One thing my husband and I are good at is going out and drinking beer. Now, I’m not talking about frat-party beer from our college days, which I believe my husband knows more about than I do. What I mean instead is the education about and appreciation of good beer. I was beer-ignorant until I learned from my husband that good beer should be considered exactly like good wine, with richness of flavors and variety of styles just as any other fine food. And that works for me, because really after half a bottle or glass, I’m done — I like beer’s fresh first-half taste best. I can handle about two or three first halves in an evening, which my husband doesn’t mind because, as he says, that leaves more for him. We especially like discovering those wonderfully small handcrafted local beers that are best enjoyed with great company in cool and cozy brewpubs. Sadly, we mainly have to do our beer tasting when we travel since Alabama is one of only three states in the country that limits alcohol by volume for beer to 6% and the only state that limits beer containers to no more than 16 ounces. Alabama also enforces antiquated restrictions that effectively stifle local microbreweries and limits brewpubs. This means that in my state you can’t buy most of the specialty/gourmet beer available almost everywhere else. Georgia and North and South Carolina all went through the same thing and successfully changed their laws to allow the sale of specialty beers. Free the Hops, a non-profit group, is trying to do that in Alabama. Learn more at http://www.freethehops.org/.
And speaking of beer, one of my favorite places in Birmingham to grab a sandwich and bottle of beer is gone. Tria Market in Homewood was a small upscale grocery here you could get a sandwich from the deli or a meat-and-three (or four) from the hot-food counter, add a bottle from the beer cooler and sit down at tables in the middle of the store and enjoy a great people-watching meal. A few weeks ago it closed for “remodeling” and the Web site says it will reopen in May. However, a Tria manager I held hostage and demanded an answer from talked to said it would reopen in three months or so as a Middle Eastern-style restaurant with a few basic groceries for sale along the lines of a European market. A former chef from Bottega (one of food-celebrity Frank Stitt’s restaurants) will head up the kitchen and the space will be designed by the same person who did Ocean, another of Birmingham’s premier and stylish eateries. Can’t wait!