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A Plea for More Homegrown Craft Beer in South Florida

South Florida is a boozy, tourist-driven economy. With American Craft Beer Week upon us -- Cheers! And so help you god if you consume a Budweiser product this week -- it's a fitting time to contemplate why the region is moving at a positively glacial pace to tap into the possibilities that exist in the craft beer tourism market (click here to read more about local craft beers).

Sure, we've seen a most-welcome growth in interest and opportunity as of late, with nods to Due South Brewing Company, which opened its doors this past weekend in Boynton Beach, and Holy Mackerel and Funky Buddha Lounge both having plans in the works for significant growth over the next year. But even local beervangelists have to admit that it's been a slow process, with South Florida limping behind even other Florida hot spots like Tampa and Orlando.

In an interview in March, John Linn of Brown Distributing Co. cited an

explosion in the craft beer movement in Florida, but admitted that while

statistically in the U.S., most people live within ten miles of a brewery,

"that's definitely not the case down here." This sucks, not only for

those of us who like drinking good, locally sourced beer, but for the


Take for instance Colorado, which, according to Hop Press, benefits from an additional $446 million in annual revenue because of a robust craft beer industry that can claim 139 (!) licensed craft brewers. Yeah, we're probably never going to reach that level of crafty saturation, but damn -- can't we get in on at least some of that action? It sure as hell sounds like a more interesting way to generate jobs than bulldozing the Everglades to build condos no one will inhabit. 

Later this month, I'll spend a week in my home state of Michigan. In between errands, I'll check out some of the craft breweries that have sprung up in my former stomping drinking grounds of Grand Rapids. When I lived

there, it wasn't difficult to get a good beer. With Founders Brewing

Company downtown and Bell's Brewery less than an hour away, we were never left wanting, even in the early 2000s, before craft beer became a national obsession.

In the three-plus years since I moved away, craft beer has positively taken off in West Michigan, with all manner of boutique breweries opening throughout the traditionally conservative region. The budding brewery industry is stimulating tourism in a state that, frankly, needs the help (unemployment is currently at 8.5 percent in the Mitten State). Of course, with unemployment at 9 percent in Florida, we sure as hell could use a little stimulation ourselves.

It's too early to tell if Due South, et al. are harbingers of a local craft beer scene that will explode in the next few years. The demand is certainly there -- Brown Distributing's craft beer business grew 84 percent in 2011 -- but the Florida supply doesn't yet provide enough variety to satiate our region's needs. Here's hoping that by ACBW 2013, I'll be bemoaning the oversaturation of craft brewers in South Florida instead of those damned self-serve yogurt shops that seem to pop up overnight.        

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Tricia Woolfenden

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