Huntsville Chapter

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The Rocket City is made of a melting pot culture caused by the industry in the area. This culture has helped create an extensive craft beer commerce within the Madison County area with multiple breweries, bottle shops, and tap rooms throughout. This has become the perfect place for the Huntsville Chapter to spread its wings and become one of Free the Hops largest and most active chapters. The Huntsville Chapter holds chapter meetings at least every two months, with many social calls in between. The Chapter is also responsible for events such as the Rocket City Brew Fest, the FTH members Mardi Gras Beer Ball, and the Redstone Arsenal Oktoberfest Biergarden, as well as supporting many other smaller events throughout the year. So come join us in supporting the growth of craft beer in the Rocket City and surrounding area.


Rich Partain

Rich Partain - Chapter Head

Rich first fell in love with craft beer as a college student in Birmingham, AL, in the mid-1990s, during the first influx of exotic barley-based beverages to the state. The ABV limit had just been raised to 6%, and the first brewpub act allowed venues such as The Mill and Magic City Brewery to open. The loosening of restrictions brought craft-centric pubs such as Breckenridge Brewing and Taco Mac to Five Points, and homegrown beer from Birmingham Brewing and Southside Cellars joined the likes of Rogue and Saranac on beer menus that had previously been dominated by American light adjunct lagers. It was an exciting and adventurous time.

Years later, in 2004, his thirst for craft having grown exponentially through travel and his continued exposure to new, exciting beers still not available in his home state, Rich was inspired by Georgians For World Class Beer and their successful bid to change their state’s ABV law. He was in the planning stages of creating a beer lobbying group in Alabama when he stumbled upon Free The Hops and decided not to waste time reinventing the wheel. (He freely admits theirs was a much catchier name than the one he had chosen and emblazoned on his own fledgling website, which shall evermore remain lost to the sands of time.) He promptly joined the effort to overhaul Alabama’s antiquated beer laws, creating marketing materials and artwork for events, co-authoring a legislative guide to the beer movement, and organizing and running a FTH Chapter in Cullman for several years. He helped plan and execute the first two Magic City Brewfests, “green-shirting” the first and “blue-shirting” the second, and has helped organize and “blue-shirt” nine of the 10 Rocket City Brewfests thusfar as well as Magic City Brewfest 2017 and countless other FTH events and fundraisers.

Rich spent five years in the craft beer industry as a sales representative and sales manager for Straight To Ale Brewing and then Yellowhammer Brewing, selling and marketing beer and planning, hosting and working hundreds of beer events throughout five states in the southeastern U.S. He then hopped tiers to help build and manage Das Stahl Bierhaus, a bottleshop and taproom in south Huntsville for several years. During his time in the industry, he also contributed articles on craft breweries and the craft movement to Tennessee Craft Beer magazine and other publications. He has since returned to the corporate world and is back to enjoying craft beer on a strictly avocational basis.

A Certified Cicerone®, Rich is an avid beer scholar as well as advocate and, along with his wife, FTH President Carie Partain, he helped to organize and teach the first college level courses on craft beer in North Alabama, specializing in the areas of beer history, beer flavor and sensory evaluation and beer/food pairing. He has worked with noteworthy chefs and restaurateurs throughout the southeast to overhaul their craft beer programs, implement staff training and facilitate Cicerone® Certified Beer Server certification, and plan and host beer dinners.

When not teaching and preaching the craft beer gospel, he enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, and being a giant nerd and consumer of comics, books, and movies. And also tacos.

Huntsville Events

Rocket City Brew Fest - 2018

Huntsville Events Calendar


Free The Hops I Alabamians for Specialty Beer is a grassroots non-profit consumer advocacy organization whose successful lobbying efforts to reform hostile laws have helped make Alabama one of the most vibrant and welcoming beer markets in the USA. As a craft beer consumer advocacy organization, our mission is to work within our communities to educate the public, support the industry at large, and remain vigilant watch dogs on legislative processes.