NICEVILLE — New breweries are popping up all across Northwest Florida, crafting not only signature beer but a community of owners dedicated to each other's success.
Mike Kee, co-owner of all three Props locations, recently sat at the bar of Props Ale House in Niceville and prepared for the grand opening last Saturday. Kee said the new location, a sports-bar offering the same food menu as Props Brewery & Grill in Fort Walton Beach, will feature small brew tanks where the owners can have a creative space to craft unique concoctions.
"Our little brew system will arrive in the middle of August," Kee said. "This one will be a pilot brewery and we'll get to brew all of the fun stuff. We will get to play and experiment with different flavors."
Less than a mile away and down John Sims Parkway, 3rd Planet Brewing opened its second — and larger — brewery this summer. Tim McCool, co-owner of 3rd Planet, said his brewery is a family-friendly atmosphere where people come to talk, play trivia and enjoy the outdoor food truck.
"The community loves this place," McCool said. "They love the atmosphere. We don't have TVs or Wi-Fi here and you won't really see people on their cell phones. People hang out and talk. We're food friendly and people often bring their own food from home, or order pizza or sushi."
McCool said when he first opened his brewery, Props' and Destin Brewery's owners offered a helping hand and plenty of advice. Now, the businesses are beginning to collaborate with one another on special events, and Props has already begun serving 3rd Planet's beers in Props Ale House.
Kee said even though the breweries are so close in location, none of the owners view each other as competitors.
"We're all so different from each other," Kee said. "Someone else might have an idea that we might not even think off."
With their respective Niceville locations open, 3rd Planet and Props owners are now passing on their knowledge to two soon-to-be owners of up-and-coming breweries — St. Michael's Brewery in Navarre and Fort Walton Beach Brewing Co. in Fort Walton Beach.
Deb and Jim Lewis, who currently run the home brew store Hop Heads, will open a nano brewery (which brews batches of three barrels or smaller), taproom and beer garden — Fort Walton Beach Brewing Co. — in the upcoming weeks. The brewery, located at 505 Mooney Road N.W., will allow amateur brewers to practice their recipes in the small tanks. Their concoctions might even end up for sale in the brewery.
"For people who want to open a brewery down the road, they are going to be able to set up a little brewery here and brew under our license," Deb said.
In Navarre, Michael Bares is preparing to begin construction on St. Michael's Brewery. Bares said the brewery, which will hopefully open by the end of the year, will honor the U.S. military in both service and design.
"We want to name our beers after those who serve and protect," Bares said. "With the demographics in Navarre, we know a lot of current and retired military live there. We're going to be a lot like the other craft breweries. We will have a taproom and be a full production brewery."
Although the brewery doesn't have an address yet, Bares said the land is located on State Road 87 across from CrossFit Navarre. Bares said he's been in contact with the Niceville brewery owners who are helping him with construction plans.
"I could be perceived as a threat, but we're working together," Bares said. "We don't see each other as competition because our competition are the big guys (nationally distributed beer). That's what separates the craft brewing industry, everyone is independent and small."