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Let’s Get Ready To Rumble

Pensacola’s Battle of the Beers
By Kate Peterson

Billed as the “Tallboy Tangle,” the stakes are high, and the contenders are preparing for a battle of epic proportions. Over the weekend of June 10-12, three of Pensacola’s well-known craft beer establishments will duke it out for the rights to claim they have the best beer, most drunk beer and are the place to drink beer.

The three contenders weighing in are Hopjacks Pizza Kitchen and Taproom, Mellow Mushroom and The Woodshed Grill and Brew Pub (formerly Brew’s Brothers Grill and Pub).

What is apparent with all three of these establishments is that they all take their beer quality and selection as seriously as any highly respected wine connoisseur. They carry craft beer, a term that refers to beer brewed without ingredients such as rice or corn and that are brewed for distinction and flavor rather than for mass appeal.

In the ring first we have Hopjacks Pizza Kitchen and Taproom, located on Palafox Street in downtown Pensacola. In 2010, they were rated one of the “Top 150 Beer Bars in the Nation” by Draft Magazine. Recently, Hopjacks underwent an extensive renovation; the tile work in the restrooms is astounding. We caught up with owner and founder Joe Abston, hard at work one evening. He was kind enough to spend some time telling us about the upcoming battle, what beers he chose for the competition and why Hopjacks is a champion. They have 110 beers on tap, employ about 30 people and have a sister store in Mobile, Ala.

When asked why he opened Hopjacks, Abston said, “I am a chef by trade and used to be a wine drinker. I felt like Pensacola needed a place that stayed open late and served good pizza, food and beer. We are so fortunate to have been so successful starting during a recession. I am also proud that our clientele varies from ties to tattoos and all in between. It is a great cultural mix.”

Hopjacks was the first to offer PBR on draft along our section of the Gulf Coast.

With so many beers available, how do you keep them fresh? Abston said, “We have a highly organized tagging system to ensure freshness.”

For the Battle of the Beers, Hopjacks has picked the following prize fighting beers: Delirium Tremens, Fox Barrel Pear Cider, Paulaner Hefe-Weizen, Rogue Chipotle Ale and Lagunitas IPA.

We asked Abston what he thinks his chances of winning are and he said, “One in three.” If the bar wins a trophy he said, “We will hang it from the ceiling in some ceremonial fashion.”

Rated as a Journeyman in this fight is The Woodshed, formerly the Brews Brothers Grill and Pub. Located on the west side of Pensacola, it is known for its beer selection. Beer Advocate rated them a B+.

IN spoke to the owner and proprietor, John Glenn. For the battle, Glenn said they chose Unibrough Trios Pistoles, Leinenkugel Summer Shandy, Rouge Irish Red, Peroni Italian Pilsner and Ayinger The Celebrator Doppelbock.

Glenn has been involved with the bar for about two and a half years and in the business for 20 years. He said they have 100 bottled beers not including domestics. Included in this total are 80 taps and 85 are craft beers or imported. Along with the beer, they serve food such as wings, large chicken tenders, a custom 10 oz. hamburger, sandwiches and salads.

About the event he said, “It started with the tap wars, some words were exchanged and printed in local newspapers, then everyone kept adding to their number of taps. As one of my employees put it, in the beer business we measure our manhood in taps.”

“May the best bar win,” said Glenn.

We have a southpaw in this fight, Mellow Mushroom. In 1974, after opening its first restaurant near the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, the franchise has grown to over 100 restaurants in 15 states.

According to Joe Abston of Hopjacks, Mellow Mushroom just happened to open their store in Pensacola with exactly double the number of taps Hopjacks had at the time–very curious.

IN spoke with Mellow Mushroom manager Josh Flick, who said, “There has always been an underground, silent battle waging between all of the places in this battle. Some are expanding their selections. We have craft food that goes along with craft beer.”

What does Mellow Mushroom have to offer that the other contenders do not? Flick said, “We are a family-oriented restaurant. We are all about quality, not quantity. It is about bringing better beer to the area and serving great food.”

Mellow Mushroom boasts a full menu including a full range of appetizers from soup to bruschetta and hummus, salads, pizza, calzones and hoagies—both deli and grilled. Most of the items on the menu are customizable.

They also have Wednesday night trivia, a beer club and a dinner and a movie deal where if you spend $30 with Mellow Mushroom they will sell you two movie tickets to the Rave for $5 each.

Flick said they picked the following beers for the challenge: Blue Point Toasted Lager, Sweetwater Blue, Southern Tier Unearthly, Pensacola Bay Brewery Porter and Stone Arrogant Bastard.

Wondering how you can participate? Show up to any (or all) of the three bars and restaurants on June 10, 11 or 12 and try one of their Top five beers—then rate it.

Bottom of Form

BATTLE OF THE BEERS
WHEN: Starting at 11:30 a.m. at each location; June 10-12
WHERE: Hopjacks Pizza Kitchen and Taproom, 10 S. Palafox, 497-6073, hopjacks.com
Mellow Mushroom, 5175 Bayou Blvd., 475-7575, mellowmushroom.com
Woodshed Grill and Brew Pub, 830 N. Navy Blvd., 456-2537
COST: Menu prices
DETAILS: facebook.com/event.php?eid=161951370535939