Cheers: Local brewers look to add local flavor to booming beer market

Scott McIntyre/Staff 
 Options of various types of beer that Naples Beach Brewery will be selling and also offering for tasting hangs on display in the small brewery that Will Lawson and his brewery will be operating out of.

Photo by SCOTT MCINTYRE // Buy this photo

Scott McIntyre/Staff Options of various types of beer that Naples Beach Brewery will be selling and also offering for tasting hangs on display in the small brewery that Will Lawson and his brewery will be operating out of.

The day after a local beer distributor read about Naples Beach Brewery in the paper, he walked into Will Lawson's storefront to work out a contract.

"He said, 'You're filling a niche that we've been having people ask about for a long time,'" Lawson recalled.

As microbreweries thrive around the country, two local breweries are in the process of opening in Collier County. Lawson's brewery is expected to open this summer in East Naples, while the Southwest Florida Brewing Company is expected to break ground in Ave Maria in September.

Those in the craft brewing community say the beers will give residents and visitors a taste of something different while they support local businesses. Even in a market rife with Buds and Millers, the new brews are expected to catch on with diners and bar-goers.

"One of the things that people seem to be asking for, particularly those on vacation, is 'What do you have that's local?'" said Jim Moore, a sales manager for Coastal Beverage, which is the distributor for both local breweries.

Brothers Curtis and Ernest Sittenfeld, of the Southwest Florida Brewing Co., have been working for the past two years to attract investors. They reached their fundraising goal of $40 million last week, Curtis Sittenfeld said.

"Southwest Florida is a very good market," he said. "We did fairly in-depth market analysis and feel we won't have any problem selling our beer."

One reason: the weather.

"It doesn't get cold here, so people don't forget about drinking beer," Sittenfeld said.

The beers brewed by the Southwest Florida Brewing Co. also won't be competing directly with big names like Anheuser-Busch because they are marketing to a different type of customer, Sittenfeld said.

"We intend to make it a sort of European-style, sort of amber beer rather than the very light yellow beer that the U.S. breweries make," he said. "We plan to go for a more sophisticated taste."

Moore, who has been in the beer distribution business in Naples for more than 20 years, said he began to see a push for craft brews over the past few years as customers discovered beers from breweries out West.

"Florida as a whole is behind the nation in developing craft (beer) markets," he said. "It continues growing, but right now, craft beer as a whole is a high percentage of the sellers down here."

While the Southwest Florida Brewing Co. is expected to be a larger-scale industrial plant, Lawson said the Naples Beach Brewery is more in the spirit of home brewing.

Once his permits and licenses are approved, the 34-year-old expects to "start small," shipping out kegs to a handful of local bars and hosting tours and tastings at his brewery on the weekends.

Although he has put his life savings into the brewery, his five-year business plan shows the company turning a profit after two years.

"We're realistic," he said. "My overhead is low enough that I give myself a good chance … I think for the crowd that's here now, it's perfect for them."

Moore said Coastal Beverage will be marketing Lawson's beer by serving it at beer festivals and shopping it around to craft-friendly bars.

"It'll be a nice added benefit that you can do a promotion and have the brewer there; actually, the guy that created the beer," Moore said.

Lawson, for one, hopes the product will speak for itself.

"You can be the best businessman and have a lot of money," he said, "but if the beer's no good, you're done."

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Comments » 15

newzhound (Inactive) writes:

Good luck!
Applaud your entrepreneurial spirit.

ebabin writes:

Will they have a "blessed" brew?

tiedyeted writes:

Remember. Malt, Hops, Water and Yeast. Anything more ruins the wort.

Carrot_Stick writes:

Good luck! I'm certainly a fan of small-production brews so will be keeping an eye out for availability.

With the warm climate, I think you will do better by making lighter beers than anything that is too heavy. I'm an IPA fan so will be looking for a local IPA.

In any case, Naples definitely needs a good local brewery.

Here4Now writes:

in response to Carrot_Stick:

Good luck! I'm certainly a fan of small-production brews so will be keeping an eye out for availability.

With the warm climate, I think you will do better by making lighter beers than anything that is too heavy. I'm an IPA fan so will be looking for a local IPA.

In any case, Naples definitely needs a good local brewery.

And a good microbrewpub (like John Harvard's in Boston or Church BrewWorks in Pittsburgh)

shwing writes:

Finally!! Good luck Will, where will the pub/tavern be located in east naples so we can support this great local business? I'm not driving out to Ave Maria, sorry other guys.

greathornedlizard writes:

Best of luck to these guys!

I'm currently lagering a Czech pilsner clone,
am also conditioning a Chimay Red clone, and have a batch of Imperial Pale Ale in the secondary fermenter.

HappyHour writes:

Location? East Naples is a little vague.

Spock_is_logical writes:

I'll drink to that. East Naples wont work...bunch of Bud lite drinkers. Mercato would be great but rent is high.

Wish they woild buy Stevie Tomatoes in pebnlebrook.The place sucks due to bad mgmt.
Live long and drink but wiyh moderation.

roadhouse writes:

Nothing better than a manually crafted brew. Unfortunately, the water in SW Florida is what will keep locally brewed beer from being other than mediocre.....

Watasha writes:

in response to roadhouse:

Nothing better than a manually crafted brew. Unfortunately, the water in SW Florida is what will keep locally brewed beer from being other than mediocre.....

You've watched too many Coors commercials.

Spock_is_logical writes:

Roadhouse. There are all kinds of water treatment technologies today. This is the 21st century! They can make water taste like wine.

Badge676 writes:

I own a brewery in Colorado. Whatever you do, don't use an extract or you're dead from the get-go. Set up at least a 10 bbl. brewery and you should be o.k. Just make sure you have room to expand without moving to another location. The feds will run you back through the whole process again. If you don't set it up as a brew/pub, so you can showcase your beers on site, and sell food to draw the customers in, your chances are slim. Have an attorney review any contract before you sign it. Unfortunatly, many distributors are being squeezed by Budweiser to tie up craft startups, then just let their product sit. Do you have the cash to offer incentives to the on-site salesmen so your beers can actually be found by the consumer? What advertising is the distributor offering you at no cost? My business runs over a million a year in sales. The expenses are huge. Kegs, that are on your dime, will regularly disappear. You can only charge about $50.00 deposit, but they're going to cost you an average of $105.00 each. Good luck and success, but research, research, research before you put all your marbles in the game.

jvic47 writes:

If the brew is tasty people will support you.Good luck!

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