Operating out of a small store front tucked away on First Avenue SE in downtown Cullman, the team behind The Blue Moose Cafe and Brewpub made history in 2013 by opening the city’s first legal brewpub since before the prohibition era.
The restaurant is currently the only brewpub in the city, and offers a small selection of craft beers brewed in the back room of the cafe, just off the kitchen. Blue Moose fittingly offered up its first local beer, dubbed Colonel Cullman’s Festbier, at the opening night of the Oktoberfest 2013 biergarten.
The brew was a hit, and sold out every night it was offered.
“It’s an Oktoberfest-style, which means it is an amber malty lager,” brewmaster Mike Mullaney said at the time. “There’s not a lot of hops, and it has a real clean and crisp flavor. I think people will love it.”
Mullaney said he believes a robust offering of locally made craft beer can set the restaurant apart from similar regional establishments. He’s putting his expertise in home-brewing to the test with the restaurant’s $15,000 brewing set-up, which was shipped from California.
“We’ll be able to offer every kind you can think of, from Irish, German and all the different types of hops,” he said in a previous interview. “Craft beer will definitely be our niche.”
City ordinance requires brew pubs to produce at least 120 barrels-per-year, which was lowered from 240 barrels several months ago to allow for smaller pubs to open.
Also among the requirements to obtain a brewpub license? Finding hundred-year-old pictures of bars in downtown Cullman to meet a requirement that the brew pub be located in a historical area with a history of brew sales.
Though the brewpub didn’t officially open until late in the year, the cafe offered up an eclectic down-home lunch and dinner menu for most of 2013.
The restaurant can seat approximately 45 people, and manager Shane Guest said they’ve built the early menu around a meat-and-two sides schedule, as well as homemade chicken salad specialties.
“We’re doing everything fresh,” he said. “So, if we can’t find it fresh, we’re not going to serve it.”
Owner and chef Debbie Wood, who runs the restaurant with help from her sons, said the menu is essentially an evolution of what you’d find on her kitchen table. The approach seems to work — and the restaurant actually ran out of food on several occasions shortly after opening, as news spread about their unique lunch fare.
“I told the boys if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it like my kitchen, and when it’s gone it’s gone,” she said with a laugh. “We’ll be using Trent Boyd’s Harvest Farms, and he already sells to restaurants in Birmingham. When he gets things in, we’ll be carrying his produce and adding those fresh items to our typical menu. But whatever we serve, it’s all made from scratch — just like my kitchen.”
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 134.