2018-03-01 / Features

Brewed to perfection: Crafters talk beer

by Nathan Cobb

Within the beachy district of the Emerald Coast lie many tourist attracting businesses. From beautiful beaches to lively downtown events, there’s never a shortage of activities. Included in the possibilities is a variety of breweries available for craft beer fanatics or anyone looking to “mix up” their taste buds.

Three of the biggest names in the Pensacola brewery game are these: Gulf Coast Brewery, Pensacola Bay Brewery and Perfect Plain Brewing Company. Each provides a different vibe for visitors, while maintaining the same goal of creating a welcoming atmosphere.

Pensacola Bay Brewery, for example, has 21 beers on tap, with two guest taps of cider for customers allergic to hops. Co-owner Mark Robertson says each microbrewery relies on a larger distributor who provides the necessary ingredients for brewing.

For the most part, breweries try to be as environmentally friendly as possible, but there is only so much they can do. A majority of the recycling responsibility falls on customers who have a duty to properly dispose of their bottles and other wastes. In addition, breweries set up irrigation lines to recycle as much water as possible, and also donate their spent grain to local farmers for use as cattle feed.

“A lot of the companies that supply us, like out malt suppliers and our hops suppliers, they’re larger-scale enterprises and they do a lot of ‘green’ stuff themselves,” says Robertson. “So we’re part of that green chain.”

Working in a brewery requires a lot of hands-on work. CEO and co-founder of Perfect Plain Brewing Co. D.C. Reeves says that his experiences have been better than he expected and credits a lot of Perfect Plain’s success to a team passionate about their customers’ experiences.

However, Gulf Coast Brewery manager Carrie Young has a different take. “It was for me,” she says when questioned about whether the brewing industry is different than she expected. “The pay is different when you do bartenders and tipped employees, and you know, just the drinking all the time and sampling the beer, ’cause obviously the brewers, when they make it, have to try it through the whole process.”

Just as crucial as advertising is a reliable team of employees, and Reeves says Reed Odeneal, his director of brewing operations, spent time perfecting his craft in Asheville, N.C., which he considers as one of the headquarters for American craft beer. Reeves says this allows his brewery to “push the creative envelope” and deliver exceptional products to the local market.

“One cool thing about our organization is our tie to Pensacola,” says Reeves. “Our entire management team is from the Panhandle, but they bring experiences from other places. We also source local ingredients for our beers each and every time it’s possible. That’s vital to us.”

When it comes to calling attention to their product, sometimes it can be hard for breweries to promote past their regulars, and advertise to the general public. For the most part, however, they rely a lot on showcasing their products in local restaurants to bring in business. Robertson says that even though craft beer has committed enthusiasts, their Riptide Amber is what they make the most of. “People just like it,” he says, “It’s not a super crafty beer, it’s just a beer with a following and that gets our name out there.”

Along with 23 beers on tap, Gulf Coast Brewery also has a wine lounge, cigar lounge and cigar shop. Even if customers don’t usually drink, the brewery’s authentic vibe, paired with in an in-store cigar shop, makes the cigar lounge a separate destination within the brewery.

“We’re working on getting this side of the town to be the new Palafox,” joked Young when mentioning that sometimes people view Gulf Coast Brewery more as a business and less as a place to go out and socialize. She says that the goal of the brewery’s wine lounge and full wine selection is to “give women an opportunity to feel like this is a place where they can hang out and have a glass of wine and not be intimidated. If you don’t like beer, it’s not personal, so we do have a full wine selection.”

Though the different breweries bring competition to each other, Gulf Coast Brewery, Pensacola Bay Brewery and Perfect Plain Brewing Co. each hope to provide something different and give their customers a unique experience, without comparing or distracting from the other local stops. “We made it a point not to compare ourselves to other breweries,” says Reeves. “Our mission is simple: To create incredible experiences that make our beer, our brewery and our hometown, Pensacola, unforgettable.”

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