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Palm Beach Craft Beer Festival Saturday: Lagerhead Brewing and More Florida Beers

Successful middle-aged guys don't always make life-changing career moves, but when they do, they form brewing companies. At least the guys at Lagerhead Brewing Co. do. They are the newest of the Florida brewers at Saturday's Palm Beach Craft Beer Festival at the Meyer Ampitheater, and they are ready to let their taps flow.

It's always interesting to know how someone makes his transition into craft beer. What's important here is how all four guys from Lagerhead came together on forming a brewing company, which happened while knocking back a few pints at Due South's brewery in Boynton Beach.

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"We purchased the LLC online in Due South's tasting room two weeks after they opened in 2012," said Steve Dornblaser, one of Lagerhead's cofounders as well as a Florida native.

Prior to Lagerhead, each cofounder -- brothers Steve and Tim Dornblaser, Daniel Paulus, and Frank Conrad -- was, and still is, successful in his current job. With Steve coming from IT industry, Tim owning a construction business, Paulus from general contracting and construction, and Conrad hashing it out at a Fortune 500 company, starting a brewing company may have seemed unlikely. But beer was the common thread that brought them together.

An avid homebrewer, Steve Dornblaser's quest for craft beer began more than a decade ago while attending college at Florida State University. He started with a home-made kit. His brother and everyone else soon caught on. Conrad became a convert from wine connoisseurship after a few spoiled batches of wine turned him away.

Lagerhead Brewing is in the early stages of forming, but the guys behind it are already eyeing property somewhere along the 20th Street corridor, what they believe is prime territory connecting Federal Highway to the Florida Atlantic University campus.

Once they secure a space, the permitting process begins, equipment purchases start rolling, and test batches are brewed. They are looking at starting with a 15-barrel system (nearly 31.5 gallons per barrel).

Their lineup of beers consists of their flagship -- Lagerhead Basil IPA, Barracuda Brown, Old School Hefe, Coffeepot Porter, Sweet Mango Blonde, Damn Good Cider, Wheat the People, and Water Me Lawn Ale (watermelon blond.) They're testing the market, so let them know what you think.

As far as the name goes, it stems from the Dornblasers' experiences with walking up and down the beach and finding loggerhead turtle nests buried in the sand. Their title is a double-entendre, or a pun, both of which have meanings that are absurd and make sense at the same time if you think about it. You decide. Either way, the name sticks. Lagerhead? What better name for a brewery?

They firmly back the loggerhead turtle and restoring and protecting its rightful habitat, which is a cause they plan to invest in when they get the brewery operational.

The craft-beer industry as a whole seems to be growing, albeit at a slow pace. Yet according to the Brewer's Association, craft brewers in 2012 saw a 17 percent growth in dollar value and 15 percent increase in volume, and the South Florida market is opening up.

Florida as a whole sits on the lower end of the spectrum in regards to variety of breweries, having only 57 in the entire state, or 1.5 per 500,000 people. That's room for growth, people. It's all about the fresh beer.

Other Florida brewers featured at the PBCBF are J. Wakefield Brewing Company--maker of fine sours, Berliners and the exquisite Florida Weisse (although JWBC brings a line of ales this time, plus one surprise keg); Miami Brewing Company from South Dade--brewer of the famed Big Rod Coconut Ale; Boca Raton's own Brewzzi; Longneck Brewhouse from Stuart; the Florida Beer Company in Cape Canaveral and Palm Bach County's Due South Brewing Company--fresh from celebrating their first full year of fully operational brewing.

Aside from the pours, there will be a homebrew contest with $1,000 in cash prizes -- $500 going to first place for best original flavor.

The festival runs from 4 to 9 p.m. (3 to 9 p.m. for VIP ticket holders). General-admission tickets cost $40, while VIP tickets cost $80.

We'll see you there with beer in hand.

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