The Fight for Craft Beer, A Look at Expanding Florida's Laws

Florida ranks 9th nation wide for concentration of craft breweries
The Fight for Craft Brew, A Look at Expanding Florida's Laws
Posted at 5:41 PM, Oct 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-20 04:35:19-04

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TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) -- A decade or so ago, the craft beer industry was a virtual unknown. Big brand names, such as Miller-Coors and Budweiser, dominated the market, and independent beer companies were really only local establishments, with a limited reach. Now things have changed and the craft beer industry has seen phenomenal growth. Florida ranks 9th nation wide for concentration of craft breweries with 111 throughout the state. It’s a business that is booming because of its quality brew.

“Right now we have an excellent opportunity to grab market share. Right now our market share is very low in the state. The only way that we get that is you get more people turned on to local and state beer and Craft Beer as a whole,” said Byron Burroughs, owner of Proof Brewing Company in Tallahassee.

The craft beer market is an estimated $19.6 billion dollar business. According to the Brewers Association, more than 3,400 U.S. breweries operated for all of 2014, 99% of those were small and independent craft brewers.

Although Craft Beer is catching on, it hasn't been a fast transition.

“Just like slow food took off and people became very ingrained into supporting local businesses and eating a purer cleaner product and then therefore supporting local restaurants who the supported those products, it falls in line with the same thing. If you're going to watch what you eat you should watch what you drink,” explained Burroughs.

Almost anyone can make their own brew, but selling it in the state of Florida has been a challenge. According to Burroughs, “Distributors in Florida have really controlled beer. The Florida breweries have proliferated very well in the last five years over an exemption in the law that allowed us to have tasting rooms and breweries.”

But even that has been limiting, until the Growler bill was passed.

“This Bill will make it not necessary to have the sham of qualifying for the tourism exemption any further. It allows you to say what you want to do and get the license to do it if you qualify, “ said Senator Jack Latvala.

However, the battle to brew and sell craft beer is far from over.

“There is always going to be work and there are always going to be battles. I think the next thing you’re going to see is a push for self distribution, so smaller breweries can exist with in a limited footprint and not be so dependent on distribution laws,” said Burroughs.