Eastpoint Beer Company makes upgrades during down time
In December 2018, a group of some of the Tallahassee Beer Society's most loyal supporters got a chance to take the Tallahassee Brew Bus down to the Grand (soft) Opening of Eastpoint Beer Company, at 374 U.S. Highway 98 just before the bridge to St. George Island.
What we found was a brewery in its infancy — but one with loads of potential.
Fast forward almost two years later, and the same EBC that once had a half-dozen tap handles — and about the same number of tables — has grown up immensely right before our eyes.
After shutting down early on in the pandemic in March, Eastpoint Beer Company owner Josh Parker decided instead of trying to sell a growler to-go here and a growler to-go there, he would use the down time to perform a reset on the brewery — almost from top to bottom.
"We'd basically been open 7 days a week since that night you all came down on the Brew Bus, so there really hadn't been any time to do much around the brewery but brew beer, sell it, rinse and repeat," Parker told us on our ESPN Radio show recently. "We're not a big operation, but there were some things I was able to look at while we were closed and find ways to run more efficiently and better utilize my space. And we also knew when we did finally open back up, our outdoor space and seating would be a priority."
So Parker — a former construction foreman for Disney who we've often referred to on social media as the "reincarnation of MacGyver" because of how resourceful he is — got to work, putting in countless hours to make significant upgrades to his small taproom that runs on a 2-barrel system.
The renovations began in the back of the house as he added new equipment (heat exchanger, pump system, hard-piping Co2) and rearranged his brewing area to maximize the space at the waterfront tap room. That included adding more cooler space and more taps (there are now 12) — and, yes, that now means more cold, locally brewed craft beer for consumers like you and us.
Then Parker turned his attention to the front of the house and outdoor area that overlooks the Gulf. When we showed up that night in December 2018, the back porch area was treacherous following Hurricane Michael, which hit Franklin County hard with flooding and actually delayed EBC's original opening two months from October 2018 to December.
There were large boulders you had to navigate to walk around, the deck had missing boards and the docks leading out to the water had been badly damaged by the storm.
So Parker spent time during the pandemic upgrading every aspect of the area we like to call "the Big Bend's only #BrewWithAView."
He leveled off the ground immediately outside the tasting room with a dump truck load of asphalt millings, then he added several tables and chairs, and enclosed it with a concrete wrap-around railing and bar top, complete with lights. He also added a large wooden bench that seats roughly 10-12 people and faces directly toward the water, and he moved one of the tasting room's big inside tables outside on the elevated deck so that a large group could sit together while still being socially distanced.
They also added a mini-shuffleboard table and dart board to the tasting room inside, plus cleared out an area for cornhole outside.
But wait — there's more!
During the last 8 months, Eastpoint only re-opened once (you know, during that period when the state said it was safe — then decided a few weeks later it wasn't and closed everyone down again? Right, that period.).
Anyway, when the second shutdown happened in late June and it became clear that breweries needed to add a food component so they could re-open as restaurants, Parker took his innovation to a whole new level.
Not only did he add food to Eastpoint Beer Company's offerings — something that was sorely needed anyway for a brewery in a town without a ton of food options — but he added a New York-style pizza food truck into the mix.
Sorry, did we say "food truck?" We meant "food boat."
True to EBC's beachy, nautical vibe, Parker renovated an old boat and turned it into a pizza kitchen, complete with a stone-fire pizza oven. So EBC not only has great, housemade craft beer, but it now also holds the distinction of serving the only thin-crust, New York-style pizza in all of Franklin County.
And thus far, "Vincenzio's Eastpoint Pizza Company" (more on that name in a minute) has been a GIGANTIC hit with everyone from locals to snowbirds.
"I really didn't do much advertising at all for it; I just kind of rolled it out and started serving pizza by the slice and large pies. And I wasn't even going to open it each day until 4 p.m.," he said. "But before I knew it, in the first week we already had people calling a half hour before we even opened at noon trying to order pizza, so I said, 'OK, well let's just open it up when we open and see how it does.' And so far, it's done great."
As for the beer itself?
Well, there has also been some work put in there too. Parker used his brief break to fine-tune all his current recipes — including his award-winning "Dark Overlord Coffee Imperial Stout" made with local Apalachicola Chocolate & Coffee Company beans — as well as added several new ones, including two new sours that are terrific (and we know that because we tried them both recently).
The strawberry cheesecake sour and blueberry sour that were recently added to the menu have been selling like crazy, as has the "Big Bender" — a delicious session IPA that properly denotes the brewery's geographic region.
All of this spells out one thing: Anyone who's reading this — whether you've been to Eastpoint Beer Company before or not — you need to make another trip down (or your first trip) soon. The weather is idyllic right now to sit out back, gaze across the ocean and soak in some Vitamin D.
Because a lot has changed in the last 8 months, and every single one of the upgrades has taken the 850's only waterfront brewery next-level.
And for those concerned about safety amid the pandemic, there is no mask mandate in Franklin County like there is Leon County, but Eastpoint Beer Company is an open-air facility from front to back, and guests are more than welcome to wear masks when entering and moving around the brewery. We personally observed this taking place among many of the guests during our recent visit.
So congrats to Josh Parker on all the exciting new things happening at EBC, including the birth of his first child during the middle of the pandemic. He and girlfriend Jenn Klingmann welcomed Vincenzio Indiana Parker into the world in early September, and the couple couldn't be happier.
And we here at the Tallahassee Beer Society couldn't be happier for them.
Danny Aller is the co-founder, along with Matthew Crumbaker, of the TLH Beer Society, a group of avid craft beer lovers. Reach the Beer Society on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org