Pensacola Bay Brewery Embraces Nautical Spirit of its Florida Home

Pensacola Brewery 7
Pensacola Brewery 7

All photos by Cynthia Bard. 

With military housing a few stone’s throws away, it’s no wonder Pensacola Bay Brewery’s founders chose a nautical theme. Pensacola, Fla., has been called by many “The Cradle of Naval Aviation” – it is home to the first Naval air station commissioned by the U.S. Navy, circa 1914. Why wouldn’t the local brewery fall in?

Find your way through historic downtown Pensacola to the small brewery, and you’ll be greeted by a taproom adorned with ropes, a ship’s wheel, life preservers and other nautical memorabilia, not to mention a cozy feel that welcomes regulars and out-of-town visitors equally.

Pensacola Bay Brewery was founded by Elliott Eckland and Mark Robertson, opening in October 2010. The tables in the taproom are made of barrels and supports look like ship masts. It doesn’t hurt that a display case shows off medals and other awards the beers have won.

“Focusing on local Pensacola landmarks and lore,” the brewery’s website states, “the Pensacola Bay Brewery mixes a little Florida history in each pint.”

Pensacola Brewery 6
Pensacola Brewery 6

Just look at the beer names: Black Treasure Porter, Blackbeard Stout, Treasure Grove Pale Ale, Riptide Amber – you get the picture. And the best thing is that it’s one of those breweries that serves the area while also making beer worthy of a wider audience. The bartender I spoke with when I was there with my girlfriend Cynthia on a foray from our Gulf Shores vacation said Pensacola Bay produced about 2,700 barrels last year and are looking at brewing 3,200 this year.

But the win is the environment along with the quality product. Some smaller breweries make good beer but it’s often beer that isn’t anything memorable or scalable. The beers I had while sitting at the bar at Pensacola Bay Brewery were top-notch – to the point that I took a growler of Treasure Grove back home to my hotel (and I had a fridge full of craft beer already). These guys know what they’re doing.

Here’s a rundown of what I tasted during my visit:

Riptide Amber: This is a classic copper-colored amber with some nice caramel notes on the nose and a bite more of a hop finish than most in its category. A great pick for an easy-drinker.

Pensacola Brewery 9
Pensacola Brewery 9

Imperial IPA: This deep red ale has a deep balance with an interesting biscuit character. It’s got a well balanced floral nose that gives way to a spicy finish that is a bit unexpected. The hops really sort of hold out until the end.

Treasure Grove Pale Ale: This was my favorite; the  nose on this one was beautiful, with a floral hop character from the first sniff. This light copper-colored beer is like a cross between a perfect APA and a session IPA, leaning in the hop direction without sacrificing malt balance. With a light citrus quality and a smooth, crisp finish, this is what the pale ale-loving palate craves.

Imperial Stout: This thick, black beer is a big one. At 9 percent ABV, it’s a coffee-lover’s dream, and the perfect beer if you fancy a Guinness on steroids. Good bite on the finish, where many stouts ignore the hops. Worth the investment for your palate.

Li’l Napoleon IPA: This one has a curiously fruity nose with a fiercely interesting hop blend dominated by Centennial. The finish is dry and sharp, and the body is big. If you love a good IPA, you’ll love this one.

Hell, they even have Zapp’s chips and a humidor full of cigars in the taproom at Pensacola Bay. If you’re in Pensacola, you have to visit this place. The taps were at least 10 or 12 beers strong when we were there, so there’s a fantastic selection, with the guest taps focusing on ciders.

Oh, and that growler I mentioned? Yeah, it has the built-in stopper, prompting Cynthia to call it “pirate-y.” Hey, you walk away from a brewery in a nautical town, and pirate-y is the best way to feel.