This week, in a bit of Florida-focused beer news, Brew Bus
, the Tampa-based tour operator who does brewery tours in South Florida
, announced that they have purchased Tampa-area’s Florida Avenue Brewing Company
and will be converting to space to their own Brew Bus “Terminal” tasting room and brewery.
According to the tour operator and 2015 Great American Beer Festival silver medalist
(for the fruit-forward blueberry wheat You're My Boy, Blue), the Brew Bus will continue to produce the brands of Florida Avenue while putting in nearly $250,000 worth of renovations to the space.
“2015 was a rough year for them,” Brew Bus president Anthony Derby told New Times
. “They transitioned from bottles to cans and were practically out of inventory for six months. We want to bring the Florida Avenue brand to a manageable level, and at the end of the year do new recipes, a new brand in the portfolio.”
For the past few years, Brew Bus has been brewing beer by contract, first with Cigar City Brewing
and now with Brew Hub
“The idea is to grow with Brew Hub as they grow with the Brew Bus brand. With the Florida Avenue brand, they’re picking up the production and saving the brand if you will, stepping in, in hopes that we’re able to bring it back in-house.“
The transition to a physical space will allow them to expand beyond their ‘limited’ capacity of needing to make 100-barrel batches of beer.
“We’ve only been able to brew the core brands. I think the market is always looking for something new. They’re always wanting that treatment keg, that firkin, we were always limited in what we could do. Now we can do a lot more special releases, one-offs, start a barrel aging program, and expand our portfolio a little bit. We want to try some newer experimental stuff we didn't get to do.”
Now with 14,000 square feet, there’s room for that experimentation.
“It’s been great, we’ve been going to breweries for the last four to five years, taking a look at the best practices.”
Since Brew Bus has been primarily a tour operator, the new location in Tampa will act as a hub for tours of the surrounding area. As for the other current tour areas, notably Jacksonville and around our area in South Florida, they’ll continue on as if nothing happened, at least until the brewing space opens up.
“We had over 12,000 people on our buses in 2015,” Derby said. “It’s becoming more wildly popular than it once was. Our culture [in passengers] has shifted to the educational group, rather than just partiers. They’re learning about the beer, learning about local breweries.”
Derby hopes that this expansion will help bring Brew Bus into new markets.
“One thing I really want to do is a collaboration series all across Florida. Do a collaboration with breweries like Funky Buddha, Engine 15, Bold City.“
For now, however, it’s all about the beer. Once the brewery is open and up to capacity, expect to see some interesting beers get bussed in from out of town.
The Brew Bus in South Florida offers public tours leaving from Funky Buddha Brewery and Salt Water Brewery. Private tours can also be booked. Visit brewbususa.com/tours/south-florida.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers. He is a Certified Beer Server and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.