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Helping brewers for almost 20 years, Florida Brewers Guild holds first conference

For updates and information from the Florida Brewers Conference, keep an eye on the Folio Weekly Pint-Sized Facebook page.

brewers_Guild_conferenceThe art of brewing beer is more than just combining a few ingredients, boiling them at the proper temperature for the appropriate amount of time and allowing the resulting liquid to ferment. Brewing requires knowledge of what is legally allowed to be brewed, of who can supply ingredients and packaging and how beer can be distributed. In addition, brewers must be savvy small businessmen with a handle on how to keep books, how to manage employees and who to turn to for legal assistance.

That is where the Florida Brewers Guild comes in.

“The Guild,” explained Florida Brewers Guild Executive Director, Sean Nordquist. “First and foremost, exists to help support Florida brewery’s rights and interests.”

Formed more than 20 years ago by Tampa area brewers, the Florida Brewers Guild is the trade organization for the state’s breweries. They exist to help brewers by promoting and sponsoring events, educating consumers and insuring the Florida legislature hears craft brewery’s voices over the thunderous din of macro-brewers, distributors and other special interest groups.

In a time when some experts and industry insiders are opining that the breakneck speed of craft beer’s growth is beginning to slow, Nordquist remains optimistic.

Statistics compiled by the Brewers Association, the national trade organizations that represents craft brewers, show that Florida is 10th in the nation for number of breweries, but only 43rd in breweries per 100,000 persons. That gap, Nordquist believes, leaves a lot of room for more breweries to open and thrive in the Sunshine State.

“We are going to continue to see new breweries popping up seemingly every week,” Nordquist enthused. “Some will make it, some will not. It’s going to come down to those that have a combination of a great product, good business practices and local consumer support.”

He also sees a trend for hyper-local nano-breweries like the recently opened Hyperion Brewing Company and the soon-to-open Main & Six Brewing Company, both in the Springfield National Historic District.

“If you are not packaging, your tasting room is your bread and butter,” Nordquist said of the nano trend. “You have to have a great product. And that extends to making community an extension of the brand. It brings in more local consumers who may not ordinarily go to a brewery by making it a local gathering place.”

This year, for the first time, the Guild is hosting a conference August 7-9 to bring the state’s brewers together in Orlando for three days. Activities include panel discussions on topics ranging from brewing with Florida ingredients to trademark law, guest speakers like Garret Oliver of Brooklyn Brewing Company and Jim Koch of Samuel Adams Brewing Company and mingling with industry leaders in an expo hall filled with more than 30 vendors.

“Breweries in the state have grown exponentially,” said Nordquist of the conference. “Just a few years ago Florida only had something like 40 breweries. Now we have over 200. We want brewers to learn from each other, to learn about services that are out there and to have an opportunity to meet with their peers.”

Nordquist expects the Conference to draw as many as 300 attendees drawing brewers and others like distributer representatives, suppliers, legal and other allied brewing services.

“I think you’re going to see more companies wanting to do business with Florida brewing,” he says of what he expects to see after the conference. “I also hope we will see breweries taking the things they learn at the conference and adopt them to make better beer.”

That is a sentiment we can all get behind.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Beer, Beer Industry

 

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GABF brewery participation at record levels

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Photo: GreatAmericanBeerFestival.com

Every year about this time, beer-lovers around the country begin to start scouring the airline sites for cheap flights to Denver. Why? Because tickets to the epitome of beer festivals, the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), generally go on sale around the end of July or beginning of August. This year tickets go up for grabs on August 1 to members of the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) and August 2 to the general public.

What’s the big deal?

Scale. Think about any other beer festival you have ever attended and multiply it by a factor of about 10. The festival itself is just the beginning. The week of GABF sees dozens of satellite events spring up around Denver. Anything from tap takeovers to beer dinners to rare beer tastings take place. Couple that with the wealth of breweries in the greater Denver area and within an hour’s drive of the Mile-High city and you have the makings of an epic beer adventure.

This year the festival, which is both a beer-tasting festival and beer-judging event, will see the largest number of breweries serving tastes to festival attendees and an even larger number sending beers across the country to be judged in the competition. While exact numbers are not known yet, early sources say that there is room for around 900 tasting booths. With each brewery likely to bring three to four beers, the potential beers to taste could extend to nearly 4,000.

In addition to tasting booths, GABF provides beer-lovers with opportunities to meet brewers from some of their favorite breweries at 150 special “Meet the Brewer” booths. At these booths, attendees can ask questions, get insights and show their support of local brewers.

Other activities at the festival include seminars, beer and cheese pairings, an embedded food and beer pairing festival (separately ticketed), a massive brewery t-shirt sales booth where attendees can by shirts from breweries around the country, book signings and much more.

On the competition side, up to this point more than 2,200 breweries have signed up to enter their brews in the GABF competition. Considering that there are about 5,500 breweries in the country now, that means that nearly half of the breweries in the United States have offered up beers for judging.

It’s no wonder that GABF is considered the premier beer festival in the country.

This year the festival runs from October 5-7 over four sessions. Tickets are $85 for the general public and $80 for AHA members. If you are planning on trying to get tickets to this bucket list event, you might want to take a look at the article I wrote a few months ago. In 6 Tips You Must Know to Score GABF Tickets, I outline how you can increase your chances to attend the festival of a lifetime.

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in Beer, Beer Festival

 

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Maggies-3D-Can_TransparentBeer is a many splendor thing, whether it is in the form of an IPA, stout, kolsch or pale ale, there is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of flavors to choose from. And craft beer lovers like it that way. All one has to do is pay attention to the weekly offerings at many of the local breweries to see that mid-week most offer a variation to one of their current brews. Be it an herb-infused saison or an IPA aged on fruit, variety is the name of the game.

One of the hottest emerging trends in the world of craft beer is fruit-infused brew. Sure, the Belgians have had fruit in their beer for more than a century. Breweries such as Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels created Framboise (raspberry) and Kriek (cherry) lambics more than 100 years ago. Lambics are a style of ale that is not inoculated with yeast; instead it is allowed to spontaneously ferment from yeast present in the air that gets to the beer via open air cooling vessels often located on the roof or the top floor of the brewery that is open to the outside.

As a modern phenomenon, fruit beers come in several iterations; fruit additions to typical styles like IPAs and stouts, styles that have traditionally included fruit or fruit syrup additions like Berliner Weisse and hybrid styles that are created specifically to highlight fruit flavors like apple ales.

A trip to your local beer monger will reveal an ever-increasing shift towards fruit-flavors in familiar styles. The highly-rated IPA Sculpin from Ballast Point Brewing Company of San Diego, Calif. now comes in a wide array of fruit flavors like grapefruit, pineapple and even habanero (yes, peppers are technically fruits). Another style that has had the fruit-infusion treatment is farmhouse ale. This style, akin to saison, has been refreshingly imbued with peach by Terrapin Beer Company of Athens, Ga. in their Maggie’s Peach Farmhouse. Wheat beers are also frequently amped up with fruit flavors. Traditional Belgian wheat beers often include orange peel in the brewing process, but American brewers like 21st Amendment have upped the ante by adding watermelon in their Hell or high Watermelon.

Berliner Weisse, a German sour wheat beer, was traditionally served with raspberry (Himbeersirup) syrup to balance the tartness. Today brewers create their own riffs of the style by adding fruit directly in the beer during fermentation. Locally in Jacksonville, Aardwolf Brewing Company has created several variations of their Lactic Zeppelin Berliner Weisse with guava and passionfruit.

Samuel Smith’s The Old Brewery in Tadcaster, England produces several fruit beers that defy any other style categorization. One of their best is Samuel Smith Organic Strawberry a spontaneously fermented brew with tart and sour flavors similar to a Belgian lambic. The addition of strawberry juice adds some sweetness to balance the flavors. But, perhaps the fastest growing flavor among fruit beers is apple. With the growing popularity of hard cider, companies like Redd’s (part of the Miller Brewing Company) are capitalizing on the fruit beer trend. Available in several flavors, Redd’s is an apple-flavored beverage that is brewed like a beer rather than simply fermented like a cider.

Whether you are a purist and think beer should taste like, well, beer or a progressive and accept the current flood of fruit beers hitting the market, one fact is certain; brewers are going to keep experimenting with new fruits and flavors. You may as well relax, fill a cooler with ice and add some refreshing fruit-infused brews for enjoying on the back porch on the coming hot summer nights.

 

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2017 in Beer, Beer Styles

 

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Brewers Association seeks to differentiate craft beer with Independent Craft seal

Brewers-Association-Independent-Craft-stamp-badge-logo-BeerPulseThe landscape of craft beer has gone from one of unfettered growth to that of a battleground for small, independent brewers fighting to eek out a place in the now crowded marketplace. To make the fight more difficult, the two mega brewers that control 90% of the  United State’s beer production — Anheuser-Bush/InBev and Molson Coors — seem to be on a tear to snatch up as many craft brewers as they can, muddying the field and confusing consumers as to who actually produces the beer they are drinking.

According to a blog post dated July 19 on the Brewers Association’s (BA) website, as the craft beer movement started to reach its crescendo and begin slowing, brewers began speaking out regarding the need for a way to differentiate their products from those produced by the mega brewers or breweries owned by them. An idea that had been kicked around for decades came to the forefront again and, on June 27, 2017, the BA announced the creation of the Independent Craft Brewer seal.

The seal is a logo designed to be displayed on packaging and advertising on products brewed by breweries that conform to the BA’s definition of a craft brewery. To qualify, a brewery must produce less than six million barrels of beer annually and be less than 25% owned by alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer. It depicts an upside-down beer bottle that symbolizes how the craft brewing movement turned the beer brewing industry on its head.

During the design of the seal, research showed that almost all beer lovers have some interest in a “certification badge” or seal to identify independently owned craft breweries believing such a seal would support small businesses. Indeed, a Brewbound/Nielsen Harris Poll of 2,000 beer lovers conducted in May 2017 indicated overwhelmingly that beer drinkers want to know who is making the beer they drink.

“People want to know when they are supporting locally owned and operated businesses, in this case breweries, that are independent from the big corporations,” said Sean Nordquist, Executive Director of the Florida Brewers Guild. “People want to know that their money is going towards local businesses rather than multi-national corporations.”

 

With the seal, the BA hopes to clarify who is making the beer consumers are drinking. Especially as the mega brewers continue to purchase craft brewers and introduce “crafty” beers to the market that mimic craft styles.

Since the announcement of the seal, nearly 25-percent of the independent craft brewers in the United States have adopted it in some form.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Beer, Beer News

 

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American Homebrewers Association releases recipe guide containing instructions to make iconic brews

American-Homebrewers-Association-LogoEveryday I receive emails from around the beer world that keep me informed on what is happening within the industry. From time to time I come across a story that I share with you, my faithful readers. Today, I came across a press release from the American Homebrewers Association (AHA) touting its inaugural 50-State Commercial Beer Clone Recipes Guide.

Now, I know there are a few homebrewers out there that have always wanted to try their hand at cloning some of the countries most iconic craft beers like Pliney the Elder from Russian River Brewing, Two-Hearted from Bells Brewing or Belgian Red Ale from New Glarus. Well, the AHA guide supplies the recipes to these and 47 other brews scaled down to five- to 10-gallon batches.

“With both the craft beer industry and the hobby of homebrewing continuing to expand nationwide,” said Gary Glass, Director, American Homebrewers Association in the press release. “These recipes offer beer lovers the opportunity to make their favorite local brews at home.”

The AHA reached out to breweries across in every state across the country and asked them to contribute a recipe for the guide. The result was a collection of iconic and up-and-coming recipes ready for homebrewers to create on their next brew day. Among the recipes collected is Unholy Trippel for Florida’s own Coppertail Brewing Company.

See the entire guide at the link below.

50-State Commercial Beer Clone Recipes Guide

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Beer, Beer News

 

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Flying Dog leaves Brewers Association over censorship accusations

unnamedIn April 2017, the Brewers Association (BA), a trade group that serves the craft beer industry, enacted a set of rules designed to stem the use of sexist and offensive brewery and beer names (see Brewers Association standing up to breweries, beers with offensive names, labels). But, Flying Dog Brewery sees the move by the BA as an overt attempt at censorship. And, to protest the move, Flying Dog CEO Jim Caruso has severed ties with the industry group.

In a letter dated July 14, 2017 and addressed to BA CEO Bob Pease, Caruso says that the policy, “… is an attempt by the BA to censor beer names that offend the sensibilities of some at the BA, primarily by trying to intimidate breweries into censoring themselves.”

In the BA’s policy, a procedure is laid out on how brewers can police their peers — Caruso reads this as competitors — by lodging a formal complaint. Should the offending brewery cease advertising or using a name that is considered offensive by the reporting brewery within 30 days of the complaint, the matter is considered closed. But, if the name and/or advertising is not ceased, a sort of tribunal is convened. The final decision of the tribunal — in reality a group of three BA appointed representatives — is published on the BA’s website for all the world to read. In addition, names found to be offensive will be banned from being spoken at BA sanctioned events like the Great American Beer Festival, Savour and more. If a brewery or beer with a name deemed offensive happens to win a medal in a competition at one of these events, they will not be publicly identified. Winners are also banned from using Brewers Association intellectual property such as identifying a banned beer name as a medal winner in a BA sanctioned event.

Caruso sees all this as forms of censorship, thought policing and just plain creepy.

No stranger to the fight to end censorship, Caruso fought the the Michigan Liquor Control Commission in 2009 for similar reasons. In the landmark case, Caruso alleged that the commissioners could not legally reject a label just because they didn’t like it. It took six year of battle in federal courts, but ultimately Flying Dog won the suit and set a federal precedent that freedom of speech applies to beer, wine and spirits labels as well as individuals.

In the six-page letter to Pease, Caruso goes on to explain why he so strongly opposes the BA’s stance on so called offensive name sand labels. He brings to the forefront the specters of McCarthyism, communism, Leninism, Marxism, Stalinism and socialism. He holds the example of Lenny Bruce’s persecution that drove him to suicide for doing nothing more than telling jokes using vulgar language during midnight shows attended only by paying adults.

“The insurmountable problem with what the BA is attempting to do,” Caruso says. “Is that the term “offensive” is not definable in any objective way or with any precision. Offensive to whom? Everyone finds something offensive.”

Caruso goes on to point out that in numerous cases, the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed that “offensive” is undefinable. Why then, he asks, does the BA think that it can be the champion of consumers by regulating via policy what some may deem offensive. Government regulation and approval, he argues, is sufficient.

“Consumers,” elaborates Caruso. “Vote with their hard-earned dollars billions of times every day. It’s called a free market. The BA believes consumers need a nanny.”

For its part, Pease simply says to Caruso, “Not all members agree with every policy” and that “we’ll just have to agree to disagree.”

In addition, an article on beer news site Brewbound.com, Pease is quoted as saying he is “disappointed” in Flying Dog’s decision to withdraw from the organization. However, he defended the policy changes as “reasonable” and “responsible.”

“The BA and its members absolutely support the First Amendment,” he wrote in an email to BrewBound. “Invoking the First Amendment in this instance is misplaced and inaccurate. The Brewers Association has no intention nor ability to censor any market initiatives by any brewing industry member.”

“To us,” Caruso explains in his letter. “The BA’s anti-free expression stance is offensive, and we are exercising our freedom to choose by rejecting the BA.”

Consumers have the power to decide whether they side with the BA or with Flying Dog. Caruso is a proponent of this dynamic and prefers the power of the free market to what he sees as tyrannical suppression of expression and overly political correctness.

“Sometimes,” he concludes. “It is a matter of principle.

“This is one of those times.”

Read the entire letter to the BA from Jim Caruso here.

 

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2017 in Beer, Beer News

 

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Funky Buddha announces barrel-aged Living Barrel series

FB_Barrel-AgedFunky Buddha, the evil geniuses behind popular brews like Last Snow and Last Buffalo in the Park, has announced a new series of barrel-aged beers. The Living Barrel Series will feature beers aged in bourbon, rum, tequila, Chardonnay and Cabernet barrels among others.

“Like the spiraling growth of a tree’s branches,” says an unnamed source in the Funky Buddha press release. “So too are these beers transformed over time thanks to the maturation exclusively in oak wine and spirits casks. Unlike the ageless timber, these bottles are only available for a limited time.”

Over the years, the brewery has amassed an impressive 500 casks that previously held spirits and wine of many types. Currently, there are hundreds of barrels holding everything from stouts to saisons quietly aging to perfection. Samples of the beers are regularly drawn and tested to assess its progress and maturity.

The Living Barrel series will be released in 22 ounce bottles through Funky Buddha’s tap room with some of the beers will gong to distribution throughout Florida. The first bottles will release the end of July and beginning of August. Included in these releases are a Rum Barrel-Aged Pina Colada beer consisting of an imperial cream ale made with real pineapple and coconut and aged in Jamaican rum casks for months; and Vanilla Bourbon Barrel-aged Nikolai Vorlauf, an Imperial Russian Stout aged for nearly two years in Bourbon barrels with whole vanilla beans added to the barrel. A third release, Bourbon Barrel-Aged Dread Pirate Roberts (imperial stout with raspberries, chocolate, and coconut), will be released exclusively to Funky Buddha’s Imperial Club members in August If any bottles remain, a release to the public will be scheduled.

Future releases will include this year’s versions of Morning Wood and Last Buffalo in the Park along with others yet to be announced.

Funky Buddha plans to continue releasing special, barrel-aged brews into 2018 and beyond.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2017 in Beer, Beer Releases

 

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