There isn't much Gerard Walen doesn’t know about the Sunshine State’s exploding craft brewing industry.
That expertise jumps off the page of his new book, “Florida Breweries,” (Stackpole Books, $19.95), which profiles 66 of Florida’s craft breweries, from Pensacola to Key West.
Still there were a few discoveries made during research that surprised him.
Organic Brewery in Hollywood, for example, probably has the best location in Florida.
“It’s on the beach,” Walen said. “You walk out their front door, you cross the deck and you are literally standing on the beach.”
At Fermentation Lounge in Tallahassee, brewers make a house beer on tap. When the small-batch brew is ready, they let their most-loyal customers know first so that they can get to drink the concoction before the general public.
“I knew of them, but I hadn’t been there until it was way too late to get them into the book,” he said.
This speaks to a problem: Florida’s booming craft beer scene is growing faster than his guide could accommodate. In addition to the 66 profiled, there is a list of another 40 breweries under construction at the time the book went to print. They include Angry Chair and Coppertail in Tampa, and Two Henrys in Plant City, Six Ten in Tampa and Pair O’ Dice in Clearwater, which are now open.
“When I started writing in 2012, there were only 50 breweries open,” he said. “In one year, it jumped to 66.”
“Florida Breweries” breaks Florida into four regions: North Florida, Central Florida, South Florida and the Tampa Bay area.
“Tampa is the only metropolitan area that is its own region in the book,” he said. “What’s happening there is extraordinary.”
His criteria for a successful brewery starts with great beer, of course, and having a good story associated with the beer.
“You also have to have a good business sense,” Walen said. “That’s something they all have now. In the ’90s, people opened breweries trying to get rich and most of them failed.”
TIP FROM A PRO
One of my favorite people in wine is Michael Rugers, wine specialist for Southern Wine and Spirits in Tampa. He’s always great with a tip about a new label or a variety that looks strong during a particular vintage. When he recommends something, I’m all ears.
The other day, Michael emailed to pass along his endorsement of Decanter magazine.
“Once in awhile I come across something I believe is interesting in regards to wines and maybe educational or at least interesting,” he wrote. “Decanter is my favorite wine magazine for wine education. It has gotten too pricey for many but it is written for adults and includes many well-written educational articles.”
He says readers can get daily news blurbs sent to an email account by just signing up at their website, Decanter.com. He specifically cited a recent article by writer Andrew Jefford about pinot grigio and pinot gris.
In my most recent Sip column, I mentioned The Talking Pint in Valrico, but gave the wrong name and address. The craft beer bar is at 13428 Boyette Road in Riverview.
Also, I said that La Crema 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir would be available for purchase at Costco. The winery says the wine is not available at that location.