If the proliferation of breweries wasn't enough to convince you of the popularity of craft beer in South Florida, then maybe you'll be swayed by the rapid growth of a local beer club that's attracted hundreds of members in one year.
SFLHops, which was started by Stuart Skopit in Broward County in January 2015, grew from a simple Meetup group to more than 500 local members and 1,800 Instagram followers in one year. To celebrate, SFLHops is throwing a one-year anniversary party at Bull Market in Fort Lauderdale on February 6.
The party starts at 6 p.m. at a private bar reserved for the group. There will be two-for-one drinks, food specials, and a free appetizer for every six people who show up. There will also be a ton of giveaways such as a bottle of Funky Buddha Brewery's Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, T-shirts, and growler fills from Miami-Dade's Legacy Caribbean Craft Brewery, $25 gift cards to LauderAle Brewery and Buffalo Wild Wings, some swag from the Riverside Market and Cafe, and free entry into a homebrewers' class at the Craft Beer Cartel.
Skopit says at least 60 people are committed to going, but the more, the merrier, right? He's hoping to gain a few more members to the ever-growing SFLHops. According to Skopit, that's part of the motivation behind the formation of the group.
As Skopit explains, he was searching for a few buddies with whom he could enjoy some fine craft brews. Such enthusiasts were hard to find at his place of work in the education industry. So on January 31, 2015, the Iowa native formed a Meetup group. It had its first event two weeks later, attracting a handful of "ale heads" to Sud Swap at Gramps bar in Miami.
From there, the group gradually expanded. Judging by the group's Meetup page alone, it's been fairly busy over the course of the year attending breweries, festivals, happy hours, and the like across Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.
The group was originally called Craft Beer in the Tri-County, but Skopit changed the name because it was "too wordy." Skopit knows of other similar groups in the past, but have they gained as many members as SFLHops? It's hard to say.
Other than his job, this is what Skopit does. It's become a labor of love.
"That's basically what consumes my life these days," he says. "It doesn't pay, but it's very rewarding."
A lot of his time is spent looking for new members, the majority of whom aren't homebrewers or affiliated with the brewing industry. They're just fellow fans of craft beer, especially the local kind. Recently, the group did a Palm Beach County brewery crawl, going to Saltwater Brewery, Barrel of Monks Brewing, and finally to Funky Buddha Lounge and Brewery in Boca Raton.
"When there's a festival, people now have someone to go with," Skopit says. "The more people in the group who come to an event, the more people will follow."
There's no dues to be a part of the group, although Skopit hopes members will contribute at least $5 to help offset the cost of the anniversary party. Joining is as easy as liking them on Facebook and following the events on Meetup.
The Happy First Anniversary SFLHops party takes place from 5:45 to 11:45 p.m. Saturday, February 6, at Bull Market Bar and Kitchen, located at 210 SW Second Ave. in Fort Lauderdale. Visit meetup.com to sign up for the event.
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