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Back Forty Beer Company set to launch microbrewery near John Hunt Park

HUNTSVILLE – The back 40 acres, far removed from the barn and farmhouse, neglected and uncultivated, are really a wilderness overgrown with grass and weeds and good for nothing. 

From that vision comes the Back Forty Beer Co., the name born of the idea that the brewery likens the craft beer scene to what was once an “untamed land often overlooked due” to its remoteness.

“Likewise,” a news release continues, “until about fifteen years ago Alabama was widely seen as the wasteland for craft beer in America.”

However, Back Forty claims, it “dug a little deeper into that remote land and found the rarely used soil to be very fertile and capable of producing a tremendous yield.”

Hyperbole, maybe. Tried and tested, absolutely.

Back Forty began in Gadsden, but has since spread to Birmingham and will launch a Huntsville location Saturday at the corner of Leeman Ferry and Airport Road. The latter two microbreweries are under separate ownership, but the name was branded by the original entrepreneurs. 

The Back Forty Beer Company bills itself as “an elevated, fast-casual restaurant with awesome beers brewed on site.”

Douglas Brown, owner and CEO of Back Forty Birmingham and Huntsville, can only feel destiny has been on his team’s side. He has lived in Huntsville nearly 17 years with his wife Leigh Morrow Brown, who has lived in the city even longer.

“We actually opened the first location in Birmingham just because we were looking for an old warehouse to lease and we couldn’t find one in Huntsville,” he told 256 Today. “So we found one, found one at Sloss Docks down in Birmingham.”

Brown had his eye on the property his company now sits on before he opened in Birmingham in summer 2018, a location he built out. Business was good there, so Brown eventually decided he could build in Huntsville from the ground up.

Five vacant acres were bought from the owners of Bullet & Barrell, which sits next door, and the Huntsville site would soon become a reality.

“Birmingham was working successfully and we decided to go ahead and make the plunge and bought the land,” Brown said. “We’ve got about 250 parking spaces. We’ve got about two acres of outdoor beer garden space.

“And then we’ve got a large building with a lot of room for people to spread out, enjoy a beer and some good food.”

Brown’s timing to finally open a place in the Rocket City couldn’t have been better, luck or no. In the past year, and near the microbrewery, Wicks Family Field at Joe Davis Stadium opened, plans have been made to add some retail space and a hotel, and the city has announced a two-day music festival to begin in either 2024 or 2025 in John Hunt Park.

“Well, obviously this has been a destination lately,” Brown said of the ongoing growth in the city and region. “People are moving in, people are building.”

Brown, 58, began visiting his brother living in Huntsville at the age of 12 and is very familiar with the city’s landscape.

“I’ve watched it evolve over time,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing. And one of the things that attracted us to that location is that we are set up for large crowds. With all the big events that take place in John Hunt, and I know the city is investing in and I guess private investors are investing a lot in that as well.

“So as that continues to grow, I think we’ll be in a good spot to help serve those large crowds when you get away from a game or a concert or what have you.”

Brown grew up in Tennessee and his wife in Georgia, but both have moved around. Brown has worked as a consultant in New York and Boston. He graduated with an MBA from Maryland, eventually left that business life and went back to school at Auburn to get a master’s certificate in brewing science.

“Just to immerse myself in the business,” he said.

Brown plans to maintain as many as 20 different, locally brewed beers on tap that will be served from four 20-tap towers. Tosh Brown, the master brewer, has introduced brews in the Birmingham location including:

  • “Crow Point” – a citrusy New England IPA
  • “Hop Slaughter” – a hop-forward IPA
  • “Cycological Imbalance” – a citrusy IPA brewed to honor the local mountain biking community
  • “Hike Out Hefe” – a best-selling traditional German Hefeweizen
  • “Hop Tosh” – a Northwest Coast IPA
  • “High Hazard” – a tropical double IPA, brewed with pineapple, coconut and a hint of nutmeg
  • “Puck” – kettle sour brewed with berries and black currant

As for the food menu, the full restaurant is under the leadership of Executive Chef Ross Bodner  of Birmingham and Chef de Cuisine Luke Hawke of Huntsville.

A menu sampling:

  • Back 40 Cheeseburger – with two patties, American cheese, aioli, pickles and onions sliced so thinly that they cook on the burger (or a vegan option, B40 Impossible Burger with Violife cheddar, “Follow Your Heart” vegenaise, house dill pickles and onions)
  • Pizza – unique rotation of pies; try the “pepperoni” with san marzanos, mozzarella, and just the right amount of spice , or the vegan Italian sausage 
  • Seasonal salads – Kale salad with Asian vinaigrette, cilantro, mint, peanuts and parmesan cheese or the roasted beet salad with whipped feta cheese and orange vinaigrette
  • Rotation of other fun dishes – like the Alabama Shrimp Poke and, when the weather cools, the nap-inducing “Poutine” – fries covered with Montreal smoked beef, cheese curds and beer gravy.

Family-friendly activities include:

  • Sports on a 20 foot screen in the Barrel Room and 12 other large screens throughout the taproom
  • Cornhole and Trivia
  • Woofday Wednesdays, photos of pups taken in the garden (Spring / Summer /
  • Fall) and post them to the “Woof Wall” inside the tap room
  • Yoga in the garden (periodically)

The Back Forty hours:

  • Monday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
  • Thursday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
  • Friday-Saturday: 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
  • Sunday: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

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