The results are in and Southwest Florida has brought home seven medals (1 gold, 2 silver, 4 bronze) from the Best Florida Beer Competition, the most prestigious professional beer competition in Florida!
There were 110 breweries from Florida that submitted over 850 beers which were all competing for only 93 beer-style medals. That means that only around 10% of the beers submitted head home with some hardware. Any brewery going home with a medal should be proud especially when competing against the likes of Cigar City, Big Storm, and Funky Buddha!
The Best Florida Beer Competition is an American Homebrewers Association (AHA) and Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) sanctioned professional event and is culminated with a celebration of the winners at the Brewer's Ball held at Water Works Park in Tampa. At the Brewer's Ball every beer that won a medal is on tap and this is where the breweries find out what medal they actually won (up to this point, it's only known that the beers on tap finished in the top 3).
Since the odds are stacked against the breweries, I'm especially proud of my current employer and favorite SWFL brewery... Momentum Brewhouse! Owners Brian & Kate Hahn and Head Brewer Tom Gambino managed to bring home not one but TWO medals! They earned bronze medals for both Tricked Out (Export Stout) and 566 (Scotch Ale). This is the second year in a row they have brought home medals (earned a gold medal for Twisted Cap barleywine in 2016). Three medals in their first two years of business is sure to keep the momentum goingg.
I had the pleasure of joining the Momentum Brewhouse crew to the Brewer's Ball last year and what a great afternoon of celebrating... and drinking it was! Never have I seen so much great beer and brewers in such a small area. If you work for a Florida brewery and get the chance to attend the Brewer's Ball I highly recommend you don't pass up the chance! Not only is there great beer to be had but also live music, food, and great raffles. It is an afternoon you won't forget.. or maybe you will if you don't stay hydrated.
I'd also like to give a huge shout out to the three other SWFL breweries that earned medals this year! Point Ybel Brewing Co. led the way with three medals (1 gold & 2 silver) and nearly brought home the Best Small Brewery award as well! The area's oldest brewery, Fort Myers Brewing Co., earned a bronze medal and first year brewery, Big Blue Brewing, also earned a bronze medal.
It's great to see our local breweries, old and new, get recognized for all of their hard work and dedication to the craft.
Here's a quick breakdown of the medal's won by our local brewers:
Point Ybel Brewing Co.
Be sure to get out all of these local medal-winning breweries and try some of the best beers Florida has to offer!
It's our support that keeps these breweries pumping out the best beers in Florida
Best of Show Results
Best Large Brewery - Motorworks Brewing
Best Small Brewery - Walking Tree Brewery
Best Brewpub - Wicked Barley Brewing Co.
Best Beer in Florida - Walking Tree Brewery - Barnacled Manatee
Best Cider/Mead - Green Bench Cider & Mead - Purple Rain
Congratulations to all of the breweries that earned medals but especially to the breweries of Southwest Florida!
A month ago a Senate Bill 554 was filed in the Florida Senate by Senator Dana Young. This bill is moving quickly through the Senate, would greatly help the growth of new breweries in FL, and has an effective date of July 1, 2017.
SB 554 would ultimately allow smaller breweries to act as their own distributor by giving them the power to deliver their beer directly to vendors. This is a huge change to the Three-Tier System that has been in place since Prohibition. Being able to self-distribute for small breweries would cut out the cost of the middle man and help them save much needed money as they are in their growing stages.
Here's a rundown of SB 554:
Help Dana Young pass this bill through the legislature by becoming a Citizen Co-Sponsor and letting the rest of the Senate know that you stand with local businesses!
Click HERE to sign her petition!
Palm City Brewing
Owners: Ryan (Head Brewer) and Marianne Bowen
Where: 7887 Drew Circle Suite 130 Fort Myers Alico Commercial Park (2 miles west of I-75, exit 128)
When: Plan to open doors in spring 2017
What Got You Into Craft Beer?: Chimay Red was Ryan's first "WOW" moment in craft beer
Favorite Style of Beer to Drink:
With a slogan of "Pints in Paradise", I instantly think of the song "Toes" by Zac Brown Band...got my toes in the water, ass in the sand. Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand. Life is good today! Can't wait to leave my worries behind when these doors open up!
Eight-Foot Brewing Co.
Owners: Roger Phelps, Alexandra Phelps, and Andrew Green
Where: Downtown Ft. Myers (location not set yet) with plans to open a second location in East Tennessee
When: Doors open within the next six-eight months
What Got You Into Craft Beer?:
About the Business: With an academic background in art and an appreciation for the scientific method, Roger found that brewing beer seamlessly combined these two desires. "You are creating a living work of art" says Roger. Andrew attended business school at UVA and began home brewing while there. Each hobby then becomes a possible business venture which is now becoming a reality! Upon educating themselves on beer qualities and styles, they decided Eight-Foot Brewing's mission would be to educate the public in these areas as well. Roger sees this a lot in the wine industry, "When you go to a winery the vintner often provides a flight of their wine and talks about the terrior, grapes, and wood that go into creating it. They give you an idea of how it should taste and what it should taste like. There are so many breweries out there that don’t do that. They expect you to understand how it should taste..." and with a vision of focusing on sour, mixed-fermentation, and farmhouse-style beers, educating their patrons will be a necessity as these styles are still considered niche but are rapidly growing.
I've had the pleasure of trying a few of their offerings at some local beer festivals and all I can say is that I cannot wait for them to officially open their doors! They will be introducing a whole section of Florida to a few slowly emerging styles of beer that will knock their socks off.
Crazy Dingo Brewing Co.
Owners/Brewers: Stu Paasche & Dan Esperon
Where: Southern Fresh Farms - Penzance Boulevard in Ft. Myers
When: 1+ years
What Got You Into Craft Beer?: Brewing beer grew out of a passion for drinking beer and with both Stu and Dan having degrees in science led them to love the process of brewing beer.
Favorite Style/Beer to Drink:
About the Business: Stu and Dan have been brewing beer at home for over 10 years now and just recently decided to take their passion to the professional level. Their joy for brewing comes from their background in science. They both have degrees in science which allows them to truly enjoy the chemistry, microbiology, and technicality that goes into brewing beer. When approached by Southern Fresh Farms to team up and help take the farm to the next level, the guys jumped all over the opportunity as they wanted to do the same with brewing! They plan to have a small brewery on the farm with a beautiful beer garden. Small batches, local ingredients, and family oriented will be the theme of Crazy Dingo. With plans to grow many of the ingredients that will be used in the brewing process right on the farm, they say that there won't be a more local brewery in SWFL. Their recipe designs plan to highlight the history and culture of SWFL. They each have a favorite beer that they will be brewing. Dan's favorite is "Wahoo Blue" a blueberry wheat that has won a People's Choice Award while Stu's favorite is his "Night Cafe", a nutella-banana stout.
Though I have not had a chance to try any of Crazy Dingo's brews yet, you can bet that I am dying to get my hands on some soon! Breweries with a large outdoor space are not common place in SWFL and so I am very much looking forward to enjoying a nice crisp beer in their beer garden!
Fort Misery Cider Co.
Owners: Matt Cormier & Ian Thomas
Where: Northern Ft. Myers or possibly Cape Coral (nothing locked down yet)
When: Distribution by end of 2017 with tap room operating by spring 2018
What Got You Into Craft Beer/Cider?: Both Matt and Ian have been working around the craft beverage industry for quite some time. Between wine, cocktails, and beer it was only a matter of time before they stumbled into the world of craft ciders.
Favorite Style/Beer to Drink: Both prefer English-style dry ciders
Flagship Cider: No flagship yet but plan to get feed back from their festival tours.
About the Business: Ian has been a commercial brewer in the local area for a couple of years while Matt has been experimenting with ciders and beers for about a year. They have been making appearances at the local craft beer festivals to get their name and ciders to the public before opening their doors. I've had the pleasure of trying their ciders at both the ARC Festival and the Bonita Brew Fest and they were by far the most experimental ciders I've ever tried which included:
Southwest Florida Ale Trail
Owners: A.J. Gurgal & Zac Barson
Where: All of SWFL!
When: Launching February, 24 2017 at Riptide Brewing Co.
What Got You Into Craft Beer?:
1. Pick up your SWFL Ale Trail Passport at one of the participating breweries or directly from us at
2. Visit one of the participating breweries and purchase a pint, growler, crowler, or flight. Take out your passport and get it stamped. (Then enjoy the craft beer you purchased!)
3. Gather enough stamps to reach a prize level while enjoying a variety of craft beers from the
amazing breweries here in SWFL. Prizes can be obtained at participating breweries (Limited to
stock on hand and will be replenished on a regular basis)
4. Share your milestone with us on social media!
5. Start working towards the next prize level until you complete the trail.
If great beer alone wasn't enough motivation to get out to the breweries in SWFL, now you have incentives!
Oil Well Craft Beer
Owners: Matt & Danee Williams, Mark & Deeda DeLillo, and Jessica DeLillo
Where: 5334 Ave Maria Blvd, Ave Maria, FL 34142
When: OPEN NOW!
What Got You Into Craft Beer?: Matt's love for craft beer started about 10 years ago when he began getting bored with the bland American light lagers. It was when he had his first sip of Rogue Dead Guy Ale that he knew there was better beer to be had! After that he began buying Sam Adam's variety packs and any other beer that looked different from the adjunct-heavy macro beers that conquered the store shelves.
Favorite Style/Beer to Drink:
"Somewhere you can catch the game, meet up with buddies over a few craft beers, or fill a growler to enjoy from the comfort of your own couch. At Oil Well Craft Beer, you'll always find a great selection of craft beers and the finest bottled local brews & imports. With 20 taps on rotation, we have something for every beer lover."
Owner: Scott Melick
Where: 901 E. Industrial Circle Unit 1-3 Cape Coral, FL 33909
When: March 2017
What Got You Into Craft Beer: I've been drinking good craft beer before it was a thought and have been brewing beer at home for 28 years.
Flagship Beer: Though there is no plan to have a flagship beer Scott will be launching with a Hefeweizen.
Favorite Style/Beer to Drink: German Wheat Beers although it is hard to pick a favorite with all of the available beers.
About the Business: Scott has been wanting to open a brewery for the better part of two decades and has been cementing the plans over the last three years. Scott is living up to the saying "go big or go home" as he will be opening the largest brewery between Tampa and Miami! The 10,000 square-foot space in Cape Coral will house a 20-barrel brewing system and a tap room. Scotty's Bierwerks will not be serving food but will have plenty of space for food trucks to feed the hunger of his patrons. Scott plans to serve a large variety of beers of very high quality as well as offering a series of bottled Saisons only available at the tasting room.
Cape Coral's craft beer scene is expanding again and this time is making a huge leap in size! I'm very much looking forward to the opening of this new brewery in the coming months.
Since mid-2015 there have been four bills written to reform the federal excise taxes paid by brewers in the U.S:
(chronological order of referral to Committee)
Current Beer Tax Info (Information from the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau)
Following information has come from govtrack.us which is "a completely independent entity which is wholly owned by its operator and receives no funding in any form from outside organizations. We have no financers, sponsors, investors, or partners, nor do we have any affiliation or relationship (financial or otherwise) with any political party, government agency, or any other outside group or persons."
"GovTrack automatically collects legislative information from a variety of governmental and non-governmental sources. This page is sourced primarily from Congress.gov, the official portal of the United States Congress. Congress.gov is generally updated one day after events occur, and so legislative activity shown here may be one day behind. Data via the congress project."
Small BREW Act (Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act) (H.R. 232, S. 375)
"In the case of a brewer who produces not more than 6,000,000 barrels of beer during the calendar year, the per barrel rate of tax imposed by this section shall be--
Fair BEER Act (Fair Brewers Excise and Economic Relief Act) (H.R. 767, S. 807)
"A tax is hereby imposed on all beer brewed or produced, and removed for consumption or sale, within the United States, or imported into the United States during the calendar year. Such tax shall be--
Craft Beverage Bond Simplification Act of 2015 (H.R. 2238, S. 904)
"This bill allows taxpayers who are liable for not more than $50,000 per year in excise taxes on distilled spirits, wine, or beer to file and pay such taxes quarterly without the requirement to post a bond covering the operations and withdrawals of such distilled spirits, wines, or beer. The bill also allows such a taxpayer who reasonably expects to have a tax liability of not more than $1,000 per year and who was liable for not more than $1,000 in taxes in the preceding calendar year to file and pay such taxes annually rather than quarterly."
Craft Beverage Modernization & Tax Reform Act of 2015 (H.R. 2903, S. 1562)
As you can see, the Craft Beverage Modernization & Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) is the most comprehensive of the bills presented and also covers all craft beverages (beer, wine, and distilled spirits) unlike the others that just cover beer production. It would also legalize home distilling which is currently a felony that is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
There has been a big fight between the Small BREW Act and the Fair BEER Act in that the Small BREW Act is aimed at helping small, independent, U.S.-based breweries while the Fair BEER Act will not only help the small breweries in the Small BREW Act but also give tax relief to the larger beer manufacturers as well as importers.
The Small BREW Act has been fully endorsed by the Brewer's Association as can be read in an article from 2015. The Fair BEER Act has been endorsed by the Beer Institute (supports both large and small breweries and distributors).
These bills have gained a lot of attention in the craft beer industry and more recently due to the number of cosponsors one of the bills has picked up. I recently read an article from the Brewer's Association in regards to the Craft Beverage Modernization & Tax Reform Act that showed a lot of optimism for the bill as it has garnered support from 51 out of the 100 U.S. Senators as well as support from 284 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives! All-in-all, this specific bill has cosponsors from 63% of Congress. But will it become law anytime soon? Remember, in order for a bill to become law it must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and then be signed by the President.
While 63% of support from Congress since it only takes a simple majority (218/435 Representatives + 51/100 Senators) to get a bill out of Congress. While it currently has majority support, it has yet to be voted on in the House. Here are the more detailed steps of a Bill becoming law.
What is interesting to note from govtrack.us is that they use statistics collected since 2012 to determine the likelihood of a Bill being passed into law. In the case of the Craft Beverage Modernization & Tax Reform Act govtrack.us only gives the bill a "1% chance of being enacted". This very small chance was given due to the text of the bill when compared to similarly written bills.
Don't count it out yet though! As Lloyd Christmas once said..."So, you're telling me there's a chance?!"
If this is a bill you would like to see get passed into law then it is our responsibility to voice our opinions to our state's Congressmen and women! Currently, of the 27 U.S. Representatives of Florida only 11 of them have cosponsored the CBMTRA and NEITHER U.S. Senator from Florida (Bill Nelson & Marco Rubio) has cosponsored the bill yet. By clicking on the links in this paragraph you will find ways to contact the Florida Congressmen and women!
I will be following this bill in both forms (H.R. 2903 & S. 1562) with these "widgets" below provided by govtrack.us!
Let me know what you think of the bills, especially the Craft Beverage Modernization & Tax Reform Act!