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Druid City Brewing Company offers a live music scene in Tuscaloosa

Jolencia Jones

Tuscaloosa is home to the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Strip, the Black Warrior River and the original Dreamland Bar-B-Que. The lively community is also a base for local musicians creating original melodies, songs and compositions. They can often be found at Druid City Brewing Company during the taproom’s weekly Open Mic Night.

Bo Hicks is the owner of the taproom. He’s also the previous manager of Egan’s Bar. Longtime residents of Tuscaloosa remember that live music staple on The Strip that closed in 2021. “We had some friends that really wanted a place to play,” Hicks said.

The idea of opening Druid City Brewing Company came to Hicks and his business partner, Elliott Roberts, when they got into the practice of home brewing.

Frequent performer Noah Edge performing his song “Never Give Up”.
Jolencia Jones
Frequent performer Noah Edge performing his song “Never Give Up”.

“We decided one day like, hey, somebody's going to open up a brewery in Tuscaloosa that doesn't care about the community that just wants to capitalize on it being next to the university and capitalize on people that have a connection to Tuscaloosa that have moved off but will come back for sporting events. So, we decided why not us,” Hicks said.

For Hicks, the idea of combining beer and live music was always part of the plan. Druid City Brewing Company drew on the history of other places like The Chukker, a popular bar in the 80s. Spots like that offered a community for live music and a safe space for performers to present their own music.

Druid City Brewing Company promotional poster of events located on the front door.
Jolencia Jones
Druid City Brewing Company promotional poster of events located on the front door.

Longtime residents still think back on those days. Rebecca Minder is the director of Alabama Heritage Magazine and a Tuscaloosa native. She’s seen venues come and go, but Minder says nothing stood out like The Chukker.

“It was in the 1980s, I think when it got to be more known as a great venue for artists,” Minder said. “There was a lot of people who would try to come through Tuscaloosa and go to The Chukker.”

There was a time when the live music scene in Tuscaloosa was centered around The Chukker, as locals most bars on The Strip at the time primarily catered to cover bands. Minder said The Chukker was a place for Tuscaloosa natives of all ages and eventually became a hangout spot for college students at The University of Alabama.

“After the bar closed down, we really didn't have that same type of vibe at any of the other local bars until Bo Hicks opened Druid City Brewery,” Minder said.

The taproom currently offers food, beer and an intimate musical experience.

“We cared about the musicians, we wanted them to feel supported, we did everything we can to make it a good quality of life show,” Hicks said.

College students are now part of the crowds coming to the weekly open mic night staple at Druid City Brewing Company on Sundays. Each week there are 10 slots, and guests have the opportunity to sign up for a spot to perform at 6 p.m., and it’s first come, first served. Sometimes new people will take the mic, and oftentimes, regulars will show up to support or perform.

Celeste Ryner is a local of Tuscaloosa. She and her band make their rounds at multiple bars in the area. That included Egan’s Bar and now Druid City Brewing Company.

“I'm a bass player. It's a thrill to get up there,” Ryner said. “It's gotten to where Druid City is kind of one of the only live music places that are not just right on the strip and covers only.”

Ryner finds herself at multiple and Druid City Brewing Company events because of its friendly and inviting atmosphere.

“I think just being able to walk in and not feel weird. Some places you walk in, and if you don't know everybody in there, they're looking like what are you doing here? So, I don't really get that feeling here,” Ryner said.

Multiple regulars agree with her, including frequent performer Noah Edge.

“I feel it’s like kind of a judgment-free zone,” Edge said.

Edge has been attending open mic night for years. His music style is creating original rap music and lyrics. The environment at Druid City is a safe space for him and performers of all genres.

“I feel really good when I'm up there performing. I feel good. I feel happy. I feel invigorated in a lot of different ways to be able to express myself, you know limitlessly,” Edge said.

Edge spends the week ahead of the Sunday open mic nights working through his creative process and running through the words of his songs in the studio.

“It comes in a lot of work to where you can try to memorize a lot of different aspects of the show itself. I'd say you hype yourself up a little bit. And you just go up there, and you're able to let your feelings just come out,” Edge said.

Jolencia Jones

It’s common for newcomers or first-time artists to be nervous or scared about going on stage and performing live. Edge offers this guidance:

“They don't know you made a mistake. If you just keep going, and you just keep playing or doing whatever, they don't know you made a mistake, unless you draw attention to it. So that's my advice, just go with it,” Edge said.

Tom Rathe is the host of open mic night. He describes the music scene in Tuscaloosa as a supportive system thanks to Druid City Brewing Company. Each week he steps up as the first performer to warm up the crowd at the taproom.

“We're not too particular about what you do, as long as you're coming up here and performing music,” Rathe said. “The signup happens pretty much at six o'clock sharp. Not too long after, as the host, I usually play two or three songs in the beginning to kind of get everything warmed up.”

Open mic is for anyone who plays an instrument, sings, raps or writes music. However, Rathe said his favorite performance is original content, which makes this opportunity special.

“It's definitely a place where music lovers come and enjoy themselves. On any given night, there very well might be live music, or there'll be spinning some vinyl records of usually the bartender's choosing. There's always quality music happening here, whether live or just what's being played on the sound system,” Rathe said.

Although the music is a selling point, many people say they find themselves enjoying the food and beer as a staple. There are performances every week at Druid City Brewing-- with trivia and bingo available some weeks as an interactive alternative. For those looking for rhythm, harmony and a good beat—this taproom is the place to be.

Jolencia Jones is a graduate assistant at Alabama Public Radio. She joined APR in 2022. She graduated from The University of Alabama with a bachelor's degree in public relations. Over the past year, Jolencia has written a range of stories covering events throughout the state. When she's not working at APR, she's writing for 1956 Magazine and The Crimson White.

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