The craft brewery business is booming and that’s great news for us beer lovers. First thought to be a fad, but like so many things, it’s here to stay. I’ve stopped by the Alga Beer Company in the East Hill area of Pensacola several times and was interested to hear their story.
It’s pretty cool how this brewery thing works. Usually, it’s a hobby that evolves into a business. That’s how Alga Beer Company got its start. Brett Reid and Thomas Grier met as students at the University of Alabama, through Thomas’ childhood friend, Kayla, now Brett’s wife. “In college, we started drinking a lot of beer and decided we wanted to make our own,” says Brett.
They began brewing just one gallon on the kitchen stove in their apartment. One gallon progressed to five gallons and then to ten gallons. Brett says, “We took our homebrew to respective friends' houses for parties and such to test how people liked it.” Each time they tried something different. Experimenting with recipes, they wanted to see how they could increase their brewing expertise. “When we realized it didn’t suck, we thought we might go into the brewing business.”
After college, from 2013 to 2017, Brett worked at Mountain High Outfitters in Birmingham and Thomas worked at AT&T in Atlanta but they always had the urge to start their own craft brewing company. But where? The market was already saturated in Atlanta and Birmingham, but Pensacola only had two craft breweries at the time. They did their research and with the help of the Brewers Association for Independent Craft Beer, they began to plan.
Brett and Kayla moved to Pensacola in 2017 and began looking for a property to house their brewery. Brett worked a stint at Pensacola Bay Brewery to gain experience. “We were putting together a business plan and we were kind of slapped in the face with the cost of getting a brewery up and running,” says Brett. “We didn’t get going until March 2020 when we found a property for lease that was formerly a restaurant called Brew-Haha.”
They signed the lease in July 2020 when Covid was running rampant. To save on costs, they did much of the work themselves and with the contractors that they hired to help with the renovation. The brewing equipment arrived from China on an 18-wheeler, and they had to remove the front windows to get it into the building for set up. “The US doesn’t produce stainless steel anymore,” says Brett. “It’s either China or Canada.”
Alga Beer Company opened in August 2021 after a lot of hard work and bonafide “sweat equity.” The name is derived from Brett and Thomas’ state residences while they were brewing up the idea. “We learned a lot from the Brewer’s Association and saved a ton of money by doing the work ourselves,” says Brett. “When we finally opened, there were fourteen breweries in the Pensacola area.”
Today, Alga Beer Company offers at least ten beers on tap, with three core beers and several rotating brews they have developed themselves with the help of brewing software. They also do collaborations with other brewers.
So far, their offerings have received three distinctive awards after just one year. They won Best American Lager and Third Best Honey Beer in the State of Florida. They also received the Silver Metal for their Solitude Black Lager in the U.S. Open Craft Beer competition. They also sell eight different brews in Crowlers (25.4 oz) from their display case. They have cool T-shirts and hats for sale as well.
Brett says, “We pride ourselves on being a place for everyone.” People from all walks of life, whether military personnel, neighborhood folks, or even travelers arriving for beach trips stop by Alga Beer Company to wet their whistle. “We are the closest brewery to the Airport, and people will google us and stop by with their luggage on the way to the beach.”
Alga has Trivia on Tuesdays and Bingo on Thursdays each week. “We host a drag show once a month; we want to be all-inclusive,” says Brett. Brett also books the music at Alga. “Our focus is on original music, no cover bands. We do a monthly DJ show, usually on Saturday nights. We call it Club Alga!” Bands are usually local artists, but they also host some regional and national groups. They recently had Drayton Farley play at Alga. He just signed a recording contract in Nashville and has opened for Willie Nelson. “I’d call it Americana music,” he says.
Alga Beer Company is a friendly place with a nice vibe. The Brown Bagger Food Truck is permanently located on the property and offers up really good food. More on that in our Epicurean Delights feature. Stop by Alga and say hello to Brett and Thomas and all the friendly folks making things happen.
“We work well together,” says Brett. “The biggest part is we have a good team and we let people do what they are good at. Everyone has their own lane. It takes two paddles to make a canoe work!” Good story, great beer! Thanks, Brett.