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Ah, the excitement of visiting a new brewery! Even more enticing, a local microbrewery that’s not on the national radar. What’s hidden behind that door? Within that unassuming warehouse? The mystery only adds to the anticipation!
My wife’s family had been planning a trip to Destin, Florida for some time. Many years ago, it was the first family vacation I had taken with my wife and her family back when we were still dating. If you’ve never been, I’d definitely recommend it. Nothing beats the waters of the Caribbean, but Destin has amazing beaches so we were all looking forward to it.
Now, what was one of the first google searches I did when I heard we were going last year?
And what do you know? There’s an actual “Destin Brewery!”
Now of course there were other breweries nearby like Grayton and Idyll Hounds over by Seaside that I wish I could have visited, but two small problems:
1) Most of our time was already scheduled, leaving very little wiggle room.
2) I’m the only craft beer fanatic in the family. So convincing enough people to tear themselves away from the beach to justify taking a car would be hard to manage. Trust me…I tried. (“Hey Honey, I can take us to that cute little town Watercolor so you can shop if I can visit these breweries!”)
Destin Brewery it is! And it was closer, so calling up a Lyft was far more reasonable. Dropping $20 is worth it and it was within walking distance of the Harbor I had to be at later. A few hours before our sunset cruise, I decided to call up a ride and pregame a little with some local brews.
Pulling up, that unassuming warehouse even fooled the driver! No major sign gave it away. Just the logo above the doorway, nestled in the middle of its portion of the building. Walking in on a Thursday afternoon, I only found one other beer enthusiast finishing the last of his drink. As soon as my flight was served, he was leaving. It was just me, a couple of workers – Diana and Frank, and – I apparently found out later – the co-founder, Chelsea.
My flight consisted of everything they had on tap: their five main stays.
Out of all five, the kölsch was my favorite and that says a lot because that particular style doesn’t usually wow me. The only other one I’ve had that I really enjoyed was Cactus Cat from Nine Bands (a local brewery near me in Allen, TX). Emerald Coast definitely fit the theme of their beers, as Chelsea explained to me: beers you can drink on a beach. It was a light and clean thirst quencher. It was easy to see (taste?) how this was used as base for many of their pilot beers, where flavors could seemlessly be layered upon it.
Destin Ale was a malty blonde whose aftertaste was better than the initial first sip. Decent, but I would have rather gone back to the kölsch. Red Sky was a hoppy rye. Trying to expand my pallete, Chelsea later helped me to identify that they used Amarillo hops to make this one. Bridge Rubble was one of the lightest Imperial IPAs I’ve ever had, which could be dangerous at 8.3%!
And then there was East Pass. Sweet and tasty, it would definitely top my IPA list but that wasn’t what blew me away here. It, like the kölsch, was used as a base for some of their pilot beers. And I came at just the right time. As I was nearing the end of my flight, Diana and Chelsea were tapping two new kegs: a grapefruit IPA and a Mango Habanero IPA.
Dear. Lord! These beers were damn tasty!
Grapefruit always pairs well with an IPA. They compliment each other, but this one was the first I’ve ever had that straight up smelled like grapefruit juice. And the taste? The same! But even sweeter. At 6.6% like the East Pass, this was a dangerously delicious beer.
Oh, but people…the Mango Habanero? This was my favorite. To give the Grapefruit credit, it was a really hard choice to make. Most spicy beers that brewers make tend to be excessively spicy and it overpowers the rest of the flavor itself. Don’t get me wrong; I love spicy food (I pile jalapeños on almost everything) but I like my beer to relieve the heat, not add on more. But this IPA? The mango sweetness perfectly balanced out the heat of the pepper making for one of the best IPAs I’ve ever had and THE best pepper infused beer.
I closed out my tasting with their Pop’s Melrod, a sweet as molasses stout aged in rum barrels. It poured with very little head and drank like a rum-infused cocktail. I sipped it slowly as Frank talked about draft season for Fantasy Football (is it that time already!?) and even showed me a picture of their wrestling style championship belt. A passing rain storm rolled over the brewery and as Diana promised, it brought in new customers. This time I was the one finishing up my drink. I certainly wasn’t going to go out walking in this and I had 20 minutes to kill before I needed to leave.
I ordered a pint of the Mango Habanero IPA. Not canned and unavailable to take home in a growler, I savored it while I could. The rain passed, I closed my tab, and I left with a proper souvenir from Destin: the brewery t-shirt. With a most excellent buzz, I made the walk down to the harbor. I was glad I made my way out there and if you ever find yourself in Destin, you’ll be glad you did as well…or the next beoir is on me.