Located in downtown Opelika, Red Clay Brewing Company has become a central pillar to the present and future of brewing in Alabama and abroad.
“When we first opened, we were one of the first breweries in the state,” co-founder and co-owner John Corbin said.
Red Clay Brewing Company was founded in 2015 by Corbin, Stephen Harle and Kerry McGinnis. All three still own and operate the company. Corbin said he and his business partners started home-brewing, but all wanted to go out on their own and try something new. They then traveled across the nation visiting breweries to figure out how they could get their start back home.
“We started with home-brewing, then started brewing enough for people to try,” Corbin said. “People really liked it, and we’ve been doing it ever since.”
Although Red Clay Brewing Company was one of just a few Alabama-based breweries at its founding, it was the first of its kind in the Auburn-Opelika area. Over the years, the company has sought to provide a space for the community to stop by, grab something to drink and relax.
“We like to view ourselves as a public house,” Corbin said. “It’s a place for families, you can bring your kids or pets in here. We try to make it where we do have the beer, but we also have yearly opening anniversary celebrations and other events where you can just hang out.”
Corbin said that even though they try to provide a space for everyone, it isn’t your typical bar. He said that they don’t discount their beer to draw large crowds because there are plenty of bars elsewhere that can provide that.
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The point of this company was to provide a unique drinking experience that doesn’t come often in the area. Corbin believed that this uniqueness has made their business succeed like it has over the years.
“We’re just trying to offer something a little bit different and unique for people to come experience,” Corbin said. “It’s been great. We’ve had a really good amount of people from all walks of life come in here.”
During their 7-year celebration in April, the brewery released seven new brews of beer, all of which will cycle in and out of their typical menu. Though this night was a celebration, because of the company’s success, it also focused on the future of the brewery.
“We’ve got a Pistachio Pilsner, a Raspberry Porter, an English Bitter, a Belgian Key Lime Wheat, an Oak Cherry Sour, a Lemongrass Vanilla Saison and a Dry Stout,” said co-founder, co-owner and master brewer Kerry McGinnis.
Another exciting line of brews that were recently released was from a collaboration between Red Clay and Forbes-featured Miura Vineyards of Santa Rosa, California. McGinnis worked with Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji to create the Double Master Collaboration Beer series.
This brew is still a beer but is brewed with Meyer lemons or black currants. Brews like these are similar to brews called “oenobeers.”
“While oenobeers are rising in popularity, there’s never been a collaboration where a master sommelier and a master brewer made a canned beer together,” a press release from Red Clay Brewing Company said.
The collaboration was a feat for both companies. Each of the three brews were made at Red Clay’s brewery, making what was once just the Auburn-Opelika area’s first brewery a historic place in the brewing world.
“The Miura line is the first collaboration between a master sommelier and a brewery,” Corbin said. “In a world with a ton of new beers, we feel that this line gives us something different from the usual ‘IPA-of-the-day.’”
Aside from the Double Master series, Corbin said that their one-off brews, such as the others that were released during their 7 anniversary celebration, are a product of allowing his brewers to be creative.
“We like to let the brewers create their own recipes,” Corbin said. “Kerry and I see that we own the place, we love doing it, but especially on our mainline beers, it becomes an opportunity for them to get creative and do something they’ve always wanted to do.”
Corbin said that these one-off brews are very common for special days for the company. This is when he really allows his brewers to be free with their brews, and this is when the one-off brews are made.
Red Clay Brewing Company, unlike many businesses, did not suffer harshly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though their taproom business was slow, Corbin said their distribution side saw many benefits, and this allowed them to expand on a national level into California, Arizona, Puerto Rico, Colorado, Nevada and Mississippi. They are also set to expand into Florida.
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