It’s not on the courthouse square and it isn’t in the high-traffic Campus 805 area, but there is a reason to find your way to South Huntsville and down Leeman Ferry Road for a beer, and that reason is Fractal Brewing Project.
In what used to be Olde Towne Brewing, and then Straight to Ale before they went to Campus 805, Fractal Brewing has blown the walls out (literally there are only 3 original interior walls left in the building). of a huge metal building. With what is left, they have carved out a spacious, clean, and modern craft beer temple where they deliver sermons of great beer, fun vibes, and events like live music, food trucks, trivia, and more.
There to deliver the holy water is partner and head brewer, Brad “Robo” Robison.
A Huntsville native, Robo has a love for the art of making great beer, but it wasn’t immediately realized, and it took him leaving Alabama to get there.
In 2008, he headed off to Tuscaloosa for college, but realized soon that he had the wrong priorities, and decided to go down a different path. He and his neighbor went down to join the US Marine Corps, where he spent the next few years as a Harrier Mechanic, serving part of his time in North Carolina. It is where he got his nickname, Robo. “I used to wear this M-frame Oakleys and everyone said I looked like Robocop, and of course my last name being Robison, it just stuck and stayed with me.”
This is also where he found the love for drinking and brewing beer.
Working out of a storage unit since he lived in the barracks on base, he and a friend started brewing beer and explored the craft. “Being in NC and being 21, it was hard to not get wrapped up in the beer culture. Going down to the bottle shop, trying different cans and styles, trying beers that were drain pours back then, but have brought me to styles I now love,” was big for Robo.
When he left the Marines in 2014, he had met his wife, who was working on her PhD in NC, so he stayed there and started working at Uptown Brewing in Greenville, NC. He could have stayed down the path of aviation, but he “didn’t want to work a desk job, or get a little hangar time, I wanted a different challenge and the chance to be creative.”
Eventually, life brought him back to Huntsville when his wife took a job here. Robo then went on to work at Rocket Republic as a brewers, Wish You Were Beer as their homebrew store manager, and then Below the Radar as a brewer. All this time, he was still homebrewing and continuing to hone his craft and continue his passion. Then in 2018, he and Larry Lowe, the brother-in-law of one of his homebrewing partners, started developing a business plan and putting the wheels in motion to open Fractal Brewing.
They opened the doors on September 13th, 2019. It was a new experience for Robo, and brought a different perspective to his love of beer.
“I thought I had made some good beer while homebrewing until I put them in front of people and they gave me honest feedback. Now that it meant a paycheck, I had to really step up my game.”
For now, as a partner, it meant he “had a little more skin in the game” and had new priorities. He had to keep the business profitable, continue to make consistently good beers, and make sure he was taking care of the people around him–a trait he learned as a non-commissioned officer in the Marines.
“It was one of the things I loved the most and one of the things I missed from my time in, so it is great to be able to do that again.”
It wasn’t a smooth start though.
Fractal launched in 2019 during football season, a time that is traditionally slower for breweries and places that serve beer, as more people are staying home to watch games. They made it through football season and into the spring, when things started picking up. They began to garner attention locally and had a healthy distribution in the surrounding areas.
Then COVID hit.
That is when they pared back a little, kept their head down, and did what they could to stay afloat while keeping their eyes on what they would do on the backside of the quarantine.
Now, in the summer of 2021, with a canning operation canning their core beers, and a stable of great beers on tap, Robo has his eyes on the prize to come back bigger and better. He envisions a larger distribution footprint, continued canning operations, as well as future events like Fractoberfest (an Oktoberfest event in September). There are even plans for soccer goals and expanded amenities at the property, a key reason he and business partner Larry chose the location. “It gives us room to grow and room to do some really cool stuff,” he added.
It doesn’t mean losing sight of his homebrewing roots though, and bringing up the new generation of beer crafters. Fractal is a classroom now, with Robo teaching Homebrewing through Calhoun Community College every Tuesday night, and even expanding to a brewing apprenticeship.
For him, it is about continuing to grow the beer culture in Huntsville that he has seen evolve over the years.
“Just watching breweries open up, taprooms go into places like Liquor Express that used to just be a liquor store…Huntsville has grown significantly in the beer market.”
With a great facility, exciting beers, and a real passion for the craft, it is hard to imagine Brad “Robo” Robison and the Fractal Brewing Project, not being a part of that growing hops landscape here in Rocket City.
As a Charleston, SC native who grew up in a commercial fishing family, simple Southern life, weekends and summers in the saltwater, and immersion in great food and surroundings was always in Ben‘s blood. Then, after high school, he enlisted in the US Air Force and began to see all that the world had to offer, while staying grounded to his roots of good food and good times shared with friends and family. Ben has spent years throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and all over the US, enjoying great experiences all the way and honing his taste for great experiences, food, beer, bourbon, and cigars.
Now, after 21 years in the Air Force and the beginning of a second career in Huntsville with his wife and kids, he is searching out the best the Tennessee valley has to offer with its burgeoning craft beer and alcohol scene. He is also big into running, kayaking, hiking, and giving back to the community with veteran groups like Team Red, White, and Blue. Bringing in the education of his travel, southern roots, and love for exploring, Ben is here to share his discoveries of the area and his knowledge of his passions.