Blountstown Beer Co. set to become 850's next craft brewery
Since late 2018, there has been an explosion of new craft breweries in the Tallahassee area – eight in all.
And it appears that the city of Blountstown is the next town within a short drive of Leon County to have a craft brewery to call their own.
In an exclusive interview this week with the Tallahassee Beer Society on its ESPN 97.9 FM Radio show, The Saturday Morning Bottle Share, the owners of the 850's next craft brewery — Blountstown Beer Company — confirmed their plans to open Calhoun County's first craft brewery before the end of 2021.
And the man partially behind the idea is one who's already quite familiar to supporters of the Big Bend craft beer scene: Eastpoint Beer Co. owner and founder Josh Parker.
"Most know my small place now in Eastpoint down on the water in Franklin County — great spot, but with a very limited capacity to grow. And we've gotten so busy post-pandemic shutdown, we're running out of beer at a record pace and we've reached a crossroads. So the time has come to expand," said Parker, who opened Eastpoint Beer Co. in December 2019 and uses a small, two-barrel system brewhouse.
"It's gotten to the point where I'm brewing 4-to-5 days a week — sometimes six. And for anyone who's ever made a batch of beer .... that's too much. And the only way forward — besides just telling people you can't have more beer, which no one ever wants to do — is to find a place where you can MAKE more beer. And that's how the idea for Blountstown Beer Co. was born."
But Parker won't be taking on this new project in Blountstown — which is about 45 minutes west of Tallahassee straight out Highway 20 — alone.
Partnership with Fiddler's Steamhouse
He'll have help from a successful Blountstown restaurateur Randal Martina, the owner of arguably the most popular restaurant in all of Calhoun County, Fiddler's Steamhouse & Oyster Bar.
Parker and Martina met over two years ago and forged a friendship, which has now led to a business partnership that will see Blountstown Beer Co. launch with Parker handling the beer-making and Martina overseeing a terrific-sounding food menu full of things like bacon flights, creative tapas and even steaks.
"Josh is one of the hardest-working guys I've ever met — he works around the clock, just like me — and when our other restaurant in Blountstown closed (due to the coronavirus) called Burgers & Brews, Josh and I started talking about turning that spot into a brewery," said Martina, who is originally from Franklin County.
"The building is right off Highway 20 — so a highly-visible location — and it used to be a Huddle House, so it has a lot of nice windows and a cooking station that is right in front of you. So while you're sitting there drinking your beer, we're going to be making your food right in front of you, just like you'd see at a Huddle House. That's the kind of experience we hope to bring."
But here's where things get interesting.
Room to expand
Because — as Parker alluded to — Blountstown Beer Co. is going to be an "expansion" of Eastpoint Beer Co., Parker plans to take advantage of a seldom-used wrinkle in Florida's craft beer laws that allow an existing brewery to open a second "satellite" location, which means beer can be moved back and forth between the two breweries.
And since Parker plans to install a 12-barrel brewhouse in Blountstown — which is six times the size of the one he's currently brewing on in Eastpoint — it will allow him to scale the amount of beer he's able to make for both locations way, way up.
"Randal and I are both construction-background guys before I got into the brewery business and him the restaurant business, and we've been working pretty hard to build this location out for the last few months before making this announcement," said Parker, who added that the new brewery could be open in as few as three months or as long as 5-6 months.
"I'll obviously be doing a lot of the brewing for Eastpoint in Blountstown to help take the load off my small system down here, and because the property in Blountstown is a good size, it also allows us room to expand even more down the road if we want to."
Growing roster of area breweries
The arrival of Blountstown Beer Co. will mark the 10th new craft brewery that has opened in the Tallahassee area since 2018.
It started with Eastpoint in December 2018, then was followed by the opening of Georgia Beer Company in nearby Valdosta (February 2019), Salty Oak Brewing in Panama City (May 2019), Southern Philosophy in Bainbridge (June 2019), History Class Brewing in Panama City (April 2020), Southern Fields Brewing in Campbellton (June 2020), Fools Fire Brewing in Tallahassee (February 2021) and Wakulla County's Civic Brewing in the tiny town of Sopchoppy, which held a soft opening last weekend with a Grand Opening planned for June 19.
Oyster City Brewing, which hails from Franklin County just like Eastpoint, announced plans to launch a second location in Tallahassee two months ago, and they're due to open sometime in August or September — making new brewery No. 9. And when Blountstown opens its doors later this year, that will be No. 10.
"We're really excited about this, as you can probably tell, and we think Blountstown -- even though it is kind of in the middle of nowhere -- is ripe and ready for a business like this. Especially when you consider how well breweries in other small towns in this area have done in a short amount of time," Martina said. "And we think what we're building is unique because with the open kitchen and brewhouse right there in the building. You can sit in there and literally watch your beer be made and your food cooked right in front of you. We think it's going to be pretty cool."
Parker and Martina are hard at work inside the new location already doing the build out, and they plan to launch a website and social media accounts for Blountstown Beer Co. soon.
In the meantime, stay tuned to the TLH Beer Society's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for any and all news on our area's newest planned brewery as it progresses.