The art of brewing beer is more than just combining a few ingredients, boiling them at the proper temperature for the appropriate amount of time and allowing the liquid to ferment. Brewing requires knowledge of what’s legally allowed to be brewed, who can supply ingredients and packaging and how beer is distributed. In addition, brewers must be savvy businesspersons with a sense of bookkeeping and staff management and where to find competent legal assistance.
That’s where the Florida Brewers Guild comes in.
“The Guild,” explained Florida Brewers Guild Executive Director Sean Nordquist, “first and foremost, exists to help support Florida breweries’ rights and interests.”
Formed more than 20 years ago by Tampa area brewers, the Florida Brewers Guild is the trade organization for the state’s breweries. They promote and sponsor events, educate consumers and ensure that the Florida legislature hears craft’s voices over the din of macrobrewers, distributors and other special interest groups.
In a time when some experts and industry insiders believe that craft beer’s rapid growth is beginning to slow, Nordquist remains optimistic.
Statistics compiled by the national trade organization Brewers Association show that Florida is 10th in the nation for the number of breweries, but only 43rd in breweries per 100,000 people. That gap, Nordquist believes, leaves room for many more breweries to thrive in the Sunshine State.
“We are going to continue to see new breweries popping up seemingly every week,” Nordquist said enthusiastically. “Some will make it, some will not. It’s going to come down to those that have a combination of a great product, good business practices and local consumer support.”
He also sees a trend for hyper-local nano-breweries like the recently opened Hyperion Brewing Company and the soon-to-open Main & Six Brewing Company, both in Springfield.
“If you’re not packaging, your tasting room is your bread-and-butter,” Nordquist said. “You have to have a great product. And that extends to making community an extension of the brand. It brings in more local consumers who may not ordinarily go to a brewery by making it a local gathering place.”
The Guild’s inaugural conference and trade show is held Aug. 7, 8 and 9 in Orlando. Activities include panel discussions on topics ranging from brewing with Florida ingredients to trademark law, appearances by Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery and Jim Koch of Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams’ brewer) and networking with industry leaders and more than 30 vendors.
“Breweries in the state have grown exponentially,” said Nordquist. “Just a few years ago, Florida had something like only 40 breweries. Now we have over 200. We want brewers to learn from each other, to learn about services that are out there and to have an opportunity to meet with their peers.”
Nordquist expects as many as 300 conference attendees, including brewers, distributer representatives, suppliers, legal and other allied brewing services.
“I think you’re going to see more companies wanting to do business with Florida brewing,” he said. “I also hope we will see breweries taking the things they learn at the conference and adopt them to make better beer.”
That is a sentiment we can all get behind.