A Good Old Fashioned Alabama IPA Off – 50 States of Craft Beer

Great countertop action

Despite sharing a border I have yet to explore my neighbor to the west. Alabama is famous for its seafood, Gulf Coast and terribly over-confident football teams. One thing Alabama doesn’t have is a reputation for craft beer. This might be due to the fact that it ranks second state from the bottom on the Brewers Association’s list of breweries per capita. Nevertheless, there are still 27 craft breweries in the state, none of which I have sampled.

The wonderful thing about living close to a good bottle shop is the ability to ask the shopkeeper what the have from a particular state. The store clerk didn’t even blink an eye when I asked him what he had from Alabama. I can’t wait to return to Hop City to complete my 50 States of Beer challenge. They carry a handful of beers from Alabama; I decided that it would be best to compare two different IPAs from two of Alabama’s better known breweries: Straight to Ale and Back Forty Beer Co.

Straight to Ale is based out of Huntsville and is one of the more well known breweries in the state. They have aggressive street art-style labels on their cans and bottles. According to Beer Advocate, their Bourbon Barrel-Aged Laika Stout is of the brewery’s best. Nevertheless, this is an IPA-off so I reviewed their Monkeynaut IPA which is available year round.

Back Forty Beer Company is in Gadsden, AL and has been brewing since 2009, the moment Alabama changed it’s alcohol legislation to allow higher ABV and bottle sales. The bill was amusingly called the “Alabama Gourmet Beer Bill”. In terms of pure branding Back Forty is a clear winner in my book. The labels look like they came out of a graphic designer’s portfolio and each bottle comes complete with food pairing suggestions. Let’s see if they have any substance with that style!

Monkeynaut Can ArtMonkeynaut by Straight to Ale Brewing

7.25% / 70 IBUs / IPA

This beer has a faint IPA aroma and never seems overly floral. It had an interesting flavor that took me a little bit to identify but I eventually determined was apricot. It is certainly on the sweet side for an IPA and lacks a distinctive bitter flavor. I enjoyed this beer but it wasn’t something that I would seek out again in the future.

Final score: three out of five angry simians.


Freckle Belly Label ArtFreckle Belly By Back Forty Beer Co.

7.5% / 85 IBUs / IPA

This beer had a foamy pour and an oversized head. Now I am no bartender, but I have years of beer pouring experience. Something was wrong with this beer. The head was extremely bitter but then the taste evolved into a faux lavender flavor which was very unpleasant. The whole experience was like having happy hour in the garden department of a Home Depot.

Final score: one out of five lovely labels.


nokegkatie Written by:

Katie is a Pacific Northwest native who writes a beer blog based out of Austin. From time to time she also writes about running, eating and other urban adventures. Follow her on Instagram @nokegtostandon or untappd as KatieX.


  1. April 22, 2015

    Now you have me thinking. . .Home Depot needs a beer cart next to the hot dog cart. Good suggestion!

  2. […] not be a traditional choice for a vacation but Huntsville has the worlds largest rocket museum and a fair share of good breweries. Eric and I woke up not-so-early on July 3rd, a not-so-sunny Friday. It was past eleven before […]

  3. […] After four full hours exploring the museum, Eric and I were getting peckish and thirsty. Time to explore Huntsville’s craft beer scene! For such a small town, it’s very impressive that Huntsville is home to nine craft breweries. I decided to visit one of the town’s most established breweries, Straight To Ale. I have written about Straight to Ale on this blog once before when I reviewed their Monkeynaut IPA in my 50 States, 50 Beers series. […]

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