For its new expansion at Birmingham’s Sloss Docks, Gadsden’s Back Forty Beer Co. wanted big and old but urban and chic.
Ten years after becoming one of the earliest breweries in the state of Alabama, Gadsden’s Back Forty Beer Co. has expanded for the first time. In July, the company opened Back Forty Birmingham, a sprawling complex that includes food offerings, a beer garden, a stage for live musical performances, multiple outdoor decks and ample parking.
Located within sight of the historic Sloss Furnaces, Back Forty Birmingham is the state’s latest brewery to take a neglected piece of property — in this case a 6, 200-square-foot abandoned warehouse — and transform it into a business capable of spurring economic development in the surrounding area. The brewery is expected to be the anchor for Sloss Real Estate’s redevelopment of the 120, 000-square-foot Sloss Docks into a retail-and-entertainment complex.
“We looked all over Alabama, and decided that this was a very attractive location, ” says Back Forty Birmingham owner and CEO Doug Brown, who has a degree in brewing science from Auburn University. “First, it’s a big old warehouse that has a cool, urban-chic vibe to it. And then it has this huge outdoor space that was really like a blank canvas for us.”
Brown says Back Forty Birmingham will offer several of the beers that made the original Gadsden brewery so popular, including Truck Stop Honey and Naked Pig, along with nearly a dozen new brews that will be available only in Birmingham.
But there will be much more than just beer on tap at Back Forty Birmingham. The brewery has brought in Russ Bodner, former executive chef at the landmark Lake Martin restaurant Kowaliga, to create a menu of gourmet pub food that includes poutine and lamb burgers. In addition, Chelsea Curley, the former special events coordinator at Spring House restaurant in Alexander City and the Mountain Brook Country Club, is handling daily operations within the facility.
“Chelsea is creating a welcoming environment for our customers, ” Brown says. “We had more than 1, 000 people come in on our first day, and one of the comments we kept getting was how cordial the staff is and how well things are run.”
Brown says this is only the first step for Back Forty’s expansion within Alabama and possibly outside the state.
“We want to test out the concept here and make sure we build a business model that will differentiate us, ” Brown says. “Then we’re going to start looking at locations in other cities. I’d like to start five or six more myself, and then look into possibly franchising.”