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Law restricting Florida craft beer breweries up for vote

NY State Ends Tax Exemptions For In State Breweries After Lawsuit From Out Of StateThings have been brewing in Florida’s state legislature, but not to the benefit of the state’s craft beer brewers. In fact, one bill – Senate Bill 1714 – makes it illegal for a brewery that produces more than 2,00 kegs per year to sell its own beer in bottles or cans directly to consumers. Instead, the brewery must sell the beer to a distributor and then purchase it back at the distributor’s price, typically 30% to 40% higher.

Jacksonville brewery owner Ben Davis of Intuition Ale Works has made it his mission to defeat the bill and preserve the rights of Florida brewers to sell their own beer in their tap rooms. Davis has attended sessions at the Florida senate where the bill has been discussed and even hired a lobbyist to work the political circles and inform elected officials of the damage 1714 would cause. In an interview on Jacksonville television station WJXT, Davis said, “It’s going to kill us. It’ll make us question our whole business plan… I think basically it’s going to push future brewers into other markets, other states.”

Watch the entire story from WJXT by clicking the link at the bottom of this article.

In a press release dated April 21, 2014, Eric Criss, president of the Beer Industry of Florida – the industry association for Miller/Coors distributors in Florida – made it clear that his organization was opposed to SB 1714. In the release Criss said, “Brewers and distributors are good partners and some craft brewers need limited retail privileges to build their businesses.  Therefore, it’s in distributors’ interest that small brewers should have a well-defined, limited exception in the statute that allows them to operate as retailers, both on-premise and off-premise.”

Criss also came out in support of 64-ounce growlers, currently banned in Florida, but the industry standard in 47 other states.

On the other hand, the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association has been a strong proponent of the bill and has more than doubled its contributions to the re-election campaign of senators who have voted to pass the measure. According to an article in the Miami Herald April 22, 2014, the association has contributed $65,600 to 2014 or 2016 senate re-election campaigns.

In addition, Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, came right out and told the Associated Press that he would support the bill unquestioningly because craft breweries were a problem to his friend Lewis Bear, owner of the Anheuser-Busch distributorship in Florida’s panhandle. Gaetz received more than $8,000 in contributions from beer distributors for his 2012 campaign with Bear anteing up $2,000.

Mitch Rubin, executive director and lobbyist for the Anheuser-Busch distributer group Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, told Reuters their goal is to re-write the state’s rules governing the craft brewing industry to create strict lines between manufacturers, distributors and retailers, which he said would preserve competition. But, many industry insiders say the actual result of the bill would be to eliminate small breweries that need the ability to sell packaged beer from their tap rooms to foster their own growth.

Still, Senator Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, the legislation goal is to bolster the three-tier system of alcohol distribution set up by the federal government after Prohibition. In the three-tier system brewers must sell their beer to distributors who then sell the beer to retailers. The system was originally put in place to keep large beer companies from monopolizing the industry. Somehow, that same system has now been turned to the favor of the mega-beer producers who carry political clout because of their deep pockets and campaign sponsorships.

Senate Bill 1714 has already passed its committee hearings and will be brought up to the full senate on Monday, April 28. Senate has until the end of the scheduled legislative session to pass the bill or it is considered dead. The scheduled date to close the current legislative session in the Florida senate is Friday, May 2.

Intuition Ale Works and Davis have announced that they will hold a post-legislative session wrap-up event at the brewery Saturday, May 3starting at 2:00 p.m. According to the Intuition website, Davis “will provide an overview and behind-the-scenes perspective of the anti-craft beer measures that moved through legislature during the 2014 session.” Davis will also provide information on how craft beer lovers can get involved and support the Florida craft beer industry.

If you wish to express your opinion on SB 1714 you may write your state senator. To find the address of your senator, go to the senate website at: http://www.flsenate.gov/about/contact.

You may also contact Mitch Rubin at the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association at:

Florida Beer Wholesalers Association
215 South Monroe Street, Suite 340
Tallahassee, FL 32301
(850) 224-2337

WJXT story on SB1714

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2014 in Beer Industry

 

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Florida House Bill 1329 seeks to put the squeeze on craft brewers

Growler2If you have heard it once, you have heard it a thousand times; craft beer is booming and momentum continues to grow. You have likely also heard that ‘Big Beer’ is not at all happy about this. Sure, there are craft brewers that have sold portions of their operations to big beer, but as a whole, craft beer and big-yellow-fizzy-beer do not get along well.

So, is it any surprise that, in a state that has finally gotten its feet under itself in the craft beer world, Big Beer has found a legislator to champion their cause and introduce a bill that will effectively choke the life out of smaller breweries? Of course it is not.

That is exactly what is happening in Florida right now following the introduction of House Bill 1329, dubbed the “Big Beer Bill.”

Ray Wesley Rodrigues (Republican, Fort Myers), sponsored and filed the HB 1329 on Monday, March 3, 2014. The bill was filed in the aftermath of what an analysis by Komlossy Law P.A. calls, “self serving comments from Eric Criss.” For those not in the know, Criss is the current president of Beer Industry of Florida, Inc., a trade association that includes Florida’s largest beer distributors as members.

The comments referred to in the analysis were published Friday, January 21, 2014 by The Gainesville Sun. In the article, written by Criss, comments like, “…better known brands like Budweiser are hemorrhaging market share…” seem to point a finger at craft beer as the David that is taking down the Goliath. It goes on to provide a chiding history lesson that points to the evils of the alcohol industry and seems to warn that without the new legislation we are headed there again. In the article, Criss says, “There was a time when brewers often sold direct to the public through retailers they owned or controlled called “tied houses.” This led to aggressive sales tactics, deep discounts, and high-volume drinking with the end result being large-scale addiction, domestic violence, and worse.” Later in the article he goes on to praise the three-tier system in bringing about a reduction alcohol-related driving fatalities, DUI arrests and DUI convictions. Finally, Criss cranks up the fear by saying, “…irrational exuberance over the craft beer revolution threatens to unravel the layers of protection it provides to our children and communities.”

The bill itself effectively puts the screws to smaller breweries, making it nearly impossible for a new brewery to open and for established breweries to grow. The bill breaks down to this:

  • Limits the situations in which a craft brewer may sell beer to end consumers
  • Requires brewers to include in their business plans that they intend to supply beer to distributors
  • Prohibits brewery tap rooms from selling beers brewed wholly or partially by another brewery except when certain circumstances exist
  • Defines a growler as a container of either 32- or 64-ounces

Under the bill, craft breweries will be able to sell their own beer for consumption in their own tap room as well as, in some cases, allow for guest beers to be sold for on-premises consumption. But, breweries will only be able to sell growlers of their own beers. In addition, if the brewery stops making beer for the purpose of distribution for 60 days without a good reason, they lose their ability to have guest taps. As for collaboration beers, the can be made but not served in the brewery’s tap room. They must go directly to the distributor.

So, let’s see if we have this straight; with HB 1329 we will get our half-gallon growlers, but we lose our gallon growlers. In addition, if we want to drink a pint or two at our local tap room, we can as long as the brewery intends to produce enough beer to package and send to a distributor. We cannot drink collaboration beers in tap rooms; instead we have to buy it from a retailer. Oh, and if a brewery has to shut down for a period of time – for any reason other than the few outlined in the bill – said brewery will lose its ability to have guest taps and possibly its ability to sell its own beer in its tap room.

Convoluted enough for you? How about we take a step back and get this right? How about we embrace the entrepreneurial spirit of these small businesses and put some laws in place to give them some security and peace of mind rather than trying to trip them up at every turn?

Here are some recommendations:

  • Amend the growler law to allow 32-, 64- or 128-ounce
  • Allow for growler sales of on-premises brewed beers as well as guest taps
  • Allow small, community-based, collaborative brew pubs to license their premises and sell beer without the need for packaging and selling to a distributor
  • Allow breweries to collaborate and advance the art and science of brewing with each other and share the fruits of their labors in their respective tap rooms

Finally, legislators need to stop twisting the truth about alcohol consumption. Craft beer does not adversely affect alcohol abuse any more than recent innovations like the vented beer cans introduced by both AB-InBev and Miller/Coors. These cans serve only one purpose; to get more beer into the mouths of consumers faster. That seems to be a greater evil than craft beer that is often enjoyed more slowly so as to savor the complex flavors of the beer.

You can help fight this frivolous and unnecessary legislation by writing Representative Rodriques and your local Florida representative.

Write Representative Rodriques at:

Capitol Office:

Representative Ray Rodriques
1302 The Capitol
402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300

District Office:

Representative Ray Rodriques
Suite 218
17595 South Tamiami Trail
Fort Myers, FL 33908-4570

You may find your local representative at the Florida House website: http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/sections/representatives/myrepresentative.aspx

Here is the bill: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2014/1329

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2014 in Beer News

 

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Craft Beer Cellar store to open in Brandon, Fla.

Craft-Beer-CellarFor years there have been shops dedicated to the sale of fine wines from small producers throughout the world. But, the same does not hold true for craft beer. The reason for this disparity is partly because craft beer is just reaching its day in the sun, but also because craft beer is an intensely regional product. What is available in California is not always available in Florida. Sure you can get beer from breweries like Ballast Point, Anchor and Stone in a wide range of markets, but smaller breweries just do not have the reach sometimes even within their own markets to make it to a beer store. Small, locally owned shops like Beer:30 in the Jacksonville, Florida’s King Street Beer District fill the gap, but there are very few chain or franchise stores that specialize solely in craft beer.

All that is changing with an ambitious new franchised outfit called Craft Beer Cellars.

An enterprising couple, Kate Baker and Suzanne Schalow of Belmont, Mass., founded the company in 2010 with the goal of educating consumers on the pleasures of craft beer in much the same way fine wine stores educate their customers. Baker and Schalow, a couple in life as well as business, fell in love with craft beer in the 90’s and, according to their website, .”… began a quest (which they’re still on) for amazing beer, the people behind it, and all that it entails! Their focus is on awesome beer with flavor, not those beers whose ingredients are intended to lighten color or lessen quality.”

The company now has six stores across a two-state region consisting of Massachusetts and Vermont with plans for expansion to several more including a store in Brandon, Fla. outside of Tampa. The Florida store is slated to open in January 2014.

“We are interested in amazing beer from small breweries, and all that entails,” the company’s website states. “Much of what we do, every single day, is work hard to make sure we can keep the beer lines to our stores full, but also researching the latest and greatest brews, how to get them in your hands, what’s available in different markets throughout the US distribution network, who owns what, when certain beers are available, and what’s extremely limited or highly sought after.”

The Brewer’s Association defines craft breweries as small, independent businesses that produce less than six million barrels of beer per year and are less than 25% owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not a craft beer brewer. This means that brewers such as AB-InBev and Miller/Coors and their satellite companies like Shock Top and Blue Moon are not craft beer breweries. Currently the term craft beer refers mostly to beer brewed in the United States, but European breweries are joining the movement and that may necessitate an expansion of the term’s definition down the road.

Employees of Craft Beer Cellars wear hoodies with adorned with the words “Beer Geek” on them and sport titles like Head Beer Geek, Ambassador of Fine Ales and Lagers, and Hoptologist.

“We sell beer for a living and try to keep a fun and laid back spirit,” the company’s website explains of the hoodies and titles. “In other words, we don’t take ourselves too darned serious — it just doesn’t make much sense.”

The stores host beer tastings at random times throughout the week to keep patron’s palates educated and to spark interest in new beers. To Baker and Schalow, education is as the beer on the shelves of its stores and the outstanding customer service provided in them. And by education they mean for both the customer and the employees. All employees of the stores are Cicerone Certified Beer Servers and are required to stay abreast of what is happening in the craft world. In addition, Baker and Schalow have personally researched and studied every beer sold in their stores. The two are acutely aware that in order to grow the craft beer movement, they must constantly bring in beers that aficionados want while as well as educate the craft beer novice and turning them on to new flavor profiles.

The quest is not without risk, though. Even with the stellar rise of the craft beer industry, it is still just a small portion of the overall beer world. The Brewers Association states that, while craft beer consumption continues to rise, it is still accounts for just 10 percent of all beer sales. To add to the difficulty of specializing in just craft beer are the razor thin margins in the segment.

To combat the negatives, Baker and Schalow stock more than 1,000 beers from over 350 breweries in their stores. Carefully selected variety and scrupulous attention to customer service – including listening to what customers want – are the guideposts, the pair believes, to success.

In their year-end blog post, the company sums up their hopes for the future, “We believe that the success of other great brewpubs, bottle shops, and bars is critical to our own growth and the growth of craft beer culture. We are proud of our relationships with breweries and beer industry folk throughout the United States and across the globe.”

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2014 in Beer, Beer News

 

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The New Yorker magazine publishes interactive craft beer growth map

newyorkerEveryone who reads this blog is aware of the extraordinary growth of the craft beer industry over the past 10 years. To illustrate the explosive character of this growth, The New Yorker magazine has published an interactive online map that brings this phenomenon into focus.

The map uses data gathered by the Brewers Association in 2012 and was released recently. The map shows that Florida ranks around the middle of the pack for total number of breweries, but in the upper range for total output. It also shows that in 2013 Florida saw 10 new breweries open, adding to the output and variety available to residents of our state.

Another exciting tidbit the map points out is that Cigar City Brewing Company in Tampa is considered one of the fastest growing breweries in the country with 77% growth in production in 2012 over 2011. Cigar City is ranked 17th of the 50 fastest growing breweries in the nation. Another notable regional brewery ranked in the top 50 is Highland Brewing Company. The Asheville, NC brewery ranks 33rd on the map with 53% growth in 2012 over 2011.

You can view the entire map and glean your own data by following the link below.

Mapping the Rise of Craft Beer

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2013 in Beer News

 

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FunkyBuddha’s Maple Bacon Coffee Porter to be bottled and released in January

funky-buddha-logo-featureDown in South Florida, Funky Buddha Brewery made a splash earlier this year with the opening of their bigger and better brewery in Oakland Park. Now, the very same brewery that is legend among Florida beer lovers has announced the release date for their highly-sought Maple Bacon Coffee Porter. First released as a draft-only brew in April of 2011 at their original Boca Raton lounge and brewery, this will be the first time the brew will be bottled for release.

The beer rating website BeerAdvocate.com lists Funky Buddha’s Maple Bacon Coffee Porter as the second highest-rate porter in the world with an astounding 99 out of 100 points and over 50 raving reviews.

Ryan Sentz, Funky Buddha’s founder and head brewer said in a press release, “Maple Bacon Coffee Porter was the first beer that really earned us attention outside of our taproom. I remember thinking how crazy it was that this little brew pub in Boca Raton was being noticed nationally, and our success is definitely owed in part to that.”

The release for the first ever bottle offering of the beer will be marked with a full day of activity specially selected for the momentous occasion. Expect to enjoy live music, five food trucks – some with dishes specially prepared to pair with Maple Bacon Coffee Porter and other special release beers from Funky Buddha and other Florida breweries on tap.

The event takes place on Saturday, January 11, 2014 with bottle sales beginning at 11:00 a.m. Bottle sales are limited to two bottles per person.

Read the entire press release below:

OAKLAND PARK, FL – Get ready, Buddha fans: Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, one of the most highly sought after beers in Florida, will be commercially released in bottles for the first time ever on January 11, 2014. This limited run of 22-ounce bottles will be sold exclusively at Funky Buddha Brewery and be accompanied by a festival atmosphere featuring live music, food trucks, and a host of special release beers on tap.

A true one-of-a-kind beer, Maple Bacon Coffee Porter was initially released as a small batch run at Boca Raton’s Funky Buddha Lounge & Brewery in April of 2011. Since then it has become one of the most heralded porters in the world, earning national acclaim from fans and critics alike. BeerAdvocate.com currently lists MBCP as the #2 rated porter in the world with above 50 user reviews, boasting an overall rating of 99 out of 100. Ratebeer.com also lists the beer as the #1 user rated sweet stout in the world with a perfect 100 out of 100.

“Maple Bacon Coffee Porter was the first beer that really earned us attention outside of our taproom,” says Funky Buddha’s Founder and Head Brewer, Ryan Sentz. “I remember thinking how crazy it was that this little brew pub in Boca Raton was being noticed nationally, and our success is definitely owed in part to that.”

Maple Bacon Coffee Porter’s official release will coincide with a day’s worth of activities at the brewery. Live music from local acts will be scheduled throughout the day in the brewery’s public plaza. Five food trucks – including fan favorites The Rolling Stove and Pescados Unidos – will be serving dishes specially paired with Funky Buddha’s beers. A host of special release brews from both Funky Buddha and other Florida breweries will be available on draft, with very limited beers being tapped throughout the day. Bottle sales will begin at 11am and run until 7pm, and will be limited to two per customer; first-come, first-served.

Evoking a complete diner-style breakfast in a glass, Maple Bacon Coffee Porter is a complex beer with a multitude of flavors at work. It pours an opaque, ebony brew with a frothy tan head. Aromas of sticky maple syrup and fresh-brewed coffee creep forth from the glass. The mouth feel is luxuriously creamy, with layers of sweet malt and roast giving way to waves of smoke, coffee, and dark salted chocolate. The finish is sticky, rich, and sweet, with flavors of maple syrup lingering pleasantly on the tongue.

Praise for Maple Bacon Coffee Porter

99 out of 100 – BeerAdvocate.com

100 out of 100 – Ratebeer.com

“Best Beer at the Great American Beer Fest 2013” – The Empty Growler

“Six Beers that Blew Our Minds at GABF” – Serious Eats

“10 Weirdest Beers Ever Brewed” – Mental Floss

ABOUT FUNKY BUDDHA BREWERY: Founded in 2010 in Boca Raton, Florida, Funky Buddha Brewery is committed to producing bold craft beers that marry culinary-inspired ingredients with time-honored technique. Its lineup includes year-round brews Floridian Hefeweizen and Hop Gun IPA, along with specialty releases such as No Crusts Peanut Butter and Jelly Brown Ale and the highly sought after Maple Bacon Coffee Porter. Its Oakland Park production brewery opened in June 2013 and distributes draft beer to over 250 restaurants and bars across South Florida.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2013 in Beer News, Beer Styles

 

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