When Kelly Taylor was 12 years old he wanted to be an astronaut. Well, that didn’t pan out, but he did accomplish his second choice — a firefighter. Now a few decades, as the owner and head brewer at Destin Brewery, he’s doing something he never imagined.
“I have been visiting breweries my whole adult life,” he says. “I never saw myself doing this though. I would have called owning a brewery a pipe dream.”
Taylor’s dream became a reality when he and his partners opened Destin Brewery in 2015. Located at 505 Mountain Drive in Destin, the brewery, which sits neatly inside 2,200 square feet, is constantly churning out one quality brew after another, in addition to canning its product.
If you flip the calendar back to 2006, Taylor and his wife, Chelsea, were drinking some homemade beer at a friends house and on the way home his wife asked for his thoughts on the brew. Taylor admitted it was good, but also said he could do better. His wife laughingly scoffed at his bold statement, not knowing that Taylor had brewed beer in the past.
As a 19-year-old, Taylor was obviously not old enough to buy beer, but always found himself hanging around with people who were older than he was. So if he couldn’t buy it, he’d learn to make it, he recalls.
“It was back before the internet, so I found a catalog and recipes and I got the supplies and started making beer,” he says. “I can tell you, honestly, the beer I made at 19 years old is not the beer I like today.”
After brewing beer in his backyard for a while, Taylor came to the realization that Destin needed its own brewery, as it was flanked (at the time) on the east by Grayton Beer Company and on the west by Pensacola Bay Brewery.
“We saw that nobody was doing anything in Destin or had plans to do something,” he said. “We pooled everything together and knew we were going to have to start small, which was OK. Our thought was that Destin started small, too. Since we’ve had this, it’s really taken off.”
The brewery’s first beer was completed on May 4, 2015, so they’ve been in production for a little more than two years now. Their core lineup of brews includes its Destin Ale (a light, easy drinking ale), the Emerald Koast Kolsch (a rice-style lager made with Kolsch Ale yeast), the Red Sky Rye Pale Ale (an unfiltered pale ale brewed with rye), and the East Pass IPA (an India Pale Ale brewed with local honey). They also feature a range of what they dub “uncommons,” which can range from a mango habanero IPA to a bourbon barrel aged brew.
Taylor is not afraid to admit that some of his first brews were not his greatest, but he wasn’t too proud to ask questions and seek out advice.
“The guys over at Idyll Hounds, they are awesome,” he says. “They have always been willing to help me out. If I needed something they would be right there.”
Taylor also says he’s relied on the lab team over at Grayton Beer Company to help him through some issues. Now that he’s been able to work out the kinks, Taylor says he is more than willing to help out and give advice to anyone who asks.
“It all comes back around, so if I can help someone out, I will,” he says.
Destin Brewery’s taproom is open Tuesday through Saturday from 1-7 p.m., and Taylor and his team will gladly give a tour of the brewery to anyone who stops by. The taproom is family friendly and the outdoor seating area is cozy, complete with corn hole. The whole vibe is very laid back.
Destin Brewery’s cans can be found in local stores and their kegs in local restaurants. Although it’s a reality, it still blows Taylor’s mind when he thinks about it.
But does he consider Destin Brewery a success?
“Without a doubt, yes,” he says. “What’s funny is that we basically had a one year, three year and five year plan. At our one-year anniversary we had exceeded our three-year plan. We haven’t gotten to three years yet and we’ve exceeded our five-year plan.”
That’s quite the accomplishment, but that doesn’t mean the folks at Destin Brewery are going to rest on their early success. There’s opportunity for the brewery to expand within its existing footprint, so growth may be on the horizon.
Taylor says they are brewing like crazy on their current equipment and have to keep going to keep the momentum flowing. So how are they going to keep up?
“An albatross and a hummingbird can both cross the Gulf of Mexico, but a hummingbird has to flap its wings a whole lot more,” he says. “That’s us on our current brewhouse. We are like hummingbirds — we don’t stop.”
To learn more about Destin Brewery visit their website or follow them on Facebook.