When you sip (or chug) that delicious craft beer, do you ever wonder who the face is behind the creative flavors? We at Destin.com do, so we decided to introduce some local Brew Masters and ask them what it’s like to brew beer in Northwest Florida.

Bill Bunning

Bill Bunning, Brew Master of Ye Olde Brothers Brewery in Navarre.
Bill Bunning, Brew Master of Ye Olde Brothers Brewery in Navarre.

Brew Master of Ye Olde Brothers Brewery in Navarre

What is the hardest aspect of brewing beer in Florida?

The hardest part is dealing with the heat in the summer. All the ingredients are readily available in a couple days, so that’s not an issue. Additionally, our tanks are glycol cooled, so keeping temperatures down during fermentation isn’t an issue. It’s just hot sometimes on brew day.

As water quality is a main factor in the overall taste of the beer, what do you use in your brews? 

Luckily, the brewery sits on an 80-foot sandhill, so the water from a well is about perfect for brewing since it is low in dissolved solids, almost to the point of being distilled. We add salts back in to match the style of the beer.

How are your recipes influenced by the local environment? 

Mostly we brew traditional styles, but we do use orange blossom honey in our most popular beer, the Black Bear Honey Wheat, and this summer brewed with local blueberries and watermelon in our fruit beers.

How many batches do you typically trial and error before finding the perfect batch? 

Since I’ve been brewing for over 20 years, I’ve got a pretty good idea on what will work. Our batches are only one barrel so many of the recipes I brewed as a home brewer scaled nicely to the one barrel size.

Mike Kee

Mike Kee, Brew Master of Props Brewery in Fort Walton Beach.
Mike Kee, Brew Master of Props Brewery in Fort Walton Beach.

Brew Master of Props Brewery in Fort Walton Beach

What is the hardest aspect of brewing beer in Florida?

The hardest aspect for our brewery is compensating for the temperature changes in the Panhandle. From the heat in the summer to the temperature drops in the winter, (both) cause us to change procedures for mash in and when we cool the beer down from boiling to fermentation temperature. We operate our brewery without dedicated Hot Liquor or Cold Liquor tanks at our brewpub. Our 30 bbl brewery will have dedicated tanks and will eliminate this problem for us in the future.

As water quality is a main factor in the overall taste of the beer, what do you use in your brews?

Our water is drawn from the Floridian aquifer but serviced by the city of Fort Walton Beach. We currently take water samples quarterly so we can make adjustments to the water, to our PH and other minerals, to get us to “Props” water.  Currently we use a sediment and carbon filter to remove chlorine and other items that we don’t want in the brewing water.

How are your recipes influenced by the local environment?

The water is our biggest influence to the recipes we make because of the mineral composition from the Floridian Aquifer. Some of our recipes were designed prior to moving to the Panhandle, but our Blonde Bomber was designed specifically for our Emerald Coast beaches. It does have a higher bitterness than most blonde ales. Our session IPA was developed to give us a refreshing IPA during the summer months. Another major influence that Florida has given us is the packaging of our beer into cans so our beer can be enjoyed on the beach. Last and not least is the strong military presence that we have in the Panhandle from our heritage in Air Force Special Operations Command and Hurlburt Field to Eglin Air Force Base, Tyndall Air Force Base, 7th Special Forces Group, and Naval Air Station Pensacola.

How many batches do you typically trial and error before finding the perfect batch?

Typically we tack two to three batches to finalize a recipe. If we determine later that we want some more changes, we will adjust them slowly to fit our design. After our new location opens we will have the room to experiment a lot more and I’m sure that number of trials will increase due to the flexibility to make smaller batches.

Kelly Taylor

Kelly Taylor, Brew Master of Destin Brewery.
Kelly Taylor, Brew Master of Destin Brewery.

Brew Master of Destin Brewery

What is the hardest aspect of brewing beer in Florida?

I’ve only brewed in Florida so I don’t have anything really to compare it to. That being said, both the state and federal governments have their regulations which are specific, but easy to work with. In addition, the City of Destin is very supportive of local businesses which continues to make our experience very enjoyable. Our weather is the kind that most people would dream about living and working in, however, July and August afternoons in a non-air-conditioned brewery warehouse surrounded by hot vessels and steaming liquids can test your mettle.

As water quality is a main factor in the overall taste of the beer, what do you use in your brews?

We are fortunate that the quality of water supplied to us by Destin Water Users is very good. We still use a dual-filtration system to dress it up a bit and some specific malts to dial in our PH.

How are your recipes influenced by the local environment?

Destin is a beach town protected by a battery of golf courses. Big-bodied, heavy, malty beers in the heat do not typically make for a fun afternoon. As a result some of our flagship beers are brewed to be more of a medium-lighter body for easier drinking in the sun and sand. We also try to brew beers that complement the local food scene, which is often seafood. East Pass IPA is an excellent example of this.  It is an easier drinking, citrusy IPA that pairs well with lighter table fare and higher UV indexes. But we do like the bigger beers, too; if you don’t believe me, you need to try our “Hot Mama Scott” Bourbon Barrel aged Imperial Brown Ale.

How many batches do you typically trial and error before finding the perfect batch?

It depends, sometimes it can take a couple of batches to get what we want. Other times, we hit a home run first time up to bat. Regardless, we have a fun time brewing.