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