Alga is here! New Pensacola brewery opens Friday in East Hill alongside new food truck
From a homebrewing hobby to a business with all the makings of an East Hill hangout fixture for years to come, Alga will officially arrive Friday with a 6 p.m. grand opening.
"It's really interesting because from our standpoint, it feels like we hit the finish line but we're also just at the starting line," co-owner John Hodgdon II said Monday, sitting inside Alga's 5,500-square-foot taproom beside co-owner Brett Reid.
For the ownership trifecta that is Hodgdon, Reid and Thomas Grier, the Alga brick-and-mortar at 2435 N. 12th Ave. was a vision that started coming into focus a little more than a year ago. But the genesis of Pensacola's 14th and newest brewery happened closer to a decade ago.
Grier and Reid became friends as students at the University of Alabama. When they ventured off in different directions after graduation, they still bonded from afar through their mutual love of homebrewing. Hodgdon entered the equation within the past couple of years and heads the business side of Alga's innerworkings.
Beer styles that Reid and Grier experimented with from their respective homes more or less evolved into the six beers on tap at Alga that await customers Friday night.
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"Really, the main focus is having approachable beer for everybody," Reid said Monday. "We don't want to have anyone come here, look at the board and not really understand what they got in front of them. I think making everything accessible is our main goal."
Making up Alga's initial class of brews are the following:
- "Palahops" India Pale Ale: 6% alcohol by volume
- "East Hillsner" pilsner: 5.4% ABV
- "Neighborhood Beer" (made with East Hill Honey): 5.9% ABV
- "Hwy Juice" Golden Sour Ale: 5.4% ABV
- "Lo-Fi" New England IPA: 6.2% ABV
Reid said "Palahops," the "East Hillsner" and the "Hwy Juice" will be the brewery's three pillar beers and will always be on tap.
Those who plan to be present for opening weekend also can enjoy three small batch options that will be untapped Friday but likely won't last longer than two or three days: the "Barry Bonds Blueberry Bangarang," which is essentially a mead, two variations of a "Two-Person Job" stout and a collaborative coffee and coconut beer made with espresso from the Pick Up Coffee Co.
"We're kind of sticking to our own style guidelines and making sure that we're making the best beer possible, per style," Reid said.
"Our goal is really to put out the best product that you can," Hodgdon added.
Select wines and champagnes round out the beverage side of operations at Alga, which is immediately demonstrating a penchant for teaming up with fellow Pensacola small businesses. A small batch of "Easy Rider" root beer made with Big Jerk Soda will be on tap this weekend as well, with more collaborative non-alcoholic beverages brewed by the two companies soon to follow.
"When we partnered with Big Jerk, they've toned down the caramel coloring so it looks like beer," said Hodgdon, before sharing a personal favorite observance from Alga's soft opening party Saturday. "One of the coolest things I saw on Saturday was a father and son sitting over here, the father had a glass of beer, the son had the root beer and they had their first beer together."
On site each night to quell those brewery hangout munchies will be the Ballyhoo Pensacola food truck, a concept launched by Magnolia owner Bill Manning.
Out of the gate this weekend, Pensacola can expect "a small but thoughtful menu" of snacks and items provided by Ballyhoo, items that pair perfectly with the sudsy stuff.
"We wanted to do something that kind of lends itself to Little League ballpark-style food with a twist here and there," Manning said. "We'll be doing Alga beer cheese that we can use as a topping or as part of nacho trays with Alga beer. Think hot dogs and beer with some locally sourced stuff, and some stuff for kids, too."
Manning said Ballyhoo will introduce vegan items in the very near future. There's a parcel of grass behind the brewery, beside the Ballyhoo truck, where guests are welcomed to park themselves in an old-school webbed folding chair as they eat, drink and enjoy the summer sun.
With a max capacity teetering on 130, Alga's taproom seating arrangement is based around a series of tables carved from a single cedar tree. The neutral colored walls are a blank canvas for the community when it comes to Alga's décor; the brewery owners said they'll let the identity of their space fill out organically.
"We're going to let the space kind of evolve what it's going to be," Hodgdon said. "As people come in and needs present themselves, we plan on filling those needs."
Alga's owners plan to regularly host live music, with an eye on spotlighting Panhandle artists who don't currently have a lot of visibility in Pensacola. The brewery also wasted no time diving into charitable efforts, partnering with the Fishbein Foundation recently to raise money for the Gulf Coast Kid's House.
The Alga owners said they're ecstatic to open and contribute to what has become a thriving stretch of East Hill along 12th Avenue. Manning, their new food partner, said he thinks Alga will fill a definite void in the community.
"We're happy to be a part of this," Manning said. "There is clearly a need for a place for people in that neighborhood to go, there has been for some time as East Hill has grown. And I'm definitely happy to be the guy parked out back."
Alga will be open from 4 to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 4 p.m. until midnight Fridays, noon until midnight Saturdays and noon until 10 p.m. Sundays.
Jake Newby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8538.