New Downtown microbrewery honors Panama City’s past

Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 11:27 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG) - The idea had been brewing in the minds of two locals for a couple years. When they decided to “hop” to it and act, it took two more years before their blood, sweat and “beers” finally paid off.

“So it’s really a kind of part museum, part brewery, part restaurant,” said co-owner Allan Branch.

History Class Brewing Company is the brainchild of branch and Tim Whaler.

“Most home brewers, if they’ve done it awhile, secretly want to open a brewery, or not so secretly,” said Whaler who also is the brewer.

And it’s no secret why some say this brewery is in a class by itself.

“So breweries often will pick a story of their town or a landmark, and we have so many incredible stories in this town, we couldn’t pick just one,” said Branch. “And I wanted this brewery to be a place for people, other than just people who were fanatical about beer, but people who were fanatical about our town and to love a place you need to know a few of the stories.”

Take some of the tables for instance. They’re made from the old floor of the Bay High gym. Backboards from the same court also separate some of the booths. Tiles from the roof of the old Panama City City Hall sit above the bar. A couple TVs on display came from the appliance store that once called the building home. And if you didn’t know where Panama City got its name, a framed story on the wall tells you.

“The history thing kind of makes it the great equalizer among demographics,” said Branch. “And it’s fun watching people, a 70-year-old man at the bar with his wife and a couple of 22-year-olds over here eating with their friends.”

And new history is being made right here, along with the ales and lagers of course.

“Alan has a passion as do I to redevelop our hometown, which is Panama City, downtown,” said Whaler.

“Oftentimes breweries are the spark for revitalization of downtowns,” said Branch. “It’s happened in many other places across America. You get people to gather, get a couple of beers in them, they start talking about ideas and good things happen.”

“Yeah, I mean you travel around and you go to all these downtown places wherever it is - Birmingham, Nashville, you name it in the South in our context and you go, these environments are so great, inviting people who are active, walking around enjoying the communities; they always have microbreweries,” said Whaler.

And what’s a downtown without a microbrewery?

“Breweries are celebrated in an interesting way,” said Branch. “For one, it’s a real manufacturing facility, so we’re manufacturing products here. And then this was the literally the center of our town, 4th [Street] and Harrison [Ave.], that’s the old city hall. This was the center of town. This where all the commerce happened.”

The brewery has 16 taps, most with their own beers. They do have guests taps also. They also serve food and non-alcoholic drinks.

“I’m happy with the way the beers turned out,” said Whaler. “I get a lot of great feedback.”

So where did the name History Class come from?

“And History Class came up,” said Whaler. “We went another month and just kept circling back. And with the idea of what we wanted this place to be, to celebrate the history of Panama City, History Class just kind of settled in.”

And from the looks of it, so has the crowd.

“Really the response has been overwhelming,” said Whaler. “I mean the community has a hundred percent supported what we’re doing. They’re showing up, they’re coming out, they’re having a great time.”

And the rest as they say, is history.

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