Dread River Distilling Co. (Birmingham)
The Makers: John Cubelic and Jeff Dugas
When John Cubelic and Jeff Dugas started dreaming about what would eventually become Dread River Distilling Co., they approached the prospectit from two completely different angles.
“As we talked, we became more fascinated with the distilling process,” Cubelic said. “For me, it was the white space opportunity that we were seeing in Birmingham: the new craft breweries, the new cocktail bars — there was a renaissance happening in Birmingham that was really interesting. That was the genesis of this.”
More than three years later, that dream is now a reality. Dread River Distilling Co. held its grand opening Saturday in what used to be a furniture warehouse on 7th Avenue South, serving customers unique spirits in a Tuscany-inspired event space unlike anything else seen in Birmingham.
“The concept we brought to light was much larger and more in-depth than what we anticipated,” Cubelic said. “We are simultaneously doing many different facets of several different businesses, but if we are able to thread all of those needles the right way, we’re going to create something that’s new, not only in Birmingham but in the Southeast and possibly across the country.”
Beverage Director Stephen Suitts said Dread River is the largest distillery in Alabama, featuring a menu that celebrates Alabama’s history.
“The first menu has highlighted some of the more influential women from this state,” Suitts said. “Fran McKee, Rosa Parks, Fannie Motley — we wanted to create dialog and give our customers something to talk about.”
The whiskey is brewed thanks to Carlton White, who brought his still to Dread River from Ashville, North Carolina.
“Being able to create those spirits and seeing everyone enjoying them is really satisfying,” White said.
Headbrewer Michelle Piechowicz said rum and beer will be added to the menu soon, partly because permits require them to make what they serve.
“We wanted to be a distiller first and foremost, but as we started doing permits, we realized we needed to make beer on-site if we wanted to sell it in the front space,” Piechowicz said. “It’s just a small, three-barrel system, but this allows us to crank out a lot of seasonals.”
So how did Cubelic and Dugas come up with the name “Dread River?”
“The Dread River name comes from a legend of a river that flows underneath Birmingham,” Cubelic said. “We are still unsure of the elements of truth, but it sparked our imagination. It wasn’t really important if there was a river down there or not, it was the attitude and mentality that made us start this business. We hope to inspire people. We took a risk here. It’s who we are.”
Dread River Distilling Co.
The product: Distiller’s Select Straight Whiskey, gin, vodka, rum, rye, beer, wine and cider
Take home: Whiskey, gin, rum or vodka (prices vary)