the bar hang two wide screens, neither displaying ESPN, but rather live NASA feeds (on this night one was a beautiful live shot of the Earth from the ISS, and the other alternated between a control center and archival footage of the Mars rover). An almost life-sized Darth Vader guarded board games at one end, and a Storm Trooper helmet sat elsewhere. Various parts of the facility were labeled in either NASA or Star Wars type fonts.... in the men's room there was a warning not to use the facilities while in spacedock. The clientele looked like that of any other brewery, but while I was setting up I overheard a table of a half dozen male and female young professionals ripping on each others' beliefs about various aspects of the moon landing missions. My pre-show beer at the bar complimented a conversation with a guy who was an aeronautical engineer for Army projects.
At Stewart's selection, I started with one of the brewery's flagships, the SkyFarmer Saison/Farmhouse Ale (5.5%). Deep golden in hue with a lighter head, this was a very nice ale to quench the thirst and enjoy with big satisfying mouthfuls. Medium bodied and crisp, with refreshingly fizzy carbonation, it was true to the Saison Farmhouse ale genre with a slightly citrusy and spicy flavor, and mild malt and earthy hop finish, a touch of bitter but then a nice clean finish. I'm sure this would be a great beer to have with you on a warm day or when you just felt like pounding a few tall ones.
I then had the Dark Skies Dark Saison (8%), which was a very dark, almost black pour with a thicker tan head. The consistency was creamy and full bodied, malty, toasty, with a hint of dark chocolate and esters on the finish, very well balanced. I sipped this one during my long set, and I remember thinking how delicious it was on each sip.
During my set break I was intrigued by the Cranberry Saison (4%) and the Blueberry Milkshake (4.7%). My personal tastes would normally push me towards the cranberry, but I was told the blueberry milkshake had quickly become one the brewery's most popular, so I did a small sample of each. The aroma of the blueberry was striking... it just screamed “delicious” before I had even tasted it, and it was definitely a very well done Saison with a very forward blueberry. My only fear in moving to a pint would be that it might be too sweet after a few sips.... so I then did a small sample of the Cranberry Saison, which again was a very nice, traditional Saison complimented by the cranberries, which weren't as fragrant as the blueberries, and tasted a bit sour after the blueberries (understandable... blueberries ARE sweeter than cranberries...)... and I ultimately decided to go with a pint of the Blueberry Milkshake.
Now, upon having a larger sip the first things I noticed were that first, the beer wasn't as creamy as I had expected, considering the added lactose and the “milkshake” tag. It was more crisp, and this was not a bad thing, in fact it worked quite well with the blueberry. The second thing I noticed was that the very forward blueberries were well balanced with the beer, yet were not so sweet as to create a residual effect that was too sweet. I'm happy to say it remained a highly enjoyable drink all the way through to the end of the pint, and never left me thinking it was getting too sweet or too berry. The color, by the way, was a deep red (not blue or violet), and looked more like a glass of red wine, albeit a touch hazier. For lack of a better term, it seemed like a rather celebratory drink... a festive hue, an aroma that said “dessert”, and a refreshing and surprisingly balanced flavor that just made me want more. What more could you want? I can definitely understand how this has become a surprise top seller for the brewery.
InnerSpace made for a fun evening and atmosphere all the way around. It was a bit of a lighter crowd than usual for a Friday, largely due to the torrential downpours that never let up all night, but it was a fun crowd. Of all the board games on hand, most groups seemed to gravitate to the trivia, Cards Against Humanity, etc. which provided waves of laughter throughout the night.
As I've said a few times on this leg of the tour, I enjoyed the brewery very much, and look forward to coming back again to dig deeper into the beer selections, as the ones I tried were all very good, and there were a number on the menu that I still look forward to trying. Plus I couldn't think of a better way to cap off a visit to the space museums!
Next we roll into Tallulah Brewing in Jasper, AL Saturday night, then a few nights rest back home...
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