“Don’t give up on your dream,” says Jason Wilson, the founder of Back Forty Beer Company in Gadsden.
Wilson found his passion and wasn’t afraid to follow it, even if he experienced failure on the road to success. When he established Back Forty Beer Company in 2009, it was one of only two craft breweries in the state. Now, ten years later, there are over 50 licensed operations in Alabama, and another half a dozen in the making. Jason Wilson will share the Back Forty Beer story at the Pell City Library on Wednesday, September 18th at noon.
After graduating from Auburn University, the Gadsden native began his career as a supply chain analyst for the Georgia-Pacific Paper Company. When visiting his brother in Crested Butte, Colorado, on a previous occasion, the two had visited a craft brewery there, and Jason had been enthralled by the craftsmanship and authenticity of the industry. The passion began to manifest itself in Wilson, leading him to visit breweries around the country in the process.
When making a presentation for Georgia-Pacific, he made numerous references to the breweries when describing the design for a new Georgia-Pacific facility. The CEO, who attended the meeting, encouraged him afterwards to pursue his passion.
In 2008, when a financial crisis hit, he decided that he needed a career change, and began to pursue his dream of starting a craft brewery. Thus began the hard, ground-breaking work that helped to build a new industry in the state. He asked questions, developed a concept, raised money from family and friends, and found a brewery in Mississippi that would let him make his beer there until he could get his own place.
He started Back Forty Beer Company in Gadsden in 2009. It was one of the first craft breweries in Alabama, employing 29 workers, many of them Auburn graduates.
Wilson, along with other brewers have encountered hurdles, such as stereotypes about alcohol in Alabama, and the necessity of lobbying for changes in legislation to positively change the dynamics for the brewing industry. The industry now employs hundreds of Alabamians, and has helped to revitalize some rural communities.
Back Forty Beer has experienced much success. At the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Wilson’s first beer brand won a silver medal, becoming the first beer from Alabama to win there.
The 27,000 square foot facility in Gadsden sells to 37 Budweiser wholesalers in seven states and exports to China, Mexico, Canada, Malaysia, and Holland. “Food and Wine Magazine” said Back Forty Beer makes one of the best beers in America. “Men’s Journal” called it “one of the best Breweries in America.” It was named as one of the top 100 small businesses in the country by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Jason Wilson will acknowledge that this success has come about through hard work, and a willingness to keep trying.
Hear his fascinating story at the Pell City Library on Wednesday, September 18 at noon as part of the library’s ongoing Wild and Wonderful Wednesday series. The event is free and light refreshments will be served afterwards.