It’s an unusually cold night in downtown Birmingham, but the chilly temperatures haven’t deterred the small groups of people trickling into Hi-Wire Brewing. The city’s newest brewery has only been open for a couple months, but it’s already built a reputation for itself thanks to its excellent craft beer selection, expansive space, and fun selection of games. Tonight happens to be a biweekly puzzle night, and the turnout is impressive. Small groups huddle around 500-piece jigsaw puzzles. Dogs laze around on the floor, and folks mill up to the bar to grab a pint every couple of minutes.
“I think the community is loving it,” says taproom manager Sarah Ellis. “Especially how big our space is. There’s not a lot of breweries in town where you can play a lot of games and bring the whole family out.”
Hi-Wire’s Birmingham location on 4th Avenue South in Pepper Place opened in early October, becoming the Asheville-based brewery’s ninth location. The location was chosen partially because part-owner Bryna Frosaker is from Auburn. Like the other locations, the space features colorful murals by Asheville-based artist Ian Wilkinson and custom woodworking from the same craftspeople who have outfitted the other outposts. Free games include ping-pong, giant soccer pool, shuffleboard, and foosball.
The beer selection ranges from IPAs and sours to lagers and stouts. Ellis says lately the brewery has been venturing into cocktail-inspired brews like a Manhattan Ale flavored with orange peel and cherry and a Raspberry Fizz made with lactose and juniper berry. In the winter, the brewery released a Gingerbread Hot Chocolate brew made with their 10W40 stout plus cinnamon, nutmeg, and other warm spices.
“We’ve really been mixing it up here and there, and it’s really refreshing because we’re not putting out the same stuff,” Ellis says. “We’re always changing it up.”
In addition to rotating their draft brews, Ellis is also committed to providing an array of activities to build community and bringing new people into the brewery every week. There’s trivia on Tuesdays, a puzzle competition every other Monday, and occasional paint nights with Diva Reese of Paint Nics. In early January, the brewery held its first drag bingo night and there are plans to add regular Sunday drag shows. The brewery will also hold charity nights benefitting local nonprofits like Freshwater Land Trust and Greater Birmingham Humane Society.
“That’s something that we’re really big on at Hi-Wire is bringing community into our breweries and making people feel welcome and accepted,” Ellis says.
This year, Hi-Wire hopes to continue its momentum in the Magic City and open two more outposts in Cincinnati and Nashville. And when the weather warms, Ellis says she can’t wait to have people out on the brewery’s expansive patio that includes space for more than 100, a labyrinth of trails and ponds, and a fire pit.