It started with a $65 homebrewing kit and the nastiest batch of beer Jeremy Pate had ever tasted.
“My first home brew was just horrible,” said Jeremy Pate, standing behind the bar of the Dothan microbrewery he and his family opened last year. “I didn’t know what I was doing ─ that was in 1997.”
Pate bought the kit from a Florida winery. He wasn’t a beer drinker, per se ─ didn’t much care for the taste. But he wanted to know whether he could actually brew good beer. He couldn’t ─ at least not the first time. Over time, however, the taste of his home-brewed beer improved and kept improving.
“It was a curiosity,” Pate said.
Folklore Brewery and Meadery now brews up to five beers ─ Wiregrass Wheat, Grateful Red, Front Porch Pale, Shadowcaster Porter and Snipe Hunt IPA. Folklore had its first public tasting in September at the Porktoberque festival and officially opened on Oct. 31.
Pate’s brewing background includes working for the popular Dothan brewery Poplar Head in the 1990s. He later moved to Atlanta and worked for the Dogwood Brewing Co. and Texas Cattle Co. When the Texas Cattle owner decided to sell the brewery, Pate helped find a buyer. The commission he received allowed him to move to Auburn in 2007, work part-time at the Olde Auburn Ale House, and take some courses that would help him open his own brewery. During his Auburn days, Pate began market-testing his own beer recipes.
Pate began consulting with brewers in 2009, helping them equip breweries or develop flavors. In 2010, he returned to Dothan and began planning and developing his own brewery, constructed on family-owned land off of Hodgesville Road and just outside of Dothan’s city limits.
“They realized I would not stop talking about it; I would not shut up until we had a brewery,” Pate said.
The Folklore name is a nod to the Alabama legends of Pate’s childhood ─ ghost stories, myths, traditions or even old colloquial phrases. The owl in its logo was inspired by the number of owls that nest and hunt around the brewery’s location.
Folklore is distributed by Adams Beverages and is served on tap at a number of Dothan restaurants ─ Fire Stone Wood Fired Pizza and Grill, Fatback’s, Oak and Olive, Ms. Boomer’s, Red Elephant, the Dothan Country Club, and the Robert Trent Jones golf club. Folklore will soon be served in Eufaula and Auburn.
Pate expects to begin light bottling in the next 90s days and then full bottling by the fall so that Folklore beer can be sold in stores.
It takes about eight hours to brew the beer, which is then fermented for one week and conditioned for two weeks. Then, it goes in the kegs and to the distributor. The freshness, Pate said, is an advantage.
Craft beers are typically handmade and considered artisanal products. They’re not to be confused, Pate said, with “crafty” beers ─ beer brands brewed by a smaller brewery that is actually owned by a larger beer manufacturer.
Alabama’s laws regulating craft breweries and even homebrewing have been loosened in the last few years, including the Brewery Modernization Act passed in 2011 and last year when the state legislature made homebrewing legal. Before the Brewery Modernization Act, it was nearly impossible to open new brewpubs in Alabama because such establishments had to basically operate as restaurants in historic buildings. The act removed many of the restrictions on microbreweries and allowed craft brewers to package their beer for distribution and off-premise sales. There is current legislation, House Bill 355, which would allow craft breweries to sell directly to visiting customers ─ an opportunity, Pate said, for craft breweries to help generate tourism dollars.
A number of craft breweries have opened in the state since the restrictions were loosened. There are nearly 30 microbreweries operating now.
At Fire Stone Wood Fired Pizza on South Oates Street in downtown Dothan, bartender Brannon Eubank regularly serves up the Wiregrass Wheat and Grateful Red. Eubank said the restaurant’s customers like the idea of drinking a local craft beer as well as the taste of the beer.
“I sell more Folklore than I do Bud Light,” Eubank said. “When I tell them it’s a beer from Alabama, they want to try it.”
Folklore’s beers have an alcohol content of 5.8 percent in its wheat beer to 7.9 percent in its full-bodied Shadowcaster Porter. Pate ─ who gets his hops from Yakima, Wash., as well as New Zealand and Germany ─ is prepared to go up to 12 percent in a future beer. With the equipment at Folklore, Pate can brew up to 2,000 gallons of beer a month.
Despite the fact that Folklore’s brewery is a little off the beaten path on Pate’s family’s homestead, people are seeking it out, he said. Pate hosts tasting parties each Friday from 3-9 p.m. to allow people to sample the flavors.
“I’ve just come to realize that Dothan is and has been ready for a craft brewery to come to town,” Pate said. “Unfortunately, you’ve got to go just slightly out of town, but you can go all over town and get the beer.”
The tasting parties seem to appeal to beer lovers who want to try knew flavors, so they get to sample recipes that Pate is still experimenting with, including Folklore’s standard beers infused with new flavors.
The Wiregrass Wheat is the most popular produced by Folklore, followed by the Grateful Red. But, Pate said, visitors to the tasting parties seem to enjoy the “hoppier” beers ─ the Front Porch Pale, the Shadowcaster and the Snipe Hunt IPA.
Along with the weekly tasting parties, Pate has other plans to market Folklore, including hosting parties or even receptions at the brewery. As a matter of fact, Pate plans to give one free beer a week to the first couple who marries at the brewery ─ as long as they stay married, that is.
He even plans to build a beer garden outside for visitors to sit and enjoy a beer.
“It has become a guilty pleasure for me to meet people who love beer,” Pate said.