Is Anniston “Beer City, Alabama?”
by Ben_Cunningham
 The Bitter End - by Ben Cunningham
Sep 27, 2012 | 4098 views |  0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink


After I posted the news about plans for a brewpub in downtown Anniston, the folks at Huntsville’s Yellowhammer Brewing wondered on Twitter whether the Model City could make a case for a different nickname.

Calhoun County’s existing brewpub, Patriot Joe’s at Heroes, is actually in Weaver, but the Yellowhammer folks allowed that it’d be fair to award the title based on breweries in a metro area (especially since, if Huntsville is to contend for the title, they’ll want to count Blue Pants Brewing, which is in Madison, as they noted).

That got me thinking that it wouldn’t be very hard to settle the matter. Yellowhammer obviously is giving the Anniston area credit for multiple breweries despite having a much smaller population than the Rocket City. Counting breweries per capita does, in fact seem a fair way to go.

The Brewers Association tracks the breweries per capita numbers for each state and the District of Columbia; Vermont’s got the most, with 26,073 residents per each brewery in the state, followed by Oregon, Colorado, Montana and Maine. Alabama ranked 50th in 2011, followed by dead-last Mississippi, though we have added several breweries since they counted.

So what’s the beer capital of Alabama? That’s pretty easy to figure out. First, a little methodology: I used the Census Bureau’s 2011 population estimates for Alabama’s metropolitan statistical areas. (Wait, what’s an MSA? These areas are defined by the federal government for statistical purposes. They each have a “core urban area” of at least 50,000 residents. The Anniston-Oxford MSA is basically just Calhoun County, with 117,797 residents.) Next, what counts as a brewery? Some of Alabama’s smaller breweries don’t actually have facilities of their own, and rent time and space from their fellow brewers. But most of these contract brewers do have an identifiable hometown where their sales are concentrated. Based on breweries that I know are actually making and selling beer in Alabama right now, here’s how the cities stack up:

1. Gadsden, 1 brewery, population 104,303 = 104,303 people per brewer

Back Forty

2. Huntsville, 4 breweries, population 425,480 = 106,370 p.p.b.

Blue Pants, Old Black Bear, Straight to Ale, Yellowhammer

3. Anniston-Oxford, 1 brewery, population 117,797 = 117,797 p.p.b.

Patriot Joe’s/Heroes

4. Birmingham-Hoover, 4 breweries, population 1,132,264 = 283,066 p.p.b.

Avondale, Beer Engineers, Cahaba, Good People

5. Montgomery, 1 brewery, population 378,608 = 378,608 p.p.b.

Railyard

Gadsden gets the crown, but Yellowhammer’s question was whether two brewpubs would make Anniston the state’s beer headquarters. It seems that if you’re going to count Cheaha Brewing, which still has a long way to go, you’ve got to count other breweries still in the planning stages. Some in the state apparently will open within a few days. So, adding to the list every planned Alabama brewery that has been publicly announced (that I’ve heard of), here are the rankings (not-yet-open breweries are listed beneath the cities):

1. Anniston-Oxford, 2 breweries, population 117,797 = 58,898.5 p.p.b.

(Cheaha)

2. Huntsville, 6 breweries, population 425,480 = 70,913.33 p.p.b.

(Salty Nutt, Below the Radar (restaurant open, net yet serving their own beer))

3. Gadsden, 1 brewery, population 104,303 = 104,303 p.p.b.

4. Columbus, Ga., 2 breweries, population 301,439 = 150,719.5 p.p.b.

(Phenix City, where Chattahoochee Brewing hopes to open soon, is in the Columbus MSA, where Cannon Brewpub is already open)

5. Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, 1 brewery, population 186,717 = 186,717 p.p.b.

(Fairhope Brewing. This is actually a micropolitan statistical area, which would require even more explanation, so I’ll skip it.)

6. Tusclaoosa, 1 brewery, population 221,553 = 221,553 p.p.b.

(Druid City)

7. Birmingham-Hoover, 4 breweries, population 1,132,264 = 283,066 p.p.b.

8. Montgomery, 1 brewery, population 378,608 = 378,608 p.p.b.

9. Mobile, 1 brewery, population 412,577 = 412,577 p.p.b.

(Middle Bay)

So, when Cheaha Brewing finally pours its first pint over on Walnut Street, Anniston could have a legitimate claim as the capital city of Alabama beer. What do you think? Is there a better way to rank Alabama’s beer cities? Have I missed anyone out there? Leave a comment below.

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