Free The Hops Leadership is comprised of our Board of Directors, State Leadership, our individual Chapter Heads, and specific Event Coordinators. Being an all-volunteer organization, none of our leadership are compensated for their time or extraordinary efforts. They maintain the momentum of the organization, steering it continually in a positive direction, engaging with our membership and community partners, all the while supporting each other within the cause we all rallied around; great craft beer in Alabama. Through the years of working to see the three main legislative goals attained and now as we turn the corner toward education in support of the thriving craft beer landscape we have helped create in Alabama; Free The Hops leadership remains committed at every level. Below you will find the bios on the current members of State Officers and the Board Members. For details on the Chapter Heads and their various Event Coordinators, please see their respective pages.
Carie Partain - President
Sr. Contract Administrator - Huntsville, AL
Agreeing to meet, her now husband, for the first time at the first Free The Hops fundraiser in Huntsville, (Blast-Off_2009); the love affair with both craft beer and Mr. Partain (Rich) were born. Since then, Carie has worked as the Marketing and Promotions Coordinator for the Rocket City Brewfest and other related Huntsville events. She has been instrumental in helping the Huntsville chapter bridge into other community events such as Pro Bono Brews, with the Madison County Lawyers Program, Mercury Rising Chili Festival with Leadership Huntsville, Redstone Arsenal MWR Oktoberfest, and helped originate the Mardi Gras Beer Ball for FTH membership. She was also the primary coordinator and facilitator for the first certificate course in the Alabama Technical College System with the Craft Beer 101 and 102 course offerings via J.F. Drake State Technical College. The Craft Beer 102 offering provided students the additional option of a 3rd day test prep and Certified Beer Server, Cicerone testing component. Carie has been serving as the VP for the statewide organization since 2014, while transitioning her Huntsville chapter responsibilities over to local rising members. In 2016, she supported the newly formed Decatur Chapter establish themselves and continues to mentor as needed. With her two young and busy sons, and husband in the beer business, and a day job in Defense Contracting, a tasty craft beer is a MUST for Carie!
Jay Bennette - Vice President
Engineer - Birmingham, AL
Jay Bennett is a Birmingham native, whose love for craft beer began while he was a student at Auburn University. Jay began to notice an increasing selection of craft beers available in the late 2000's due to the work by Free the Hops. Shortly after graduating with a bachelors degree in electrical engineering in 2009 and moving back to Birmingham, Jay was invited by his high school friend and then Free the Hops Treasurer, John Kirkpatrick, to attend his first Free the Hops meeting. Jay was eager to help Free the Hops in their mission to bring better beer to Alabama, and saw participation in Free the Hops as a way to contribute to the community in his hometown. Jay is also an avid homebrewer who began the hobby in late 2009 when his now wife, Ellen Bennett, bought him his first homebrewing kit. Jay and Ellen are both BJCP certified beer judges, and together they participate in local and regional homebrewing competitions.
Andy Gwaltney - Secretary
Telecoms - Birmingham, AL
After noticing the significantly broader selection of craft brews available in other states, Andy became dedicated to helping Alabamians gain access to the finest beers. He takes every chance to educate friends and family about the virtues of craft beer and local brewing. Since becoming involved with FTH Andy has expanded his knowledge of beers and state law, looking forward to the day that we can enjoy an even broader selection of great craft beer.
Dale Collum - Treasurer
IT Helpdesk Specialist/Accountant - Huntsville, AL
Board of Directors
Lee Winnige - Founder
Architect - Vestavia Hills, AL
Lee heard of FTH through a friend in late 2004. At the time there were only a few members; they really had to invent the wheel because none had done anything like this before. There was no membership base, no official title and no money. Since then he has seen FTH grow exponentially with a very enthusiastic membership and a strong sense of purpose that keeps the organization going.
Gabe Harris - Past Chapter Head - Vice President & President
Grants & Contractors Officer at UAB - Birmingham AL
As one of the first members of Free the Hops, Gabe wanted to help in any way that he could and quickly grew within the organization. He was the Birmingham chapter head from 2006-2008, Vice President from 2008-2010, President from 2010-2014 and has been on the Board of Directors since 2014. Gabe was integral in the formation and planning of Magic City Brewfest during his time as an officer and he has never missed a session and doesn't plan to ever miss one. He currently lives in Birmingham with his wife, Julie, their daughter, Cecilia, and their dog, Doji. He spends most of his time drinking beer across the southeast as the Distribution Coordinator for Fairhope Brewing Company of which he is also a founding partner.
Stuart Carter - Past President
Beer consultant - Birmingham, AL
Stuart first became interested in FTH soon after moving from Scotland to Alabama, after being invited to a meeting by a colleague. His passion for legalizing gourmet beer got him involved immediately, particularly in trying to change the bad image that beer holds in Alabama. Subsequently, in 2007, he began regular beer and food pairings to encourage a new way of thinking about beer. He took over as President from Danner in January 2008, and was succeeded by Gabe in 2011. Stuart started his own beer consultant business in 2012 to further raise the profile of Alabama's beers.
Jim Trolinger, Huntsville Chapter Founder
Online Retailer & Real Estate Management - Madison, AL
Jim has a Master's degree in electrical engineering, but got the internet entrepreneurial bug in the late 90s and started an online collectibles business; later he became a beer tourist, planning all of his travel around beer-related events. It was shortly after one of his very first trips to the Great American Beer Festival in Denver that Jim discovered Free the Hops and learned why he couldn't get the same great beer at home, and got involved in FTH in 2005 just in time to help start the Huntsville Chapter. Jim and his wife serve as ambassadors of FTH while traveling, telling beer lovers and members of the brewing industry throughout the country of the battle being fought to bring better beer to Alabama.
Don Milligan - Appointed Rep. of the Alabama Brewers Guild
Co-Owner, Yellowhammer Brewing - Huntsville, AL
Don is a Huntsville native and former computer network Engineer at Redstone Arsenal. He was an avid homebrewer and member of Free The Hops, and when Free The Hops finally got the ABV bill passed through the Alabama legislature, he and 3 other friends decided to start a commercial brewery. Yellowhammer has grown over the years, thanks in part to the active work from Free The Hops, and the Alabama Brewer’s Guild, that has allowed the beer culture to flourish in Alabama. Don is now a full time employee and co-owner of Yellowhammer Brewery, and he is a member of the board of directors at the Alabama Brewer’s Guild.
Owner, Wish You Were Beer - Huntsville, AL
Damon, as former the U.S. Military, he developed a love of craft beer while serving away from his native Huntsville. Upon returning he became an early member of the Huntsville Chapter, then later went on to work in all three tiers of the craft beer industry (craft beer bar, brewery, and distributor). Taking those valuable work experiences and the love of craft beer he shares with his wife and Co-Owner Laura; he translated that in the first Craft Beer and Brewing Supply shop in Huntsville, (Wish You Were Beer) Damon became a Certified Cicerone in 2014, along with one of his general managers. He is a strong proponent in the Beer community for Education and Homebrewing.
Danner Kline, Founder- Board Member Emeritus
Telecommunications Manager - Vestavia, AL
Danner grew up near Atlanta and moved to Birmingham in 1996 to attend Samford University. After graduating from Samford in 2000 with a BA in English, he entered the telecom field and also began trying different styles of beer. His growing appreciation for quality beer inspired him to found Free The Hops in late 2004 and he led the group as President until December 2007, when he stepped down to devote more time to his growing family (his second child was born that September). Danner has remained active on the board until deciding to retire his voting status on the board in 2016. He remains emeritus with the organization, with our profound gratitude for his vision, leadership, and service to our mission this far.