John Serda and Ed Serda (John’s father) were having a beer in downtown Mobile, Ala., one chilly evening in January 2013. As they exited the establishment, they both took note of the recently opened Moe’s BBQ nearby, thinking that it would have been perfect for a brewpub. The evening ended, but the idea did not.
John did some research and found a local brewer by the name of Todd Hicks. They connected via Facebook and decided to meet, have a few beers and discuss the possibility of opening a brewery in Mobile. Hicks had a long history of brewing in Mobile, being the head brewer for Port City Brewing, Mr. Jim Cannon’s Brewpub and also Hurricane Brewing. John soon discovered that Hicks also had a wealth of experience at a variety of other brewing establishments along the Gulf Coast. And, get this: Hicks had even designed the bar system for Moe’s.
Hicks had developed a business model and draft business plan for a craft brewery back in 2009, and after John and he met, they decided the plan was viable and decided to proceed. Serda Brewing Co. was going to be a reality.
Finding a location
Well, maybe. First, the team had to find a suitable location. The first option was ruled out after an engineering survey showed the brewing vats would need to be supported by concrete pilings, thus raising the price of the project considerably.
In 2014, the property search shifted to the old Ward’s Army/Navy store near the loop. The business plan was re-written around this location and brewhouse sketches were laid out. Eventually that location fell through too, so the focus shifted to an old Sweat/Goodyear Tire store that had been vacant for six to seven years and was an eyesore in downtown Mobile.
As work continued with the financing, things began to gel. The business plan was updated again and countless other forms and documents were submitted to the bank. The team worked with a local commercial real estate broker/investor and convinced them to purchase the building at 600 Government St. In return, Serda Brewing agreed to sign a 10-year lease. Simultaneously, Hicks was designing the brewery and identifying the equipment needed to purchase.
“As we continued to negotiate the maze of required permits, licenses and red tape, the demolition phase of the construction project started in late 2016,” noted Tim Mahoney, partner. “With financing, permits and final plans in hand, the remodeling of 600 Government Street began in earnest in January of 2017. Like most construction projects, the timeline got fuzzy very quickly. As happens with many large construction projects, the estimated completion date came and went, several times actually.”
Finally, on Oct. 20, 2017, at noon, Serda Brewing officially began brewing its first batch of beer. The soft opening was set for Nov. 24 and the official grand opening for this weekend — almost exactly a year from when the demolition was started, and nearly four years after the idea was conceived on that chilly January night. Expected production for 2018 is 3,000 bbls.
What’s it brewing on?
A new custom 30-bbl three-vessel Premier Stainless brewhouse. The plan is to double brew on each brew day to fill a 60-bbl fermenter. Four new 60-bbl fermenters and two 60-bbl bright tanks are on hand to match the brewhouse.
“As a packaging brewery, we started on the large size to catch up with the local and regional market,” Hicks said. “We are playing catch up as this brewery should have been open several years ago. Our brewery is designed for easy expansion to grow volume.”
Serda is starting with four production beers that will be introduced at the tap room, on draft in the local Mobile/Baldwin market and next year packaged in 12-oz. bottles in six-packs,” Hicks said. “By early next year, plan to have a monthly special and a seasonal special introduced.”
What’s the brewery’s POV?
The core brand beers will be traditional German styles that have had an American craft beer facelift: richer in flavor, bolder in strength, more complex in character, a reflection of the past with modern craft brewing innovation.
“We want to make German style lager and traditional beers with a fresh new taste,” Hicks said. “Tired of automated factory robot brewed technical German beer. Boring. There are few German and European styles lagers and traditional beers in this market. There are so many new breweries popping up, but they are all making the same old stuff. Boring. Blond, Amber, Brown, IPA. It is all tasting the same. Do something different than the rest.
“Our flagship beer will be our Hook, Line & Lager — light straw to golden color and crystal clear. The hops will be very prevalent, with a spicy bitterness and a spicy floral flavor and aroma. It will be smooth and crisp with a clean malty palate. Lagers are more difficult to make and take longer, but they’re worth the extra effort.”
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