Sometimes, an upgraded space can feel like an about-face rather than a natural evolution, so we’ve been curious to see how Cahaba Brewing Co. would handle their transition to an Avondale location. The short answer is this: very, very well. They’ve managed to maintain much of the feel from the original space but added tons more room, far better parking, and an exciting new location. Cahaba Brewing was a stylish take on rough-and-ready, and we liked it that way. But we love it the new way too.
The biggest difference is the space. There’s so much more of it. They’ve managed to move from a metaphorical cozy studio into a stunning loft space that still feels true to their industrial roots. Large walls of glass frame the tap room, one of garage sliders that will open to the wide outdoor patio in warmer weather, and another wall of fixed glass that preserves the ambience of a functional brewery with a bit more polish.
There are still long, communal tables and raised bar tops for seating, but there are also smaller round tables for more traditional parties. By varying the height and style of seating, they’ve managed the classic — but sometimes tricky — loft trick of carving one large space into more intimate groupings. High ceilings with roofline windows make the tap room feel even larger and more open. On a sunny day, there’s so much natural light that it almost feels like sitting outdoors, but with the benefit of climate control. Victorian-era furniture makes the adorable entry nook a fun departure from pure rustic style, and, along with an antique cart at the taproom’s opposite end, offers a subtle reminder that serious brewing is not a recent invention.
In fact, the new location isn’t just about shiny new space but about a more refined business perspective. It’s as though the presumably large investment in a new space has prompted the brewery to take its craft event more seriously. A printed beer menu offers thoughtful descriptions of their trademark and seasonal offerings, including some of the local plant/river inspirations behind their flavors. There’s something closer to the experience of visiting a Scotch distillery overseas — the attention paid to explaining the product’s story and process — while maintaining the easy hangout vibe of Birmingham’s taproom culture.
There’s also the excitement of the brew culture’s connection to Birmingham’s renaissance — a trend the Birmingham Business Journal noted in a 2014 profile of Cahaba Brewing. Fred Dyess, owner of nearby Avondale Antiques, predicted the Continental Gin complex will host the kind of small shops and restaurants found at Pepper Place, and we think it’s only a matter of time before it boasts a new Zyp station. We can’t help thinking Continental Gin will become a natural expansion point for Box Row tenants who outgrow their startup spaces but want to maintain a presence near their initial brick-and-mortar locations.
Cheers, Cahaba! Here’s to some awesome trendsetting.