By Wendy Lechner, Photography By Savannah Dean
NIVOL Brewery and Tasting Room, in the heart of Panama City Beach, is the new mecca for truly great craft beer. The micro-craft brewery is the inspiration of Selma and Leo Hill, owners and operators of the highly popular Fishale restaurant. NIVOL (pronounced: ne-VOHL), or LOVIN’ spelled backwards, describes the Hills’ world view – lovin’ beer, lovin’ life.
The craft beer industry has skyrocketed over the last 20 years as Americans became disenchanted with mass-marketed beers that lacked flavor and depth. Here in the U.S., the movement toward craft beer started in San Francisco when Fritz Maytag bought the Anchor Brewing Company and converted it into a highly-successful craft brewery. Now there are more than 2,500 craft brewing companies in the country and the number is only likely to climb.
The idea of a local craft brewery has lingered with the Hills for nearly a decade now. “During a trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, we discovered brew pubs for the first time and we fell in love,” Selma remembers. They decided that one day they’d bless PCB with the delights of true craft beer. They came back home and started planning, with focus on getting the right people, the right facility, and the right recipes. And that’s how NIVOL Brewery came to be.
Two brewmasters bring experience and creativity to the brewing process. Brewmaster Doug Whitt is the mastermind behind the taste and works constantly to perfect the recipes. Brewmaster Mike Delf brings his own special personality to the equation by adding more than a touch of “craziness” to beer making with recipes such as cucumber beer, ghost pepper beer, and dragon fruit mead, according to Selma and Leo.
Nestled in the corner of the Shoppes at Edgewater just off Front Beach Road, NIVOL Brewing is well on its way in gaining fans all over the U.S. with a great effect on our local economy. The Hills always had greater things in mind and Selma explains their mission; “We are committed to providing year-round manufacturing jobs with good benefits. Another goal is to bring interest to the center of the beach and draw people to the East End.”
While the number of employees is small today, Selma and Leo see a rosy future as the business grows. “We plan to distribute NIVOL to restaurants and bars as well as grocery and beverage stores throughout the Florida, Alabama, and Georgia region. We’re setting our goals high.” Their next step is to enter craft beer competitions, win awards, and put Panama City Beach on the map for craft beer.
Currently, NIVOL Brewing Company’s menu offers eight different styles of beer plus a number of Florida beers and a limited number of other beverages. According to Leo and Selma, the three styles they plan to distribute on a large scale include their Scuba IPA (India Pale Ale), a balanced beer with nuances of pine, citrus, and a little more malty in taste than other IPAs. Second is a flavorful Amber that is smooth and slightly citrusy. The third is the 98 Roadside Blonde with a bold and, quite frankly, delicious taste.
Other in-house offerings include a cream ale that Selma laughingly describes as a “conversion beer,” a beer that will convert drinkers of mass market beer into craft beer aficionados. Also on the menu; pale ale, wheat beer, and an amazing vanilla porter that is actually made with vanilla wafers. Even those not fond of dark beer will be pleasantly surprised by this flavorful but smooth gem. Ciders and meads with local flavors such as honey mead made with local tupelo honey will soon be on the menu. The choices will continually change as the brewmasters develop and fine-tune new recipes.
Is there a certain way to taste-test the freshly brewed beers at NIVOL Brewery? Selma and Leo point out that beer should be savored. First, enjoy the aroma. The nuances in the aroma can change the taste of the beer. “Allow it to flow over your tongue and swallow,” Leo recommends and Selma adds that unlike wine, swallowing is necessary for the full beer-tasting experience. “With beer, never spit,” she says with a laugh.
If the intriguing beer choices and flavors bring you to NIVOL, the atmosphere of the tasting room itself will make your visit worthwhile. A fabulous intricate mural anchors the end wall, the creation of local artist Emily Walder. While at the bar, customers can view the brewing operations and the Hills plan to give tours of the facility. Check out NIVOL’s calendar and Facebook page for shrimp-boil nights, charity events, live music, and other special events. The tasting room is open seven days a week from 2:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Experiencing NIVOL, our very own locally brewed craft beer, is a must. Stop in and raise a glass to Selma and Leo’s vision. The couples’ very appropriate slogan is, “Beer is great, drinking beer is greater and brewing beer is greater…er!”
Nivol Brewery and Tasting Room
483 Richard Jackson Blvd., Panama City Beach
Open Sunday -Saturday
2:00 p.m. – Midnight