Craft beer adventures and experiences… one pint at a time

Posts tagged ‘craft brewers’

Belgian Beer 101 – For People who Love People who Love Belgian Beer

Ideas to Help with Holiday Giving…

Every year when holiday season rolls around and I’m browsing my local craft beer aisle for new brews, I watch nervous parents, grandparents, husbands/wives, and other adults aimlessly scanning beer labels in hopes of choosing just the right combination of beers for their loved ones who love Belgian craft beer.

Harried sales clerks are often too busy to repeat their picks to yet another clueless customer whose son/daughter/boyfriend/girlfriend loves specialty beer.  While it’s easy to pick up a six-pack of something local, many are looking for an introduction to Belgian Beer so that they can make informed choices.

Note that beer drinkers are like art lovers or foodies!  There are often style/flavor preferences that differ between friends and family members about their beer preferences: the light beer drinkers who buy whatever is cheapest in the 24 can pack (stop reading now,) those who prefer Belgian beer (this is for you and yours,) those who are American craft beer lovers (see my next blog post,) while some are just getting into the “beer world.”   

For those who love Belgian beer and those who love them, I compiled Belgian Beer 101 – for yourself (if you want to know more) or print out for a loved one who simply isn’t as knowledgeable or passionate about Belgian beer as you are.  (You can thank me when you finally get a delicious gift of good Belgian Beer !)

One point to note – if you or your recipient is into BELGIAN BEER – buy Authentic Belgian!  

Don’t be swayed by a bottle or package of Belgian-style American craft beer (unless you’re really on a budget.)  Belgian imported brews have unique flavors that come through generations of pride, tradition, barrel aging and often wild Belgian (in the air) yeast.  It’s like being transported to Belgium and living the good life!  For me, the
deep richness that comes with my favorite Belgian brews are worth the extra couple of dollars I might spend.  (It might sound snobby, but I like what I like.)

Still stumped?

petrus-aged-red1Create a gift basket or 6 pack of several different Belgian beers:  For starters choose different styles that show the diversity of Belgian beers:

  1. One bottle of Lambic (you probably won’t think it is beer because it tastes more like a fruity champagne-style drink than a “traditional” U.S. style beer.  This is a great choice for anyone who might have to share their gift with someone who “isn’t really into the taste of beer” (we ALL know people who say this!)  Brouwerij  (Brewery) Van Honsebrouck N.V. brews St Louis lambics:  Framboise (French for Raspberry) and Kriek (French for Cherry);
  2. A couple of barrel-aged  brews such as the Brouwerij De Brabandere’s Petrus suite of beers including  Petrus Oude Bruin, Petrus Aged Red (my favorite – it’s deep  amber color and sweet) and Petrus Pale ale.  If you or your recipient are a bit adventurous, you might want to take a look at the combination “Sour Power 6-pack” (it comes with instructions on how to blend the brews to get your perfect taste!);
  3. One bottle each of a Dubbel, a Tripel and a Quad.

This would give you a nice varied six-pack of small (11.2 oz) bottles. If you want to create a basket – 2 or 3 of the larger 25 oz / 750 ml (wine bottle sized) bottles or a large and a couple of small bottles, together with a couple of Belgian beer goblets or flutes that match the brewery (or blank ones) makes a great gift. (I’d choose one of the Brewery De Bradandere’s barrel-aged brews, plus a Dubbel and a Quad for variation.)

Happy holiday season, and please share, like, comment – and let me know if this has helped you with your holiday giving !  If you’d like me to send you a copy by email, send me a note at caroldekkers@gmail.com with the subject Belgian Beer 101.  I’ll also be doing a Craft Beer 101 in the next couple of weeks.  Are you interested?

As the Belgians would say:  à votre santé (to your health) or Proost! (cheers!)

Belgian Beer 101 – Page 1

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Belgian Beer 101 – Page 2

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Part 3: Orlando North TTD (Things To Do) – off the beaten (theme park) path…

Want a change of pace from the Orlando area theme park lines, crowds, fantasy and hype?

Why not get off the beaten theme park path and discover some hidden gems a short drive from the big parks?

(This is part 3 of a trilogy of posts – see also Beercation:  Take a look at Orlando North Seminole County FL – a Stones Throw from Theme Parks  and Part-2: Food Worth Going out for — Orlando North Delivers Taste over the top )

Here’s a few notable Seminole County (Orlando North) ideas for your consideration:

Just off of I-4 East of Orlando, the Lake Mary Marriott is a perfect pivot point for both Orlando proper and theme parks and Seminole County towns and villages.  In addition to comfortable rooms, the Lake Mary site boasts incredible food and catering (including craft beer and food pairings for events!)  Here’s a few pics to whet your whistle:

  • CRAFT BEER BAR:  Celery City Craft (craft beer taproom, wine, growlers, bistro) -Sanford, FL

Sanford, FL was originally known as “Celery Capital” based on the celery fields a hundred or so years ago.  Today, Celery City Craft is THE place for a wide choice of over 100 local, US and international beers (draught and bottles) with wine and food available.  Without the pretentiousness of many newfangled “craft beer” boutiques, Celery City is friendly,  down-home and a great place to grab a brew or two and settle in with good food.  Beer flights (sample sizes of multiple brews served on a “paddle”) available.

Make an entire evening out of dinner and live entertainment by  visiting the newly opened Route 46 area – stop for delicious country BBQ (with many sauces!) and then stay for live band entertainment at the outdoor seating area or visit the indoor “saloon” complete with a turn of the century bar.

  • NATURAL ISLAND GETAWAY WITH KAYAKS AND BBQs (in a city neighborhood!)  – Wekiva Island – 1014 Miami Springs Dr, Longwood, FL 32779

Nestled against the Wekiva River, this close to zero carbon footprint recreation area features craft beer (25 local and national craft beer taps + over 100 cans,) wine, foot trucks (Check out Firepit Fridays!), kayak and canoe rentals, boot launch, cabana rentals (weekday and weekends,) event areas (think weddings, receptions, corporate events), a gift shop and weekend entertainment.  Bring the family and friends and spend a lazy day/evening in the wilderness against the natural backdrop of FL cypress, the slow-moving Wekiva River, otters with BBQs available with all cabana.  Check their website (link above) for special events and evening hours. Boat stowage available.

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One word for this craft beer and wine bar (come furniture store by day) – AMBIANCE!  When the sun sets on the fine furniture at Washburn Imports in Sanford, the bar opens and the place comes alive.  Aside from the incredible artistic bar (designed by local artist Blair Sliger,) the beer is fresh and local, the wine exquisite and the decor – well, think about sitting on heavy, expensive, imported wood furniture that eeks of Malaysia or the Philipines.  If I lived closer, this would be my #1 choice for a Friday or Saturday night romantic spot – even if I didn’t have a date!  A must see in Sanford… even if you just stop in for a single nightcap.

  • SOMETHING DIFFERENT WITH FRIENDS – LimoCycle.Com – Sanford, FL

Ever wanted to convince yourself that you are burning calories and improving your health during an evening of bar-hopping?  I’m not a fitness and drinking crazed person, so I always opt for the “no-peddling” seat, but the Limo Cycle is lots of fun and exercise.  Drinks are included with the price (as low as $40 per person) and reservations are accepted.  Tell Steve (the owner) I sent you – he’s a great guy and knows plenty about the local area history.  Options range from 2 hour pub tours, game events to 5 hour birthday party tours.  Whether you’re single, a couple or part of a group that wants to try something different – LimoCycle.com is a good option with lots of available potential stops (Sanford Brewing, Wops Hops Brewing, Celery City Craft, etc.)

A typical Beery Saturday in Tampa Bay… May 14, 2016

It’s an epic time to be a Floridian with a burgeoning craft beer scene and lots of events going on every weekend.  In fact, it’s been stated that on some weekends, there’s simply TOO MUCH going on, making it hard to choose where to go.

Today is no exception – there are three notable events happening and I’d love to be able to attend all three. Two are charity events and one is an out-of-state brewery event:

1. Barns and Beer Craft Beer Festival – Old McMickey’s Farm, Odessa (just north of Tampa)

**** TICKETS AVAILABLE AT THE DOOR ****barns and beer updated may 14

This is the second craft beer event for the farm (a 501c3 charity) to raise money for their charitable programs including military weddings, children’s camps, and a host of other worthwhile endeavors for the community.

In addition to unlimited tastings, entertainment will be provided by the Black Honkeys (a celebrated local band!) and there will be mechanical bull rides, egg races and more.  Professional brews from around Florida are the focus of the tastings.

I still need a few more VolunBEERs (you get in free in exchange for working 1/2 the festival to pour beer, work the gate, etc.) – here’s the link if you’d like to sign up:  http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c084da5af2caafa7-barns

Tickets available at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/barns-beer-may-2016-tickets-22499606930

2. St Pete Beach Beer Festival

St pete beachThis is the second charity beer fest this weekend – this one focuses on homebrewers and their wares plus local breweries in the bay area.  A growing community festival worth checking out if you’re close to the beach.

Tickets available at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/st-pete-beach-beer-festival-tickets-24607898888

3. Blue Point Toasted Tour

blue point

Blue Point Brewing is bringing their Toasted Tour (based on their flagship brew: Toasted Lager) and will feature entertainment and beer in downtown Tampa at Waterworks Park.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1154253177946609/ 

General admission – No charge to get in, Blue Point beer available for $5.  – VIP Tickets available (includes beer.) but I couldn’t find a link to the ticketing site.

Enjoy your weekend responsibly!  I hope to see you out and about enjoying the best brews Tampa (and beyond) has to offer.

SLAINTE!

My 2014 Summer of (Craft Beer) Love… Dublin, Edinburgh, Toronto, Las Vegas, Calgary

Growing up in Canada (where the drinking age remains 18-19) gave me the opportunity to experience fine Canadian craft beer before the term was even coined (it was always called “Microbrewery beer” way back then!)  Calgary’s Big Rock Brewing is over 30 years old, and continues to expand with their signature “TRAD ALE” still holding court among craft beer aficionados.  Getting my tongue wet by craft brews at such a young age might forge one into a beer snob, but I attest that even back then, craft beer was all about spreading beer love (and friendship) – one pint at a time!

Craft beer today is a culture, a grass-roots movement that spreads good taste, passion, and beer love across the globe.  Its fuel is creativity, passion, recipes, innovation, collaboration, good taste and the pursuit of the perfect pint (either 16 or 20 oz) – and supported by a growing community of positive people. 

.facebook_-149164741From my experience… When craft beer people get together (anywhere I’ve been in the world!)  boundaries, politics and negative talk simply melt (or are imbibed) away!

My 2014 Summer of (Craft Beer) Love… Dublin, Edinburgh, Toronto, Las Vegas, Calgary

For me, craft beer is a community of new friendships and tasting adventures that further my passion for fine beverage sensations worldwide.

With this in mind, I planned, for the first time in years, a true vacation (no work!) – and in 23 days I visited craft breweries and pubs in 4 countries:  Ireland, Scotland, the U.S., and Canada.

The centerpiece (and the main event of my trip) was the European Beer Bloggers Conference (#EBBC14) in Dublin Ireland June 25-26, 2014 – which I will get to shortly – but the overall four country adventure had many, many highlights:

  • PROMOTING FLORIDA BREWERIES: Introducing foreigners (strangers who become friends!) to Florida craft breweries and brews.  I took 50 koozies (thank you Six Ten Brewing) and 2 bombers of St Somewhere’s Lectio Divino Belgian brew (thank you Bob Sylvester!) with me to Dublin – the thank yous and accolades from #EBBC14 attendees were well worth the added weight!  I took advantage of a few photo ops (below.)
  • COLLABORATION BREWING OPS:  Meeting and proposing collaborations with brewers outside of Florida, and sharing creative marketing ideas I’ve discovered in my travels. Craft beer is (IMHO) an international wave that unites people with great taste and community – and collaboration brewing (brewing beer with multiple brewers and dispensing it where it’s brewed) gets the marketing message out without having to worry about import/export and distribution.  I’ve met many brewers who are waiting to connect to Florida brewers (ready to travel?) and who might come over for Tampa Bay Beer Week (Mar 7-15, 2015!)
  • CRAFT BEER LOVE: Spreading the “craft beer love” on planes, trains and automobiles (actually with people in the breweries and pubs I frequent – not in my car because it’s a 2 seater… just saying);
  • STORY TELLING: Sharing craft brew stories (the brewers, the creativity, the tastes, the  places, the challenges, and especially the positive, optimistic people behind the brews) with like-minded travelers;
  • BEER TOURISM: Spreading the word about Tampa Bay Beer Week (Mar 7-15, 2015!) to everyone I meet and raising excitement (and anticipation) of a stellar week of craft beer experiences (guarantee to be frost-free) – with so many activities here in the Tampa/St Petersburg/Clearwater area (Florida);
  • TASTES AND TRENDSDiscovering the similarities and differences with the craft brewing industry on both sides of the pond (see previous post); and mostly…
  • FRIENDSHIPS: Making new friends from all over who are as passionate as I am about craft beer (and who also, like me, don’t yet have day jobs in the industry.)
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Here’s a run down of my trip… country by country… hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  (Yes, next time I might need a bottle carrier – send me a note if you’d like to join in!)

Stop #1 – #EBBC14, Dublin, Ireland

I had a great time from the minute I joined in on the pre-conference Thursday night podcasts (3 of them) convened by Google Hangouts expert Ian Bergin (11 pm somewhere), together with Wayne Dunne (Irish Beer Snob,) Eric and Flo (#brewsweplate) and a few others who drifted in for part of the broadcasts.  We met up at Brew Dock where I also met Dorthe Woltermann (Dublin Ladies Craft Beer Society), Rachel Colgan (BrewDock Dublin) and others who were so friendly, they convinced me I was definitely in the right place at the right time!

11 oclock somewhere podcast

Two further installments of the podcast are available at 11pmsomewhere.com (thank you Ian Bergin!)

After an informal pub crawl through some of the best craft beer haunts in Dublin (thank you to Reuben Gray: Tale of the Ale for organizing,) the European Beer Bloggers Conference (#EBBC14) began on Friday and ran through late Saturday night.

By the time we finished on Saturday night, beer bloggers were rife with knowledge from lectures, lunches/dinners, excursions, Guinness, Pilsner Urqell, Irish craft beer, tastings of craft beer from abroad and legions of new friends. (The invitation to visit Florida is sincere – don’t forget to follow-up with me when the cold weather looms in your area!)

(Thank you to Allan and Cindy of Zephyr Adventures and the many sponsors, brewers, speakers, distributor reps, and others who made the weekend so memorable.)

 

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Stop #2: Scotland – Edinburgh, Sterling, Skye, Perth

The highlight of my Scottish stop (1 week) was the beer and the 700th anniversary (and re-enactment) of the Bannockburn battle (focus of the movie Braveheart!)

The cask beers I sampled at every city and the bottled beers I tried were all excellent (save for one that was mediocre on the train!) – here’s my photo gallery.

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Stop #3:  Toronto, Canada en route to Las Vegas, Nevada

The third stop was actually more of a drive-by (a 10 hour stopover in Toronto)  but there was still enough time to sample brews at a couple of craft beer bars.  My friend Ralph Robinson, of Barrie Ontario (home of Barnstormer Brewing which I’ll feature in an upcoming post) met me and was my tour guide.  Did you know that there are more than 25 craft breweries within the Toronto Metropolitan area alone?

We enjoyed two stops over lunch and dinner and met some delightful Torontonians (who were of course non-natives), great brews (I’ve been searching for Caffrey’s Irish Ale on tap for several years!) – and a world cup broadcast (Netherlands and I can’t remember….)

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Stop #4:  Las Vegas, Nevada

This stop was a 4 day whirlwind (late July 4 – July 8) mostly to unwind and relax poolside (Planet Hollywood) with my Florida friend Dawn (whose family lives there!)

Of course, I was compelled to check out Sin City Brewing Company (great craft brews with two tasting rooms right on the strip) – where I hung out one evening and then met the brewer/owner Rich Johnson the next day.  Nice to know that even in Sin City you can find good Double IPA’s on tap!

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Stop #5:  Calgary, Canada – Stampede Week, Family and more Craft Brew Love…

I love that Big Rock Brewery always has innovative beers of the season (they are expanding now into British Columbia and are the oldest truly “craft” brewer in Canada) – including last years Rosmarinus Ale (with Rosemary!) plus an array of ever-expanding craft brewers.

I found myself drooling (again) as I browsed the shelves at Calgary liquor stores (privatized and no longer government-run!) and picked up several limited edition brews.  Highlights included Stampede week (the 10 day “festival” with ample beer flowing, wannabe cowboys everywhere, and entertainment – front row standing watching Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20!) – and a visit to Canmore (in the Rocky Mountains) Grizzly Paw Brewing Company.  (Coincidentally, the bartender Megan there knew my friend Ralph from Toronto and the brewmaster at Barnstormer Brewing in Barrie Ontario – small, small world!)

It’s great to visit family and be able to spread craft beer love north of the border too!

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Home again… Until August and #BBC14, San Diego

3 days, 4 countries, weight gain, fabulous memories, and so much craft beer adventure.  The next excursion is San Diego in late August (2.5 more weeks!) to the Beer Bloggers Conference where it will be a homecoming of sorts with U.S. based peeps.

Meanwhile, sunsets and suds prevail…  I love my life – and I love craft beer!  Thanks for reading!

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Have an awesome week and be safe!

Cheers!

Carol

A shout out to Florida VolunBeers…

I have a confession to make… I love the emerging craft beer industry in Florida, I love craft beer, and I love our volunteers.

Florida VolunBeers”…

are a team of volunteers (thanks to Josh Smith for coining the name!) who, IMHO, are everyday heroes.  They are craft beer aficionados who willingly give up their nights, weekends, and free time to create an enjoyable craft beer experience for craft beer lovers in Florida.

Florida VolunBeers are the lifeblood of our emerging industry and I am grateful, (and no, I don’t get paid for this!)

Certainly, there are lots of different types of volunteers —

There’s the boards of Tampa Bay Beer Week (TBBW), Florida United for Craft Brews (FUCB), and other not-for-profits…  and there are lots of volunteers at private festivals…

There’s also the many up-at-the-crack-of-dawn Craft Brewers and their families, AND the reps and distributors whose job is to bring craft beer to the masses, AND the home-brewers who craft recipes and boil and mash in their garages — all of whom are integral to Florida craft beer!

…BUT

I am thankful for those who volunteer with and for me – it’s you who are the wind beneath the success of so many events. I hope that the benefits (new friends, events, fun times, free admission) are a good enough enticement for you to continue!

Something new… VolunBeer meet-and-greets

Last evening we had our first (of many) ad hoc volunteer meetings at The Amsterdam in St Petersburg.  Owner John Cullen and bartender Bruce Jones led us on an international journey through craft beer styles and tastes – it was an enjoyable way for us to learn together.  I plan on having a monthly meet-and-greet across the bay area.

Are you interested in becoming a Volunteer?

It’s a fun way to meet new people, try new beers, and lend a hand at local events.  You join in as your schedule permits and the demand arises.  We’ve helped out at Localtopia, Brewers Ball, Foeder for Thought, Florida Brewers Guild (FBG), Halfway There, and others… with many more to come.

If you’re interested, please send me an email with your name, email address and cell phone number And I’ll add you to my VolunBeer database.  When the next craft beer event comes up, I’ll send out a call for volunteers – and include you.

All I ask is that

you be at least 21 years old, fun-loving (no Debbie Downers please!) and flexible to pitch in as the need arises… we do whatever is needed — from pouring specialty draughts to checking ids to delivering ice to brewers — it all depends on the event.

Will you join us?

Cheers,
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!

An Open Letter to FL Senate President Don Gaetz about the Florida Craft Brewing Industry: “I’m Confused”

Here’s what I’d like to send to Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, but… we’re not friends

Dear FL Senate President Don Gaetz and the Florida Senate:

I’ve read and re-read the recent Miami Herald article posted Sunday March 16, 2014:  Beer distributors, brewers fight over growlers where you are stated as saying you are a “free-market, pro-business legislator,” and I cannot seem to reconcile what definition of free market you are using.  I looked up the definition of free-market and every source emphasizes freedom from government regulations:

Merriam-Webster definition: free market:  noun    an economic market or system in which prices are based on competition among private businesses and not controlled by a government

www.investorwords.com/2086/free_market.html  Definition of free market: Business governed by the laws of supply and demand, not restrained by government

dictionary.reference.com/browse/free+market      free market —n: a. an economic system that allows supply and demand to regulate prices, wages, etc, rather than government policy : b. (as modifier): a free-market …

Yet Mr. Gaetz, you are quoted as saying:

“I’m with the beer distributors in my district. That’s a very important issue because one of my very best friends is an Anheuser-Busch distributor and he never talks to me about his business. It’s always about what are we going to do for disabled children, what are we going to do for the arts, what are we going to do for economic development. But this time he’s talking about growlers.”

How does the law of supply and demand fit in with your position, and why is it that Florida consumers can purchase 64-oz growlers legally in 47 other states, but cannot when they are at home?

I am also struggling to understand why Anheuser-Busch, which is now under Belgium InBev ownership, can garner Senate support for proposed craft brewery restrictions that would limit collaboration brewing and sales of brews from Florida-based and owned craft brewery locations.

Why is it that Florida continues to break ranks with the rest of the union by restricting growler size?  Do Floridians really support allowing big business interests to trump and curtail the growth of an industry that other states fully support?

Do Floridians really know about The House Bill 1329, “Big Beer Bill”, AKA the “Craft Beer Killer Bill” to further curtail and restrict craft breweries statewide? Why would we want to turn our backs on an emerging market that is providing employment, income, tourist opportunities and vibrancy in our state?

Is there a new set of definitions for your free-market, pro-business stance that includes government regulation to protect a best friend’s business interests over and above those of small craft brewers, and of Florida consumers who freely choose to buy craft beer instead of your friend’s products?

As a Florida taxpayer, consumer, and confused voter, I’m hoping that there is a reasonable explanation that doesn’t include reference to political contributions or lobbyist influences.

Respectfully and truly yours…

——————-

As I consider whether to forward this on, I’m betting that the rest of the nation reads about us and remarks “Only in Florida…”

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