Gulf Coast Brewery is more than a brewery — it's a destination.
Owner Elliot Eckland, who is no stranger to the Panhandle beer scene, opened Gulf Coast Brewery in February of 2016 and has been serving up a laundry list of top notch beers ever since.
"It took us about 10 months to build this place," Eckland says from his tap room, which sits neatly inside the 10,000 square-foot-plus brewery located at 500 East Heinberg Street in Pensacola, Florida. "The brewery is family friendly and pets are allowed. We've got people slamming ping pong balls back and forth, which is cool, and we have a really nice bar where people can hang out and relax."
In addition to the ping-pong tables and brewing equipment are dart boards, corn hole and a laid back vibe that sprawls onto the open-air deck.
"It was really important for us to have people hanging out in the brew house," he added.
The brew house, which pumps out a regular lineup of beer almost 20 deep, is massive, but welcoming. On the weekends, Gulf Coast Brewery opens its facility to amateur brewers, allowing them to hone their skills in a professional setting.
Walking into the taproom visitors are greeted by a handcrafted bar, light fixtures made from bourbon barrels, and a stone mosaic wall pieced together by hand. There's also a walk-in humidor and a European-inspired cigar lounge, complete with lockers that are personally engraved.
Needless to say there was plenty of blood, sweat and possibly tears involved, General Manager Carrie Young says. But it was all worth it, as the brewery resembles a work of art.
“It’s been a labor of love,” she said.
Eckland has been brewing beer, on some scale, whether professionally or as a home brewer, for decades and has perfected his craft through trial and error. He opened his first brewery, Pensacola Bay Brewery, more than a decade ago. At the time, the nearest breweries were Lazy Magnolia Brewery in Mississippi and Bold City Brewery in Jacksonville.
With Gulf Coast Brewery now proudly representing the Pensacola beer scene, Eckland and his team, which includes longtime brewer Pat Johnson, have been rolling full steam ahead.
As for the beer itself, there are anywhere between 16-18 brews regularly flowing. The lineup at Gulf Coast Brewery touches on all palates, styles and flavor profiles, whether it’s the Blueberry Wave, a fruit beer; the Changing Tides, a Cream Ale; or the Baltic Imperial Porter; and the Hammered Hefeweizen.
So whether you like your beers light or dark, sweet or stout, there’s something with your name on it.
Currently, Eckland’s Pensacola Pilsner, a Czech-style beer, is the most popular, closely followed by his lineup of IPAs, which are featured prominently on his taps.
“We’re going to have three IPAs on tap pretty much all the time,” Eckland said. “We have an entry level IPA, the Karma Driven (6.5 % and 72 IBU), an English-style IPA, the Mindbender Double (8 % and 68 IBU), then a ‘Big Boy,’ which is the Scenic 98 (9.8% and 98 IBU), a more West Coast style IPA.”
Stay up-to-date on Gulf Coast Brewery’s lineup, HERE.
So when someone bellies up to the bar, what does Eckland want them to experience through his beer? Well, that’s simple. It’s all about the love.
“Number one, I hope they experience the passion that goes into it. The depth of our beer is important, too,” he says. “We want them to taste the different notes and the aspects that go into it. Some of these beers have 16-17 ingredients in them and they have layers of flavor. What we try to do is not overpower any one flavor.”
With his beer, Eckland aims to introduce people to something new. While he may not be able to sway someone away from Bud Light or Michelob Ultra, which is partially why he carries them on tap, permanently, he aims to expose them to new flavors and styles.
“What I do, in the bigger picture, is make a large variety of beers,” he says. “We want to make beers people can try that are similar to something they are familiar with, but then branch them out into the world of craft beer.”
And now, Gulf Coast Brewery’s beers are easier to find outside of the brewery. In March, they began bottling their beers and are now distributing their Sandbar Red Ale, Changing Tides Cream Ale, Karma Driven IPA and Summer Blonde Ale to local stores and bars. So when you are out and about, be sure to look for their bottles or beers on tap.
Plans are also in place for Gulf Coast Brewery to begin bottling McGuire’s Irish Red, Young says. Given the two establishments are neighbors it only makes sense. There’s never a dull moment at Gulf Coast Brewery and Eckland and his team are constantly looking for ways to evolve and push the envelope.
That evolution will eventually include a distillery where gin, vodka, whiskey, bourbon and rum are produced.
Like we said, there’s plenty happening at Gulf Coast Brewery, so be sure to follow them on Facebook for updates.
“This is a destination,” Eckland says. “It’s fun.”