2017-07-01 / Features

MASTERING the art of the brew

Caudle by Glenda

“We’re just trying to make the best beer we can,” says Mark Robertson, brewmaster and co-founder of Pensacola Bay Brewery at 225 East Zaragoza St. in downtown Pensacola. “We take a lot of pride in what we do and we’ve got a good, dedicated crew.”

That pride is on full display in the tap room, where visitors can choose from 21 beers produced on site. More than 25 brews are created at the brewery, which opened in November 2010. Robertson says the business typically keeps 21 or 22 in the repertoire for customers to sample and savor either in the intimate indoors atmosphere that will accommodate about 40, or outdoors under the fancooled and awning-shaded patio that will handle 40 more.

Customers who want to purchase growlers and return them for refills make up a faithful part of the brewery’s clientele, with 32-ounce and 64-ounce bottles available. Pensacola Bay Brewery will even fill a growler originally purchased elsewhere, and will do it at a 30 percent savings on Mondays.

“People bring in coolers and fill them up,” Robertson says. The only stipulation is that such customers must clean their containers before expecting a refill. The brewery cannot offer a customer bottle cleaning service on site, and bottles that have not been rinsed as soon as they are empty, washed and allowed to drain will give off a vinegar-like odor that the brewmaster knows will affect the taste of anything later put in the bottle, besides allowing an unpleasant aroma to permeate the mellow atmosphere of his business.

Pensacola Bay Brewery also sells its beer at a variety of local liquor stores, although it has resisted efforts to get on to shelves at major chain retailers because such establishments want to carry product in all their locations and Robertson is simply not in the market to produce on such a scale.

He also has reciprocal arrangements with some other Florida brewers, especially in the Panhandle, so fans can find the quality they have come to respect at Pensacola Bay Brewery in several other locales throughout the area.

Describing his contribution to the business as that of an experienced brewmaster, Robertson says his three full-time brewery employees, full-time tap room manager and three part-time servers are fully invested in meeting expectations with the product they produce and put in front of their customers.

Riptide Amber is the label they fill requests for most often. The brewmaster describes it as a “very approachable beer. It’s kind of a middle of the road entry level beer that doesn’t bite you in the face with hops and doesn’t have a really high alcohol content.”

Little Napoleon is the number two seller.

Robertson says he has tweaked that recipe over time and added hops, bringing the quantity up to 53 pounds of hops in the final product. The impetus to his experimentation was the desire to become a player in the India Pale Ale market – one of the most popular craft brews in the country, with lots of flavor and a high alcohol content.

He is happy supplying quality local beers for appreciative fans both local and attracted from afar. Very happy. He likes the fact that he can offer those who want to drop by early in the afternoon and evening not only excellent beer choices, but also, on Sunday afternoon from around 2-6, a chance to hear great local musicians. He invites the music in every other Sunday, and July 2 will be another opportunity.

Business hours are noon-9 p.m. from Monday through Thursday, noon-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon-8 p.m. Sundays.

Robertson offers small vineyard wines for non-beer drinkers – two darks and four lights at this time of year – and keeps chips on hand for snackers, but he also encouragers his customers to bring along their own hors d’oeuvres, pick-up choices or full dinners or to order in from a dining establishment with delivery services.

Besides the Monday night boon for growler customers, Pensacola Bay Brewery also has $3 pint night on Tuesdays after 4 p.m., Firkin Friday and Small Batch Sunday.

Customers can opt for four 4-ounce sampler opportunities at any time and can look forward to being in the crowd that gets to perform the first customer taste tests on new brews.

So bring a friend, bring a snack, bring questions about the brewing business, bring a foot that taps to good music when you stop by Pensacola Bay Brewery. But, most of all, bring a thirst for some top-quality beer.

You won’t be disappointed. And neither will Robertson.

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