Any beer nerd will tell you that one of the great things about the whole craft beer scene is traveling someplace and discovering some new and fantastic brewery while you are away from your hometown go-to. The downside of this hyper-local arrangement is that when you go home, you're out of luck if you crave that beer you found while traveling. Like so much else in life, craft beer nerdery cuts both ways.
I have some friends, real baseball geeks, who will not return from their spring training trip in the droopy end of Florida without a couple of cases of Pulp Friction Grapefruit IPA from Motorworks Brewing. So, passing through the Madison Growler shop the other day, I was pleased to see two selections from Good People Brewing out of Birmingham, Alabama. Good People have been making beer, legally at any rate, since 2008. I dropped in on them a few years ago, unannounced, for an interview. They were strictly local then, but were kind enough to show me around and talk beer. Alabama was pretty early — by Southern standards — in adopting laws friendly to craft brewers. It shows. If you can't get out to North Carolina, you could do a lot worse than drinking your way around northern Alabama. They also pointed out that said changes were recent enough to make all the "Murffbrau" I brewed up in my room at the University of Alabama entirely illegal.
If you can't get to Alabama, at least you can get to Midtown, where two Good People beers are currently on tap at the Cash Saver. What is interesting about their Muchacho is that most craft brewers like to harken back to the great beer brewing cultures of Europe for their inspiration. Good People looked south of the ... wall, steel slats, questionable logic? ... (Well let's just call it the border for now) to make a drinkable Mexican-style lager. It's light and crisp and doesn't linger very long on the palate. It will pair beautifully with the sort of tacos you get on Summer Avenue. Or for that matter, fried chicken or catfish. With an ABV of 4.8 percent, you can drink enough to battle the spice.
The theory that we put lime in Mexican beer because it inherently needs help is simply not true. Muchacho is the cosmic ideal of either Corona or Dos Equis, wonderful on its own without any assist. Still, a squeeze of lime gave it a little pop. Don't be a beer racist: If it's okay for the Belgians to do it with oranges, it's okay for the Mexicans to do it with limes.
The other selection was a Winter Ale called Denim Downhiller. According to the Urban Dictionary, the term describs a skier of the Appalachian alps who wears jeans instead of snow pants, is rockin' a mullet, and almost certainly a denim jacket. This ale is a tribute to that guy. Budweiser may be the king and Miller the champagne, but Denim Downhiller is the mustache of beers. It's earthy and toasty, but I'm not entirely sure why it's called a Winter Ale. It tastes like a nut brown to me, and fans of the brown/red ales will feel right at home. Perhaps the season to which the Good People are referring is the one in LA (read: Lower Alabama). They really don't have anything we'd call a winter down there.
Denim Downhiller was a little sweet for my tastes, not quite syrupy. At 5.6 percent ABV, it is higher in alcohol than the Muchacho, but nothing that's going to knock you off the slopes, as it were. At 18 IBU, it has got a lot more hops to it as well, but a toasted malt counterweight balances this beer out.
Speaking as an alum — and a former resident and unintentional bootlegger from the great state of Alabama — I would advise you to hurry. After Clemson managed to out "Bama" Alabama the other night, the state might just drink itself dry.