Meet the Brewers

The men and women behind local beer.

In case you hadn’t noticed, small beer has gotten awfully big in Tampa Bay.

Craft beer is thriving here, thanks in no small part to the convergence of multiple elements — the rise of the Buy Local and artisanal movements, the elevated national profile of area names like Cigar City and Rapp, and a cautiously improving economy, to name a few — and new and established breweries alike are enjoying the benefits even as they up the standards. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” says Dunedin Brewery’s Richard Crance, and as more new breweries join the fray (hell, Pinellas Ale Works became the sixth licensed brewery in St. Pete alone just last week) the Bay area seems poised to become a bona fide beer-tour destination, like Asheville, N.C., or every city in Colorado.

But who are the people actually concocting these tasty, unique and magical elixirs?

We wanted to go behind the brands, and meet the men and women who write the recipes, fill the tanks and generally perform the alchemical processes that produce great Tampa Bay beer. We wanted to find out who they are. What they’re like. How they got into brewing. What they do in their spare time.

(We found out they don’t have a whole lot of spare time.)

What follows is an introduction to some of the people committed to making beer that, apart from all the hoopla and the web reviews and the expansion plans and the marketing, has to meet their expectations, on their terms. It’s not a complete list — brewers are successfully balancing the art and science of beermaking at other Bay area breweries like Saint Somewhere, Florida Avenue, Pair O’Dice, Three Palms, Two Henry’s and others, and we look forward to meeting and covering them, too.

These folks may differ in their backgrounds, personal preferences, ambitions and techniques. What they have in common — aside from the fact that many of them will showcase beers at CL’s upcoming annual BeerFest, hintedy hint — is a passion for, and dedication to, their craft. Like musicians, visual artists and other creatives, they would be putting in the long hours even if they weren’t getting paid, much less at the epicenter of an erupting cultural trend. For them, the satisfaction lies in the moment when they, and others, can enjoy the results of their efforts. So pick your traditional/regional/habitual toast, and toast them; they made it possible.

—Scott Harrell

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