Birmingham is on track to become home to one of the state’s largest distilleries. Dread River Distilling Company, a 24,000-square-foot spirits manufacturer, tasting room, and event space, is to open this summer on the Southside.
Named after the mythical river that runs under Birmingham, Dread River will start distilling bourbon and rye whiskey, followed by vodka, gin, and rum, as well as small batches of wine and craft beer.
Customers will be allowed to purchase up to three bottles of spirits per day. Patrons who visit the tasting room will be able to enjoy Dread River’s libations neat or in a cocktail — the distillery will have 5,000 square foot bar, complete with a cocktail menu and light food. The distillery will also have a full service catering kitchen.
Dread River co-founder John Cubelic says the distillery is a project more than three years in the making, with a concept that evolved as the state’s brewing and distilling laws changed, allowing the venues to sell libations to customers for off-premise consumption.
Cubelic and co-founder Jeffrey Dugas initially intended for Dread River to join the rich culture of Southern whiskey distillers. But as Cubelic visited distilleries around the country, the pair decided to expand the idea of the distillery to include an event space. So, in order to grow the two business ventures at the same time, they changed the template of Dread River to include a wider offering of spirits, wine, and beer.
“We can’t have a wedding reception if we we don’t have beer and wine. So we decided to make (small) quantities,” said Cubelic. “We kind of wanted to run the gamut and provide our customers a wide range of products rather than focusing specifically on whiskey or any one thing. Plus, whiskey takes a while to age.”
The goal for Dread River’s founders is to fit the distillery into the changing fabric of downtown Birmingham. In 2018, the Birmingham Business Journal reported that Cubelic and Dugas started making plans for the distillery while Cubelic was living in New York doing freelance marketing, event production, and film work.
Cubelic, who grew up in Birmingham and is a former wide receiver for Auburn, watched from afar as breweries popped up downtown and the craft cocktail culture started to take hold in Birmingham.
Cubelic says he was particularly inspired by The Collins and its practice of tailor-made cocktails.
“The Collins Bar opened up and and I was living in New York at the time. And I said, you know, this isn’t (just) a cool bar for Birmingham. This is a cool bar (in general), and I would go to this place if it was in New York, which, to me, meant a lot,” said Cubelic.
After scouting locations, including the outskirts of the Birmingham, Cubelic and Dugas decided to open Dread River downtown to help further the city’s growth and development.
In a press release this month, Dread River co-founder and event coordinator Cyd Quick, who spent time working for Frank and Pardis Stitt, said the distillery is intended to be a marriage of the best Birmingham has to offer, fitting securely between the city’s fine dining options, breweries and craft cocktail bars.
“I felt like being able to bring something to this place was going to have a greater impact than I might have been able to have somewhere else,” said Cubelic. “We’re just the next step along in this renaissance that Birmingham is experiencing.”
Dread River Distilling Company will be located at 2400 7th Avenue South Birmingham, AL 35233.