Team: Rocket City Trash Pandas
Affiliate: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Double A)
Ballpark Basics: The team and the ballpark are out of this world!
Toyota Field, originally slated for a 2020 opening had its first season delayed due to COVID. Located 10 miles outside of downtown Huntsville in the Town Madison community, all parts of the ballpark were open for business but on our visit much of the rest of the development was still, well… in development. Eventually Town Madison will be a mix of retail, office space, apartments and townhouses. Even in a mixed used setting there is still a sea of asphalt surrounding Toyota Field with paid parking for $10 (you can save money by prepaying). However we were able to park along the streets in the upcoming retail shops area with no problem. Not sure how they will handle this as the neighborhood grows.
The term Rocket City comes from Huntsville being the home to the U.S Space & Rocket Center (you actually pass it on your way to Toyota Field from downtown Huntsville) and the Trash Pandas came as a result of a Name the Team contest (ThunderSharks and Moon Possums being the runner ups). The ballpark embraces the team moniker with the team store being named The Junkyard and concession stands named the Dumpster Dive, Gravity Grille, and The Fueling Station.
As we walked up to Toyota Field the first thing we noticed was the music. You could clearly hear the ballpark music and announcements a several hundred yards outside of the park. Since most of the retail and housing was still vacant during our visit there was not much external noise to help break up the noise coming from the ballpark. Once inside the music at times was intense. It felt more like a club than a ballgame (and yes, we know how old this makes us sound).
Like most new ballparks Toyota Field has a 360 degree wraparound concourse with lots of areas for groups to gather, many seating options and wide open spaces, but it’s worth nothing there are suites along the main concourse and this can obstruct your view of the game as you walk around the park. On top of the seating bowl there are picnic tables in each outfield corner, several rows of bar seating line the outfield wall with a shelf to hold your food or drinks and of course the requisite berm seating in the right field corner. The two floors of suites also live up to new ballpark standards with inside and patio options for each.
Best Spot for Beer: Each concession stand had at least one local option and many times a couple to choose from. For the 2022 Season the Trash Pandas have added a bar in the center field concourse that features craft beers and signature Trash Pandas cocktails.
Toyota Field is intended to anchor the Town Madison development and it will be interesting to see how the area develops over the next few years. On our trip we were not able to grab dinner or a drink at a local restaurant before heading to the game because nothing had opened yet, hopefully on our next visit we will be able to take advantage of all of the community intends to offer.
Straight to Ale and Yellowhammer at Campus No. 805
Rating: (Has to be a) Double
Brew Basics: Twice as nice/something for everyone/double the fun/more for your money (or at least your time).
Campus No. 805 first opened to students in 1951, first as an extension of the University of Alabama, then later as a county high school, and finally existing as a middle school before closing doors in 2009. Today, the students that wander these halls aren’t looking for math class or science lab but food, libations and fun. It’s like permanent recess. Home to around 20 businesses of varying style and purpose, there’s something for everyone here. You can find street tacos and high end food, get your hair done, or get a tattoo, and of course there’s live music, bars and if you open the right locker in the hallway, you’ll even find a speakeasy.
There are several establishments with beer on hand, but two of them happen to actually be breweries. So who were we to choose for you? We went to both, and as you’ll see below, they were very different. Read on to learn more, and see which one (or two) might be best for you.
Stop 1: Straight To Ale
This was an interesting place to visit during Covid. In a time when the restaurant industry is facing significant shortages, Straight to Ale (which also houses Ale’s Kitchen and a game lounge) However, the staff was less than helpful. There were 4 servers and 2 bartenders, and we weren’t greeted, so we took a seat at one of the bar tops, which were marked clean and spaced for pandemic considerations. We sat for a few minutes, and lots of servers were just clustered around in a corner but no one came over. An area marked as a walk up bar appeared to be where we were expected to order, but there were signs asking you not to because the servers were relying on tips. We decided to move on. Getting up to explore we found an outdoor seating area connected by an open area through the brew works that you were allowed to walk through.
In all three areas, Straight to Ale is very on theme, but it almost gives off a “high schooler looking for shock value” vibe. Lots of references to 666 and various signs that say things like “Driving the Bus Straight to Ale” or “The Devil made me brew it”. There were a few tvs inside and a big screen outside, and their offerings extended to lots of seltzers, mixed drinks, wines and Frozés. It clearly becomes popular late night as they start serving out of plastic cups fairly early in the afternoon.
The patio we ended up on was dog friendly (although one of the dogs that was out there with us wasn’t), and had another bar with a smaller complement of the same beers that had been inside. The bartender out here was busier, but also more personable. Straight to Ale won’t always let you order a flight if they’re very busy but had no problem pouring us one, which for the record came with four beers and remained on theme with devil tails around each cup ring on the flight board.
Monkeynaught IPA (7.25% ABV/ 75 IBU) Strong gold color with visible carbonation and lots of white head. The sip is varied, first light, then tropical and finally bitter. It smells dry and hoppy and is decently complex. The bitterness becomes more pronounced as the beer warms.
Rye’t of Passage 5% ABV Very similar gold color to the Monkeynaught but with slightly less lacing. There’s a punch of rye to start and a dry and earthy middle but ends thin. Similarly the bouquet is slightly earthy with barley tones.
Stache Strong This was our favorite of the bunch. Lighter yellow and with less carbonation than the previous beers. Both the palate and the aroma initially present as tropical and grapefruit forward but notes of lemongrass become more pronounced in both as you drink. Stache Strong is a collaboration with a non-profit of the same name which raises money for brain cancer research.
NoAL NoAL 2019 ~10% ABV An aged Belgian dark Christmas ale. It’s cranberry spiced with a dark coffee color and smells boozy. The taste is very smooth with low carbonation and a liquory malted front. Ends with a cranberry tang.
Stop 2: Yellowhammer Brewing
This was on the other side of the 805 Green, and a totally different vibe, darker but warmer. A large outside porch is also dog friendly and made up of wood tables and antiqued aluminum high top chairs. They have a warm wood interior and a red accent wall with a sign proclaiming “some of the best pizza in town”, and while we didn’t try any the visible red clay ovens boded well.
There is a big bar inside which is also stocked with Yellowhammer Rum. They were offering mixed six to go from $8-$24, and while we were there they were in the middle of a “we brewed too much” fire sale. Again, we went the flight route and ended up being glad we did. Yellowhammer had a pretty long list of beers on tap, and it gave us a chance to run the gamut. There was nothing subtle about any of these beers, and as you can see by the flight, if you’d been served these without being told what they were, you might not believe they were beer.
Bomb Pop Gose 5% The flavors in this Bomb Pop were blue-raspberry and lime. The beer itself was actually teal blue and smelled like Mike n’ Ikes. The flavor was about what you’d expect by this point – blue Sno Cone. Overall it was lots of sugar, almost no sour with the exception of a slightly tangy finish. A taster on this is the way to go, as it felt like too much Bomb Pop would give you a stomachache.
T-Minus Kolsch 5.5% Yellowhammer’s description of this one included the line “inspired by Tang”. Unlike the previous, the beer was much more of a typical yellow lemonade color, with strong clarity. The flavor starts smooth and lighter but quickly hits with a punch of orange. Ends up tasting like Fun Dip or sugary Sweet Tarts. Very orange.
Hot Pants 7.3% This was the lactose infused option we went for, billed as a strawberry smoothie IPA. Another unusually colored beer, this time sort of an opaque passion fruit vibe. No lacing and the bouquet was strawberry milk. The flavor was full strawberry but remained tart instead of sweet at first but which became sweeter and sweeter as it warmed up. Tangy, long lasting finish.
Solid Sounds IPA 6.6% This was an NEIPA option, more yellow, and less clear than the kolsch. The aroma was very tropical, with lots of pineapple notes and florals. The hops weren’t blended or mute like some New England’s we’ve tried, and this is reflected in a palate where the initial fruits give way to hops, and the beer finishes hop forward.
2620 Clinton Avenue West
Huntsville, Alabama 35805