I was out and about back in early October – where, I shall not mention – when I overheard a customer asking for local beer. The employee mentioned Cigar City out of Tampa. When the guest responded that he was already familiar with their product the employee then suggested Grayton.
“Where’s that?” he asked.
“I’m not sure, but I know it’s in Florida.”
Wow. Not even any love for Pensacola Bay Brewery? They’re literally a few blocks away! It occurred to me that this was demonstrative of a bigger set of issues. 1: We get a lot of folks coming to town who don’t know from where their beer is coming and 2: There isn’t yet a brewing identity of our own.
Think about it. When the more-informed beer enthusiasts out there speak of beer, they refer to regions of the United States. The Pacific North-west, West-coast (read: California), Colorado, Mid-west, New England… Yet for some reason the Deep South doesn’t make anyone’s list. It can be reasoned that it’s due to tastes in the South having run with an easier-going yen for the well-known national brands for so long that until fairly recently craft brewing didn’t have a presence here. Are we not worthy?
The other thing I noticed was Pensacola hosts a lot of tourists. Between our dazzling powder-white beaches, the strong military presence, sporting events, University of West Florida and growing annual events like Pensacon, we receive an almost non-stop supply of visitors. Most folks aren’t aware of our geography. Heck, I’ve been here since 1988 and I’ve still yet to see much of what’s referred to as the “Forgotten Coast.” As we’re one of this city’s premier beer destinations, I felt it incumbent upon myself to demonstrate just how close these breweries are.
I created the “Drink Like A Local, Y’all!” map to not only display the proximity but to also illustrate how the small breweries are in the same region as the larger, more well-known and established entities. While I first discussed this in my column back in December, we’ve got a new addition to talk about.
What began as a Peruvian restaurant in Sarasota, Florida, Darwin Brewing was born out of those influences and moved to Bradenton in 2013. Up at our 9-Mile Road location they’ve got Darwin Pirata Pils that hews closely to the German style; pale gold, tall head, wet grain and grass on the nose, peppery Noble hop bite, clean finish. In the meantime, Hopjacks Downtown has their Summadayze IPA; an even-keel ale that packs enough flavor yet isn’t a hop overload for the less-experienced palate. Summadayze is balanced with Florida-friendly notes of orange, grapefruit, caramel malt and a hint of pineapple all hiding under a very frothy head of foam.
Both are fantastic, easy-drinking beers, but that Summadayze fits perfectly into the Southern identity. Welcome to the local’s map, y’all!