Located in downtown Opelika, Red Clay Brewing Company has become a central pillar of the present and future of brewing in Alabama and abroad.
“When we opened our doors, we were one of the first breweries in the state,” said co-founder and co-owner John Corbin.
Red Clay Brewing Company was founded in 2015 by Corbin, Stephen Harle and Kerry McGinnis. All three still own and operate the business. Corbin said he and his business partners started brewing at home, but all wanted to go out on their own and try something new. They then traveled around the country visiting breweries to understand how they could start at home.
“We started brewing at home, and then we started brewing enough for people to try,” Corbin said. “People really liked it, and we’ve been doing it ever since.”
Although Red Clay Brewing Company was one of the few Alabama-based breweries when it was founded, it was the first of its kind in the Auburn-Opelika area. Over the years the company has sought to provide a space where the community can stop, grab something to drink and relax.
“We like to think of ourselves as a public house,” Corbin said. “It’s a place for families, you can bring your children or your pets there. We try to make sure we have beer, but we also have annual opening anniversary celebrations and other events where you can just hang out.
Corbin said that while they try to provide space for everyone, it’s not your typical bar. He said they don’t discount their beer to attract large crowds as there are plenty of bars elsewhere that can provide that.
The goal of this business was to provide a unique consumer experience that doesn’t come often to the area. Corbin believed that this uniqueness made their business flourish as it has over the years.
“We’re just trying to offer something a little different and unique for people to come and experience,” Corbin said. ” It was great. We had a very good number of people from all walks of life who came here.
During their 7-year celebration in April, the brewery launched seven new beers, all of which will come in and out of their signature menu. Although that night was a party, due to the success of the business, it was also about the future of the brewery.
“We have a Pistachio Pilsner, a Raspberry Porter, an English Bitter, a Belgian Key Lime Wheat, an Oak Cherry Sour, a Lemongrass Vanilla Saison and a Dry Stout,” said co-founder, co-owner and master brewer Kerry. McGinnis.
Another exciting line of recently launched beers comes from a collaboration between Red Clay and Miura Vineyards in Santa Rosa, California, featured by Forbes. McGinnis worked with master sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji to create the Double Master Collaboration Beer series.
This beverage is still a beer but is brewed with Meyer lemons or black currants. Beers like these are similar to beers called “oenobeers”.
“As oenobeers grow in popularity, there has never been a collaboration where a master sommelier and a master brewer have made a canned beer together,” said a press release from Red Clay Brewing Company.
The collaboration was a feat for both companies. Each of the three beers was made at the Red Clay Brewery, making what was once the first brewery in the Auburn-Opelika region a landmark in the brewing world.
“The Miura line is the first collaboration between a master sommelier and a brewery,” Corbin said. “In a world with a ton of new beers, we think this line gives us something different than the usual ‘IPA of the day’.”
Besides the Double Master series, Corbin said their unique brews, like the others that were released in celebration of their 7th anniversary, are the product of allowing his brewers to be creative.
“We like to let brewers create their own recipes,” Corbin said. “Kerry and I see that we own the place, we love doing it, but especially on our main beers, it becomes an opportunity for them to get creative and do something they’ve always wanted to do.”
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Corbin said these unique beers are very common for special company days. That’s when he really allows his brewers to be free with their brews, and that’s when the unique brews are made.
The Red Clay Brewing Company, unlike many businesses, hasn’t been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although their consumption room business has been slow, Corbin said their distribution side has many upsides, which has allowed them to expand nationally into California, Arizona, Puerto Rico, Colorado, in Nevada and Mississippi. They are also ready to expand into Florida.
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Tucker Massey, a sophomore in journalism, is an editor for The Auburn Plainsman.
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