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"The goal [for the beer] right now is to develop a following," he says. He hopes to find an investor and one day open a brewpub featuring his beers.
"You've got to know that starting out, you're not going to be making a profit right off the bat," says another homebrewer, A.J. Guerra, who worked at Pyramid Breweries in Seattle and now brews with a pal under the moniker 2 Live Brews at Guerra's home in Davie. They too hope to one day sell their beer at the retail level. "You really need to get your name out there and develop your base, then find the right people to partner with and get the financial backing."
Guerra is a server and manager at a Dania Beach Quarterdeck by day and makes about 15 gallons of beer monthly with his $1,200 system. Specialties include a dry whiskey porter called Old 84 and a brown ale with Hennessy called Doo Doo Brown.
2900 High Ridge Road
Boynton Beach, FL 33426
Category: Breweries and Wineries
Region: Boynton Beach
Even if brewers were to get hold of one of the limited number of licenses and money to set up a brewery — Guerrero estimated it to be $500,000 — they still can't sell directly to retailers. Florida's three-tiered system, created in the days following the repeal of Prohibition, requires brewers to sell to distributors, who in turn sell to restaurants, hotels, and bars. The beer distribution industry across the country has lobbied hard to keep the middleman system in place. Washington state is the only place where retailers can buy directly from suppliers.
Moreover, Florida earlier this year rebuffed opportunities to support small brewers. Lawmakers were considering a bill backed by the Florida Brewers Guild to allow small breweries to sell 64-ounce "growlers." The measure failed under pressure from lobbyists for the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association, which represents Anheuser-Busch distributors.
That leaves only two ways up for the aspiring homebrewer. The first is to open a brewpub, which allows brewers to make beer onsite and sell it — but they must have a license, and they must also serve food. The Funky Buddha, along with Big Bear Brewing Co. in Coral Springs and Organic Brewery in Hollywood Beach, are brewpubs.
The second option is to make beer at a brewery and partner with a distributor who would sell the beer to retailers. Due South Brewery in Boynton Beach operates in this manner. Guerrero says he's explored the idea of renting a brewery and having his recipe produced there, then distributed, but the cost "could be as high as $40,000" to make 2,480 cases. Florida Brewing Co. in Melbourne offers such a service.
But corporate beverage conglomerates won't get these guys down; they pride themselves on being the underdogs.
Back at Sally Parson's BX Beer Depot, Parsons admits she's happy to see the audience for craft beer growing but says big retailers like supermarket chains only buy goods in massive quantities and will never be able to source the rare, small-batch beers she can get.
"One day, a guy who worked here came into the store and brought a bottle of Seadog Blueberry Wheat," she says. From that moment on, the mantra became "If you can buy it at Publix, I don't sell it here."