Craft beer adventures and experiences… one pint at a time

Archive for April, 2014

The FL Craft Brew Smackdown… You GOTTA make the call

I’m not a WWE fan, but for some people watching the Smackdown wrestling shows is the height of entertainment. I’ll give fans that right, except when it involves real life, Florida lawmakers, and the craft brewing industry.  And that’s exactly what came to mind as I was thinking about how our Florida Senate is treating our Craft Brewers. It’s a Smackdown of epic proportions along the lines of David and Goliath – complete with senate comments befitting such an event.

If you’re like me and think Smackdowns and grandstanding belong elsewhere, you GOTTA make calls to your senators on April 29. (Scroll to the end of this post for details.)

If you frequent social media (Facebook or Twitter) you may already know about the nearly dozen Craft Beer (labeled “malt beverages”) bills working their way through the Florida legislature.  Rather than taking the lead to inspire, encourage, and motivate this burgeoning industry in Florida, we’re the laughing stock of the nation as “Big Beer” lobbyists stage a season long, series of Smackdowns against Florida’s craft brewers.

Today’s episode “Mother Stargel” vs “Anarchy Brew Kids”

Today Senate Bill (SB) 1714 was read, amended, debated, and ultimately advanced to the third reading in the two hour match-up.  In a way-too-typical fashion, senators debated and tossed out brewing terms: keg, barrel, gallon, container, growler, as if doing so imparted knowledge.  Finally the bill sponsor Senator Kelli Stargel, admitted that she didn’t have numbers to support her bill’s language (2000 kegs as a brewery size limit,) but knew how many million barrels of beer Anheuser Busch brews.

The Smackdown ramped up when Senator Stargel argued for a mountain of regulations to reign in illegal behavior of craft brewers, currently operating under the decades old tourism exemption law used by Anheuser Busch theme parks. Not doing so, she continued, could create Florida lawsuits in our highly litigious world.

She charged multiple times at craft brewers by asserting they want to do whatever they want without any regulations whatsoever.  Wow – score one for Mother Stargel against the Anarchy Brew Kids.

(Sidenote:  It’s curious to note that since AB was bought by InBev and no longer runs Sea World or Busch Gardens, such laws no longer serve their best interests!)

Not satisfied to call out their rogue behavior, Senator Stargel went on to call craft brewers the “little guys,”  who are brewing “itty bitty bits of beer,” and saying that the 2000 keg ceiling would help them “while they’re little and growing.”  Bam! (I almost waited for the refrain “Kids, go to your rooms right now without dinner!”)

The final blow came when Senator Stargel professed that after listening to everything the craft brewers had to say, she crafted a bill amendment that would somehow rescue the fledgling industry (“not even one Florida brewer would go out of business”) Furthermore, she stated, the amended bill would NOT CAUSE ANY HARM TO ANYONE IN THE INDUSTRY; it would actually benefit them.

Program over, smack – down!  Next up, the vote for SB1714 followed by many other episodes.

Your turn – You’ve Gotta Call…”National Call-in to Senators Don Gaetz, Kelli Stargel, and Your Senator” April 29, 2014

A few of us created a Facebook page called Florida United for Craft Brewers -FUCB – and a first National Call-in event.  Here are the details:gaetz
The Malt Beverage Senate Bill (SB 1714) was amended, but it will still cause harm to craft brewing in Florida. Senator Stargel stated that the bill is needed because Florida craft brewers want to operate freely without any regulations, and that the bill will not cause harm to anyone in the craft brewing industry. We DISAGREE so we’re targeting a phone-in campaign for TOMORROW April 29.
We’re targeting Senate PresidentDonGaetz,SenatorStargel, and your local senator with this call-in to urge them to vote NO toSB1714.Call-IN and make sure SenatorGaetz, SenatorStargel, and your senator support small business by defeating SB 1714.
1. Senate President Don Gaetz
Phone#: (850) 487-5001
Script:
“Hello, my name is _________ and I’m calling Senate President Gaetz to ask him to vote no on SB1714. It WILL cause harm to the craft brewing industry in Florida AND create unnecessary regulation. In the past, he said he was pro small business and pro free market, so I urge him to follow through on those promises by voting NO to SB1714.”
—————————————————————–
2. Senator Kelli Stargel (Sponsor of SB 1714)
Phone#: (863) 284-4430
Script:
“Hello, my name is _________ and I’m calling Senator Kelli Stargel to ask her to vote no on SB1714. It WILL cause harm to the craft brewing industry in Florida AND create unnecessary regulation. Craft brewers are responsible parents, husbands, wives, and fellow voters who respect regulation of the industry, but this bill will hurt us all. I urge her to reconsider the importance of growth and respect in this industry by voting NO to SB1714.”
—————————————————————–
3. Your own senator (here is the link to the senate listing):
http://www.flsenate.gov/Senators/#SenatorsScript:
“Hello, my name is _________ and I’m calling Senator __________ to ask his/her position on the upcoming vote on SB1714.

If the answer is that the Senator will vote no, thank him/her and say that you are proud that they will vote No.

If the answer is undecided or they plan to vote yes, tell him/her that senate bill 1714 “WILL cause harm to the craft brewing industry in Florida AND create unnecessary regulation. Craft brewers are responsible parents, husbands, wives, and fellow voters who respect regulation of the industry, but this bill will hurt us all. I urge him/her to recognize the importance of growth and respect in this industry by voting NO to SB1714.”

It’s up to you!  If you support small business – join us and make the calls.

If increased regulation in business and unregulated Smackdowns in the Florida legislature go on, we’re going to need more craft beer than ever, that is if we can find one still in business in Florida.

One final note, I’m wondering how Senator Stargel will feel if her bill becomes law and the first craft brewer to go out of business sues her for the false promises she made today…  Oh, but this isn’t real life and WWE Smackdown is just pretend… or is it?

Wow, enough said – I need a beer.

To your safe imbibing!

Carol

The Health Benefits of Beer – Let’s Drink to your Health Florida!

There’s no question that anything used in excess or irresponsibly such as coffee, alcohol, pills, or even grapefruit juice (contraindicated with particular prescriptions) — or even sunshine (!) – can be deadly.  Irresponsible use (abuse) is never a good idea, no matter what.

BUT, there are proven health benefits to some of controlled substances such as those going through various legislatures (such as the medical marijuana) and to freely available products such as BEER.  And it doesn’t have to be a Craft Brew either… (even though I’d profess that a craft beer drinking experience involves more tasting and savoring that ever does with mass-produced volume beers.  But that’s a matter of opinion.)

health benefits

Perhaps some of the states with Aging Populations and Health Problems, such as FLORIDA, might want to consider encouraging moderate beer consumption as a holistic way to health? (Seriously!)

Here’s a sampling of recent media releases (there are MANY more) about the Health Benefits related to Beer.

NOTE: I have not researched the medical validity of said claims or whether the studies are funded by alcohol distributors – maybe one of my readers knows?)

10 surprising health benefits of beerhttp://health.yahoo.net/experts/dayinhealth/10-surprising-health-benefits-beer

health benefits2http://www.care2.com/causes/6-health-benefits-of-drinking-beer.html

health benefits3http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/03/16/surprising-health-benefits-beer/

health benefits4http://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/0315/tap-into-beers-health-benefits.aspx

If we have legalizing medical mary jane on the slate for health benefits, why wouldn’t we be encouraging the responsible (read: MODERATION!) consumption of readily available, and now tastier than ever, CRAFT BEER?

It’s cheaper than many prescription drugs, has less side effects with moderate consumption (I’ve never heard of someone dying by negligently mixing two different craft beers in an evening!) and IS LEGAL.

Perhaps craft beer could be a low-cost, tasty, and healthy way to improve the lives of our overall population and improve longevity.  I’d like to say it would also improve the overall mood of many (seniors and others) on a given Florida day, but I also know  people with horrible “alcohol” personalities who would negate this statement.

For everyone else, perhaps drinking a beer a day could be a diet change – with long term benefits that truly makes sense!

To your safe imbibing!

Dear Florida Lawmaker – Are we really stuck in Prohibition? Seriously “only in FLORIDA” ?

Dear Florida Lawmaker,

If you’ve followed the craft brewing crescendo of late, you know that Craft Beer is exploding in almost every state of the union – including Alaska and Hawaii!

Craft Beer is an affluent “sport” where a pint of the finest brew starts at $5. and a Nielsen study quotes that close to 60% of craft beer drinkers earn over $75K a year.  It’s an exploding industry stateside and internationally – and we, Florida craft beer consumers (we’re all of voting age!) are fortunate.  Within an hours drive of almost anywhere in the state is a local craft brewer ready and willing to serve us brews that satisfy even the most finicky  palate!

BUT, on the brewery side, it’s certainly not a fast road to riches – consider the start-up costs (upwards of $400K according to posts on ProBrewer.com), licensing, and, if you have your way, a stranglehold of regulations.

For brewers, it’s a labor of passion and love, and fortunately it’s becoming a community of good people with good intentions and the American dream of hard work leading to good profits – EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES TO YOU, OUR FLORIDA LAWMAKERS.

Despite the potential tax revenues, tourism dollars, jobs, and general well-being that comes from the beer industry, of which craft brewing is a part, you’ve been crafting backroom legislation intended to stifle the growth of the craft brewing industry and working to increase regulations to benefit the big beer distributors who line some of your pockets with campaign contributions.  Lewis Bear (an Anheuser Busch distributor) is a great long-term friend of our Senate President, who is quoted as saying he will support anything that Lewis Bear puts before him.

Florida could be a craft beer tourist destination bringing millions (if not billions!) of tax and tourist revenue to our state!

Please!  Wake up and smell the coffee (there is actually a Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout on tap at Rapp Brewing in Largo!) Why would some of you hasten back to prohibition and claim that laws from 80+ years ago still are equally valid today?  Fear-mongering rhetoric from a bygone era trumped talk about growth this season as you talked about regulations ranging from growler size to grocers holding beer tastings (wine is okay?!)   Wine certainly has far more freedom (have you even tasted the incredible fresh from Florida beers?  No one talks about craft beer as being anything close to water here!)

By the end of the year, our tropical landscape will be dotted with over 100 microbreweries from Jacksonville to Key West, (see my  post about Gerard Walen’s new book FLORIDA BREWERIES) – each boasting a story of long hours, passionate brewers, and loyal supporters – yet you appear to be intent on killing the industry before it really gets off the ground.  Consider that Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, NY, North Carolina and other states are craft beer friendly (and their economies are thriving even with cold weather and sagging tourism!)

What Happened to Jobs, Revenue, Economic Growth and Small Business Incentives being important?  Please see what competing states are proposing that PROMOTE CRAFT BREWING:

In Michigan:

SCarolinahttp://mibiz.com/news/mibooze/item/21465-changes-to-state-law-allow-small-microbreweries-to-bypass-wholesalers-sell-directly-to-retailers

In South Carolina:

SCarolina

http://www.goupstate.com/article/20140417/ARTICLES/140419696?tc=ar

Honorable Representative or Senator, I urge you as a Floridian and as our elected official, PLEASE rule in favor of small business and support our local craft brewing industry – our future (and the future of our children) depends on you.  Please leave prohibition behind and do not allow Florida to be fodder for late night comedy routines “Are we really stuck in Prohibition?  Oh right, only in Florida!”

Respectfully,

Carol Dekkers, Florida Voter

FL Legislation Pending to KILL Craft Brewing… What can “WE” do?

You may or may not be privy to the maelstrom brewing around craft brewing in our great state of Florida – and if you don’t you’re in good company!

Our newspapers and popular social media (including the big mass-produced-beer distributors) espouse the newest craft brewery openings and local festivals featuring photos of happy, upwardly mobile hipsters with kids in tow enjoying brews hand-crafted from the Tampa Bay area and beyond.  It would appear to an outsider that big beer and others support the growth of craft brewing…

Don’t be fooled!

The big beer distributors (especially those “featuring” Belgian owned Anheuser-Busch InBev) pour millions of dollars into Florida’s campaign funds to support the current self-professed “pro-business” (bahahaha!!! NOT!) legislators -dollars intended to PROTECT BIG BUSINESS and kill craft beer in Florida.

All told, there are almost a dozen house and senate bills making their way through the various committees and structures – intending to make sure that the small craft brewer pays the piper (the big beer distributors!) for their own beer that they wish to sell to willing patrons.

One such bill just passed its committee last week on a vote of 8-1 and would require breweries to pay a distributor a 30-40% profit on their own beer (that they bottle or can on premise) before they can sell it to their patrons. It doesn’t even have to leave their refrigerators – and the distributor can actually refuse to allow them to even do the sales in the first place!  And this is one of only a dozen pieces of legislation that the distributor’s lobbyists are pushing through in Florida – wait until you hear some of the other ludicrous proposals intended to “protect” and preserve the rights of big beer over the underdog craft brewers!!!

Here’s a recent piece on the situation:

the ledgerhttp://tinyurl.com/n6jte5s

Another great piece written by my colleague Sean Nordquist:

beer for the daddy

WHAT CAN WE (YOU AND ME AS FLORIDA VOTERS) DO?

The short answer is to TAKE ACTION (and not sit by and watch and say “it doesn’t really affect me…”  – small businesses in Florida affect all of us!)

The best course of action for any small business community that isn’t flush with cash (like the big beer distributors are!) is to assemble and support with facts.  This isn’t just about greed and bullying anymore, this hits to the very core of the American Dream – that the little guy, the craft brewers in Florida, can make it big – that our small brewers can join the nation and other states that CELEBRATE the growth of a highly innovative and family-friendly industry.  Our craft brewing industry is a collaborative small business industry that promotes other small businesses (festivals, community projects, farmers – yes farmers!, food trucks, State Fair, charities, local historical societies and so many others) – AND works together to promote a better Florida.  These are the mom-and-pop, bricks-and-mortar, small business at its finest, FLORIDA based businesses that need our support to survive (and thrive!)

Here’s my humble assessment (that I posted on Facebook) about the approach we (as a united group of Florida voters) need to take:

facebook

What do YOU think?  PLEASE give me guidance (and your email address if you’d like to participate in preparing a position paper to present to the Governor) – our future depends on all of us!

Happy imbibing!

Carol

Everything you wanted to know about FLORIDA BREWERIES… from the Expert Gerard Walen

April was already a busy and notable month for Craft Brewing in the Tampa Bay area – and we’re only 1/2 way through!

We’ve toasted two new brewery openings in Pinellas County just last week (Sea Dog Brewing in Clearwater and St Pete Brewing Company in St Petersburg) – along with celebrating National Beer Day on April 7.

And, after much fanfare and anticipation, the new book FLORIDA BREWERIES, by my friend and author Gerard Walen, was published.

FloridaBreweries_TS Gerard is now on a book signing tour all over Tampa Bay (see details below) and beyond, and I caught up with him last week to ask him a few questions about his book-writing “research” behind FLORIDA BREWERIES:

1. Where are you from and how did you come to call Florida your home?

Tampa, and I believe that answers the second part.

2. You’ve just written THE book about Florida breweries – what inspired you to write it?

On my Road Trips for Beer site, I reviewed a few of the other state brewery guidebooks published by Stackpole Books. Through the writing and research for my Beer in Florida site, I realized that the state’s brewery scene had grown large enough that it deserved a similar guide. I pitched it to an editor, and it was accepted. When I pitched it in spring 2012, there were about 50 breweries in the state.

The book has chapters on 66 (one has closed) and a list of more than 40 that opened past deadline or that are on
their way to opening.

3. What was the best and the worst thing you discovered in your travels about Florida breweries?

Most breweries across the state were not producing enough beer to meet demand in their local areas, not to mention the state. Forget the country. That is also the worst thing, but fortunately new expansions have been completed, and that is starting to change: We’re seeing more regions of the state getting beer shipped in from others.

4. What surprised you (or continues to surprise you) about the industry or people involved?

I think it’s the collaboration aspect among craft brewers, which I knew about already but found it to be universal and mostly consistent. I worked as an assistant business editor at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for a few years, so I had really delved into the mechanics of how businesses operate. I know of no other type of industry where its members are so open and supportive of each other.

5. What should people know about the book and why should they buy it?

I’ve had some folks mention that “Florida Breweries” is “outdated” already because of the breweries that have opened since deadline, but I did try to keep it as current as possible. I was able to make minor updates and add to that list in the back up to a month or so before it went to the printers. But it’s more
than just a list of breweries. Each of the chapters includes what I thought was the most interesting story I heard while visiting and talking with the brewers or owners (yes, I physically visited each of the 66 breweries). Plus there are chapters on such things as Beer in Theme Parks, Other Beer Companies, Beer Fests and Beer Webs, and introductions to each of the four regions – North Florida, Central Florida, Tampa Bay area, and South Florida – with information about the history, things to do, places to eat, and so on. Not to mention a glossary!

6. Anything you’d like to add?

Folks so far who have read it have been very positive. I’ve been told by a few people that they learned new things about the Florida beer community, and most of them are really invested in the industry in one form or another. I feel fortunate to be able to share a little of the knowledge I gained during my
research phase, and I hope it helps spread the word about our state’s great beer across the country and around the world.

A couple of other things:

Gerard walen

Author of FLORIDA BREWERIES Gerard Walen

  • The book is available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and StackpoleBooks.com, and I think the major bookstores in Florida (that’s just Barnes and Noble, now, right?). There are at least a few breweries who have purchased it for their tasting rooms – Cigar City in Tampa and Copp in Crystal River, for sure. But no matter where you purchase it, I’ll be happy to autograph it for you at any book signing, where I’ll also have copies for sale.
  • The best way to keep up with the signings is on my Amazon Author Page. I’ll also announce them on the Beer in Florida Facebook page, and will also do unscheduled “popup signings” at various craft beer places, which I’ll announce on the Facebook page and Twitter.
  • Drink Local! Drink Florida!

THANK YOU GERARD!  Wishing you continued success and many more research days ahead!

– Carol

 

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