This article originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of EU Jacksonville.
Let’s face it, craft beer is booming, and it’s here to stay. The $22.3B industry has more than doubled its share of the market since 2011 and continues to grow at double digit rates according to the Brewers Association’s latest report. If you thought it was just a fad, think again.
Craft beer isn’t only booming, it’s changing at a rapid pace. The Department of Justice’s antitrust officials have just given the go-ahead for AB-Inbev (the company that owns Budweiser) to acquire SABMiller, making the conglomerate an even bigger force in the industry. Craft brands are being gobbled up by Big Beer and investment groups, disqualifying some of them from the Brewers Association definition of “craft” (small, independent, traditional). Meanwhile, independent breweries are becoming industry behemoths in their own right.
Florida itself has its own rapidly growing and rapidly changing scene boasting 151 breweries as of 2015, an almost 200% increase since just 2013. Breweries like Cigar City and Funky Buddha are making unique and impressive beers that are highly sought-after far outside state lines while relative new-comers such as Green Bench in St. Petersburg are developing footholds in highly competitive markets like Chicago and Denver.
As the state government continues to wrap its head around what it once considered barely more than a cottage industry, independent brewers have come together to fight restrictive legislation by pooling their modest resources to form of the Florida Brewers Guild. You may recall last year’s growler law victory that began the hard work of dismantling archaic and unfair legislation that favored distributors. Additional legislation that could, among other things, allow for limited self-distribution is currently being proposed.
There are currently nine production breweries in Jacksonville alone, a few in St. Augustine and several more in the planning stages. Intuition is expanding into a new facility that is gigantic by local standards and Aardwolf earned themselves a bronze medal for their Belgian Pale Ale at the Great American Beer Festival, casting national attention on some of our local favorites. Suffice it to say that Jacksonville and Florida at large are making quite the name for themselves in the world of craft beer.
In short, the timing is right, and I’m beyond excited to begin covering what has long been not only a passion but a way of life for me. In addition to news and events related to craft beer, I’ll introduce novices to the wonderful world of craft beer by decoding some of the trickier styles and lingo of the industry. Together, we’ll dabble in the dark arts of home brewing. We’ll explore Florida and the regional beer scene by pulling back the curtain and going behind the scenes to tell the stories behind the beers, the breweries and the brewers that make craft beer such an interesting and exciting topic for me and the millions of others who line up for hours to taste rare beers and trade bottles like Pokemon cards. What you won’t find here are beer reviews. Taste is a personal thing and to be frank, my palate just isn’t all that sophisticated to begin with. You can however, follow me on Untappd (@jackdiablo) if my opinions matter at all to you.