Oyster City Brewing Company to tap former GrassLands in Tallahassee for craft pub
Welcome to Tallahassee, Oyster City Brewing Company.
The longtime Apalachicola craft brewing operation, which first opened in Franklin County in 2014, is expanding into Tallahassee and will be taking over the former GrassLands Brewing building located at 603 W. Gaines Street.
"We hope to have it up and running in the fall sometime. I would love to give a clear cut date, but there are a lot of moving pieces that have to be placed perfectly before that time comes."
Head Brewer And General Manager Clayton Mathis
Clayton Mathis, Oyster City's Head Brewer and General Manager, confirmed OCBC's expansion plans to the Tallahassee Beer Society on Monday morning. And an official announcement — live from their new location — came Tuesday.
Beers of years gone by
GrassLands Brewing — which opened in 2015 and became Tallahassee's third craft brewery in operation — closed after 4 years in business in July 2019, vacating their tap room, 15 barrel brewhouse and large beer garden. But also leaving behind a turnkey brewery for someone to take over. A group from Ocala — Special Operation Forces Brewing — briefly leased the space from late 2019 until late 2020, but they never brewed a beer in Tallahassee or opened the taproom.
Rumors began swirling on March 2 about Oyster City coming to Tallahassee when one of the owners of the building, Dean Minardi, told the Tallahassee Beer Society that, "We are currently negotiating a lease with an existing, known, established, out-of-town brewery that is expanding to a second production facility and taproom. And yes, this brewery is from Florida."
Guesses flew as to who would be moving in, and the clubhouse favorite was Oyster City.
Fast forward to April 13, and those rumors are no more: Oyster City is officially coming to town.
So why did OCBC choose Tallahassee as the spot to open its second location? And why now?
Mathis said despite Oyster City's tremendous growth in the last few years all around the region — they currently distribute their beer as far west as Alabama and as far south as Gainesville and Ocala — choosing Tallahassee to plant its second flag was really a no-brainer.
"Tallahassee has such a strong and cohesive craft beer community that pushes the limits with constant focus on quality and innovation," Mathis wrote in an email. "The TLH Beer Society has always included us in their updates, and even organized a package run during the pandemic to help us out! I've spent many a day sitting on the beach, or on the corner in Apalach, drinking some of the expertly crafted products made right there in Tallahassee. Tallahassee has always supported Oyster City from the minute we opened the doors, and we have an excellent distribution partner in Tri-Eagle already in place. The question really is ... 'Why wouldn't we want to come to Tallahassee?' "
Oyster City will become Tallahassee's sixth craft brewery when they open, joining Proof Brewing (Estab. 2012), Lake Tribe Brewing (2015), Deep Brewing (2016), Ology Brewing (2017) and Fools Fire Brewing (2021).
But when the doors will actually open to "Oyster City North" remains to be seen, said Mathis.
"We hope to have it up and running in the fall sometime. I would love to give a clear cut date, but there are a lot of moving pieces that have to be placed perfectly before that time comes," Mathis said.
"We will keep you all updated on Instagram and Facebook as we make progress, as we want to keep our OCBC family involved and in the loop throughout the entire process. Expect us to push some new and innovative products through the new location. We will have similar tap lists, but they will definitely be different!"
No matter what Oyster City puts out these days, the accolades seem to pour in.
Oyster City won double gold in December 2020 at the prestigious U.S. Open Beer Championships for their Mangrove Pale Ale and Mill Pond Dirty Blonde Ale, marking the first time any brewery in the Tallahassee-area had ever won gold at the U.S. Open.
Oyster City previously won silver three times in the same national competition — twice for its best-selling Hooter Brown Ale and once for its Red Right Return Red Ale — but this past year marked their first U.S. Open gold medals. Hooter Brown, however, did win gold at the Best Florida Beer Championships — a statewide competition — in March 2020.
Big personality meet big city
Oyster City's original taproom, which is small and located in the heart of Downtown Apalachicola, has a big personality and is widely considered a home-away-from-home for many in the Big Bend. Apalachicola offers scenic views, outstanding dining options, quaint lodging, iconic outdoor events, incredible fishing, and — of course — fresh oysters everywhere you turn.
And now, Oyster City wants to transplant their "Made By The Water" motto into Tallahassee. And TLH Beer Society co-founderMatthew Crumbaker, for one, can't wait.
"It's really hard to underscore what incredible news this is. To take a brewing facility that's laid largely dormant for two years and insert a strong brand — a brand rooted in our area — like Oyster City Brewing, is excellent," Crumbaker said.
"If you're familiar with the award-winning beers, come-as-you-are vibe, and festive environment that the Apalachicola brewery has been pumping out for years, it's really hard envisioning a better fit for Tallahassee's craft beer scene. For those that are somehow not familiar, you're in for a real treat. Great addition to Tallahassee, and especially the Gaines Street corridor."
As for what helped seal the deal for Oyster City to lock in their location in Tallahassee?
"Obviously the fact that it already has brewing equipment located inside the facility is a giant plus. Everything is set up to get started as soon as we update a few pieces here and there and get our licensing processed," Mathis said.
"Ample parking and a great location for a diverse crowd of people to enjoy a little bit of the coast brought to Tallahassee is another big positive. I won't give too much away, but we want everyone to feel like they're parked in a serene space that conveys what the Apalachicola lifestyle and Oyster City is all about!"
Fermenting their legacy
OCBC beer has long been found on taps in bars and restaurants around Tallahassee, and more recently in cans at just about every grocery store and convenience store in North Florida and Alabama thanks to a canning partnership with Brew Hub in Orlando. They've expanded their footprint far and wide in the last two years, and this decision to officially enter the Tallahassee market is just the latest move in a line of big ones the brewery has made.
All that's left now is to brew the beer.
"Huge (move for us) is an understatement. Myself, our sales force, brewers, beertenders, and the ownership group are very excited to join an already excellent craft beer scene in Tallahassee," Mathis said. "Tallahassee has shown so much support for us since day one, and we look forward to joining the community."