Beer crafters show off their brews

This article originally ran in Navarre Press | Thursday, April 4, 2019

By Jamie Gentry

Garage operations, commercial brewhouses and mom-and-pop shops came out in force Saturday to Ye Olde Brothers Brewery inaugural Craft Beer Fest 2019.

As Navarre’s first craft brewery and a leader in the region, Ye Olde Brothers brought together more than 20 local and regional craft brewers to offer samples of their wares in a friendly competition.

As live music played, hundreds of 21-and-overs sipped samples ranging from fruity concoctions to classic styles. John Washington, with pretzels around his neck, was among those tasting to decide their vote.

“I love this place. Ye Olde Brothers is a real good place. The food’s good. The beer’s good,” he said. “Whenever they have something going on out here, I try to get involved. It was bigger and more people than I thought it would be. This place is pretty well packed.”

Home brewers Brett Reid and Thomas Grier of Alga Beer Co. took home the title of People’s Choice. Alga is looking to open a brewery business in downtown Pensacola in the near future.

“It is awesome,” Reid said. “To be a home brewer right now and beat out regionally commercial breweries is pretty dope.”

The company’s standouts were a crawfish saison made with Zatarain’s seasoning and lemon zest as well as its Galapagos double IPA.

“We ran out of almost everything,” Reid said.

The name Alga is a combination of the abbreviations for Alabama and Georgia. The company got its start as two dudes meeting up on the weekends to share their creations. Reid lived in Birmingham, and Grier was living in Atlanta.

As they learned more about the art and science of brewing, the pair decided they could make this a career. So they moved to the region.

“Northwest Florida has a budding craft beer scene, and we have been welcomed with open arms,” Reid said.

Coming in second by just one vote was Navarre’s up-and-coming brewery, St. Michael’s Brewing Company. Located at 2199 Highway 87, St. Michael’ s owner Michael Bares has already cleared land for construction of a new brewhouse and tap room. His company’s cream ale, Irish stout and other brews were favorites among those sampling.

“We are waiting for some of the engineered building plans to come back to us,” he said. “Then we go back to the county for our second review. Then hopefully we can start pulling permits for construction.”

Bares said the festival was a great opportunity for the craft brewers, win or lose.

“This is where we need to be, our hometown brew festival. We want to support Ye Olde Brothers, and I think it is a fantastic opportunity to give out some of our samples and grow some customers,” Bares said.

He said it really comes back to a sense of friendly competition among the micro and craft brew industry.

“We all talk to each other, try to help each other out because our biggest threat is big beer, not the little guys. We are all independent, so we need to get together and protect that,” he said.

With victory came a feel-good prize. The winning brewery gets 10 percent of the day’s proceeds donated to the charity of its choice.

While St. Michael’s would have given those funds to the local lifeguards, Bares said the business will find other ways to support local first responders.

“Part of our initiative and mission is to support first responders and military,” he said.

Alga chose Junior Entrepreneurship of Northwest Florida as the beneficiary of its winning effort.

“We firmly believe in entrepreneurship, and we think if we can foster entrepreneurship through local elementary and middle schools and high schools, there can be more of us or any business really,” Reid said. “We don’t think anyone should ever feel that they just have to have a job, go to work and live out your life that way. You can be your own boss. You can do your own stuff.”

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