For one of America’s oldest settlements, Pensacola sure seems to take its sweet time to grow up. Perhaps it’s the laid-back lifestyle here along the powder white beaches. Maybe it’s the drowsy drone of insects in the sultry, humid air that inhibits quick action. Whatever the reason, we’re just in no big rush to equip ourselves with the technological advancements and everyday conveniences of “modern society.”
Well, our growth spurt is certainly coming on strong now. Industrial parks are bringing in out of town companies, the Maritime Park is moving forward (political bru-haha aside) and, thanks to people like Mark Robertson and Elliot Ecklend, Pensacola has its first bonafide brewery since the 60s.
And a beautiful facility it is; our nautical history reflected in the rigging ropes, charts of the waterways and ship’s wheel serving as décor. Glass and steel doors divide the tasting room from the production floor yet keep the fermenter tanks, lauter tun and whirlpool kettle in full view. Recycled Jack Daniels barrels serve as tables for guests. Please keep in mind that this is a production facility. One doesn’t go there to get sauced… sample and taste is the name of the game. Instead, take home a 32oz flip-top bottle or a gallon growler of any of the, currently, six beers available.
I was there with my friend Doug a few weeks back when Mark was starting up the Lil’ Napoleon IPA. The air hung heavy with the smell of Grapenuts cereal. About twenty minutes after he added the first batch of hops the scent in the brewery shifted to pine resin and grapefruit orchard. As I was there to witness its creation, I couldn’t wait to try the final product.
This IPA is caramel in color with a thick head of foam that leaves sticky sheets of lacing down the sides of the glass. Toffee scents wrap around pineapple and tangerine with a hint of that coffee-and-scone air one finds in a java house. Even more of that perfect blend of hops and grains is expressed in the flavors. Perhaps it’s just me, but I found notes of pine and tangy white grapefruit being balanced out by an almost peanut brittle sweetness. Crisp but very smooth with just the right amount of bitterness at the finish.
The local-themed beverages Pensacola Bay Brewery makes keeps one foot in our past with a weather eye on the future’s horizon. We have something to be very proud of here.