Tampa Distributors support American Craft Beer Week

Two of Tampa Bay’s biggest beer distributors are hosting beer fests in conjunction with the Brewers’ Association American Craft Beer Week:

Both events are sure to be a good time and will include craft beers from local breweries as well as from around the country.

Update on Stargel last minute strike-all amendment to SB1714

I had a chance to speak with David Doble of Tampa Bay Brewing Company this morning about the recent changes to SB1714. The story is intriguing and definitely brings to light the lengths to which some members of the local brewing community are going to find a positive resolution to this situation.

David Doble of Tampa Bay Brewing Company and Mike Bishop of Big Storm Brewing, both distributed by Pepin, recently met with J. Paul Pepin (Craft Manager for Pepin) to bring to light that their businesses were going to be negatively impacted (including possible boycotts) because of their relationship to Pepin. The talks proceeded positively and resulted in a follow-up meeting between Pepin Distributing, the FBWA (led by Mitch Rubin) and FBG leadership. Over the next few days, FBWA and FBG hammered out the terms of an agreement that both parties could agree with. “Then things went sour” reports Doble. “Negotiations were cut off and the guild advised us to kill the bill.”

Fast forward to this weekend, when negotiations came back to Doble, Bishop, and Pepin directly. Apparently the two groups (FBWA and FBG) couldn’t come to an agreement, so Pepin tried to work with its breweries to get the FBG to come back to the table. In last minute negotiations, the discussions proved fruitful and an agreement seemed imminent, only to be upset by last minute changes from Sen. Stargel. The final amendment was not the same as the terms the parties had previously agreed upon.

Ultimately, the FBG and FBWA are not yet able to come to an agreement, and it seems that Sen. Stargel’s changes are the going to move forward in the absence of an agreement.

EDIT 9:25AM 4/28/14: I left a voicemail for J. Paul Pepin and sent a Facebook Message to Joey Redner to get their feedback as well. I’ll update this post when I get some more information.

EDIT: 9:27AM 4/28/14: Received feedback from Josh Aubuchon at Florida Brewers Guild on the Stargel Strike-All amendment: “Unfortunately, the amendment contains provisions that would harm the economic growth of the craft beer industry in Florida and places limitations on brewery operations that are not currently in Florida law. It would be difficult for us to support any language that places additional burdens on small businesses that are experiencing such rapid growth in Florida.”

Randy Reaver (Three Palms) and Mick Cohn (Beer Box)

East Tampa brewer Three Palms eyes expansion plans

Three Palms Brewing is expanding.

By the end of this summer, Three Palms will grow from its current 3 barrel 1,000 square foot combined brewery/tasting room to a 15 barrel 3,000 square foot family and pet-friendly tasting room and brewery. Along with the physical expansion, they’re expanding their opening time to seven days a week.

But that’s not all: Randy goes on to tell Tampa Bay Brew News that he’s in the initial stages of canning his immensely popular “Going the Distance” IPA. Stay tuned for more details about the expansion and canning plans!

Congratulations Randy!

Tampa Bay Craft Beer Expands East: Lakeland Brewing Company

A warm day spent in central Florida is indescribably better with a cold and delicious beer in hand. It is that much better if that refreshing beer is created from a unique and local microbrewery. People residing in the city of Lakeland have not been afforded the luxury of enjoying the flavors and atmosphere provided by their own local brewery and taproom – that is, until now. Thanks to Lakeland Brewing Company, a new craft beer culture will be sweeping the ever-growing town and putting it on the map as a must-visit for those looking for the next best brew. The greatest part is that Lakeland Brewing Company and its attached taproom and restaurant, Old School Annex, will offer more than just your typical run of the mill brewery experience.

Mirror Lake, from the Patio of Lakeland Brewing Company

Mirror Lake, from the patio of Lakeland Brewing Company

Located in the historic district of downtown, Lakeland Brewing Company is in the very heart of the city. Only a short walking distance from the shops and bustle of downtown Lakeland, it is tucked away just enough to give its patrons a relaxed feeling of seclusion. As you approach the brewery, the first thing you will notice is its impeccable position directly overlooking the reflective waters of Lake Mirror. This charming and picturesque lake is easily recognizable as a major Lakeland landmark. Lake Mirror is a common inspiration for many local artists, and the surrounding gardens are a popular backdrop for photographers. From LBC’s patio you’ll have a front row view of the many festivities that take place annually around the lake, such as the Lakeland Swan Derby; Pics on the Promenade; and the Lake Mirror Classic, an auto show that attracts more than 35,000 spectators to see its more than 600 classic autos on display.

If you look closely at Lakeland Brewing Company’s logo, you will see the silhouette of a resplendent swan radiating in the background. Strong and graceful, these birds decorate the shores of nearby Lake Morton and are certainly not as delicate as they appear. Swans are a Lakeland icon—even used in the City of Lakeland’s logo—so it was only appropriate for Lakeland Brewing Company to adopt this strong bird’s profile as a part of their logo. LBC’s swan sports rough and tough “tattoo-ish” appearance, fitting the swan’s seldom-seen feisty nature.

Under construction: Lakeland Brewing Company

Under construction: Lakeland Brewing Company

As co-owner Francis Janes led John and I into their spacious building, we couldn’t help but be shocked by its enormous interior. Twelve thousand square feet! The ideal space to house the brewery’s 15 barrel brewhouse and 30 barrel fermenting tanks. Although the construction is not quite complete, the energy in the place is exciting and alive with possibility. The building, almost a hundred years old, is a literal slice of Lakeland history. Built in 1920s, it served as the site for Polly Prim’s laundry service, later became Coyne Laundry, and was eventually converted into a massive skate park that entertained local skateboarders.

Francis, born and raised in Gainesville, is a special events planner who recently moved to Lakeland from Los Angeles where he had lived for the last twenty years. He started looking to expand the craft beer business out in California and was searching for the right opportunity to come along. That opportunity presented itself during a family visit in the later part of 2012 when a simple car ride to pick up his skateboard-crazy nephew led him to his dream location and a building that just happened to be for sale. The rest, as they say, is history. Literally. Lakeland Brewing Company will go down in the books as being Lakeland’s first microbrewery. There is no doubt the establishment will contribute to the city’s upward growth and help the downtown district continue to flourish.

The brewery’s taproom and restaurant has been dubbed quite an interesting name – “Old School Annex.” When asked about the meaning, Francis was quick to mention it was homage to Old School Compound (the skate park that formerly occupied the building and significant turning point in his quest to start a brewery) then allowed his head brewer, Joe Pierce, to elaborate. “Old” salutes the historic building’s rich and somewhat unusual past; and “School” refers to the exciting fact they plan on being big into educating about beer and spreading the flavor of great brews to locals and visitors alike. In the traditional form of a school, there will also be a few replicas of old-fashioned school desks placed around the taproom, but don’t you worry! The only form of learning you will experience in this schoolroom is guaranteed to be delicious and satisfying.

The kitchen will offer a mouth watering array of small dishes that will not only complement your brew, but are the perfect size for sharing (or you can certainly enjoy it all to yourself, of course!). There will be a lot of dishes that you wouldn’t normally expect to see on the typical bar menu, and if you do happen to see a familiar dish, expect a surprising and delectable twist. The menu is not yet finalized, but they plan on incorporating different international flavors into the food, which will fluctuate to match the season. With a grin, Francis says “We don’t want to do anything anyone else has done before. You could say the world is our palate.” They will also offer choice wines for those who prefer a not-so-beery beverage for their session.

Francis and his business partners (his sister, Serena Faruq, and her husband, Usman) have put together quite the brewing team! Head Brewer, Joe Pierce, spent the last seven years at the Milwaukee Brewing Company in Wisconsin, brewing, running the bottling line and collaborating on the creation of recipes. He and his wife got sick of the winters up north and decided to come down south, where their outdoorsy spirits could thrive. Now, Lakeland will get to benefit from Joe’s talents and ideas for creating top notch craft beer. Rob Harriage, Assistant brewer, learned his craft at Cigar City Brewery in Tampa, doing everything from brewing to packaging to cellaring. This is definitely a brew team that deserves an A+.

Lakeland Brewing Company head brewer Joe Pierce

Lakeland Brewing Company head brewer Joe Pierce

Local beer lovers can expect an offering of delicious staple brews that will include a pair of pale ales (one west coast, one east coast), a variety of IPAs to please both the novice drinker and hop heads alike, a special Florida wheat beer scented with tangerine and honey, a dry stout, and a number of other brews that, for now, remain a closely guarded secret.  While Francis favors the bitter hoppiness of IPA’s, Joe is partial to some more unusual but just as delectable styles, including barrel aged ales, intense sours and Belgian lagers. Lakeland Brewing Company will team with Bernie Little distributors for local distribution which includes not only Lakeland but also outlying areas such as Winter Haven, Sebring and Fort Meade. They hope to move into canning within two to three years.

Once open, the brewery will offer patrons two exceptional atmospheres in which to enjoy their brews; the aforementioned Old School Annex taproom interior along with their serene front patio overlooking Lake Mirror.  Soon after opening, they hope to put the finishing touches on their beer garden; a more secluded area out back that sits in the shadow of the building’s old water tank and tower; another feature that enhances the historical sentiment. Future live entertainment is planned, possibly to perform on what they have affectionately dubbed the “Silo Stage” – the deck adjacent to their loading dock which houses their brand new 50,000 pound silo. Amtrak and CSX freight trains running just behind the brewery add to the nostalgic ambiance, and beer garden patrons can observe the brewery’s unofficial mascots—an osprey family—which have made their home high atop an old electric pole next to the nearby tracks.

There is still some work to be done just yet, but Lakeland Brewing Company is expecting to open their doors to the public sometime in late Spring. This is definitely a must to put on your bucket list. With scenic and relaxing environments in which to enjoy one of their top of the line brews and culinary creations, Lakeland Brewing Company is certainly worth the extra drive for those out in the Tampa Bay Area – or anywhere, for that matter! Just make sure that when you head out to the downtown Lakeland area that your taste buds are prepared for some delicious food and brew schooling at Lakeland Brewing Company and Old School Annex.

Kirra, the Lakeland Brewing Company Brew Dog

Kirra, the Lakeland Brewing Company brew dog

Hopcloth Founder Supports Florida Breweries

Most people who travel in craft beer/local beer circles have kept up with the shenanigans happening in this year’s Florida legislative session. For those of you not following along, take my word for it – it has been a stressful, frustrating, and very busy time for brewers and the people who support them throughout the state. Legislators have introduced a number of bills that will affect local breweries this year. Some of those bills are better for the local breweries than others, but no matter what, the landscape in Florida for craft beer will never be the same, and this has lots of people concerned.

Enter Jeff Smith, proprietor of hopcloth, a Tampa-based designer of craft-beer related apparel.

“Not only do these bills threaten to limit local breweries’ ability to sell beer to their customers, it threatens the beer community these breweries helped establish.  The cooperative and collaborative environment that they’ve created has fostered the growth and made many Florida cities craft beer destinations.  While there is great beer available to purchase from outside of Florida, we wouldn’t have the beer community here without these local breweries.” — Jeff Smith

And he’s right to be concerned – a legislative analysis of the first reading of H.B. 1329 confirmed that the bill as introduced would reduce the potential revenue of local breweries as we currently know them. Subsequent changes haven’t been as favorable as local breweries would like, and that continues to concern Smith. Smith wasn’t content to sit idly by while proposed legislation threatened his business, so he did what he does best – he designed a T-shirt to summarize his concern.

Don't Tread on Craft Beer, by @hopcloth

Don’t Tread on Craft Beer, by hopcloth

“Hopcloth shirts have always been conversation starters.  The iconic symbol of Government resistance paired with the beer growler will hopefully continue that.  I think that there are many local craft beer consumers that no nothing about the fight our breweries are going through.”  — Jeff Smith

Smith plans to donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of these shirts to the Florida Brewer’s Guild, the organization dedicated to the promotion of the Florida brewing industry to the public. Smith hopes that “the shirt will raise more awareness about the issues Florida breweries face.” I think it will – so why not buy a shirt – help the cause – and look good while doing it?

Shirts are available from hopcloth’s etsy store for $18 + shipping and handling. I got mine!


My take on Hunahpu’s Day and the Business Approach of CCB

My take on Hunahpu’s Day and the business approach of CCB:

Things did not go smoothly for the brewery’s first attempt at running Hunahpu’s Day as a beer festival. The event ended up with over double the ticketed number of people. The beer however, was world class; A-game brews from some of the legends of the industry.

To those who believe CCB is a greedy corporation who flooded their own event:
Cigar City was caught in a tough position with ticket reading issues and false claims over who had rights to tickets. Here’s the thing; if you tried to make people happy every single step of the way and that makes you greedy, then I’m going to need to fix my definition. The central issue revolves around the choice to let people in despite finding duplicate tickets. This would have never happened if the ticketing situation wasn’t taken advantage of, and if everyone didn’t provide some variation of a sob story about being swindled. This was the defining moment and a lose/lose situation for the brewery. Damned if they turn people away because CCB was so mean and damned because they didn’t and the event overfilled. It is because of these shady people bottles sold out early. For the brewery there was no advantage to overfilling the event, what was to be gained? If it had been just the promised 3,500 attendees, those bottles which were reserved for the event, would sell out anyway without the extra people that scammed their way in, they have every year. There was no shady illuminati plan to admit everyone and break the promised bottle allotment.

While people should not have been able to pick up cases before 4pm, it happened. What happened after was SHAMEFUL; the reactions of attendees forced the breweries hands to clear the lot. Empty bottles were being thrown and some people behaved like animals. But to sell the day to our fellow beer enthusiasts as a complete disaster is a bit much. Five and a half hours of drinking samples and bottle sharing some of the whales of craft beer, while crowded and a bit hot, came before the breakdown of the crowd.

There are those who would claim the brewery to have orchestrated the event for some sort of nefarious plan to crush the souls of the Hunahopeful. How can you say that though when you see the lengths Joey Redner has gone to make it up to the loyal customers who purchased tickets for themselves? Consolatory moves began with the announcing that a free beer day would follow Hunahpu’s Day, mere hours after the closing down of the event. This resulted, that Sunday, in giving out over $10,000 dollars of beer. Soon after it was decided to just take the hit of over $200,000 in losses through the reimbursement of tickets and keg purchases from some of the world’s best beers from all over the country. All the way to promising an additional batch for those who didn’t get to purchase their beer; I must say that Cigar City Brewing more than made it up.

They have given us our money back (or are in the process of doing so), so if you didn’t get enough samples then you were compensated.

They gave you free beer the next day just to make sure you came for something (as long as you were still in the area).

They promised a new batch to those who retained their silver bracelet, even if you were one of the assholes who took advantage of volunteers and good will.

To top it off they even canceled further Hunahpu’s days due to the overwhelming hatefulness of bridge burners.

Joey Redner, who I have never met, has gone beyond anything any company I have ever dealt with in my everyday life would EVER, ever do, just to make up for the madness that was only partially Cigar City Brewing’s fault. What company would do this for their customers? If you had a bad time and do not feel like this was adequate than I’m sorry. Lose sleep over bigger issues because THIS is world class customer service.

To those who have social anxiety and were emotionally overwhelmed:

I respect your devotion to good craft beer and I believe that Cigar City does as well. I hope that the event wasn’t too overwhelming and I respect your courage to put up with the crowds you expected and beyond.

To those who waited in line for hours to get in, I did too:

A professional might have better ideas of how to fix this but I was in line with some of the best people in the world, Passionate ones. People who love good beer and people who know that if you like something; you love it, learn it, and dedicate some part of yourself to experiencing more.

To those that think this somehow lowers the quality of Cigar City’s beers or puts them on the same level as those who manufacture those commercial beers we see all over bars and tv’s nationwide:

This year’s Hunahpu was by far the best batch and while the events that unfolded were unfortunate and the lines could have been more strictly enforced (I’d have been pissed to have been funneled into bank teller lines); it is clear that they are only increasing in skill and quality.


I will be sad to see the loss of Hunahpu’s day. I hope that Cigar City can move past the trauma as I hope we all can (to those who were traumatized). I believe, with all my taste buds, that this year was to be the birth of something glorious. It succeeded in terms of Tap. This was a mind-blowing buildup of 5 years’ worth of networking and collaborating. In terms of experience I had an amazing time, it was crowded as hell but I expected it to be. I’m sorry if you don’t feel like Cigar City has made it up to you but they have more than made it up to me. I know that my LOCAL breweries have got my back and my friend’s backs. They know when things could have been better and they have enough respect to admit it. In another day or so I’ll write up about my experiences at Hunahpu’s day, once the blood is out the water.

Looking for a Way to Get Involved at Beer Week?

I heard from one of the volunteer coordinators for Tampa Bay Beer Week that she’s looking for some additional volunteers to help out at upcoming TBBW events. If you’re looking for a way to go to some events “on the cheap” or just want to meet some awesome beer people, check out these volunteer events. Contact Carol Dekkers directly to volunteer.

Saturday March 1, 2014 – Tampa – Florida Brewers Guild Beerfest 2014

Florida Brewers Guild would like a few more volunteers to assist with miscellaneous tasks (emptying dump buckets, ice delivery, etc.) for the SATURDAY FBG event which runs from 2pm – 5pm in downtown Tampa. (I wrote about this event earlier this month. — john)

In exchange for you working 1.5 hours (either 2-3:30 pm or 3:30 -5pm) you get free entrance to the event.  If interested please let me know which shift you can work.  At least 10 more volunteers are needed.

Friday March 7, 2014 – St Petersburg – Event at Green Bench Brewing

Volunteers are needed to sell T-Shirts and TBBW passports for Tampa Bay Beer Week at their table at Green Bench Brewing’s Friday night March 7 event. Times are yet to be determined but it will be in the evening. At least 6 more volunteers are needed.


It’s Magic: Meet J.J. Taylor and its Incredible Technicolor Beer Packer

Lots of people in the world are content to have a beer in their hand.

Some people are more adventurous and go about brewing their own beer, but that’s a story for another time. Far fewer people are interested in the magic that happens in the middle. That “middle tier” in the historical three-tier system is called distribution. You should be interested in distribution because it’s the magic that happens there that connects the brewer’s dreams of “my awesome beer in every hand” to your dreams of “my favorite beer in my hand”. Without distributors, breweries would have to distribute their own beer to retailers (including bars, bottle shops, and restaurants) and beer drinkers would be much less likely to get the beer they really want when they want it.

Before we get started on J.J. Taylor – here’s a quick primer on the three tier system and its incarnation. After prohibition, the federal government suggested to the states that they create a “three tier system” of brewers, distributors, and retailers. They left the design and implementation up to the states – which explains why some states have state-owned retail stores and others have private ventures. In the state of Florida we have a system with little state involvement – but with a legally mandated three tiers. There’s lots more to the system than this – you can check out Fermentarium’s excellent write up if you’re so inclined. If you’re really interested, you can check out the actual Florida laws. Remember, that even in the absence of a three-tier system as required by law, the market would likely settle on a solution like this because it is relatively efficient.

What Does J.J. Taylor do?

J.J. Taylor serves the traditional beer-distributor role in the beer market here in Florida: they get the beer from the breweries around the world and make sure that it gets to the bars, restaurants, and bottle shops (the retailers) from where you purchase it. In a simple sense, they are the “middle-man.” But – don’t think of them as the kind of middle-man that just takes a chunk of money and adds no value – by far – J.J. Taylor in this guy’s opinion adds a significant amount of value to the market place in terms of the enormous variety of beer they offer to beer drinkers. Beers from breweries big and small around the world pass through J.J. Taylor’s massive temperature controlled warehouse each day. If retailers were left to their own devices, they would need to contract and secure delivery through breweries directly to get the beer that you want. In Tampa alone, that would mean literally dozens of possible brewery contracts for each restaurant, and literally hundreds of accounts for each brewery to deal with and manage.

So what exactly does J.J. Taylor do, and what is this “incredible Technicolor beer packer”?

I was fortunate enough to spend the afternoon with Matt A. – the guy responsible for interfacing the craft brewers and the retailers they supply. In that time with Matt, I learned about how a distributor operates. He also showed me the machinery that perfectly aligns cases of beer into neat stacks and wraps them for delivery – the incredible Technicolor beer packer” as I’ve decided to call it. I’m going to show you all about it in this post.

Before we get started, there are a few main actors you need to know about:

  • The sales representatives at J.J. Taylor – these are the people that service the accounts and make sure that they get the beer and the supporting marketing that they need from the brewery; we’ll call them “reps”.
  • The brewery reps – the people from the brewery who work with J.J. Taylor to make sure that they have the beer that the market demands and that they have any promotional materials needed to support the sales and marketing of the beer; well call them “brewers”.
  • The people working in the J.J. Taylor warehouse – these are the people that pick, pack, and ship out orders to the retailers; we’ll call them “miracle workers”.
  • The retailers buying the beer from J.J. Taylor – we’ll call these folks “retailers”.

Now that you know who’s involved, let’s talk about the main pieces of work: generating demand for beer,  getting the beer from the brewers to the retailers, and getting kegs and returns back to breweries.

Generating Demand for Beer

J.J. Taylor has a sign shop and a tap-handle room. Why do they have these rooms? Well, they act as a central clearing house for these kinds of things on behalf of the brewers. When a retailer needs a tap handle for a new beer, who do they call? They call the reps, of course! When a retailer is offering a promotion and they need a sign, who do they call? They call the reps! When a brewer has a flood of beer available from a new recipe or style offering and they want to make sure that everyone knows about it, who do they call? The reps! I think you can see the pattern here. Reps serve as as “fixers” for brewers and retailers, making sure that they have what they need to get their respective needs met. The reps are not the only channels by which retailers and brewers communicate – of course the brewers and the retailers can talk to each other – but the reps are there to help get things done.

Getting the Beer from the Brewers to the Retailers

J.J. Taylor reps take the beer from the brewers in huge batches – sometimes arriving on J.J. Taylor’s own private rail spur in huge refrigerated railroad cars – and store it in facilities as specified by the brewers. They then break down these bulk shipments of pallets and pallets of beers into the orders as placed by the retailers. Most retailers aren’t ordering 50 cases of one unique flavor of beer in a single order – they’re ordering 5 cases. It’s the miracle workers that break down those shipments, stock the shelves of the incredible Technicolor beer packer ultimately make sure that every single retailer’s order makes it out the door correctly. Every time.

Kegs of Guinness await distribution to the marketplace.

Kegs of Guinness await distribution to the marketplace.

This middle-man work is a crucial step, and one that shouldn’t be overlooked: we all know that fresh beer is the best beer. Distributors like J.J. Taylor have a huge impact on the quality of the beer you drink. Most of the facility is temperature controlled by an on-site A/C plant big enough to make literally football-fields worth of ice. The miracle workers also make sure that the oldest beer – sometimes only days old – is moved out first. Not enough can be said about this: if your retail outlet is serving old beer, skunky beer, or other defective products – it’s probably because they’re not keeping an eye on it and not because it comes to them that way.

The conveyor line is incredibly long.

The conveyor line is incredibly long.

Once the beer is in the J.J. Taylor warehouse, the work of the reps starts the process to get it out. Each day the reps are out there servicing their accounts: making sure that the products are fresh, front, and center; making sure that promotional materials are current and orderly; informing the retailer about specials, promotions, and changes in brewery lineups; and finally taking the next order. This is where the magic begins: with the order.

Each order taken must be organized such that the beer that the retailer wants is loaded into the truck in the right order and in the right quantity to make sure that the retailer gets what was ordered the first time, every time. Some orders are very complex – perhaps pulling from dozens of breweries around the world in various form factors and sizes like kegs, tall-boy cans, bottles, 12-ounce cans, and 22-ounce bombers. The miracle workers back at the warehouse see to it that it’s all there.

Now, I don’t have pictures of it, but you have to take my word for it. The peer packer is incredible. It can automatically pick beer off of shelves and stack it on a pallet. All.Day.Long. Without making a mistake. It basically is like a series of towers, each tower stocked with a specific kind of beer. As a retailer orders a beer, it carefully drops down the tower and onto the conveyor belt line. There’s another line that has beer which is less frequently sold – this one is operated by a guy that knows the precise slot location of each variety of beer and can pull it almost by muscle memory. After the beer is picked, it rides along this massive conveyor belt system into a palletizing device.

Getting the beer out of the warehouse is a huge endeavor. J.J. Taylor must operate literally hundreds of vehicles throughout their territory. They operate a variety of vehicles but in general there are two: refrigerated keg trucks and lift-gate tractor-trailers which are used for packaged beer delivery. You probably see these trucks out and about delivering beer to your local retailers.

A J.J. Taylor natural-gas powered tractor-trailer awaits its load before going out on its route.

A J.J. Taylor natural-gas powered tractor-trailer awaits its load before going out on its route.

Getting Kegs and Returns Back to Breweries

This is the final part of the value that a distributor like J.J. Taylor adds to the equation: moving the empty beer kegs back to the brewery so they can be cleaned and re-filled. Not only do J.J. Taylor reps bring back the empty kegs, but they bring back the beer that is out of date, didn’t sell, or was damaged on delivery.

Out of date and damaged beer awaits processing

Out of date and damaged beer awaits processing

Going Green

J.J. Taylor takes a number of steps to be a good corporate citizen here in the Tampa Bay area. Probably the most interesting is their focus on efficiency in all forms – from replacing individual air conditioners with a single more efficient centralized air conditioning system (using less energy and therefore costing less) to replacing light-bulbs with more efficient ones and installing motion sensors to reduce cooling needs caused by the heat the lamps produce. Not only do they focus on their own operations, but they look for ways to reduce the impact of what leaves their buildings each day. J.J. Taylor saves all of its recyclable plastic for use by a company that transforms it into building materials – it never enters a landfill. And probably the biggest energy saver/pollution reducer is the conversion of the J.J. Taylor distribution fleet from diesel to natural gas by 2016. That’s right – they operate their own compressed natural gas filling station for their fleet of distribution tractors.

What Makes J.J. Taylor a Fixture in the Tampa Bay Beer Community

It all comes together when you think about the big picture of what J.J. Taylor does: they sell beer. Most of their employees can tell you the difference between an ale and a lager – they all get that level of training. And everyone working there when I went seemed genuinely happy – and its not like they set up a Potemkin village beer distributor – I walked into their main production facility on a busy afternoon. People were happily stocking the huge devices that load the pallets. There was a guy that looked as if he actually enjoyed sweeping the floor. And rightfully so – these people work for a company that loves beer. They participate in the marketplace as the variety leader. They want to be known as the company that can get the biggest variety of beers – not just six different packages sizes of that one light lager – but six different unique lagers from six different breweries. Not only do they love beer, but they’re always looking for ways to improve things – reduce the amount of time it takes to load a truck, or reduce fuel consumption, or get tap handles out quicker. Sure these things are helpful to the bottom line, but after spending some time with them it sure feels like they’re doing it because they its the right thing to do, rather than because they’ll save a few dollars a year on lighting costs.

Other Tampa Bay Beer Distributors

Tampa breweries are fortunate to have a wide variety of distributors from which to choose. Other Tampa Bay beer distributors include Pepin, and Great Bay. J.J. Taylor’s not alone in their commitment to the region: you may have heard of the Pepin Heart Hospital, Pepin Academies, or the Pepin Family Foundation – all charitable causes related to the distributor. With so many great breweries popping up in the Tampa Bay area, these distributors can look forward to lots of new business. And breweries – you have choices!

Florida Brewers Guild Beer Fest 2014: Beer Week’s Official Kickoff

Florida Brewers Guild Logo

It was my great pleasure today to speak with Mike Halker of Due South Brewing about the upcoming Florida Brewers Guild Beer Fest 2014. There are lots of changes since last year, so even if you’re an old pro (this is its 18th year!) at this you may want to pay close attention.

The biggest changes apparently are in the overall logistics of the event. This is the first year they are using an electronic ticketing system. Expect a limited wait in line to get in, as Mike expects ticket checkers to working the lines handing out wristbands for admission. Lines should move quick and should get everyone into the new location – Cotanchobee Fort Brook Park near the St. Pete Times forum. That’s the other big change – in previous years the fest was held in Ybor city. The new location should easily handle the 3,000-3,500 expected beer lovers from around the state. Another big change – the number of brewers present. In the past there were 20-30; this year Mike’s expecting two-three times that number: 60-70 brewers from around the state. Most of the Florida’s breweries will be represented. With so many more brewers and breweries represented, this should be a great event to get access to some of those beers you’ve been wanting to try but haven’t had a chance. Probably the second most welcome change is a significant increase in the number of “facilities” if you know what I mean – and by significant I mean triple the amount. Yep, they’re serious about keeping people happy.

All this hoopla is well placed – as the Beer Fest is the first of literally thousands of events planned for Tampa Bay Beer Week 2014. And what better way to kick off the event than to have the Mayor of the city of Tampa tap the ceremonial keg? The time is yet to be announced, but I have it from a reliable source that it should be around 3:00pm.

Here are the details:

  • 2:00 – 6:00pm on Saturday 1 March 2014
  • $35 in advance, $45 at the door
  • Limited to 3,000 total tickets (online + door sales; they will sell out!) (Buy tickets here: https://floridabrewersguild.ticketbud.com/beerfesttampa2014)
  • Complimentary 2-ounce sample cup, with unlimited samples for the duration of the event
  • Entertainment and food trucks will be available
  • Accommodations available at the Marriott Waterside – just ask for the Florida Brewers Guild rate ($224/night, but you may get a better rate if you ask)
  • No pets allowed
  • Must be 21 or older to enter (no kids allowed)

I’ll post more information including breweries that will be in attendance as soon as I receive it.





Fruit In The Room, January 28, 2014

2014 Fruit in the Room Preview

Fruit In The Room, January 28, 2014

I got a chance to talk to Tim Ogden earlier today at Cigar City Brewpub about the upcoming event on January 28th. We sat down at the bar amidst some renovations; an opening up of the brewpub to accommodate additional 3 barrel fermenters that will increase production and flow thought the restaurant. Tim expressed his interest at hosting Fruit in the Room annually as it was the first two years after its conception. It’s been difficult to lock in until recently, what with the brewery’s expansion and the opening of the new tasting room. Now that the brewpub is settled in the chance has finally arrived. Fruit in the Room is but three days away and with but a fifth of the tickets for the event remaining, excitement builds. The tap list has been finalized for all scheduled breweries but Tim makes a point to say that there might be some last minute breweries arriving for the big day.

The taplist has some very attractive beers from a number of breweries. On the top of my list however is a treatment of the 2014 Hunahpu on Mixed Berries, Tim’s own Cherry Creek Wheat Wine, Life is Like, and 7venth Sun’s Mango FYA.

As posted in the Facebook event page, this is the final taplist:

– CCB Mixed Berry Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout (2014)
– CCB Life is Like…Chocolate Cherry Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Stout
– CCB Rum White Oak Pineapple IPA
– CCB Strawberry Lemon Florida Weisse
– CCB Strawberry Muffin Brown Ale
– CCB Sour Lemon IPA
– CCB Imperial Right Side Up Pineapple Cake
– CCB Habanero Mango IPA
– CCB Guanabana Guava Sour
– CCB Passionfruit Guava Sour
– CCB Watermelon Florida Weisse
– CCB Rum French Oak Vanilla Cherry American Porter
– CCBrewpub Cherry Creek Wheat Wine (also available in cans to go!)
– CCBrewpub Carrolwood Cougar
– CCBrewpub Strawberry Mango White IPA on cask
– 7venth Sun Barrel-aged Red D’or (brewed with raspberries and aged in barrels)
– 7venth Sun Mango FYA
– Angry Chair Spread the Jam Tart Raspberry Ale
– B. Nektar Meadery Necromangocon (mead with mango and black pepper)
– The Brew Bus Detour Series Lemon IPA
– The Brew Bus Detour Series Blood Orange IPA
– Swamp Head Blueberry Cottonmouth Wit
– Rivertowne Hala Kahiki Pineapple Beer

As with the previous Fruit in the Room events, the brewpub will be hosting some amazing fruits from three local farms; Kumquat Growers from Dade City,Tomazin Farm from Samsula, and King Family Farm from Myakka. This was a personal favorite of mine at events past. It introduces some to fruits they haven’t experienced before and others to the high quality fruits we grew up on from some remarkable local growers. The fruit also provides an excellent pallet cleanse and a very nice accent to the ways that the different fruits ferment.

After we finished talking about Fruit in the Room, Tim mentioned some of the awesome beers the brewpub will be presenting at Hunahpu’s day. Included is a treatment of Leon’s Grandson’s It’s My Birthday Barley Wine in a Four Roses Barrel. I for one can’t wait. And for anyone who doesn’t have a Hunahpu’s day ticket yet, there are tickets reserved for purchase for all those attending Fruit in the Room.