Craft beer adventures and experiences… one pint at a time

Posts tagged ‘Cigar City’

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

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

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

 

Tampa Bay Beer Week (#TBBW) 2014 — A week of Craft Beer Memories, Friendships, and Bittersweet Moments

As the last bottle caps and tasting glasses are picked up from the hundreds of venues throughout Tampa Bay, I’m reflective (and ecstatic for the most part) about the success of the third annual Tampa Bay Beer Week (TBBW.)

I confess that I am on the TBBW Board of Directors and have been part of the overall planning and volunteer coordination for TBBW 2014.  I also confess that I am a craft beer aficionado. (Sidenote: someone overheard me say this in a bar and asked what is a “craft beer Fish Animal?”  LOL…)

Now that the week is over, I feel like I do when the Olympics are over (except with a craft beer slant):

I feel happy that our newest breweries and tasting rooms were filled to capacity during their first ever Tampa Bay Beer Week.

I feel gratified to hear so many happy stories from volunteers, festival attendees and Tampa Bay citizens whose first or thousandth craft beer happened during TBBW.

I feel excited about the energy and collaboration in and around our growing brewing economy.

I feel refreshed (and a bit tired) after visiting so many events and meeting so many great people.

And, I feel sad to know that our community has grown to the point where we now have a criminal element and greed trumping some of the good intentions and planning from within our own ranks.

I’m also a bit embarrassed at the ongoing rhetoric and behaviors of our fellow craft beer citizens that will allow outsiders to malign the good we do in our community.  There are always those who will criticize the brewing industry as being a haven for drunkenness and debauchery, and I’m sad that through the short-sightedness of a minority, our industry has tarnished itself.  We can regain our reputation as an innovative, cooperative, fun-loving, honest, and inspiring community, but it’s going to take some work.

On this last point, perhaps I was naive to believe that our craft beer community was better than society and we were unique today in espousing the values of our forefathers – supporting local business, giving neighbors the benefit of the doubt,  paying an honest dollar for a days work, celebrating great successes within our ranks, and being grateful for the wonders of a free life.  Reminiscent of Olympics past, this Tampa Bay Beer Week was a mix of highs, lows, winners and losers, and sadly, the emergence of both a criminal element and an alcohol-infused “entitlement attitude” that I’ve not seen before.

The great people and great ideas that inspired the growth and vibrancy of the first two Tampa Bay Beer Weeks (2012 and 2013) are still a big part of the week, however, it may be time to accept the fact that with grand success comes those who don’t want to play by the rules, those who feel entitled to lie, cheat, steal and malign to get ahead.

Yes, I was naive to believe that everyone in craft beer is noble (wouldn’t that be nice?) while the rest of the world deals with such everyday chaos.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss, but once exposed you can’t be ignorant anymore.

Let’s start by talking about the elephant in the room that has dominated the social media airwaves for the past 48 hours:

The “Disaster/Failure/Chaos/Disappointment” (call it what you like) of Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day on March 8, 2014.

The day started out like the perfect day in Tampa Bay – not too hot, rain free, a northerner’s dream… perfect for an outdoor beer fest.  Cigar City posted pics on Facebook showing the pre-festival grounds; the mood was optimistic that ticketed attendees (capped at 3500 invitees) would be calm, semi-sober and at last, manageable – nothing like the overcrowded chaos of the past.

In fact,  March 8 was intended to be a fun-filled, stellar day of tastings and celebration to mark Cigar City Brewing’s 5 year anniversary and it seemed, from the outside at least, that even the Mayan gods were smiling.

But, as history repeatedly shows, when things look too good to be true, they probably are.  By the end of the day, the army of employees, volunteers and a few policemen were barely enough to control the mob of drunken and disturbed ‘alcohol personalities’ that emerged.  Mob behavior is curious enough, but when you mix in high gravity brews, sun-baked drinkers, lines snaking around the block, supplies dedicated to ticketed attendees, and a sudden doubling or tripling of attendees through duplicate/counterfeit tickets, it results in behaviors unacceptable in civilized society.

The scene was one out of Woodstock – raised fists, angry words, pushing and shoving – in fact, I’m surprised that no one was hurt or trampled in the chaos – and I, for one was embarrassed by my fellow craft beer lovers.

Certainly, in retrospect, a larger security force, a professional event planning company, trained volunteers, 8 foot fences, strict processes, and a no-nonsense business attitude would have handled the duplicate tickets (sorry, you bought counterfeit tickets – you lose, goodbye!), the fence jumpers (you are under arrest, sir!), the bottle pickups (Disney style lines with strict adherence to roped off areas), and the adhoc campground (sorry, no folding chairs or umbrellas) – but get real, this is not Budweiser (thank goodness) or Walmart!

Hunahpu’s day was never intended to be a pro-sport – and that was it’s beauty!

Hunahpu’s Day celebrated small town America — honesty, values, neighborly love and great beers all mixed together – and that’s what we all loved.  Things could have been better planned (as outlined) – but give me a break, there was no sinister, conspiratorial mal intent on the part of Cigar City Brewing in the first place.

(Sidenote to some of the comments floating around about conspiratorial intent:  I can say that having been a part of both the planning and executing of the Halfway There TBBW Rare Beer Fest in September, we stocked triple the glassware and triple the wristband supplies that we needed, because it’s cheaper to buy bulk and have way too much on hand than to run out…. things happen that are unanticipated!) 

I am appalled at the ongoing vitriolic rhetoric on the part of disgruntled attendees, who owner Joey Redner tried to appease through refunds, free beer, and special batch brewing – it is simply cruel and vindictive.

Just because one of our own community makes it big doesn’t mean that everyone else is entitled to display their bad alcohol-personalities (what I call people who are angry drunks) or feel entitled to inventory.  Think about it, when Walgreen’s or Target has a sale and they run out – you get a rain check (optimistically) or you just walk away.  No mob scene, no angry demands, no “xxx SUCKS!” chants.

What has happened to us that we feel entitled that every promise (for beer no less) should be fulfilled?  What gives us the right to disparage volunteers who gave up their day so that we could enjoy a tropical beer fest and bottle exchange just because everything didn’t turn out the way we planned?  No wonder Hunahpu’s Day is no more… and I, for one, am sad that TBBW will never be the same.

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

TBBW 2014 – a Year of Firsts

TBBW 2014 culminated 12 months of planning, thousands of volunteer hours, and featured many firsts:20140228_183535

  • Both St Peterburg City Council and Tampa City Council issued proclamations officially recognizing Tampa Bay Beer Week;
  • We piloted the TBBW “Passport” – a 50+ page passport featuring coupons good for free beer, growlers, and other deals at the beginning of TBBW. Even now, after beer week is officially over, there are over half the offers still valid through to December 31, 2014 (there are still some available for purchase for only $10.);
  • TBBW formally became a not-for-profit incorporated entity;
  • We hosted our first ever event as an organization – Halfway There – A Rare Beer Festival, in September 2013 and received Creative Loafing’s best inaugural beerfest award;
  • The number of new breweries in the Tampa Bay area nearly doubled since TBBW 2013;
  • Once an oddity, the upscale beer-paired dinners became a regular featured event during the week;
  • Collaboration events (involving multiple breweries) were commonplace;
  • Criminal activity (duplicate/counterfeit tickets) coupled with unexpected outcomes (double the ticketed attendance) and some poor advance planning resulted in a mob mentality, scarcity of resources and supplies, and ultimately resulted in financial losses for a mainstay brewery in our industry.

Overall, there were grand victories, learning experiences, disappointments and crowds.  After herculean efforts on the part of hundreds of people:  brewers, restauranteurs, bar owners, volunteers and thousands of craft beer drinkers throughout the area, the week ended with mixture of emotions and promises, no deaths, few injuries, and we can all look towards an even better TBBW 2015.

My next Post will Cover the Highlights of TBBW 2014 (from Carol’s Perspective)… stay tuned

bbc

p.s., Don’t forget to vote for my beer blog entry (I’m the only one from Florida) at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5J9SPP7 – Please and thankyou!

Have a great week!

Carol

Related posts from others:

– All about Beer.com – The Death of Hunahpu Day by Gerard Walen

The Beer Apostle -Hunahpu Day: The Proper Response

Beer for the Daddy -An Ugly End to A Great Week by Sean Nordquist

Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day a Mess, but so was angry mob’s response by Justin Grant

Joey Redner on Hunahpu’s Day: “I just don’t want to deal with it” by Tom Scherberger

Cigar City Brewing needs your help

Cigar City BrewingOne of Tampa‘s newest craft breweries, Cigar City Brewing, is under siege to keep its Tasting Room open.  Less than 2 years old, the brewery has won awards from Draft magazine and continues to garner fans across the country who carry bottles countrywide since the brewery now ships only to a few eastern states.

Vote by clicking here to keep the Tasting Room open!

Tasting Menu Nov 2010The Tasting Room has an interesting current (November 2010) tasting menu – at the top is their award-winning Jai Alai IPA (7.5% ABV) and their cedar aged version of the same beer their Humidor IPA (also 7.5% ABV).

One of my favorites on their current menu is the Tocobaga Red (7.2% ABV) – it is as smooth as my other favorite amber beer on tap – Alaskan Amber.

An interesting limited edition brew set (2 different brews) is the “Either” and “Or” brews (11.2% ABV). According to the Tasting Room’s Travis, Either and Or is the result of a collaborative project of 3 breweries:  the same recipe was used for both brews.  Cigar City Brewing made the one batch, while a partnership of a Vermont brewery and a Copenhagen brewery made the second. The water and recipe are identical (both were brewed onsite in Tampa) but the hops are different.  While both Either and Or are 11.2% ABV, my taste buds gave a totally different experience from each:

  • “Either” tasted to me like a deep Chocolatey Stout style ale (is that the proper way to describe it?),  and
  • “Or” reminded me of Norwegian Christmas beers (which would be great with gingerbread).

Raw ingredientsI was amazed (but not surprised) at the difference that the hops brought to the same recipe beers. Either and Or are available in limited release for the next couple of weeks for $7.50 for a 12 oz bottle from the Tasting Room.

The next collaborative project will result in a New Year brew set called “Neither” and “Nor”.  Watch for it in early 2011!

Please vote to keep the Cigar City Tasting Room open – even if you don’t live in Tampa!

Until the next pint,

UnOfficial beer goddess.


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