You’ve heard of beer and food pairings. How about beer paired with authentic Florida experiences? Join us as we explore the state through the flavors of Florida’s craft beer culture.

By Stephen Kubiak

You wouldn’t really expect to find a dog hanging out at a place called Idyll Hounds Brewing Company. After all, it’s just a name, right? Yet as soon as I opened my car door, a gray dog happily greeted me, nudging my leg with its wet nose to say hello.

Just down the same road as Grayton Beer Company, Idyll Hounds sits along the edge of a pine forest where the road dead ends.

“There’s nothing big and flashing outside directing people to the taproom because we are a production facility,” said Shawn Sherman, co-owner of the brewery. “But if you come all the way back to find us, that lets you in to try the beer.”

“You’re in our club,” adds co-owner and brewmaster Frasier Hansen with a laugh.

I sat with Hansen and Sherman at the taproom bar as they explained how they met each other in the South Walton restaurant scene. Hansen had been home-brewing for a while and eventually got Sherman into it. Two years later, they opened Idyll Hounds.

“We’re able to be creative, make beer, do what we wanted and work for ourselves,” said Hansen, noting the reasons why they wanted to open a brewery. “That was a big allure of it all. Stepping away from everything and saying, ‘Screw it. This is what we’re going to do.’”

The name of the brewery is an homage to Hansen’s father, who was nicknamed “the Hound” in his younger years.

“That was a nickname that my father carried forever since he was young,” said Hansen. “He was a successful business owner for over 46 years in Salt Lake City. He always supported me. When the time came to open the brewery, he backed us fully and shared his business knowledge with us.”

That knowledge helped the entrepreneurs tap into the Northwest Florida market, which, as Sherman noted, was one of the last frontiers for the craft beer movement. “Ten years ago, it was all Bud and Coors Light,” said Sherman. “Now you have craft beer bars popping up and more and more craft breweries opening. We’re the new kids on the block, but we now have people coming up to us asking how they can start brewing.”

In the Hounds production facility, taproom patrons have ringside seats next to fermentation tanks and bourbon casks. Stacks of cans tower along the back walls and bright tanks shine under the well-lit warehouse lighting. The taproom consists of little more than a small bar with several taps, a Wii, a corner with merchandise and a couple of tables and chairs thrown together. At the roll-down warehouse door, the gray dog sits and watches the parking lot, waiting for customers to pull in. It’s comfortable and casual, but this place is about the love of the product. You drive down to the dead end for great beer.

“You’ll only get some of our small-batch stuff (in the taproom),” said Hansen. “We test to see what people like. Most of these taps are things I’m playing with. There’s a lot of room to play on the small batch, so we get a lot of cool, interesting flavors that end up in the taproom.”

“I keep telling him to just brew,” said Sherman. “Brew whatever you want, just brew.”

And Hansen does just that, making flavors like Big And Fluffy, a smooth, sweet stout brewed with marshmallows, vanilla, cinnamon and coconut, and Strawberry Shortcake with Kiwi, a flavorful sour ale. But even the brewery’s two main canned and distributed beers, Divide & Conch’r, a double IPA, and Man o’ Wheat, a pale wheat ale, push the boundaries of standard craft fare.

“When we came out with Divide & Conch’r, our first beer we brewed, people were like, ‘Your first beer is going to be a double IPA, here in the middle of nowhere in the Florida Panhandle? In Lager land?’” said Hansen.

“Yes, shut your mouth and try it,” added Chas Swanson, a brewer standing behind the taproom bar. Sherman and Hansen both laughed.

“It’s our biggest seller,” said Sherman. “It’s huge.” 

Guest taps from other Florida breweries, like Apalachicola’s Oyster City Brewing and Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing, round out the taproom selections. Even nearby Grayton Beer has a tap.

“We have a great working relationship with Grayton Beer Company,” said Sherman, noting that there isn’t animosity between the two despite the proximity. “They’re right down the road so if we run out of something we can run down and get it and vice versa. They’re the first people we call and a great bunch of folks.”

The tall pines and surrounding forest may shroud Idyll Hounds, but that hasn’t stopped visitors from as far away as Illinois and Ohio from following the scent of bitter hops to the brewery doors.

“We get people that come from all over, yet this area is one of the last places craft beer has taken hold,” said Sherman. “They can come down now and find good craft beer.”

Visitors might not know about the area’s great beer, but they do know about the white sands and emerald waters of South Walton.

Just on the other side of US Highway 98 from the brewery, along scenic Highway 30A, the 16 neighborhoods that make up the Beaches of South Walton are strung along 26 miles of coastline. You’ll find Idyll Hounds brews at local hangouts like Growler Garage 30A, a craft beer bar in Santa Rosa, and Red Bar, a funky juke joint in quirky Grayton Beach. For those looking to take their beer cans on the white sands of Walton County, the beaches from Miramar down to Rosemary are great spots to kick off the flip-flops, thrown down a beach towel and plant an umbrella.
“The whole reason we went with cans is that they are beach friendly,” said Sherman.

So crack open a cool one and watch a South Walton sunset with your toes dug into the sand. Wait until the pale light shimmers over the soft gulf surf and you may find yourself howling at the moon.

When You Go..

What: Idyll Hounds Brewing Company
Where: 845 Serenoa Rd, Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
Phone: 850-764-3955