“On the wrong side of the railroad tracks and out in left field.”
That is how Chris Bramon, one of the owners of Mad Malts Brewing, would describe his business, and he isn’t wrong.
Located off of Meridian Street just north of 565, they are quite literally across the railroad tracks from the majority of the Huntsville breweries that occupy downtown and Campus 805, and when you have beers that incorporate yams and kudzu into their recipes, you can understand what Chris means.
Their location is very easy to miss, and probably a little off the beaten path from most people’s excursions. Their unassuming building (a simple white, metal, building) is a far cry from many other flashier breweries. A peek inside reveals even more simplicity: a big open space with concrete floors and ample seating, and more seating and space out back where they host live music and events. “We dug bands out of garages and anywhere else we could”, Chris exclaimed. It is eclectic and unique, but it fits right in with what Mad Malts is doing.
“We run a smaller footprint, which means we can be more experimental and try things that interest us,” Chris explained.
Mad Malts, as it sits today, was founded around 2015, but they have been a part of the Huntsville beer scene much longer than that. The team originally opened as the Brew Stooges and operated as such for a couple of years, until the family of a similarly-named TV comedy trio issued a cease-and-desist letter to the team. That is when Chris, along with his partner Jeff Peck sat down and came up with the new name.
“We sat down, wrote some names down. Had a few beers. Wrote some more names down. Drank more beer. The names got more creative as we went along, surprisingly,” Chris chuckled. The team were left with 3 pages of new names, which they then went through and researched all the possible monikers until they narrowed it down to a few that weren’t already in usage, one of which was Mad Malts. The team of two engineers describe themselves as a little crazy, and their beers seem to be more on the malty side, so it stuck.
6 years later, the team is still going strong, cranking out great beers and filling a niche in the exploding Huntsville beer scene that is needed. Their beer lineup offers many solid standards such as their Hefeweizen, which is a true-to-form take on the German standard with strong notes of banana and clove. There is also their Winkie’s Bitter, a traditional English-style bitter made exclusively for Poppy and Parliament. Bready and malty with a good toffee and caramel taste, it reminded me of the great bitter beers I had living in England years ago. Add in to this line up their Cajun Steamer Bayou Amber, a crisp and refreshing amber made to pair nicely with the offerings from local joint Cajun Steamer and you have good beers that even your “regular” beer drinker would enjoy.
Where they shine though, and the real reason places like Mad Malts excites me, is in their unique, experimental beers.
Take their Yam I Am, a beer that gushes fall flavors, but I would happily enjoy year-round. Exuding sweetness from the sweet potatoes, it is balanced out well with ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. Try it rimmed with brown sugar to elevate that taste.
If you need something a little more quenching for the warmer weather, their Dirty Blonde is an easy drinking blonde ale with a little nuttiness. You can also go for their Raspberry Blonde, which is their blonde ale with notes of raspberries and honey to really sweeten and mellow the beer. They also take their already-fantastic Imperial IPA, and amp it up with flavors in their Blood Orange IPA.
I am anxiously awaiting the return of the Alabama Gose, a riff on a soured-hefeweizen that brings in a little salt and ground kudzu to make a beer that is unique and delicious.
Sitting down with Chris as he worked on a part for one of their tanks and gushed over all the ideas they have for beers, it is clear the passion he and his partners have and the care they put in, even with the set-backs of the last year. He said Federal and State aid has helped a lot, but it still hurt because they just weren’t able to move volume.
“No one was going out,” Chris said, “so sales took a hit, which really made it hard.” It hit so hard they dropped to 20% of their core business, and lost a lot of their distribution footprint outside of Huntsville. Now that things are opening back up, however, they are focusing on re-expanding to markets like Birmingham and on down I-65 to Mobile.
They aren’t forgetting their core market, though, which is and always will be the Rocket City.
“What we love is being that place where people can just come in, stand around the bar, try new and exciting beers, and talk about them for 20-30 minutes,” Chris said.
That passion for beer and their clientele is what makes Mad Malts special. The personality driven by the former NASA employees and love for the town is different in a very good way. It is a unique vibe that can’t be found anywhere else in the area and translates directly into the beer they make and the creativity they push through the new beers they create. Combined with their great lineup of local music and other events, it makes for an exciting and welcome addition to the local beer scene.
Be sure to check out their Facebook page for their upcoming events: Facebook.com/MadMaltsBrewing1
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.