When I was heading over to Alabama for Christmas, I had no intention of visiting any breweries because there were none as far as I could tell. All of Alabama's micro breweries are in the north and east of the state which is hours away from Foley way down in the south. There is a big hole in the market. I reckon gulf shores could do with a beachside brewpub.
Anyway Pensacola (Florida) is not too far away from Foley, less than an hour drive. We were doing a run of beachside bars my mother in law likes when we arrived at Peg Leg Pete's which is a pretty awesome place. It's busy in the winter and must be absolutely packed in the summer. It was there that I discovered Pensacola Bay Brewery existed. I was certain that it was not there 4 years ago and sure enough, it opened in 2010. Technically it was open the last time I was in Alabama but I was only there for 5 or 6 nights over Christmas that time so not enough time to go to Pensacola.
So my first Pensacola Bay beer was Sawgrass which is a seasonal wheat beer. Slightly on the bitter side for a wheat beer but it's a typical American style wheat beer.
Two days later, I was back in Pensacola to visit the brewery. It was a Friday and I made sure to be there before 3pm for the free brewery tour. The building is in the sort of historic district of Pensacola, near the waterfront.
I immediately ordered a flight of almost all the beers. Here are some quick notes, I was with family so I did not get my whole geek on.
Deluna Kolsch - nice, simple and refreshing. Quite a malty sweet caramel backbone.
sawgrass - already mentioned.
Riptide - amber nice and simple.
Esb - bitter and dry. Lovely stuff. Kegged. (they don't do cask but do the odd disposable firkin).
Banyan - brown ale. Light with some chocolate and slight coffee. Like a weak porter.
Porter - nice porter with liquorice and toffee, light coffee. Quite sweet. Very nice. Vanilla finish.
Blackbeard stout. Nitro. Similar to porter but more coffee and burnt grains. Not bad.
Lil napoleon IPA very nice IPA. Fresh hop flavour. Biter up front with orange and grapefruit. Love it and this is what I went with for my pint. I was tempted by the ESB.
Pumpkin vanilla - was not on the flight. It's a porter and is a bit over the top on vanilla. It overpowers whatever porter qualities are underneath and even the pumpkin side of things.
I'm including the beer menu below as there are descriptions of the beers which might be useful to someone, that said they are also available on the brewery website.
The brewkit itself is tiny, it reminded me of the one trouble brewing use, in fact the whole brewery seemed about the same size as Trouble. Pensacola recently got a few larger fermenters and they have to run through two brews to fill them. I often wonder can fermenting two different batches in one tank lead to inconsistencies? Certainly on a small scale it is easy to get inconsistencies on a batch by batch basis.
After the brewery, we headed to HopJacks, which is a few blocks away on Palafox street, though there is another one on the edge of town. The reason I wanted to come here was twofold. Firstly, we had not had lunch yet and it was after 3. Secondly, they have over 110 taps which is impressive for such a small city, more so that they have another branch and while it has less taps, it's still an impressive 85.
Unfortunately we really only had time for one beer. This is the sort of place I would love to spend a whole day though. It should be noted that not all of the taps are craft beer. A number of them are US domestic macros and then foreign macro beers like Guinness or Newcastle brown. Even Smithwicks made the line-up. They did have most of the Pensacola beers on tap so if you don't have time to go to the brewery, you can just come here. There is a massive bottle selection too. One of the nicest things is that they will give you a free sample of every beer on tap. There is no limit either and the barmaid was very enthusiastic about adding more beers. She made up a little tray and wrote down what each beer was. She even tried to expand the horizons of my mother in law. She does not like "funny beer" and Blue Moon or similar is about as far from light lagers as she strays. The barmaid did try and get her to try Smithwicks but even that was too much for her. This inevitably led to the "Oh, my son in law is Irish" comment. I think the barmaid asked me what I think of Smithwicks then, I said "I don't".
We left just as the Friday evening after work crowd was starting to come in. I will have to try and get back there.