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Florida Doesn't Have a Top 50 Craft Brewer

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At least not according to the Brewers Association, the organization that advocates for the craft brewing industry. Out of the top 50 craft brewers in the country, Florida isn't represented by one. In fact, Florida is among the states with the fewest number of breweries per capita with one per 470,000 people.

Which isn't to say Floridians don't like their craft beer. According to Adam Fine, President of Fort Lauderdale-based craft beer distributor Fresh Beer, Inc., the lack of breweries in the state is symptomatic of its long history of strict beer laws. "Florida was the last state to change its packaging laws, which created a really big problem with selling beer here," says Fine.

Up until 2001, Florida law prohibited any beer that wasn't of a

set size (8, 12, 16, or 32 ounces) from being sold in stores. The restriction meant odd size import bottles as well as "bomber" bottles typically used by craft micro brewers were unfit for shelves. "[The law] limited what kinds of beers were available, and as a result consumer interest just wasn't there," says Fine. "After it was changed the people that tried to come into the state to take advantage of the market didn't really know how to handle the product."

In the eight years since the bottle law has changed, demand for

craft beer in Florida has grown dramatically. But another factor has

hindered growth of breweries in the Sunshine State: a law that prevents brewpubs

from selling beer for consumption outside of their restaurant.

Although

the volume of beer sold in brewpubs in the U.S. is low, brewpubs

themselves make  up over 60% of the breweries in the country.

Successful brewpubs often go on to become micro breweries, especially

once they've built some name recognition -- Delaware's Dogfish Head is one great example. But with decreased incentive

to open a brewpub in Florida, that's a transition that's hard to

accomplish here. "As a microbrewer you can make your product but you

can't distribute it, and as a brewpub you can sell your beer in house

but you can't ever allow it leave the place," says Fine. "Either way it

puts [Florida] brewers in a corner."

Fresh Beer, Inc was

once in that position as well. The distributor is one of the big

reasons South Florida has seen such an influx in craft beers. But that

wasn't Fine's original intention. "We wanted to open a micro brewery at

first, but the problem was there

just wasn't any distributors willing to handle a small brand," he says. "So instead we decided to become a distributor ourselves, and

that's how we started out."

The

good news is Fine says he's seen more and more people become interested

in brewing in Florida as of late. "I get phone calls at least once per

month from people thinking of starting a microbrewery or looking for a

distributor," he says. "The number is definitely growing."

Craft Brewers in Florida

Florida houses many significant craft brewers, and that number is on the rise. Tampa Bay's Cigar City Brewing Company

was founded in 2007 and has already won acclaim: its barrel-aged

Humidor Series IPA won a gold medal at the 2009 Great American Beer

Festival in September. (3924 West Spruce Street Suite A.,Tampa)

Gordash Beer Company, makers of Holy Mackerel, are located in Fort Lauderdale (3804 S.W 30th Ave.).

Florida Beer Company manage the Key West, Hurricane Reef, and Ybor Gold brands, and operate out of Melbourne (2500 S Harbor City Blvd.).

Inlet Brewing Company is well known for Monk in the Trunk, an organic belgian-style ale. (P.O. Box 1483

Jupiter). 

Dunedin Brewery operate Snug Pub in Dundein and have won many awards since they opened in 1996. (937 Douglas Ave., Dunedin)

Orlando Brewing is Florida's only certified organic brewer. Its taproom is open daily. (1301 Atlanta Ave., Orlando)

Also Check Out These Local Brewpubs:

Big Bear Brewing Company - 1800 University Dr., Coral Springs

Titanic Brewery - 5813 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Miami

Corner Cafe & Brewery - 289 US Hwy. 1, Tequesta

Brewzzi - 700 S. Rosemary Ave. (CityPlace), West Palm Beach and 2222 Glades Rd., Boca Raton

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