Taproom Talk: Salty Nut Brewery in Huntsville, Alabama
I happened to drop by Salty Nut Brewery in Huntsville, Alabama at probably the most inconvenient time for their team of brewery owners. The brewery was in the process of relocating from the original location to their new home in Yellowhammer Brewery’s old facility at 2406 Clinton Ave W.
In fact, co-owner Jay Kissell was waiting for his permit to officially open the taproom at any moment. It actually came after I left and an impromptu soft-soft launch happened the following night. Unfortunately, my flight left the next morning and I was unable to attend.
Salty Nut Brewery’s relocation is a great of example of how rapidly the Huntsville craft beer scene is evolving. The brewery opened in 2013 on a one-barrel system in a facility that is described as resembling a fraternity house. In their new location, brewing capacity has increased to a 12-barrel system with three 15-barrel fermenters.
It also shows the collaboration that exists in Huntsville. Not only did Salty Nut Brewery move into Yellowhammer Brewery’s old facility (with the addition of taking over the space next store and doubling the original footprint) and purchase Yellowhammer’s fermenters, they also contract brewed at Straight to Ale when demand exceeded capacity at the original location.
Thus, it only seemed appropriate to interview co-owner Jay Kissell in the latest edition of Taproom Talk – a series dedicated to highlighting the best local craft beer and food through the eyes of a brewer or brewery owner.
What’s behind the name – Salty Nut Brewery?
It was the name of several of the original owner’s video game rock band name – The Salty Nuts. That name ended up getting banned by the PlayStation network; they thought that would be a good name for a brewery. It’s a silly name in some ways, but we were out at Great American Beer Festival last year and there were all these breweries there with names like Green Mountain West Seventh Street Ale Works. They all kind of run together. What I found is our name cuts through that in a dumb luck kind of way. A lot of people were like, “I heard of you guys. I love the logo.”
What made you decided to join Salty Nut Brewery as an owner?
TWG Comment – Jay was not one of the original owners. As the brewery has grown so has its number of owners.
I knew the other guys who were involved with the brewery and I was previously involved with another brewery in town called Below the Radar. When I decided to get out of that, I looked around for another brewery and I liked where Salty Nut Brewery was going in terms of community, what they were brewing, and the direction they were headed for the next level. I just felt like a good synergy of skills.
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Stylistically, how would you describe Salty Nut Brewery’s beer?
We are pretty traditionally American style beers. We’ve done a couple of German beers, a Belgian beer here and there, but by and large, our flagship beers have all be in kind of a modern American brewery tradition. They tend to be very approachable beers. We have a couple like Hawt Blonde, #busted Nut Brown, and Imperial Mustache Red that are not going to be intimidating to anybody new to craft beer but they got enough of a twist to them that they’re still interesting to someone who’s been around the block a few times in the world of craft beer.
What’s your most popular beer?
Hop Naughty IPA. That one in both our taproom and in the market is pretty consistently our top seller.
What beer do you produce that your wish more people would try?
We have a black IPA called Vertical House Black. Black IPAs in this market are still a little bit of a tough sell, but when we get people to try it, they absolutely love it. We have a bunch of customers that it’s their favorite beer, but it’s kind of a niche beer for us as the majority of customers overlook it so we treat it as a seasonal.
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What sets Salty Nut Brewery apart from other breweries in Huntsville?
Everybody is doing their own thing. We’re much smaller. We’re more nimble. We’re able to experiment a little more. Clearly, from the beer names and the brewery name, there’s a little playfulness to us. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we try to be serious about the product that we put out. Most of us still have day jobs so the brewery is more of a passion for us.
What excites you about Huntsville’s beer scene?
I’m impressed overall with the quality of what everybody is putting out. We’ve really got a lot of talented brewers in this town and a community that has been enjoying our beer and supporting our movement. I’ve drank beer in Seattle, Portland, Denver, Copenhagen, and London. I would put Huntsville’s beer up against most of those guys.
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What’s on tap for the future of Salty Nut Brewery?
The new taproom. It’s going to totally change the experience. We were hard to find before. We had a cult following and growing, but we weren’t mainstream. People had to be motivated to find us and into craft beer to start with. Now the casual consumer gets to experience our beer and enjoy our beer garden.
What’s an awesome local beer festival that is worth traveling to Huntsville for?
I would have to lead with Rocket City Brewfest. It’s the big one here in Huntsville. It happens in May. It’s a great showcase of local breweries. It’s put on by Free the Hops who is responsible for modernizing Alabama laws and making craft beer happen. It’s at a great outdoor venue, too.
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What restaurant would you recommend to out of town visitors that only the locals know about?
It would actually be one of our new neighbors, Bandito Burrito. The one here on Governors Drive is the original one. It’s a local hang out. It’s kind of divey. It’s not the fanciest restaurant in Huntsville. It has great Mexican food, a funky vibe, and fun people there.
Each city seems to have a unique food, what is Huntsville’s?
BBQ with a white sauce. I’m from Memphis and am a traditionalist when it comes to BBQ. Some states don’t barbecue the right animal (like Texas). However, I really enjoy Alabama white BBQ sauce on chicken.
What beer bar would you recommend for exploring the regional beer scene?
There are so many good ones here that I have to give you more than one – Old Town Beer Exchange, Liquor Express, The Nook, and Wish You Were Beer. Each one brings a different experience to it. OTBX, Liquor Express, and Wish You Were Beer are also retail stores. The Nook is a traditional craft beer bar and the first one in Huntsville. They led the charge. As beer laws changed, they kept bringing in more local beers. For most new breweries, they’re very first tap is at The Nook.
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What’s your favorite local food and beer pairing?
Beer and pizza. It’s just such a classic combination. I’m going to go with not my beer but right up the street with Yellowhammer IPA and Earth and Stone Pizza. If my beer, I would say a Hop Naughty IPA with a big ole plate of Doctor BBQ – probably our most popular food truck.
TWG Comment – Earth and Stone Pizza is actually located inside Yellowhammer Brewery
Where can craft beer fans buy your beer both locally and beyond?
We are primarily draft only but our first packaged beer is now out – our Hop Naughty IPA in 22 oz bombers. It’s pretty widely available anywhere that carries craft beer in Huntsville, to the lesser extent in Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, and Auburn. In draft beer, we’re pretty much available in the most popular craft beer bars around Huntsville.