Raise your hand if you know anything about Pensacola’s rich aviation history. What, only some of you? Well, we’re going to talk about it today.
If all you truly know of Naval Air Station comes from dancing with their cadets at Seville Quarter or from re-runs of Pensacola: Wings of Gold, you’re missing out on a lot. It goes deeper than trawling a half-mile per hour towards Casino Beach to find no parking available for the next Blue Angels air show.
Yes, there’s an historic lighthouse out there; possibly occupied by the spirit of the wife who murdered her husband, the caretaker. That lighthouse was the first to ever be built on any of Florida’s coasts.
Construction on the Navy Yard began in 1826 after President John Quincy Adams sanctioned southern Escambia County as a prime location for the project. The fort was later destroyed by Confederate troops in a scorched-earth policy after New Orleans fell to the Union in the Civil War. It was eventually re-built, and then a number of its buildings were destroyed again in the hurricane of 1906.
When World War I broke out, the only facility training combat aviators was right here in Pensacola. Recruitment slowed down again after the war. Even then, only officers with two-plus years at sea were accepted to the flight school. Finally, a flight cadet program was introduced in 1935 and attendance – sorry for the pun – took off again, and none too soon.
WWII saw NAS as the main training grounds for much-needed fighter and bomber pilots. The Korean War came far too quickly upon the heels of WWII and the cadets began the difficult switch over from propeller-driven planes to jet engines. They even had to lengthen the runway for the new jets.
Today, NAS is home to Navy, Marine and the Coast Guard along with pilots from select NATO and other allied countries. Fly-boys and Pensacola go hand in hand.
The appeal of creative packaging isn’t lost on most breweries. With a name like Aviator Brewing, their product should – again, no pun intended – fly off the shelves around here. But what about what’s inside the colorfully-illustrated cans of beer?
Aviator got its start in an actual airplane hangar. Since going semi-pro in 2008, kit plane pilot Mark Doble now has a brewery/tasting room, a smokehouse restaurant and a tap room across the street from that.
Keeping the whole Pensacola vibe going, today I’m drinking Aviator Mad Beach Wheat. Hazy gold, the head pours rocky like un-baked meringue. Scents are juicy with orange blossom water, citrus rind, some fresh-squeezed orange juice and a finish of dusty, earthy hops. Very light-bodied with a soft finish, Mad Beach drinks clean with flavors of orange cake, leafy hops, pie crust and lemon rind.
Hoist an Aviator in honor of 188 years of Pensacola NAS history!