Druid City Brewing Opens New Taproom and Music Venue with Lofty Goals
After getting the final green light from the Tuscaloosa City Council, Druid City Brewing Company has moved to a new, substantially larger location in the same shopping center as their longtime home at the corner of 15th Street and Hackberry Lane.
For lead man Bo Hicks, the move is a touch bittersweet. It allows for him and his team to fulfill much more of the vision he and founding partner Elliot Roberts shared for the brewery. However, the very first event held in the new space was a celebration of Roberts’ life after he passed away at UAB Medical Center on February 24, just days the final approval council vote.
“It's so weird to have just passed the City Council last night to open up our new facility, and then to also have this be the first thing,” Hicks said. “I think Elliott would be really proud of what we've done here, you know, because there wouldn't be a Druid City without him.”
Hicks has been the face of the brewery since it first opened, but he said Roberts was pivotal to their success and growth, even if he was a "behind-the-camera" kind of guy.
As the first brewery that ever opened in Tuscaloosa, Druid City Brewing Co. has been a institution since its birth in 2012, which Hicks credits not just to their beer, but to the atmosphere he and Roberts cultivated in an intimate setting.
That intimate setting came with drawbacks, though, and held the pair back from one of their larger goals: to reinvigorate a musical counterculture in Tuscaloosa.
The new space gives Hicks and his team flexibility with equipment setup, prevents their shows from being weather-dependent and gives people enough room to not stand elbow-to-elbow.
“One of the things when me and Elliot first started was there’s such a brain drain in Tuscaloosa that the people that are creative or are musicians then feel like they need to leave,” said Hicks. “Hopefully having something like this as a temple will help other people that are creative or interesting want to stick around.”
Hicks remembers fondly the days that the music scene in Tuscaloosa was a little “quirky,” as he puts it. Days when bands like Pain, Alabama Shakes and Guided by Voices would play venues such including Egan’s, The Chukker and Green Bar.
These days, he said, it’s very hard to find a DIY punk show or really much outside of cover bands if you’re someone that’s into that sort of music.
“As long as I’ve been here, it’s been peaks and troughs because of the transient nature of a university town,” said Hicks of Tuscaloosa's indie music scene. “We’ve been in a longer trough here recently."
Hicks hopes the new location for Druid City Brewing can help cultivate enough of a scene again to make Tuscaloosa a destination for bands on tour. Part of how he plans to do that is by holding ticketed and covered events and giving the full amount of that money to the bands that play, not a portion.
“I think over the years, we've developed enough of an attentive crowd that will support that, so, they don't mind throwing in $5. It’s going immediately to the band. Like, 100%,” said Hicks. “I will never take money from a band. Ever. And we’re going to add money on top of it.”
Hicks said that getting just a cut of the door which then has to be shared with other bands and split amongst a group’s individual members often doesn’t even cover the cost of getting to the show. There’s no incentive for a group to drive from Memphis to Tuscaloosa if they aren’t even going to break even. He wants bands to be able to make some money playing at his bar.
Druid City Brewing will continue its ongoing efforts to make Tuscaloosa weird again by hosting a show for local ska-punk band Salvo (formerly known as Pain) in early April.
It will be the crew’s first experiment with a ticketed event, and they plan to sell the tickets online. Until then, those interested can check out the new location at 700 14th Street in Tuscaloosa from 4-10 p.m. Monday through Friday, noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday, and 2-9 p.m. on Sundays.