Growth on the horizon for Orlando brewers, growlers
Local brewer and UCF grad Larry Foor discusses the hopping industry of craft beer. Video by Daniela Marin, Central Florida Future
UCF graduate Larry Foor works patiently, but with purpose, in a process he describes as the perfect combination of science and art. His laboratory carries the aroma of a mixture of grains, ranging from citrus to cocoa, through high steel fermenters and boilers.
Head brewer at Cask & Larder, Foor is creator and curator of the brewery's house beers, and one of many Orlando brewers who continues to contribute to the rise of the craft beer industry in Central Florida.
"While craft beer in Central Florida has always been a bit behind some cities, I feel like we are really set to explode," Foor said. "There are already a handful of great breweries in our area and many more in construction and planning stages. I think that the craft beer drinkers have always been here, we've just lacked the breweries to offer them."
Up until recently, Florida was one of only four states in which growlers, 64-ounce take-home containers of beer, were still considered illegal. But on July 1, Florida joined the rest of the country in legalizing their sale, indicating a significant shift in the state's attitude toward local breweries.
"The legalization of growlers is helpful to breweries in enabling them to sell their products more directly, but I think it also reflects that Florida has a maturing attitude about how breweries work," said Trevor Brewer, a UCF Knight and Orlando attorney focused on supporting and launching breweries and distilleries in the area.
Brewer — yes, that's his real last name — said the new legislation brings Florida in line with what's going on in North Carolina, Colorado and Oregon, where there's a much more robust brewery industry.
"In that sense, it is an indicator that the state is more supportive of breweries and more willing to listen to the needs of breweries," he said. "It's all reflective of the fact that breweries opening up here may have greater success going forward."
Prior to the new legislation craft brewers were allowed to sell smaller and bigger containers of their product for outside consumption, but not the industry standard.
"The 64-ounce size is the industry standard and will make it very convenient for brewers and their guests," Foor said. "How silly is it that before this you could buy 32-ounce growlers or gallons?"
In regard to sales, Foor said he has been pleasantly surprised with the response received from beer lovers, who have already demonstrated great demand.
"I think beer lovers in this state are the real winners here — you really can't beat drinking brewery-fresh beer, and being able to take it home or wherever is a really great experience," he said. "It was cool to see how many people already had growlers that they had from traveling that they could now legally use in their home state — they were very excited."
Brewer said that he believes it has become easier for breweries due to the fact that people are more aware of those that exist in their community.
"They're more comfortable going to breweries and knowing what they have to offer and enjoying the experience once they get there," he said. "I think they're more supportive of locally sourced goods and beverages."
Foor said that without the customers' engagement, the craft beer industry would not be where it is now.
"Florida is a great place to brew right now — the beer drinkers are great in this state, and they are super supportive of what we do," he said. "They are as much a part of the craft movement as anyone running a brewery. If I brewed a great beer but no one wanted to drink it, what would be the point?"
In addition to supportive customers, the nature of the industry as one that is rising and a lack of heavy competition have created a sense of community and teamwork among brewers.
"The brewing community is one of the best you could get into," said Brett Mason, owner of Hourglass Brewery in Longwood. "It's 90 percent awesome people, all the time. Nobody is trying to get at each other's throat; nobody is trying to do something that someone else is doing. It's just really cool people making really good beer."
Yet for Florida's craft brewing industry, there are still battles to be won, Brewer said.
Stemming from a post-Prohibition era during which the alcohol industry was criminally stigmatized in the South, Florida's alcohol laws follow a three-tier system, which enforces the division between manufacturers, distributors and retailers.
The prospect of self-distribution, which would allow breweries to distribute their own beer within a certain area, offers potential growth in the local industry.
"I am certainly of the mind that breweries don't want to ultimately be in the distribution business, and obviously there's a role to be played by distributors," Brewer said. "But I think that it would be helpful for smaller breweries, which are trying to get off the ground to have this limited right."
As for the future, Mason said he would rather see a brewery on every corner than a bar.
"I would like to see more breweries open, I'd like to see more people drinking and supporting craft beer, and I hope to see us all working together to grow craft beer in Central Florida," Foor said, echoing Mason's vision.
Local craft breweries
Cask & Larder
565 W. Fairbanks Ave.
The Hourglass Brewery
480 S. Ronald Reagan Blvd.
1301 Atlanta Ave.
Persimmon Hollow Brewing Company
111 W. Georgia Ave.
2810 Corrine Drive
200 S. Kentucky Ave.
Wop's Hops Brewing Company
419 S. Sanford Ave.
Daniela Marin is the Entertainment Coordinator for the Central Florida Future.