A lot can change in four years.
At the end of 2008, I said goodbye to Pitcher This, the column and blog I'd started the year before about beer. For most of the time I spent writing about beer back then, there were no breweries bottling beer in Alabama. Today there are at least nine. People in the industry expect more, perhaps many more, to open in the next few years.
When I ended the column, Free the Hops had tried unsuccessfully in three straight years to get the Legislature to raise the alcohol-by-volume limit on beer above 6 percent. In 2009, they finally succeeded, and they've since scored two more legislative victories: the Brewery Modernization Act of 2011, and the Gourmet Bottle Act of 2012. They've got plans for even more reforms.
But back when I was writing about beer regularly, with no one brewing locally and limited choices from brewers elsewhere, it had started to feel like there wasn't much to write about. That changed rapidly, though, almost as soon as I set the column aside. Now there's even a brewpub serving local beer right here in Calhoun County. I wrote a story about that venture, and it got me thinking about how much had changed, and about how much more was likely to change over the next few years. I realized how much I'd missed writing about beer, and how much I'd miss if I didn't start doing it again.
I started the column in 2007 not because I knew much about beer, but because I wanted to know more. The first thing I found out was how much I didn't know. I've learned a lot since then, but I'm still a long way from expert. First, there's the sheer variety of flavor and style in beverages that get called beer. I've learned to appreciate and love tastes I never could have imagined before. Second, there's the people involved in craft brewing. They're some of the most interesting characters I've met, a mix of artisans and entrepreneurs, dreamers and planners, aficionados and activists. And there's much more about beer and the people who enjoy it and make it that I want to know. I look forward to sharing with you what I learn, especially about the future of craft brewing in Alabama.
Because everything else has changed, it seems right to go with a new name and a new format for my beer coverage. There's this blog, where I'll share lots about what I've tasted, where I've been, and what I hear from you. What you'll see in print may be less of a column and more straight-up coverage of beer, brewing and beer culture (after all, there's big news in beer in Alabama these days). Watch The Star in the coming weeks to see what I find out. In the meantime, feel free to share about what you've tasted.
I'm calling this "The Bitter End," but beer around here is just getting started. Cheers!