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A local craft brewery is expanding on the Gulf Coast and beyond.

Props Craft Brewery announced this week its local expansion into the mass manufacturing and distribution craft beer market by opening a new facility in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

The brewery will open its new taproom and small brewing facility later this year at 125 Lovejoy Road in a nearly 10,000 square-foot building within the Fort Walton Beach Commerce and Technology Park. 

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The location of Props Craft Brewery’s new $1.3 million distribution facility and taproom. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

Since beginning operations in 2011 as a small craft beer bar, Props Craft Brewery has doubled its footprint with recent expansions at its existing taproom in downtown Fort Walton Beach. The expansion announced today will allow the company to move into a regional production brewery and meet the demand for their handcrafted beer.

The company has netted more than $200,000 in public incentives for the project, including a more than $50,000 tax exemption in the form of an economic development ad valorem tax exemption, or EDATE. The Fort Walton Beach city council and Okaloosa County commissioners voted last year to approve the tax incentive package as part of an effort to keep the company from moving elsewhere.

Additionally, the company has  earned the support of the University of West Florida, with the university’s Office of Economic Development and Engagement awarding a $150,000 grant to the brewery for expansion. The grant is part of the Industry Recruitment, Retention and Expansion Fund program, which was launched in 2011 as part of Florida’s Oil Spill Recovery Act.

As part of the public incentive and grant package, the brewery owners agreed to invest more than $1.3 million in construction and equipment for the new facility and to hire 11 people at an average wage of $43,000 a year. After 10 years, the EDATE would expire, and the company would begin paying ad valorem taxes.

“(Props Craft Brewery’s expansion) would not have been possible without the support of the leadership in the City of Fort Walton Beach and the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners,” said company co-founder and co-owner Nathan Vannatter.

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A shipment of Prop’s Blonde Bomber Ale. (Props Craft Brewery/Special to The Pulse)

The company’s $1.3 million expansion will establish Okaloosa County’s only local distribution brewery. According to the company, the 30-barrel brewhouse will match the largest breweries from Jacksonville to Louisiana.

“The craft beer revolution that is sweeping the nation now has a home right here in Okaloosa County,” said Props co-owner Brian O’Neill.

The company said the new facility will house a commercial brewery and will attract industry specialists in brewing, cellaring, distribution and chemical engineering. The production facility will also have a taproom where customers may come to view the operations of the brewery.

“This is a great example of the far-reaching benefits of true partnership. When we support the people and businesses that are in turn supporting our economy and community, that’s a win for all of us,” said Fort Walton Beach Mayor Mike Anderson.

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