Photo | Lagniappe

Fort Walton Beach based Props began distributing in 2016 and its beer can now be found in the Florida Panhandle and throughout all of Alabama, including at all Publix stores.

Props, a craft brewery in Fort Walton Beach, recently made its way to our market with three excellent beers available in cans and on tap.

Founded as a brewpub in 2011 by a couple of retired aviators, Props now has three locations — its original brewery and grill in Fort Walton Beach, its brewery and taproom (also in FWB) and a brand-new ale house in Niceville. All produce fresh beer on the premises.

I spoke with Nate Vannatter, one of Props’ owners, who said the idea for the brewery came out of a discussion with one of his partners, Mike Kee, when they were contemplating — over some homebrewed beers — what they were going to do once they retired from the Air Force, where they both served as special operations pilots flying various prop planes. They opened their brewpub in December 2011, even before retiring, and later bought a warehouse where they installed a 30-barrel brewery and taproom.

Props began distributing in 2016 and its beer can now be found in the Florida Panhandle east to Apalachicola, and throughout all of Alabama, including at all Publix stores. Not surprisingly, most of their beers have some type of aviation theme — those available in Alabama are the Flying Coffin IPA, the Blonde Bomber Ale and the Dos Pilotos Cerveza.

Vannatter told me the Dos Pilotos is one of his favorite beers, and a style that really makes Props stand out. He said the idea to produce it actually came from their distributor, who said there was a need in the market to compete with all the popular Mexican imports, so they decided to brew something in a traditional Latin American style. “It is a true cerveza,” says Vannatter, “made with Patagonian pale malts from Chile.”

I was curious as to how different it is from the cervezas we are all used to hoisting at the beach and during Cinco de Mayo, and came away impressed. First of all, it had a darker color and toastier aroma than most of the very light cervezas we tend to get in the United States. It had a rich malt flavor, not very bitter, and with some subtle citrus hints at the end. It was excellent.   

Props’ blonde ale and IPA would be more recognizable styles to most craft beer drinkers. The Blonde Bomber is more of a dirty blonde, almost a light amber, unfiltered wheat with nice hop and spice notes, while the Flying Coffin is everything one would want an IPA to be. At a time when it seems every craft brewery is trying to reinvent the IPA — make it “hoppier,” make it “fruitier,” make it “hazier” — the Flying Coffin is just an excellent, balanced brew. It tastes like an IPA should, flavorful and hoppy, without going overboard. It’s a great everyday IPA.           

Other beers Props regularly produces include the 4 Kings American Brown Ale, the Prop Oil Porter and the Lucky O’Neil Lager, although Vannatter said they always have 13 different beers available at the brewpub and at the taproom and a half-dozen on tap at the Ale House, including seasonal beers such as an Oktoberfest style in the fall and a Christmas Jovie Ale, with cinnamon and nutmeg. Right now they’re featuring a strawberry blonde ale in the taproom for the summertime.

Props also recently entered into a partnership with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos and sells cans of Blue Wahoos Blonde at the minor league baseball team’s home games and in stores in the Pensacola area.