It Is Not Just About Beer

•April 23, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Craft Beer Under Attack

It is not just about beer. It is not just about Florida Breweries. It is not even just about Florida. It is about corporate money influencing policy that affects everyone. From the breweries to the distributors to the bars, restaurants and retailers and ultimately the consumers. it is about local jobs, locally owned and operated businesses, tourists, local culture, local economy, and the freedom to decide how you want to run your business, legally and safely.

Today it is the craft beer industry that is under attack. Maybe that is not part of your life. And that is fine. But tomorrow, it could be something you hold dear. I would be willing to bet that there is something that you care about, something that you love, enjoy, and participate in that is in the sights of a wealthy, politically connected corporation. And tomorrow they may make a call and write a check to someone in your legislature that will be harmful to that industry you love, but make them even more money. And now that senator or house representative has a choice. Take the money and be owned by that donor, or listen to the people who put him or her in that seat and do the right thing.

It is not just Florida. It is not just beer. It is not a left vs. right or liberal vs. conservative issue. The epidemic of corruption, cronyism, and influence buying is pervasive in our country, from the local levels all the way up to the three branches of the Federal Government. But if we can stop one, we can then stop another. And then another.

I have said repeatedly that this is a war that will be long fought, but it is one worth fighting. Please stand with the brewers and craft beer lovers of Florida and make your voice heard in Tallahassee. Join the Facebook Event for information on how you can help.



A Battle Lost, But Progress Made

•April 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment


Yesterday, Florida craft brewers lost another battle against big-beer financed government over-regulation. SB1714 passed the Senate Rules committee by a vote of 9-4, with committee chair John Thrasher (R – St. Augustine) ramming the issue through, rushing those who wanted to speak to the bill, and clearly not listening to a word they said. The bill’s corporate-backed sponsor, Kelli Stargel (R – Lakeland) once again showed her ignorance of the industry and unwillingness to listen to facts. As part of an attempt to “compromise”, an amendment was added to the bill to allow breweries producing two-thousand kegs of beer or less to sell their own packaged beers without going through the distributor. When pressed repeatedly on how she came up with that number, she admitted “I came up with that number, but I am not in the industry.”  Translation? “It is totally arbitrary and I do not know what I am talking about… again.” She also made a jaw-dropping statement that this bill would “in no way shut down any breweries.” Clearly, she has not only not been listening to testimony or reading articles (although she claims to have been), but she has not done any serious fact-checking of her own.

The best part for me, though, was watching Cigar City Brewing’s Justin Clark say very simply “We are not asking to change anything in the three tier… it is our opposition that is bringing up seventeen pages of language to change the three tier.” He went on to quickly and eloquently explain how the three tier system has helped Cigar City grow its business, and how the proposed bill would hurt the up and coming breweries in Florida. One after another, representatives from all around the state stood up and opposed this bill in its entirety, and once again, the people’s voices were ignored.

In case you were wondering how the committee members voted, here is the rundown:

Lizbeth Benacquisto (R – Ft. Meyers) – did not vote
Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R – Miami) – Yea
Bill Galvano (R – Bradenton) – Yea
Andy Gardiner (R – Orlando) – Nay
Jack Latvala (R – Clearwater) – Nay
Tom Lee (R – Brandon) – Yea
Gwen Margolis (D – Miami) – Nay
Bill Montford (D – Tallahassee) – Yea
Joe Negron (R – Palm City) – did not vote
Garrett Richter (R – Naples) – Yea
Jeremy Ring (D – Margate) – Yea
David Simmons (R – Altamonte Springs) – Yea
Eleanor Sobel (D – Hollywood) – Yea
Christopher Smith (Vice Chair, D – Ft. Lauderdale) – Nay
John Thrasher (Chair, R – St. Augustine) – Yea

Is your senator on this committee? How did they vote? Let them know what you think. Make sure to let those voting to protect Florida craft beer know you appreciate their efforts. And make sure those that are voting against our local businesses know that you will not forget on election day.

Naturally, those of us who support Florida breweries are not happy with the outcome of this. But it is somewhat heartening to see that there are actually some legislators that seem to be listening at last. The fact that we had 4 “NAY” votes is promising, and it was even mentioned by a few of the favorable voters that the bill still needed work and was going to face stiff opposition in the Senate. A number of people have already been writing and calling their senators in the past 24 hours, and it looks like we are getting through to some. I know that my Senator, Jeff Brandes (R – St. Petersburg) has opposed it. Tampa Representative Dana Young has also been very vocal in her support. In addition, there is a new Facebook “event” that I encourage you to join so we can channel our collective energy to fight this. Click here.

FL Brewers in Tally

Florida brewers in Tallahassee with Rep. Dana Young (pic courtesy of Justin Clark)

There was also an interesting turn of events yesterday as the Beer Industry of Florida lobbying group came out officially in opposition to the bill, reversing their initial support. Their president Eric Criss released a statement that stated they were essentially against all of the proposals, and reaffirmed their support for 64 ounce growlers.  He did leave room, however, for trying to have more definitions and exceptions decided on later, again touting the merits of the three-tier system. (You can read the full statement here.) While this is a good turn, it feels a little like back pedaling after his “waive in support” stance less than two weeks ago. It does cause one to wonder if maybe our message it getting through.

I had the opportunity to sit down last week with John J. Taylor, III, owner of J.J. Taylor Distributing and discuss the goings on in the state and in Tallahassee. One of the first things he said to me was “Florida’s beer laws are ridiculous.” Obviously, he supports a strong three-tier system. I didn’t expect anything less. He has built a hugely successful company based around it, and has done very well. And the thing is, there are very few who would begrudge him that or have a problem with it. One of the big misconceptions (and perpetuated misinformation campaigns from Mitch Rubin and the FBWA) is that craft brewers and craft beer lovers are trying to do away with the three tier system. They aren’t. *We* aren’t. Sure, there are some who will argue that it is an outdated throwback to a different era, but generally speaking I think everyone recognizes that distributors play an important and necessary role in the growth of craft beer. I asked Taylor about an “official” response or position on all the goings on and he told me quite frankly that he didn’t think it would matter. “Trust me, we are working behind the scenes. We are talking to the legislators, talking to Eric [Criss]. But no one buys ‘J.J. Taylor’. They buy the beer.” I appreciated him taking the time to talk to me, especially since I had not contact him, he was the one who reached out to me. That shows me that the message is being heard outside the craft beer geeks, and that people in a position to help affect change are listening. He was gracious, forthcoming, and had actually read the things I had written.

I still don’t think the bill has a chance to actually get passed, but I have seen worse legislation make it through in Florida. But the good news is that our movement is being noticed and picked up by the media. I even saw it mentioned this morning on our local NBC affiliate. It has been in papers around the state, as well as national publications. And I have not seen a single article or news story claiming these efforts by the AB/InBev puppets are good for anyone but the distributors.  In fact, former lawmakers have even come out in opposition to these bills.

In addition, one of the few GOOD bills passed today, allowing beer tastings in retail outlets (like they have been doing with wine forever). State Senator Nancy Detert (R-Venice), was able to push SB470 through the Appropriations Committee today (it passed unanimously) in an effort to repeal a state law that prevented beer tastings at retail stores that are now allowed to host wine tastings. It now has to pass the Rules Committee before it goes to the full Senate, but unlike SB1714, this one actually has a comparable bill in the House that has already passed all of its committees. So there is some good happening, albeit slowly.


As I have said before, this is a long game we are playing here. It is a war. There will be battles won, and battles lost, but we have to keep fighting and keep the pressure on. Aside from the financial influence we are fighting against, our biggest obstacle is ignorance and misinformation. All it takes is watching one of these committee meetings to see how oblivious many of the legislators are to craft beer and the industry in Florida. And to be fair, they have a lot of other important things to think about: education, health care, unemployment, crime, environmental issues, and of course their own re-election campaigns and party politics. So if we can give them the information in quick and easy terms, it makes our job easier.

This isn’t just about beer. It is about jobs. It is about the economy. It is about families and family businesses. It is about tourism. It is about a growing industry. It is about Construction. It is about investment in Florida. It is about marketing the state as a place people want to come to work, to play, and to live. There is so much good that the industry does for the state. Why would anyone want to suppress that?

Keep fighting the good fight, friends. And keep your voices heard. The emails, the letters, and the phone calls matter. And so does voting. You think this will all blow over by the next election? Don’t worry… there are plenty of us who will not let you forget.


Always Look on the Bright Side of Life…

•April 16, 2014 • 1 Comment

Thank you, Monty Python…

The war rages on, friends, between the emerging craft beer community in Florida and the hypocritical and corrupt puppets in our legislative body. Last week’s efforts to stop a terrible bill (SB1714) came up short as the bought-and-paid-for members of the Community Affairs Committee ignored comments and testimony and objections for the citizenry and voted 8-1 to push the bill through. It was a slap in the face to Florida breweries, and big middle finger to everyone who expressed concerns about the bill, and a sad reminder about how broken our system is. The bill’s sponsor, Lakeland Republican Kelli Stargel, was exposed for the fraud she is when pressed on the repercussions of the bill by fellow Republican, Jack Latvala of Clearwater. Stargel tried to stick to what were clearly talking points and rehearsed lines from her owners (the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association), but she could not avoid sounding absolutely ridiculous in her defense of the extortion-style tactics.  And without allowing much input from the floor, they moved to a vote, and jammed it through. It was also distressing to see Eric Criss, president of the Beer Industry of Florida (the other big distributor lobbyist group) stand in support of the bill. It appears as though the powers that be in Big Beer have all decided to unite against the craft breweries they claim to support.

UPDATE: Actually, just moments before I was about the post this, I read that apparently now Criss has reversed his position and is working to remove the requirement that breweries sell their packaged beer to distributors and then buy it back if they want to sell on premises. And Mitch Rubin (lobbyist for FBWA) is just as much of a liar and scoundrel as ever. Read the article here.

Wonka SB1714

But all is not lost. According to most legal experts, SB1714 is pretty much dead anyway. Even if it does come up to the full Senate, there is no accompanying House bill, since HB1329 was essentially stripped to nothing, and there are only a few weeks left in the legislative session. My guess is there is no stomach for this right now, and the general consensus is that there are more pressing issues to address. So another session will pass with nothing done, but I like to think the attention being paid in state and national media to this issue might make some people wake up and demand better from their elected officials.

It is easy to forget in all of this craft beer activism what we are fighting for. The men and women who built the businesses we visit, brew the beer we love, and put on the events we attend. The craft breweries of Florida. Even with all of the ridiculous maneuvering in Tallahassee, the industry and culture is booming in the Sunshine State. My good friend and fellow blogger Gerard Walen (not Gerald Whalen) just released his first book, Florida Breweries. it is an in-depth look at the breweries across the state, their histories, and even recommendations from beers at each one! If you want to be in the know about where to drink Florida’s best beers, you have to pick this book up. My guess is he will have to write a sequel, though. I believe that at the time the book got printed, there were only 66 breweries in Florida, and estimates are that we’ll have over 100 by the end of the year.  Gerard has been doing release parties around the state and signing copies for people, so go check him out!

Florida Breweries

And speaking of new breweries opening, St. Pete Brewing Company had a soft opening last week, making it the fourth in the downtown area! I got to stop in and check it out and was happy with the relaxed atmosphere, family-friendly setting, and of course, the delicious beers! The Milo’s IPA was great, and a friend of mine said their Grateful Stout was “the best non-barrel-aged stout in town”. High praise, I would say!

St. Pete Brewing

I also got wind of another new brewery opening up, this one over in Tampa. ShadowWerkz Brewery will be having a Pre-Release party as part of their fundraising efforts on April 26th. This was part of today’s press release:

“This [pre-release] party represents the first time most of these award-winning hard ciders and beers will be available for tastings to the general public, and we’re working hard to make these products available at select bars and beer stores in the Tampa Bay” said Dan Hoffman, chief cook & bottle washer at ShadowWerkz. “It also provides a venue for our fans to provide important feedback and participate in setting the direction for this new artisanal cider & brew house.”

Looks like it will be a fun party! And another brewery to add to the growing list.

In the grand scheme of things, we have a lot to be happy about, Florida beer lovers.  We have a growing industry that is providing not only jobs and actual dollars in our communities, but we are also building a culture and network of citizens who can come together and celebrate this positive growth. The stronger we become, the more influence we can wield, and hopefully turn the tide against the big-money special interests. I plan on offering some suggestions for different courses of action over the next few weeks that we can all take part in to move our cause forward. I hope you’ll be part of it!


Infuriating… And Frustrating…

•April 8, 2014 • 6 Comments

The war continues, my friends. Another key battle happens today. And I am going to say some things that certain entities out there are not going to want to hear. But these things need to be said. So, if you are afraid of being called out, or are uncomfortable with looking in the mirror, you might want to stop reading now.

Craft Beer Under Attack

But first, the issue at hand: Senate Bill 1714. This is SPB7120, submitted to the Community Affairs Committee under a new number. Sneaky, eh? The committee meeting is today at 3pm, so swift action is needed.  The bill is bad on several levels, but the most odious provision is this: it will no longer allow breweries to sell bottles directly to customers. All bottles must be sold to distributors, who can then choose to sell back to the brewery or not, or even raise the price. Special bottle releases will be at the mercy of the distributor.

Not surprisingly, this bill was authored by Senate President Don Gaetz (R – District 1, Panama City), who you may recall is buddies with Lewis Bear of Lewis Bear Distributing, who also happens to have contributed a large amount of money towards Gaetz’s campaign. Gaetz repaid the favor last year by appointing Lewis to the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors. And who says there is no corruption or cronyism in Tallahassee?

But this is not new news. We have known this for a while. And Gaetz – as he loves to point out in his canned email responses – is not on the Community Affairs Committee, so will not be voting today. The members that are voting are:

Chair: Senator Wilton Simpson (R – New Port Richey, District 18) – (850) 487-5018 email:
Vice Chair: Senator Geraldine F. “Geri” Thompson (D – Orlando, District 12) – (850) 487-5012 email:

Senator Rob Bradley (R – Orange Park, District 7) – (850) 487-5007 email:
Senator Dorothy L. Hukill (R – Port Orange, District 8) – (850) 487-5008 email:
Senator Jack Latvala (R – Clearwater, District 20) – (850) 487-5020 email:
Senator Christopher L. Smith (D – Ft. Lauderdale, District 31) – (850) 487-5031 email:
Senator Darren Soto (D – Kissimmee, District 14) – (850) 487-5014 email:
Senator Kelli Stargel (R – Lakeland, District 15) – (850) 487-5015 email:
Senator John Thrasher (R – St. Augustine, District 6) – (850) 487-5006 email:

Or you can email them at their Senate pages here.

No on SB1714

I probably do not need to reiterate how bad this bill is for Florida breweries, consumers, and craft beer lovers. It is not a partisan issue, although it is the Republicans in power who are primarily pushing this agenda. But the money is flowing freely across the aisle. And again, the sheer hypocrisy of some of those claiming to be “small government, free enterprise, reduced regulation” conservatives is infuriating.

You know things are heating up when we start getting press outside the state. There was a great article in the Chicago Tribune that really highlighted what we are facing here. They quoted big-beer lobbyist Mitch Rubin (Florida Beer Wholesalers Association) as saying their goal was to “re-write the state’s rules governing the craft brewing industry to create strict lines between manufacturers, distributors and retailers.” he claims this would “preserve competition.”

How disingenuous can you be, Mr. Rubin? Competition? It is racketeering, sir. You are a liar. Period. It is no secret that as craft beer has grown in popularity, AB/InBev’s shares have shrunk, and the only way your handlers can think to address it is to squash the innovators and small business people. I keep hearing the same tired line of “preserving the three-tier system” and preventing “tied house evil.” Guess what, no one is threatening your precious three tiers. Regardless of the supposed merits and protections of this antiquated system, allowing 64 ounce growlers and retail tastings are simply not factors in that. At all. So stop with the alarmist posturing, and do not insult the intelligence of the community by making wild claims about competition. It is simply untrue.

We all know about the distributors from FBWA pushing the anti-craft movement. Here in Tampa Bay it is Pepin Distributing and Gold Coast. Active donors to many of the anti-craft legislators, and firmly entrenched in the AB/InBev camp. They and their lobbyists have made no bones about their intent. But what about the others?

It has been very frustrating to watch some of the other distributors stand by silently. And I am speaking specifically about J.J. Taylor and Brown Distributing. J.J. Taylor is a member of of the Beer Industry of Florida, who has frequently touted its support for craft brewers, and yet has been silent in recent weeks about these anti-craft beer bills. I even reached out to people I know to see if maybe I had missed an official statement. I hadn’t. Brown is a member of FBWA, but has been very active in promoting craft beer around the state. And yet silent on this issue.

So now I am calling on JJ Taylor and Brown – and every other distributor in Florida – to make your position known. Let your retailers, your customers, and the breweries you represent know exactly where you stand on these bills. And don’t give us the ridiculous “it’s complicated” answer. It’s not. It does not take a constitutional scholar or Ph.D in economics to see what these bills do, and do not do. It is very telling that there is not a single Florida craft brewery (that I am aware of) that supports SB1714. So where do you stand?

I have friends at these distributors. People I like and respect, and I know share my opinion on this. And they have to be frustrated as hell with the inaction of their executives. The money being shoved at legislators from the FBHA is significant. If you really support Florida brewers like you claim to, why are you not fighting back with your own financial power?

This may get me uninvited from some events, but this is too important not to say something and encourage action. I now call on anyone out there who wants to see craft beer continue to thrive in Florida. Once you have hammered the Senate, start asking the distributors where they stand. Breweries, ask your distributors – the ones who are supposed to be helping you grow your business – where they stand. Upcoming breweries and breweries in planning, take a long hard look at what these distributors do in the coming days and weeks and take note. Are they going to look out for you?

Don't Tread On Craft Beer

T-Shirt Design by Hopcloth

This war is far from over, but we can’t stop fighting the battles.


We Shall Not Flag or Fail…

•March 25, 2014 • 5 Comments

Protect Florida Craft Brewers

There was a victory yesterday in the fight against the Big Beer lobbyists and their bought-and-paid-for legislators. House Bill 1329 was essentially gutted by a procedure called a “Strike-All” amendment. The idea being that most or all of the language in the bill is removed, and different language is added. Almost all of the ridiculous restrictions and punitive aspects were removed, leaving a shell of a bill that allows for pretty much any size growler up to 1 gallon (128 ounces). There is still some concern over aspects remaining in regards to retail sales, brewpubs, etc. But it is certainly way better than it was, and the unanimous vote was applauded by the Florid Brewers Guild, and most in the craft beer community.

I watched a replay of the proceedings (look for 3/24), and while I am happy with the outcome, I am very bothered by the demeanor of some of the members of the committee. To begin with, I felt that their treatment of Jennifer Gratz from Fort Myers Brewing, who made the 8 hour drive up to speak at their meeting, was reprehensible. Committee chair Rep. Debbie Mayfield (R-Vero Beach, Dist. 54) was abrasive and condescending. I thought that Gratz made some very important points, and was professional and courteous when raising her concerns about Rep. Ray Rodrigues lack of response to her attempts to contact him (he was the sponsor of the bill). Immediately, Mayfield and her Republican cohorts converged on Gratz (a bona fide conservative Republican in her own right) and told her to stop attacking Rodrigues. They then went on to laud the Fort Meyers Republican as a “hero” and fell over themselves thanking him for his efforts in this bill.

Let me get this straight… a man sponsors a bill that is so odious, you have to use the “strike-all” amendment to disinfect it to make it palatable, and then you commend him for bowing to the outrage and abandoning his efforts? They actually had the nerve to say “if Representative Rodrigues did not think this was a good bill, he would not have brought it to the committee…” So which is it, folks?

I also question a system that allows a “strike-all” as a procedure. If a bill is so bad you need to delete it all and re-write it, why not just vote it down and submit a new bill? The way I understand it (and I am more than happy to have someone explain if I am wrong) is that the new “clean” bill still goes forward with Rodrigues’ name on it at “his” bill, even though it is nearly 180 degrees from his original intent.

But, even with all that, the committee voted unanimously in favor of the “strike-all”. And it moves forward to the next stop.

But the fight continues in the Senate.

No on 7120


Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 26th, starting at 1:30, the Regulated Industries committee in the Florida Senate will bring up SPB 7120, a slightly more unacceptable bill (read and the Florida Brewer’s Guild analysis here) than what the House looked at. The basics are the same, though. Unnecessary regulations, punitive measures aimed at craft brewers in the state, and job-killing aspects regarding tasting rooms and growlers. It cannot be allowed to move any further. I do not know if the Senate has the same kind of “strike-all” tactic, but I would rather just see this bill die and return to the hell from which it was spawned. It would be a blow to the powerful lobbyists supporting it if we could just stop it in its tracks. But it won’t be easy. On this committee are a few that have worked against Florida craft brewers in the past. Here are the Senators on the committee (thanks to Hoggetowne Ale Works for the breakdown and info):

Senate President: Don Gaetz – (850) 487-5001 *Note* You all remember him, right? The guy who is buddy-buddy with the AB/InBev distributor in the panhandle and will vote however they tell him to?
Chair: Senator Kelli Stargel (R) – (850) 487-5015
Vice Chair: Senator Oscar Braynon, II (D) – (850) 487-5036
Senator Nancy C. Detert (R) – (850) 487-5028
Senator Anitere Flores (R) – (850) 487-5037
Senator Bill Galvano (R) (850) 487-5026
Senator Audrey Gibson (D) (850) 487-5009
Senator John Legg (R) – (850) 487-5017
Senator Maria Lorts Sachs (D) – (850) 487-5034 *Note* Sen. Sachs filed an amendment to kill last year’s growler bill and received a couple thousand dollars from the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association in 2012. Anheuser-Busch donated $500 directly to Sachs. Gold Coast Beverage and Southern Wine & Spirits combined to donate another $1,500. (ref.
Senator Eleanor Sobel (D) – (850) 487-5033
Senator John Thrasher (R) – (850) 487-5006 *Note* received a combined $1,000 from Anheuser-Busch and the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association and $500 each from Pepin and Gold Coast. (ref.

There is also a petition being circulated to stop this abomination of a bill here.

There is momentum building on the side of craft breweries in Florida, and we need to keep the pressure on. I strongly encourage everyone, Florida resident or not, to contact these legislators and tell them how you feel about this bill… tactfully and respectfully. Obviously it is important for Florida voters to speak up, but with tourism such and integral part of our economy here, voices from outside the state do carry weight. We are becoming a craft beer destination and plainly put this would hurt that industry. And the committee members need to know that.

One of the big problems here is an uneducated Senate. By that I mean specifically about the craft beer industry in Florida and the economic impact it has, and also how it has thrived in other states. Allowing 64 ounce growlers has not brought ruin to 47 other states that allow them, not has it brought down the “sacred cow” three-tier system that everyone seems so protective of. I think that by presenting the facts plainly and simply, most will see reason and kill this bill… unless they are being paid to do otherwise.

Keep fighting, friends.


Corruption, Florida, and Craft Beer

•March 23, 2014 • 3 Comments

So unless you have been living under a rock or simply do not follow the craft beer scene in Florida… and you do not follow me on Twitter or Instagram or don’t like my page on Facebook, you may have noticed somewhat of a kerfuffle in regards to some proposed legislation in Tallahassee regarding craft beer, local breweries, and growlers. Numerous people have written about it, many people are (understandably) worried, angry, and up in arms about some of the moves being made that could have devastating effects on the industry in the state. Rather than list everything that has happened, been posted, and commented on (there has been a lot since March 4th!), I will direct you to a few informative articles:

Ray Rodrigues files “Craft Beer Killer” bill

Senate President Don Gaetz admits he will do whatever the AB/Inbev Distributor tell him to do

A pretty good breakdown of the way the system currently works, and the potential impact of HB1329

A call to action from in regards to SB7120

It would be shocking if it were not so typical. Although I will say this kind of blatant influence-buying is pretty bold. One of the ugliest things I have seen, though, is how some of the anger and frustration within the Florida craft beer community was turned inward. Local breweries being called out and harassed because they had signed with one of the distributors who is supporting the anti-Florida beer efforts (because that is what they are, make no mistake). People who have helped build the industry being called out as apologists and threatened with boycotts of their breweries, simply because they made a business decision that they thought would be good for their future. Maybe they were wrong and made a bad choice, maybe not. But to call for their boycott? To question their commitment to craft beer in the state? It is insulting and ridiculous. And it is exactly what the international corporations that are pulling the strings want us to do. Turn against one another, and weaken the fight against the real enemy: lobbyists and corrupt politicians.

Florida Breweries Under Attack

So here is the bottom line:

If you call yourself a conservative Republican, you should be mad as hell at these attempts because they are job killers, an attempt to over-regulate, and are bad for small business and the free market. Senate President Don Gaetz and Rep. Ray Rodrigues both claim to be “free-market, anti-regulation, pro-business legislators”. These bills are anything but.

If you call yourself a liberal or progressive Democrat, you should be mad as hell, too. This is corporate influence at its worst, anti-consumer at its core, and big money spent to squash the little guys trying to get ahead. Unlike some, I do not think corporations are people, and their interests should not supersede those of the people of Florida.

If you call yourself an independent or anywhere else on the spectrum, or you just love locally brewed beer you should be mad as hell. And honestly, even if you do not care about craft beer at all. The Senate President openly said that he will do whatever his AB/Inbev buddy tells him to do. He does not care about the people he was sent to office to represent, or a growing and exciting industry that is bringing positive attention and recognition to the state. And gods know Florida could use some of that!

No on 1329

There is a petition online aimed at stopping these bills. I urge you to sign it here.

Also, I ask that you call, write, and email your local legislators (house and senate) and voice your disapproval of these efforts. Even if you do not live in Florida, please contact the legislators anyway. Let them know that Florida craft beer is gaining recognition nationally and is also a growing tourist draw.

It is a tough fight, but an important one. There are a couple of bills written that would be good for Florida beer, HB283 and SB406 that simply legalize 64oz. growlers and allow beer tastings in grocery stores and markets (like they can do with wine). No arbitrary restrictions, no job-killing measures… just plain, straightforward and common sense changes to the existing, flawed laws.

So there you have it folks. Keep up the good fight.


An Ugly End to a Great Week

•March 10, 2014 • 23 Comments

I find myself in a conflicted state on this Monday following Tampa Bay Beer Week. By and large, I had a fantastic week. I drank some great beers, hung out with some excellent people, and enjoyed the events I attended. Including Hunahpu Day.

Hunahpu 2014

The reason I am conflicted is not over what happened Saturday’s event, but rather after. As the roar of anger and backlash began to build Saturday night, I had already left and gone home. I did not get my allotted bottles. I as mildly disappointed, but had spent the day drinking amazing beers and talking with old friends and new and generally having a great time.  If you have been paying attention over the past 48 hours, the Hunahpu Day debacle has reach proportions of such asinine ridiculousness it is hard to put in to words.

I recognized early on that something was amiss when I saw the long line to get in. I figured something must be going wrong, and there were clearly more than the scheduled 3500 ticketed for the event. Even taking into consideration the brewery representatives, media folks, and volunteers, it was obviously way more than had been anticipated. So what went wrong?  Well, that question will likely be debated ad nauseam. One thing we know is that there were duplicate tickets out there. And some people who hopped the gate. That means people lied and cheated and essentially stole to get in to this event. Period. If you were one of these people, or somehow facilitated this, shame on you. You are the problem. You are who ruined the day.

So with this immense crowd, clearly the staff was not ready for the over 6000 that crammed in. Half of whom should not have been there. Remember that. That resulted in longer lines to get beers, especially the “popular” ones. It meant longer lines for food. It meant being packed in like sardines, and a ridiculous number of lawn chairs camped out in the middle of the event.  All because of the liars, cheats, and thieves.

It also meant that there were not enough bottles for everyone who was expecting them. In fact, the line was so long and packed in, some people were waiting over two hours, only to be turned away at the last minute. Because of the people who never should have been there.

Now, Cigar City shares some of the blame, to be sure. And they have absolutely stepped up and taken responsibility. There were some flaws in their planning, to be sure. In fact, their biggest mistake was assuming people would act like civilized and mature adults and do the right thing. They got taken advantage of and badly. While some people got their allotment of 3 bottle and left, others managed to acquire cases of the coveted beer. I don’t know how that happened, but I think between case sales opeing too early and the silver wristbands not being taken after the sales, the bottles simply disappeared. This led to some pretty stressed and upset CCB employees, including owner/founder Joey Redner who was visibly and understandably upset, especially when it became clear there were no more bottles and hundreds of people clamoring for them. All because of the liars, cheats, and thieves.

There have been plenty of stories posted on Facebook and twitter and blogs about alleged fights, threats, and other ugliness going on as the day wound down. Lots of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth about being “screwed” by Cigar City Brewing. And then the ridiculous people reared their heads, accusing CCB of deliberately selling too many tickets. Accusing them of hoarding and hiding additional bottles. Of lying to everyone about the number of tickets sold. And then one soft-brained schmuck even went so far as to post “Joey Redner = BUDWEISER!!”  Really?! What does that even mean? A group of self-important malcontents even started a Facebook group for “people who got screwed on Hunahpu Day” and some have called for actually suing the brewery over the whole deal.

Since Saturday night, CCB has bent over backwards to try to make things right. From free beer Sunday in the taproom to refunding every ticket sold through Eventbrite and the promise for those who still have their wristbands to brew a new batch and make it available. They have done more than any business – not just brewery – than I have ever seen to try to do right by their fans and customers. And the final straw… no more Hunahpu Day. Joey’s press release today stated that he was done. It wasn’t worth it. It made him physically ill. From now on, Hunahpu will be released via distribution.

But that was not enough for some.

So let me say a few words to THOSE types of people.

You are the problem. Most likely, you are the ones who were chanting “Cigar City Sucks”. The ones getting physical in line. The ones who feel that they are owed something by the brewery and the fact that CCB wants to make money somehow makes them a sellout.  One post in particular really sticks in my craw. I am not going to give him the pleasure of seeing his name on the screen, but he is a “quality control” person for Walmart. Read into that what you will. This waste of space accuses Joey and the team of no less than the following.

- Lying to customers about attendance. Sorry, jackass, there was no lying involved. There were jerks – probably friends of yours – that didn’t play by the rules.
- Ticket takers/beer servers/etc. that were unprofessional. Sorry that was your experience, but I found none of that to be true. Of course, I treated everyone nicely, so many you should try that.
- “Real” employees running around drunk instead of working. I am not even going to dignify that one.

He rambles on like the uninformed douche he is and ends with declaring pompously ” I could care less that it blew up in your face, I don’t feel sorry for you, I refuse to support a brewery that mislead 6000+ fans and refuses to take responsibility for it”. You know what Mr. Walmart Greeter? Good. Go away. The craft beer world does not need people like you. I don’t know how much more responsibility CCB needs to take. They have owned up to everything, apologized profusely (and probably more than than they needed to), and given just about everything back. To the people who are saying “well they aren’t really losing anything by returning the money we just gave them” clearly do not know how a business works, and that the over $200,000 that they have lost in this debacle  was probably figured into their future planning costs.  All that money also covers:

  • staff time
  • t-shirt costs
  • glasses costs
  • ice
  • water bottles
  • port-a-let rental
  • music
  • advertising

I do feel bad for the people who traveled from out of town, paid for a hotel room, meals, etc. and then didn’t get to participate. But traveling is a risky proposition and there is an implied understanding that things might not happen the way you want them to. If you fly down from Ohio to visit Disney World, and it rains the whole time you are here, are you going to sue Disney and ask them to refund your hotel and meals? Of course not. If you get inside the park and Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down just as you are about to get on after waiting in line for two hours, are you going to start a Facebook page about how Disney “screwed” you? Bad things happen. Plans sometimes go awry. And remember, had the rules been followed and everything gone according to plan, the day would have been fantastic for the legitimate attendees and the brewery alike.

People are going to continue to rant on and on about this for the coming weeks, for sure. Eventually, it will die down and people will (hopefully) let is go. I hate to see what this did to Joey and everyone at CCB. I can’t imagine he has gotten much sleep since Saturday, and I absolutely understand his decision to throw up his hands and say no more. I am hoping he reconsiders, and it is just a tied and frustrated response. I have been to every Hunahpu Day since the first one, and think it has the potential to be a fantastic event again.

So while CCB needs to figure out what went wrong on their end and how to address it, I think there is an onus placed on the craft beer community as well to take a good hard look inward. The bad stuff that happened was because a few thousand people lied, cheated, and stole their way in to an event that is supposed to bring the community together. They are the ones who deserve your scorn and vitriol. And if there were really that many, you probably know some of them. They are the ones who ruined the day, and quite possibly the future of the event itself.

Hunahpu List

I, for one, will always support Joey and Wayne and Cigar City Brewing. I consider them friends, and one of the main reasons craft beer has taken off in Tampa Bay and the state of Florida. I have always known them to do the right thing, even if it came at a cost. Joey is an upstanding guy and a smart businessman. He has always taken responsibility when things didn’t go well, and he has stepped up in a huge way this time as well.

I am going to go drink an Invasion Pale Ale now and finally take a deep breath.



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