For Jason Spikes, home brewing was a passion, even before he entered college to become an engineer. Several years back, he and his friends began a brewing club, even though state laws were less than friendly to the practice. They started with small kits and found that with the right technique, the homemade beer was as good as any bought in a store.
But when the Alabama law changed in 2011, Spikes and his friends saw a great opportunity, thinking “someone is going to make money in the brewery business, so it might as well be us.” With a comprehensive engineering background and expert grasp on what it takes to select and maintain equipment, the group combined their skills with a love of beer to open the Black Warrior Brewery in Tuscaloosa in 2013. In one short year, it has found success with locals looking for a quality craft beer and willing to pay the premium price for it.
One of the best examples in how engineering knowledge and pump tech combine was the fabrication of a custom pump. Spikes himself used his engineering training to build a portable pump for the brewery by designing a special cart with a two-wheel frame for portability. The pump was also built with a long extension and three-phase motor, components that make it a great investment because the pump helps control speed and transfers in the brewing process. While this sort of pump generally costs $3,000 from a manufacturer, this pump cost Black Warrior only $2,000 and worked so well, Spikes helped another brewery build a similar one.
But it hasn’t been all bottom lines in the year the fledgling brewery has been in operation. In addition to offering Black Warrior beer to many local taverns and bars across the state, the brewery also buys food from local businesses to sell to their customers, as well as encourages them to bring their own from nearby establishments when visiting the brewery.
Although the brewery tries to keep each day of the week special with events such as New Beer Night and Trivia Night, once a month they participate in Pints With a Purpose, a charity event that allows beer to be used to raise funds for causes such as breast cancer.
Earlier this year, the brewery hosted Ales to Fight Hunger, a fundraiser for a charity program that provides Alabama schoolchildren in need with weekend food packs. Black Warrior donated a percentage of each beer sold to the Secret Meals For Hungry Children program in addition to donating the entire $5 cover charge to the charity.
“Black Warrior Brewing is so excited to help support Secret Meals,” said Joe Fuller, one of the co-owners. “We are glad to now not only be a part of the Tuscaloosa community, but to also be able to give back.”
For the present and future, Spikes has plans to collaborate with bike clubs, being an avid biker himself. He is also gearing up Black Warrior to participate in local festivals.