Danny Levis & Todd Seaton
Huntsville, Alabama is a burgeoning beer Mecca in Northern Alabama. There are four active breweries and three currently in the planning stages. Many of the breweries in Huntsville have been started as what is called a Nano-brewery. That is a brewery with a small brew house that produces less than four barrels of beer at a time. Straight to Ale and Blue Pants both started this way but have now grown into larger systems. Old Black Bear Brewing is starting out more like a neighbor to their south, Back Forty in Gadsden, Alabama.
Old Black Bear was founded by two young entrepreneurs, Danny Levis and Todd Seaton in 2010. The duo met on the softball field. Danny’s wife worked with Todd and the two played on the company softball team. They started home brewing together and the rest is history.
The original plan was to start small with local Huntsville brewery Old Town Brewery contract brewing the offerings. Ironically on the day the contract was signed Old Town went out of business. The duo next contacted Lazy Magnolia and went to the brewery for a visit and to hammer out specific details for the new relationship. The meetings went well but Lazy Magnolia was in the middle of starting to plan an expansion and was brewing near to full capacity. The deal was to add Old Black Bear after one of their current contract brewing deals moved on to their own brewery, Back Forty out of Gadsden. Timing was critical here, as was the proximity of the new brewery in Gadsden, and the trio of breweries worked out a deal that best suited all involved. Old Black Bear would wait for Back Forty to move into their new space and then utilize their new capacity to contract brew their beers. Gadsden is only an hour and a half from Huntsville, much closer than the western side of Mississippi, and that would allow the brewers more hands on time with the production and packaging of the beers.
The first brew debuted in Huntsville on Feb. 10th. Milepost 652 ESB was that beer and it is an American take on the English-style ESB. It is a smooth drinking beer that is brewed with nothing but west coast Centennial hops 6% ABV and 42 IBU. The second offering is Roaming Bear Porter. This beer is brewed with copious amounts of roasted barley and is balanced with Magnum and Willamette hops to 42 IBU as well. The beers are currently available in around 25 accounts in Huntsville on draft only with demand continuing to grow at a fast pace. Plans are to start offering bottles in the May and introducing a third beer called Cave City Lager that will be brewed in the American Amber style.
Todd and Danny have kept their day jobs while they start the long process of growing their brand. The focus is on brewing quality beer and offering that product to their local Huntsville market. Eventually they plan to have their own production facility just as Back Forty does, remember BFB started out contract brewing at Lazy Magnolia them selves and have done exceedingly well. Both Todd and Danny travel to Gadsden each week to work in the brewery with their product, weather it is cleaning kegs or brewing with BFB Master Brewer Jamie Ray. Old Black Bear has purchased two 30 BBL fermenting tanks that are used exclusively for their beers, so right now capacity issues are non-issues. During their 8 visits to BFB per month they are able to manage the entire brewing process.
Here are some photos from their first brew also available on their Facebook page.