Bucking Convention, North of Pensacola There Is A Beardless Brewhaus
As Spring Tour rolled on we left Georgia for Florida, and our next stop at Beardless Brewhaus in Milton, Florida. Milton is a stone's throw just north of Pensacola, a small town just a half hour or so inland.
The greater Pensacola area, of which Milton is a part, has a pretty close-knit community of brewers. I've played a handful of them at this point, and they all seem to know each other personally. During the struggles of COVID they would often help each other when there were shortages of supplies or ingredients, and the night before my visit a brewery called Emerald Republic had just suffered the loss of much of its building in a strong storm. On this night the folks from Beardless Brewhaus asked us to say a few words to the crowd about the bad luck that had fallen on their friends, and for people to keep them in their thoughts and do what they could to offer support. I was, of course, happy to do so, and the crowd seemed to already be well aware of the situation... so that's how close the beer community is here.
The brewery, taproom, and beer garden reside on a corner of the town's main street, wide open on two sides, the taproom and brewery building furthest from the street, and a big mural covered wall on the fourth side. Music performs at the wall, playing out to the beer garden and downtown area. The brewery was founded in 2018, and was saved by canning and their curb service when COVID put a lid on things last year. Now that things are loosening up a bit the community and vacationing tourists are keeping their taproom and beer garden bustling. Like many smaller breweries in this region, the warm climate allows Beardless to host customers almost exclusively outdoors in their large beer garden, while the taproom itself only seats a few small tables.
Beardless Brewhaus - Milton, FL (near Pensacola)
Beers available primarily at the taproom (and to go) and on tap at regional drinking establishments.
The brewery was founded by two home brewing, beer loving chemists, who named their business Beardless Brewhaus because one is unable to grow a beard, and despite the “bearded hipster” brewer stereotype, neither of these guys do beards. They do, however, have a “wall of envy” at the taproom that is decorated with photos of visitors with particularly cool beards, and there are some doozies on there!
The clientele seemed like a blend of locals and tourists, and many of the tourists
were in one way or the other associated with the nearby naval base. Lots of dating singles and young couples, some with young kids, lots of doggies, and then also some retired empty nesters enjoying their freedom.
Beardless has is a smaller brewery, but manages to put out a nice selection of different style of brew. Several of them were quite good, I think my favorite being the Jolly Rebeka (4.5%) Red Irish Ale. Crisp and clean with a bit of a roasty finish, this was a flavorful brew that kept you interested but didn't overpower the palate. A rich dark red pour, but clear; it was perhaps a little lighter in body than you might expect in a red, but that seemed perfect for a warm Florida evening. My son Brad was on this stretch of the tour with me (and in fact the momentum of the evening was such that it seemed a shame to take a break from the music, so he played a set during my break and we kept the music going non-stop for an entire three hours), and he was a big fan of Jolly Rebeka as well.
We both went on a tear of IPAs earlier in the evening. Starting with the Hop Mamma NEIPA (6.1%) New England/Hazy IPA, then moving to the C Knight (6.2%) American IPA, and then topping them off with the Overboard Double IPA (8.1%) Imperial IPA. Something we found interesting was that, despite the different styles of IPA, there was a common thread throughout them that tied them together from a taste point, even though there were obvious differences in body, etc. I'm not sure exactly what that means... but it doesn't seem to be a bad thing, as they were all tasty IPAs. I don't have access to what hops went into which beer, but I would assume they didn't all use the same hops combos.... or maybe they did? It would be interesting to know. Regardless, the differences we detected from IPA to IPA were the ones you'd expect to notice... the Overboard Double had a bit more kick (although without being boozy, which is a good thing), the Hop Mamma had a bit of a creamier body and (obviously) hazy appearance. All three shared a common rich copper hue, each of various clarity (as you'd expect). Anyway, it was an interesting thing to experience, as there was a nice taste consistency from IPA option to option. It was almost as if Beardless had an IPA flagship that was the foundation for each, just prepared in various styles (here's Beardless IPA west coast, here it is done as a New England, etc.). That doesn't really make sense as the brewing methods vary from style to style (hence the differences)... so it would be interesting to know how similar the base ingredients are from style to style (are they using the same kind hops, or different strains, etc?). Anyway, I'm kinda geeking out on the question because I am, after all, a beer geek.... but ultimately it doesn't matter. What counts is that all three were tasty IPAs, well balanced, and quite drinkable!
The consistency thing was also nice because it saved you from that palate hop shock that can happen when you switch from drastically different IPAs... like when a citrusy one if followed by an overly hopped piney one that tastes like a Christmas tree compared to the previous one, etc.
Heading back into a completely different direction, the Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Porter (5.6%) American Porter was a treat. I love a good porter, and you could tell this one had a quality foundation enhanced with just the slightest touches of woody bourbon and then a hint of vanilla. This was a complex sipper that played with your senses, was well done and a pleasure to sip.
The Blackwater Stout (6.7%) American Stout was also a fine stout. If you like, but don't love, Guinness you might enjoy this, as it corrects some of the problems some people seem to voice about Guinness. First, it packs more of a punch, so at 6.7% you're going to get there a bit quicker than you will with Guinness' paltry 4.2%. It also was slightly lighter in body, and maybe a tad more carbonated, so it while the coffee, chocolate, somewhat creamy goodness was still there, it was also a bit more crisp on the sip... whereas some people complain that Guinness can seem “flat”. For the record, I love a fresh Guinness, but I also do appreciate these other little enhancements that other stouts bring to the table.
I had smaller samples of some of the other beers on the menu, but not enough of a sample to really be able to write about. I do believe you need a full beer to really form a good opinion of it, as it might hit you one was at the start of a pint, and leave you with a very different impression at the end of the pint... so a sip isn't going to do it. That said, I enjoyed everything I tried with the exception of one (and I did drink a full pint of it), and that was the Saison (5.9%) Farmhouse Ale. In fairness, I rarely do really enjoy these, they often have a sort of weird combo of breadiness and pepper or other spices that don't sit well with me, so I wouldn't say that this was necessarily a bad Saison... it might be quite good if you're more of a Saison fan than I am. Either way, I gave it a try because everything else was so good, but at the end of the day I didn't enjoy it as much as the others.
It was a great evening at Beardless Brewhaus, and I'd definitely like to return to see what's new on the taps, as I know these chemists like to keep experimenting. The staff were very friendly and knowledgeable about the various brews, and the crowd was very welcoming and encouraging with the music and wanting info on the Great Brewery Tour in general. As our first visit was heading into Spring, it would be interesting to come back heading into Fall and see what seasonal brews they cook up for the cooler months. If you're in the Gulf Coast coast when the weather is good I'd highly recommend planning to spend some time in the Beardless Brewhaus beer garden.
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