More Breweries Find a Home on the Treasure Coast
Source: TC Palm | By: By Kelly Tyko
The Treasure Coast’s young brewery scene is experiencing a growth spurt.
After a relatively late start compared to the rest of the nation, more craft breweries are opening here and existing ones are expanding.
Treasure Coast’s newest and largest brewery, Islamorada Beer Co., opens Friday in Fort Pierce just two months after Walking Tree Brewery opened in Vero Beach.
Sailfish Brewing Co., the region’s first commercial brewery, recently moved into its second Fort Pierce location and two other local breweries, Orchid Island Brewery in Vero Beach and Pareidolia Brewing Co. in Sebastian, are looking to add second locations, as well.
At least three other breweries are planned for the region. Hop Life Brewing Co. is expected to open later this year in St. Lucie West and American Icon Brewery is scheduled to open next July in Vero Beach. Coastal Karma Brewing hopes to open in Martin County next year.
The boom means more local beer is on tap at the Treasure Coast bars and restaurants and brewers say is positively impacting the economy by drawing more tourists here.
Neighboring Brevard County, home to seven locally owned breweries, also is seeing an influx of new breweries, with three more expected to open this year.
“It’s exciting to see the whole beer industry booming and creating a lot of hype,” said Philip Busch, president of Fort Pierce-based beer distributor Southern Eagle Distributing, which handles the distribution for Islamorada, Sailfish and Side Door Brewing Co., which opened last December in Port St. Lucie. “I’m a big fan of beer, naturally, so the more options we have, I think it’s great for our community.”
Sebastian resident and craft beer connoisseur Derek Gerry agrees. When he moved to Florida 10 years ago from Maine, he was disappointed to find no local breweries here.
“I feel it was something missing for the entire community,” said Gerry, who has visited all the local breweries and home brews as a hobby. “It’s been extremely exciting to find more and more diversity within one brewery as well as multiple breweries for all of these palates.”
Experts say consumer tastes are shifting and many are attracted to the appeal of small-batch craft brews with their unique flavors and local flair. Craft beer is made with traditional ingredients such as hops but producers often add non-traditional ingredients like fruit or coffee.
“As consumers increasingly demand a greater variety of beers, including pale ales, lagers, seasonal beers, wheat beers, stouts and saisons, craft brewers have captured a significant portion of drinkers who had traditionally purchased light and premium brand beers,” IBISWorld analyst Nick Petrillo wrote in his August 2016 “Craft Beer Production in the U.S.” report.
Nationwide, there are more than 4,600 craft breweries, including more than 160 in Florida, said Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association, the Boulder, Colorado-based trade group of independent craft brewers.
“We’ve had a tremendous number of brewery openings over the last decade,” said Watson, who estimates two craft breweries open each day in the country. “Florida has been a little later to the game so we’ve really seen Florida openings ramp up in the last two years.”
Florida’s breweries grew from six in 2007 to more than 50 in 2013, according to a 2014 report by the University of Florida produced for the Florida Brewers Guild which suggests the state could support nearly 550 craft breweries.
Watson and local brewers agree the state will eventually reach a saturation point where it can’t support any more breweries. But Watson noted states with smaller populations have more breweries per capita than the Sunshine State.
“A lot of analysts in the industry think that craft is going to be a bubble and that it’s going to burst,” said Busch, the great-great-grandson of Anheuser-Busch founder Adolphus Busch and a Vero Beach resident. “I don’t personally think that and I think the millennial generation is all about variety and uniqueness.”
St. Lucie County
A central location with room to grow is what attracted many breweries to set up shop in Fort Pierce.
After outgrowing their small space in the Florida Keys, Isalmorada Beer Co. ‘s co-founders and college friends, Jose Herrera, Tyrone Bradley, Chris Trentine and Nik Schroth, looked for a second location. The brewery distributes on the west coast from Sarasota to Naples and from Port Canaveral to Key West.
“We wanted to strategically locate where it was easy for our distributors to come pick up beer and there’s nothing easier than Fort Pierce,” said Herrera, a co-founder and director of sales and marketing of their space at 3200 St. Lucie Blvd. near the Treasure Coast International Airport and Business Park.
Herrera said the Fort Pierce brewery will produce 10 times more than what it was previously brewing and allow them to continue to expand and grow their distribution. It will be bottling and canning its beers from the 25,000-square-foot location, which includes a tasting room.
Its beers, with names like Sandbar Sunday, Sun Burn and No Tanlines, already can be found in 127 Treasure Coast restaurants, bars and stores.
Sailfish, which opened its first location in the historic Edgartown neighborhood in April 2013, also hopes to expand its distribution now that its second brewery is up and running at 130 N. Second St.
“Being the first brewery on the Treasure Coast, we took our time understanding the business and making sure our recipes were exactly the way we wanted them before we started mass production and distribution,” co-founder Nick Bischoff said, adding Southern Eagle is distributing its White Marlin and Sunrise beers.
Port St. Lucie’s first brewery, Side Door Brewing Co., opened in December at 1419 S.E. Village Green Drive. Owner Dwayne Buchholz said the business is growing daily.
Jim Kelly and business partner Rob Tearle are working to bring Hop Life Brewing Co. to St. Lucie West and hope to open by the end of the year at 679 N.W. Enterprise Drive near Tradition Field.
The brewery, which will have a taproom, will start distributing about a month after opening, Kelly said.
Indian River County
Nearly two years after opening, Indian River County’s first two breweries have outgrown their systems and are looking to expand.
Alden Bing, who owns Orchid Island Brewery with his wife, Valerie, said they want to add a production facility in the groves west of town. Their brewery, which uses Indian River citrus in its recipes, is at 2855 Ocean Drive in Vero Beach and distributes through West Palm Beach-based Brown Distributing.
The two-year anniversary party featuring a special brew is scheduled for Sept. 3.
“Our philosophy to grow was to grow organically and to build a very strong demand within the marketplace,” he said.
Pete Anderson, who runs Sebastian-based Pareidolia Brewing Co. with his wife, Lynn, hopes to open a second location within the year close to their spot at 482 U.S. 1 in the River Park Plaza.
Once both systems are running, the brewery, which won a gold medal in February at the “Best Florida Beer” competition in Tampa for its Wahoo Coffee Porter, will make four times more beer and he plans to start distribution, Pete Anderson said.
“The demand for our beer has grown exponentially since we opened and the only way to keep up with it is to go to a bigger production facility,” Anderson said, adding they will mark the brewery’s anniversary with a party Sept. 24.
Indian River’s newest brewery, Walking Tree Brewery, started out with room to grow.
The Vero Beach brewery co-founded by Alan Dritenbas and Mike Malone opened June 23 at 3209 Dodger Road in a 24,000-square-foot historic building at the Vero Beach Regional Airport.
The Vero Beach residents signed a contract with Jupiter-based J.J. Taylor Distributing Florida, Inc. to start distributing three Walking Tree brews, Straw Hat Blonde Ale, Prop Root Pale Ale and White Walking Tree IPA, throughout the Treasure Coast.
Next on tap is American Icon Brewery, which developer Michael Rechter plans to open July 4 at the historic diesel power plant in Vero Beach and include a gastropub.
“This project is as much about the food as the beer,” Rechter said. “Our menu is going to be paired with the beer. It’s craft beer and also craft food.”
Craft beer production has yet to gain a foothold in Martin County.
In March 2013, Scott Sundermeier opened Longneck Brew House at 950 S.E. Indian St.
“It’s a brewery where customers can come and actually brew their own batch of beer,” Sundermeier said.
Not counting the customers’ brews, the facility produces about a 100 barrels a year, which is served at the bar.
David Cahall and Charles Chase hope to open Coastal Karma Brewing in the county but haven’t secured a location.
If they don’t have a lease signed by September or October, they plan to pursue a spot in Palm Beach Gardens, Cahall said.
North Palm Beach County is home to other breweries, including Tequesta Brewing Co., Civil Society Brewing Co. in Jupiter and Twisted Trunk Brewery in Palm Beach Gardens.
Cahall said he would prefer to open in Martin County because he already has been collaborating with Orchid Island and Sailfish on special brews that sold out faster than expected.
“We are brewing with other breweries to get our name out there,” Cahall said.
Local brewery owners see themselves more as being on the same team to convert beer drinkers to locally produced products than as competitors.
“Anytime that we can take a Bud Light out of someone’s hands and put a craft beer in there, I’m jumping for joy,” Cahall said.
They also want to help grow the local economy.
Treasure Coast breweries have joined forces with Fort Pierce-based Endless Summer Vineyard & Winery and Treasure Coast tourism directors to plan and promote ale trail programs, which tend to attract younger residents and tourists.
“Hopefully it will open a whole new demographic for us if successful,” said St. Lucie County Tourism Manager Charlotte Bireley.
The group found similar programs have been successful in other areas, including Tampa, which also has tour buses.
“The goal from the beginning has always been to bring fresh, local craft beer to the Treasure Coast,” Sailfish’s Bischoff said. “We’re excited to see what happens. It’s all a big network of local brewers.”
BREWERIES NOW OPEN
Islamorada Beer Co.
Address: 3200 St. Lucie Blvd., Fort Pierce
Walking Tree Brewery
Address: 3209 Dodger Road, Vero Beach
Sailfish Brewing Co.
Address: 407 N. Second St., Fort Pierce
Pareidolia Brewing Co.
Address: 482 U.S. 1, Sebastian
Side Door Brewing Co.
Address: 1419 S.E. Village Green Drive, Port St. Lucie
Longneck Brew House
Address: 950 S.E. Indian St., Stuart
Orchid Island Brewery
Address: 2855 Ocean Drive, Vero Beach
BREWERIES COMING SOON
Hop Life Brewing Co.
Address: 679 N.W. Enterprise Drive, Port St. Lucie
Coastal Karma Brewing
Address: To be determined
American Icon Brewery
Address: 1133 19th Place, Vero Beach