Do you still have a strong interest in cooking?
I do, but I live in a condo, so I don’t get to do it as much as I like. I really like grilling, too. I have a 5-month-old son; between my girlfriend and me working full time and taking care of him, there’s not that much time to cook.
You worked at Foothills Brewery here in NC?
I’ve been here since March 2008, so that was 2007. We still stay in touch. That was the only job apart from my original apprenticeship where I worked as assistant and not head brewer.
Could you please shatter any prejudices our readers or I may still have about Florida and craft beer?
Things are definitely changing down here. I don’t know if we were partially responsible and I don’t really care, as long as it happens. We continue to see people who are planning to open new breweries, and they discuss their concepts with us. You’ve got small breweries down in southeast Florida, like Funky Buddha—they’re making, like, maple bacon porter and peanut butter and jelly sandwich beer; all kinds of interesting things.
A close friend who used to work here now works for a larger brewery that’s been around the state of Florida for a long time. He said that they have hired a young brewing staff and they’re designing a new product line that is more modern. That alone says a great deal about how things are changing in the state of Florida.
You have Bold City Brewery in Jacksonville and Intuition Ale Works; there’s a small start-up that’s going to be taking place before the end of the year in Tallahassee. Even the large distributors—the Anheuser-Busch distributor in the state of Florida is building a remarkable portfolio. They’re bringing in Green Flash and Firestone Walker, so it’s getting better and better here.
It’s funny. The state is cursed with a reputation for bland beer, which often goes with a hot climate, but you’ve got a really rich culinary culture. Floridians aren’t afraid of big flavors!
I think it’s been the same old model, the same old assumptions. Then people saw how well we were doing with something they didn’t think would work down here. If you look at craft beer here, the industry is growing so fast that it’s impossible to find used equipment. Even in this economy, we’re doing really well as an industry. That’s phenomenal.
If people like characterful food, there’s no reason they wouldn’t like beer with character, too.
There’s a mishmash of cultures here. Sometimes tourists don’t get to experience it, because they’ll come down here and they’ll hit Disney, and that’s not what the real Florida’s like.