What Can I Get You, Meredith?
Secrets behind the ghost who haunts Avondale Brewing Co.
October is a month with a reputation for otherworldly hype and tall tales of the ethereal. I’m looking at you, Freddy and Jason. But, for the staff of Avondale Brewing Co. (ABC), October is no different from any other month, because, for the past three years, they’ve been bonding with a ghost.
At ABC, the brews are aptly named for the local folklore of historic Avondale, Alabama. The ABC building itself hosts a dynamic history, particularly in the 1930s, when it housed a brothel on its top floor. Legend has it that a former lady of the brothel—Meredith—has made herself known to the current occupants and is believed to pull pranks on the brewing staff and patrons on occasion.
In the spirit of the Halloween season, ABC’s Assistant Brewmaster Eric Baumann answered our questions to share in the mystery of Meredith and the mischievousness she’s alleged to cause.
1. Tell me about your first encounter with Meredith.
EB: I believe everyone has had some sort of strange experience with Meredith. In the beginning, the building was under construction and we thought some of the happenings could be chalked up to the sounds and hazards of a job site. But, at times, the place was empty, and we could still hear footsteps and whistling upstairs (the old brothel). That’s when we decided that there might be some spirits at work during the red light hours. Late one night, before ABC was officially opened for business, two of us were working, cleaning old kegs. At the time, we had to hand clean the interior of the kegs with brushes, so it made for long hours and even longer days. It was close to midnight when we decided to call it a night and started to close up shop. We made small talk about how quiet and still the brewery was at night. We joked about the late hour, and mentioned that it might be easier just to spend the night at work. Almost immediately, a stack of empty 100-pound cylinder tanks came crashing down near the garage door, as though they were pushed over. If you know anything about these tanks, they aren’t light and would require some considerable force knock to the ground. We each shared a quick look of, “What the hell?” As we began lifting the tanks to stand them back up, we joked that someone definitely did not want us spending the night. One of us said, "Must have been a ghost!”—which is when the sink faucet inexplicably turned on. I turned it off and we decided immediately that it was probably a good idea to leave.
2. What calls Meredith to visit ABC?
EB: Meredith doesn’t visit us—we’re the ones making the visit. Meredith was here long before us and will remain long after we’re gone. I’m sure she’s not alone, though. So many souls have passed through this location. With such a crazy, rich history, it’s no surprise that a few still hang around. I mean, who wouldn't want to spend their afterlife in a brewery? (We’re with you there, Mer.)
3. Where does Meredith spend most of her time?
EB: She really only inhabits the front original building and mostly upstairs where the brothel once was. But, she does like to venture downstairs to cause mischief. She comes and goes as she pleases, but she mostly shows up when all is calm and quiet—I think she likes to create a commotion.
She loves messing with us—moving things into different spots: tools, cups, etc. We have actually caught security camera footage during broad daylight of glasses being pulled and dropped from the shelves. One piece of footage shows her trying to grab a glass off a rack, but she drops it and it lands on its base on the floor.
4. What brought Meredith to her untimely demise?
EB: Our best guess is a business transaction with a customer gone awry. She put up a fuss when didn't get what she was owed for her services, so the customer thought it prudent to make her a permanent fixture of Avondale. Now, she’s a part of the legends that surround Avondale history. The events from that time have shaped the neighborhood indefinitely. Every beer we make is dedicated to our local history, and every pint is a new story to be made. It's also good fun to joke around about the story over a few beers, but don't let Meredith hear you!
5. Where did Meredith get her name?
EB: We named Meredith after an ABC brew, the Meredith Marzen. Although, being a classy lady of the night, I'm sure she would have enjoyed a Miss Fancy Tripel, due to the higher ABV alone. (wink)
The Marzen style actually started in Bavaria around the early 16th century when an ordinance declared that beer may only be brewed between September 29 and April 23. Marzen (German for March beer) was brewed in March with a specialized recipe that allowed the brew to last throughout the off months. Its rich and clean flavors contain a full body with huge malty notes. It has a bright hue of amber and caramel with light, toasty aroma.
What stands out about our Marzen is that it is our only lager, just like Meredith is our only ghost. And while we may not know Meredith’s full story, we know she’s not going anywhere anytime soon—she’s definitely here now, serving up her own unique brand of trouble. If you have a Meredith encounter to share, contact us on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #MeredithMarzen.
ABC in October
Stop by ABC this month to taste the newly released Pumpkin Ale Cold Blooded and many other single small batch releases. On October 31, ABC will host “Holla-ween,” a concert featuring everyone’s favorite 90s thuggish ruggish fantasy band, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony (think “Thuggish Ruggish Bone,” “1st of tha Month,” “Look Into My Eyes,” and “Tha Crossroads” ), with special guests C1ub AM. Tickets are $27 and the show starts at 8 p.m.
Kathy Wells is a freelance writer and editor who has never met a pizza she didn't like. In her spare time, she enjoys losing valuable hours basking in patio weather, singing her life as a musical, and fine-tuning her relationship with her couch—it's complicated.