Inaugural Craft Beer Fest a success

If you missed Craft Beer Fest this year, you really missed out.

Garage operations, commercial brewhouses and mom and pop shops came out in force to Ye Olde Brothers Brewery inaugural Craft Beer Fest 2019 last month.

As Navarre’s first craft brewery and a leader in the region, Ye Olde brought together more than 20 local and regional craft brewers to offer samples of their wares in a friendly competition. And those wares were delicious.

As live music played, hundreds of 21 and overs sipped samples ranging from fruity concoctions to classic styles.

Home brewers Brett Reid and Thomas Grier of Alga Beer Co. took home the title of People’s Choice. Alga is looking to open up a brewery business in downtown Pensacola in the near future.

“It is awesome,” Reid said. “To be a home brewer right now and beat out regionally commercial breweries is pretty dope.”

The companies stand outs were a crawfish saison made with Zataran’s seasoning and lemon zest as well as their galapagos double IPA.

“We ran out of almost everything,” Reid said.

The name Alga is a mass up of the abbreviations for Alabama and Georgia. The company got its start as two dudes meeting up on the weekends to share their creations. Reid lived in Birmingham, and Grier was living in Atlanta.

Coming in second by just one vote was Navarre’s up and coming brewery, St. Michaels Brewing Company. Located at 2199 Highway 87, St. Michaels owner Michael Bares has already cleared land for construction of a new brewhouse and tap room. Their cream ale, Irish stout and other brews were favorites among those sampling.

“We are waiting for some of the engineered building plans to come back to us,” he said. “Then we go back to the county for our second review. Then hopefully we can start pulling permits for construction.”

The gulf coast sports an impressive brewing legacy, and these craft brewers are always ready to welcome new taste testers. Plan to attend next year’s Craft Beer Fest by booking today at

Seas the Day this weekend or have a pint at Ye Olde

It’s a busy—and fun– weekend here on Navarre Beach.

Saturday, March 30, beachgoers can have a ball free of charge at the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center’s Seas the Day. This celebration will have crafts, animal encounters, games and activities for the whole family focused on the center’s mission: sea turtle and marine conservation.

Safari the African Spurred tortoise will be greeting visitors to the festivities.

Activities are free, but there is a $5 charge to enter the center where visitors will also have the opportunity to meet Sweet Pea, the center’s resident sea turtle. Other marine creatures also occupy the center.

The event honors the beginning of April, an important awareness month for children as it is Military Child Month, Autism Awareness Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Center treats this as a day to celebrate children with stress-free fun for everyone on the backdrop of our beautiful beach.

For the adults, Navarre’s first craft brewery will be hosting Craft Beer Fest 2019. More than 20 local and regional craft brewers will be offering samples of their beers. Admission to the festival includes live entertainment, beer tasting and a souvenir glass. There will be other vendors as well, including home brewing and other fun.

Guests will be asked to sample the brews, from IPAs to Stouts to Porter, determining best beer.

You won’t want to miss this one. Ye Olde is local staple known for good food, downhome fun and delicious beer. Best part is 10 percent of ticket sales go to the winning beer’s charity of choice.

Whether your looking for an entertaining and engaging day with the little ones or a little adult fun, we’ve got you covered on Navarre Beach, so book your stay at

Know before you go: ‘Pier pellies’

The brown and white seabirds are a common sight along the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier, shuffling along the railing or dive-bombing the water.

It’s easy to see why. Our pier is frequented by their favorite food: fish. These birds have earned themselves the nickname “pier pellies.” Pier pellies can become habituated to humans if they find it is easy to get food around people.

But when pelicans and people mix, issues can arise said Caroline Stahala, Audubon Western Florida Panhandle shorebird manager.

It can be tempting when a pier pelly approaches asking for a snack to feed them spare bait or even people food. They can seem like feathered dogs, begging for a treat.

But do not give in.

Stahala and birds advocates say it is critical that we not feed these feathered friends.

“The easier they can get food for them, the better. It is low-effort food to them basically. We highly encourage people to not feed the pelicans. That includes directly and indirectly,” Stahala said.

This can be especially harmful when the food they are getting from people is not part of their natural diet.

“That sort of food is junk food to the birds. Nutritionally, it is not what they need,” Stahala said.

The feeding encourages the pelicans to interact with people, which can lead to trouble. Sometimes the birds can get caught in fishing line, swallow hooks or even fall ill after people have fed them things their systems are not equipped to handle.

Another big issue for pier pellies can arise when people try to touch the birds.

It is a very, very bad idea to pet a pelican.

For starters, pelicans have a hook-structure on the end of their beak used when they dive for fish. That hook-structure can cause deep cuts if the bird bites a person, which is all too likely if you try to pet them. The birds are also prone to feather mites and may carry contaminants on their feathers.

The birds may also have been previously hooked by fishermen or caught in fishing line. These hooks can cause cuts to those handling them.

Human touch can also damage the natural waterproofing of pelicans’ feathers that they need to be able to dive down and catch fish.

So don’t touch. Instead use that up close vantage of these pier dwelling birds to get a great photo.

If you see a destressed pelican on the pier, call our local wildlife refuge at 850-650-1880 or Florida FWC at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922). Use care when handling the bird. A towel over the face is extremely helpful. When possible, leave it to the professionals.

Pelicans are graceful creatures, and symbolic to coastal communities. If we respect them, it can be a wonderful experience to see them up close on our pier. Come see for yourself through

2019 Spring Jam coming to Navarre Beach

Thousands of visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy live music with their toes in the surf and sand along Navarre Beach Sunday, March 24, during Spring Jam 2019.

Juana’s Pagodas and Sailors Grill has partnered with Cat Country 98.7 once again to offer the second annual Spring Jam, a one-day music festival along the Santa Rosa Sound. The event will be hosted at Juana’s.

Last year was a blast with fantastic music, food and fun on the beautiful backdrop of our white sandy beaches.

“The great thing about this event is we are able to bring artists that are in the top ten of country music charts,” said Juana’s event coordinator Dannie Hall. “Most of those are performing at the Wharf in Destin for $60 a ticket, where here you can see them for $10. And it helps Santa Rosa Kids House.”

This year’s headliner is Michael Ray with special guest Jimmie Allen and Everette to benefit Santa Rosa Kid’s House. Kid’s House is a local nonprofit supporting child victims of sexual abuse.

Other announced performers include Drop Dead Dangerous, James Adkins, Chloe Channell, and other bands to be announced. The event is presented by Gulf Winds Credit Union.

“It is top ten on country, and some of them are in the top five already. One is a really new artist, and he is rocking it. That is Everette,” Hall said. “The ones that were here last year are now on the CMAs. This is really the best time to see them.”

Doors will open at 3:30 p.m., and the show will start at 6 p.m. The event is an all ages. I highly recommend arriving early. Seriously, you want to be their at least an hour ahead of doors opening to get settled. Don’t worry, you won’t be bored waiting to get in.

There will be a parking lot party with food and live performances, sort of a pre-party to the beach fun.

Tickets are $10 online ahead of time and $20 at the door if available. Ticket sales are limited to 3,000, and Hall said they expect to sell out again this year. Children 2 and under are permitted without a ticket. There will be food and beverages on-site.

This is a rain or shine event. Seating is first come, first served. Beach towels are allowed.

Restricted items are:

• Tents

• Drones

• Umbrellas

• Strollers

• Chairs

• Coolers or outside food or drink

• Pets (registered service animals are permitted)

Professional video or photography is not allowed.

Book your vacation at, then get your tickets at and click on Spring Jam 2019.

The life of Eliza captures history at Arcadia

When Milton business­man Joseph Forsyth died in 1855 just outside the then-non-existent community of Navarre Beach, the dozens of slaves that called Arcadia Mill home faced an uncertain future.

“There would have been a lot of uncertainty. They are not told about the ways of the world,” said Adriane Walker, Arcadia site manager. “When they find out that their owner has died, they have no idea what is going to happen to them.”

But one young woman and her children were given a chance at a better life. “My girl Eliza” and her three eldest children were listed in Forsyth’s will. He expressly called for them to be transported to a free state, a state where slavery had been abolished, and he called for a stipend for living expenses to be paid out of his estate to her and her children.

Eliza’s story is one of many shared as part of the rich history of Arcadia Mill Archaeological Site and Homestead. This “museum” is located just north of Navarre Beach, and offers a variety of ways to dive into history in the region.

Whether you choose to walk the expanse of boardwalks through the site, tour the interactive homestead property, attend a history talk or check out the mill site exhibits, this site is a history buff’s dream.

Eliza’s story captures a big part of the debate around slavery at the time.

A large population of African-American slaves lived at Arcadia throughout the years working the dangerous wood mill equipment. But when the complex added a cotton mill in 1845, roughly 40 female slaves were purchased and brought to the mill.

Walker explained that conventional wisdom at the time held that women and girls were better at working the machinery because of their smaller fingers.

But the mill also called into question some deeply held prejudices.

One of the notions used to justify slavery was that African-Americans were less capable of skilled labor than white workers, Walker explained. As the cotton mill thrived in the area, those prejudices were challenged.

A Pensacola Gazette article at the time read: “To suppose, as many have pretended to do, that they are not equal to white girls in a factory is ridiculous nonsense. It is to suppose that the power of manipu­lation depends on the color of the fingers.”

Multiple generations began to occupy the slave cabins that lined the property.

But with Forsyth’s passing, many of these families were in danger of being separated. Eliza’s family was no different. While Forsyth’s wishes were expressly listed, Walker said it was not guaranteed that those wishes would be carried out. Luckily, Forsyth’s representatives did work to free Eliza.

The journey would have been long and dangerous. The family was making its way to the free state of New York, but to get there they would have to travel through Southern states that heavily supported slavery.

Despite having legal documentation freeing her and her children, the family would have faced danger of being detained or even sold back into slavery if they were spotted along the way. They were likely escorted by one of Forsyth’s business associates.

“I would imagine a lot the journey meant them literally hiding, covertly traveling to get to a free state. It was probably a very dangerous trip. It is amazing they made it,” Walker said.

At just 29 years old, Eliza’s entire life was about to change. She was accompanied by her three freed children: Laura, 9, Francis, 8, and Augustus, 7. Walker said researchers were unsure whether she had successfully made the journey until a student was able to find census records in New York showing her name a year after the trip.

There is another surprise in Eliza’s story.

In the census records confirming her successful escape, there are not three children listed but four. A 1-year-old girl named Susan was among the family. Adding to the mystery, the infant Susan was found listed among an inventory of slaves to be sold after Forsyth’s death.

Susan had somehow escaped.

Further records showed that stipends of $1,200 were paid to Eliza and her children by the Forsyth family for years after Joseph Forsyth’s death, as requested in the will. Only through records uncovered and archaeological work done by the university students and employees could these lives be revealed.

Many questions regarding Eliza’s story remain unanswered. Walker said no one knows why Forsyth chose to free her, though it was not an unheard-of practice, especially for slaves that worked in the household of their owner. Walker said it’s also possible that Forsyth was the father of Eliza’s children. On census records, their race is listed as mixed. But there is no way to know for sure, at least not yet.

Exploration of Arcadia’s history continues. The site hosted their grand opening of the homestead site to the public this month, offering a new perspective on the history of the region from the days of slavery and into the 21st century.

Make this unique stop part of your vacation plan at

Head brewer brings art and science at Ye Olde Brothers beers

Ye Olde Brothers Brewery (YOBB) offers some of the best micro-brews in the country, right here in our backyard, but it is a sister, not a brother, that leads the charge.

An unlikely series of events brought Rachel Breite to Navarre where she found her dream job in a unique role as the head brewer at YOBB.

Breite, originally from Festus, Missouri, received her degree in Marine Biology from the College of Charleston. She worked on fishing boats for Alaskan Observers, Inc. as a Pacific Northwest Ground Fish Observer – or in other words, a fisheries biologist.

To get a feel for what she had to endure for up to five days at a stretch, tune into Discovery Channel’s series, “Deadliest Catch.” She worked on “The Redeemer,” of the Discovery Channel’s, “Deadliest Catch Dungeon Cove” fame, but not at the time of filming.

Breite came to know Navarre Beach thanks to her dad. She had always loved the beaches, so after a year of freezing Oregon weather, cold water and a boat full of fishermen – Navarre, Florida was the place to be. She worked at YOBB as a waitress and soon shift manager eventually working her way up to head brewer in January 2018.

Breite has enjoyed and sought out craft beer since college.

“I was lucky to be surrounded by people that took an interest in me and my interest in brewing beer while working at Ye Olde Brothers,” Breite said.

Of the twin brothers that own YOBB, Larry and Jerry Rolison, Jerry is the brother most involved in the actual brewing of beer. They affectionately call Breite the “brew mistress,” though Breite prefers to be called Rachel.

“Her beers are way superior to anything my head brewer had produced. This is nota­ble, since he had better than 15-years of home brewing experience. Rachel will be the head brewer for YOBB as long as she wants to work with us,” Rolison said.
Part of the appeal of hav­ing Breite join the brewing team was her background in science.
“If you can understand the biological and chemical pro­cesses going on with beer you can manipulate it to create the art you want. It is a marriage of art and science,” Breite ex­plained. “I love biology and water chemistry. I feel I have an advantage because I know and understand the chemical reactions that are taking place and the biological informa­tion through the fermenting process.”
Breite feels that since beer is 90 percent water, you can “nerd out” and tweak the water profiles to craft beer. She takes great care to brew to style specification.
“For example, I look at the starting number, the final number, the color and the alcohol by volume or ABB. If I am going to call a beer a hefeweizen – it will hit every measurement,”she said.

Ye Olde Brothers’ brews of­fer a wide variety of beer styles and has worked hard to estab­lish a solid base of what Breite calls “good, clean beer.” Breite is happy to say that every style is approachable.
Each beer is carefully craft­ed with unique elements, including flavors incorporated through infusion.

For those that don’t like beer, YOBB brews their own root beer. Many have said it is the best root beer they have ever tasted, and root beer float are available on the premises.
You can’t get YOBB anywhere but Navarre, and those looking for souvenirs can purchase a growler of the beer of your choice at the family-friend­ly restaurant that is the heart of the brewery. The restau­rant serves smoked meats, brick-oven pizzas baked in the old-world tradition, wine along with their craft beers and other beers brewed locally and throughout the world.
Monthly Breite also leads a free “How to Brew”demonstration on the porch of the brewery.

“I enjoy working with the brothers and what they stand for. They used ‘Ye Olde’ in their name for a reason and it is nostalgic back to the days before prohibition when every local community had their own craft beer,” she said. “I truly appreciate their approach to beer, and we are honored to be the local brew­ery for Navarre.”
Come learn a thing or two from Breite (or just sample the flight) at YOBB on beautiful Navarre Beach,

Navarre Beach a top 25 U.S. beach

Navarre Beach is the 12th best beach in the U.S., according to the millions of users on TripAdvisor. (It’s number one according to me, but that’s just personal preference.)

Our local coastline placed 12th out of 25 destinations that made the cut for the 2019 Travelers’ Choice Awards Top U.S. Beaches. That put us out ranking coastlines throughout the country for our white sandy beaches, friendly southern charm and fantastic eats.

TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, announced the winners of its Travelers’ Choice awards February.

Award winners were determined based on the quantity and quality of traveler reviews and ratings for beaches on TripAdvisor, gathered over a 12-month period.

Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Director Julie White said the announcement was exciting. White is tasked with shouting from the rooftops how great our beach is and delivering on that promise to the thousands of people that visit our shores each year.

“I was thrilled to get that kind of an accolade because those are the critics that you want, your visitors. Those are the best critics,” she said.

VP for TripAdvisor’s global communications had some positive feedback for us as well. Desirée Fish said the Travelers’ Choice awards are driven by visitors, not the company.

“With cold weather causing many of us to wish for sunnier days, now is the perfect time to make your dreams come true and plan your next beach getaway at one of these amazing, award-winning beaches! This list of travelers’ favorite beaches around the world has something near or far for surfers and sunbathers alike,” she said.

According to TripAdvisor, Navarre Beach is “a beach for solitude and simplicity, along with the longest pier in Florida.” I can echo that one.

One recent review used in the judging said: “We visited Navarre Beach after stumbling upon it, one of the BEST well-kept vacations secrets in the U.S. The beaches are white powder, the water looks like the Bahamas and the locals are chill and friendly. Great restaurants, hotels on the ocean and overall feel. We’ll be back!”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

“I looked at the reviews, and what we are putting out there is what we are getting back: calm, beauti­ful, white sands, relaxing,” White said.

Navarre Beach beat out the better-known Hawaiian shorelines and other well-advertised Florida beaches. Why? It’s because there is an authenticity here that just cannot be replicated.

Our miles of untouched natural coast, open to the public, leave guests who stumble across us coming back for more, but even with those draws, our coast remains uncrowded even in the peak of summer. That is a rarity for Florida beaches. Come see for yourself what all the buzz is about at

Mardi Gras: Good times set to roll on Navarre Beach

“Laissez les bon temps rouler!”

Mardi Gras season is here, and it is parade time! Thousands are set to overtake Navarre Beach for the 33rd Annual Navarre Beach Mardi Gras Parade Feb. 23.

Mardi Gras season kicked off Jan. 15, and groups such as the Navarre Krewe of Jesters have been ringing in the celebration ever since. I may or may not have already eaten King Cake…twice…

Anyway, the Navarre Beach festivities are set to culminate with the Mardi Gras parade on the beach in advance of Fat Tuesday, which this year occurs March 5.

The theme of this year’s parade is “Voodoo on the Beach.” Neat right? I am totally busting out my voodoo inspired garb for this year’s festivities.

Navarre Krewe of Jesters has announced the parade will happen rain or shine on Gulf Boulevard. That is the main road of the beach where the multiuse path is located.

Step-off is set for 1 p.m. sharp.


Navarre Beach Mardi Gras Parade
Themed “Voodoo on the Beach”

Feb. 23 from 1-5 p.m.

Gulf Boulevard on Navarre Beach


With music blaring, dozens of colorful floats carrying revelers dispensing free “throws” such as beads, toys, moon pies and other treats will parade down the roadway.

Previous years have drawn crowds in excess of 35,000 people, making this a festive, but family-friendly, party to remember. Bring the whole family, along with chairs or strollers, and make a day of it.

This year’s court includes even includes our local County Commissioner Dave Piech as Grand Marshal.

But with all that fun and crowds, planning ahead is important. Those wanting to celebrate need to plan to be on the beach early. Aside from the limited space available along the parade route, access to the beach is likely to stop early in the day with the closing of the beach bridge.

Santa Rosa sheriff’s deputies close the bridge onto the beach midday each year, though they can opt to close it earlier for safety and traffic control. The Krewe has no control over that timing or their decision, so being prepared is important.

If you plan your stay at one of our beach front condominiums or house rentals, you don’t have to worry about the bridge. You can just walk to the parade route, but if you do need to head to the mainland to pick up some festive wear, be sure to be back on the beach by 10 a.m. to avoid the traffic and closure.

As the Krewe says “it’s rain or shine – and since 1986 it has never rained on our parade.”

Restaurants will be open, as will the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center if you want a little pre-parade fun.

It’s not too late to join in the fun at

Japanese culture comes to Navarre Beach

More than a decade later, a group of familiar faces from across the southeast and across the world gathered at Gulf Coast Kiln Walk for the 14th Annual Woodstoke Festival to celebrate the arts of two continents.

The kiln walk welcomed not only local artists but a special cultural guest this year. Japanese master potter Masayoshi Shimizu, or Masa as he is affectionately known to his American friends, was a guest of Navarre Beach’s Gulf Coast Kiln Walk Society. This is the second time the Kiln Walk has brought Masa to the region.

The legendary artist placed his works alongside those of 35 other artists in the state’s largest kiln, the anagama. And after firing, those works were revealed to the public.

The anagama kiln is a traditional Japanese woodfiring technique. Burrowed into a mound of dirt, the anagama’s name translates to “cave kiln.” The wood that fuels this earthen dragon burns so hot that the ash turns to a sort of glass on the surface of the pots, reaching temperatures in excess of 2,400 degrees.

Masa flew across the world to attend this year’s festival, sharing his wealth of knowledge with the countless artists that call this area home.

Their works were on display during the festival, enticing visitors and showcasing the cultural heritage of Navarre. Masa returned home following the festival.

If you missed the festival, don’t worry. Masa’s work is still available for viewing at Pensacola State College as part of “Beauty in Use, Celebrating Japanese Cultural Traditions.”

Masa brought the collection to share with the public as part of a long-standing cultural exchange program between Florida and the Japanese state of Wakayama.

The theme of the show is “beauty in use” which perfectly encompasses Masa’s intention in his work. He said his art best shows its beauty when being used in traditional tea ceremonies, as vessels for displaying flowers and through other purposes.

His pottery focuses on using elements of the region where it is created, including locally sourced clays. He incorporates local plants and even shells into his glazes.

The collection is viewable now through June 27 at the Anna Lamar Switzer Center for the Visual Arts in Pensacola just a short drive from Navarre Beach.

At the close of the show, the pieces will call Navarre home.

Attendance of the show is free and open to the public Monday-Friday. Plan your dive into Japanese culture at

Gulf Breeze Zoo just keeps on growing

Just weeks after the Gulf Breeze Zoo clued us in on the arrival of clouded leopards, yet another Indonesia species joined the zoo’s ever-growing family.

A family of six orangutans are coming to the area. The Zoo has been working in conjunction with the LEO Zoological Conservation Center in Connecticut to bring orangutans back to the facility.

“This is an incredible homecoming for us, as two of the orangutans were here 10 years ago” said CEO, Eric Mogensen. “Sara gave birth to her daughter, Indah, at Gulf Breeze Zoo in 2005 before they were relocated to LEO. In Connecticut they were grouped with other orangutans and did well. With a change of plans at LEO we were able to procure this larger, well-acclimated group of orangutans for the zoo. The group we have here now consists of 4 breeding age females, one breeding male and a young 3-year-old male still with his mother.”

The Gulf Breeze Zoo was selected as the new home for the orangutans based on the facility’s high standards, dedication to conservation, and large natural ape habitats.

The specially designed island habitat is over 43,000 square feet, providing one of the largest orangutan habitats in the United States. The island provides a lush environment including mature trees and climbing structures. Coupled with the warm temperatures and humidity, Florida provides an ideal environment that mimics their wild home, Southeast Asia.

This is the second species of great ape housed at the zoo. On a neighboring island, visitors can view the zoo’s gorillas as well.

Everybody is excited for the return of Orangs.

“With less than 300 individuals in zoological parks in North America, it’s an honor to work with these iconic species,” said Conservation Coordinator, Katy Massey. “But our goal is bigger than six individuals, we want to help save the entire species.”

Conservation education is a huge part of the zoo’s mission, and orangutans desperately need the help.

Orangutan populations have declined by as much as 97 percent in the past century. Indonesia has the highest deforestation rate in the world, which means fewer and fewer homes for these incredible species.

As the Gulf Breeze Zoo continues to develop conservation efforts around the globe, they will not only be providing financial aid to programs in the field, but also developing stateside programs to raise awareness of the palm oil crisis. While the orangutans are the centerpiece of this campaign, conservation programs will benefit other species they share the jungle with, such as siamangs, gibbons, clouded leopards, tapirs, rhinos and elephants.

The orangutans can be viewed daily, weather dependent, on their island, visible from the train and boardwalk. The Gulf Coast Area’s award-winning Gulf Breeze Zoo is home to more than 800 exotic animals. The Zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located just off Highway 98. Plan you visit today at