Several weeks ago while on vacation in South West Florida I had the opportunity to visit Naples Beach Brewery and meet its owner Will Lawson. I enjoyed my visit at Naples Beach Brewery and talking with Will so much that I thought it would great to learn more about Naples Beach Brewery and the craft beer scene in South West Florida. If you want a break from the beach in the Naples area jump over in your car and take the short journey to Naples Beach Brewery.
Will, how did you get into the Craft Beer Business?
My journey to the craft beer business began by being a craft beer consumer. I started drinking great craft beers from my home state of Michigan in my early twenties. After moving to SWFL in 2003 I quickly realized there were very few craft beer options down here at that time. I picked up home brewing as a way to access those beer styles I was used to drinking back home. I developed a love for the brewing process and the science behind beer making which was the driving force behind my career change to professional brewing.
Will, you completed the brewing curriculum at the Siebel Institute of Chicago. Would you recommend that other people who want to open a brewery take this program?
I would strongly recommend that people who are interested in brewing on a professional level or owning a brewery get some kind of professional brewery training/formal education. I was fortunate in that I was able to get both as my Siebel Institute credential paved the way for employment at a small brewery. In an increasingly competitive industry it is important to have a solid foundation to build from.
I had a chance to visit you and your brewery recently and sample some of your beers which were all great. What is your most popular beer at this time?
Our flagship beer Weizen is still our most popular brand. Our Pale Ale and Classic Ale have both done very well for us also. Our newest brand IPA has developed a strong following in a short period of time which I feel shows our craft beer consumer here in SWFL is developing a more seasoned palate.
Will, you are currently in the process or expanding your brewery space. Can you tell us more about what the new brewery will have and when it will be open?
We are in the process of building out an additional 4500 sqft which will house a completely new brewery operation. We have purchased a new 15 barrel brewhouse along with 15 and 30 barrel cellar tanks. The new brewery will also have a small tasting area designated for customers to enjoy our beers while they view the equipment and other parts of the operation. The new brewery will also have a gift shop/store where visitors can purchase swag and prepackaged beer to take home. We plan to have the new brewery on line by September 2015.
Naples Beach Brewery beers are available at the brewery for tasting and growler fills and on draft at local restaurants. Do you have plans to bottle/can your beer?
We are going to purchase a canning machine to be installed in our new brewing facility. We plan to put as many of our brands in to cans for sale out of our brewery store. We would also like to can at least two of our more popular brands for sale through some of our local retail outlets.
What is craft beer scene like in South West Florida currently?
The craft beer scene down here is alive and well. We opened in November 2012 as the first brewery in SWFL. There are now 6 breweries operating in SWFL with as many as 5 more in the planning stages. It is easy to see the industry growth here locally when you look at how much more craft beer is being sold at the retail level whether it be in the grocery stores, liquor stores, specialty stores, restaurants, bars etc.
Will, if you could have a dream six pack what six beers would be in your dream six pack?
Great question. Most of the time my list would be influenced by time, place, setting, the company I’m amongst, etc. There are so many great beers out there. A generalized six would be: Bells Hop Slam, Founders KBS, Boulevard Tank 7, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine, Orval, Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter.
Will, if you could be a cast member of any TV Show in the last 20 years what show would you be on and why?
ESPN’s Sportscenter! I’m a huge sports fan and have without doubt watched more of that show in my life than any other program. I can’t complain because making beer for a living is great fun but to sit around and get paid to talk about sports all day… now that’s living the dream.
If you would like to learn more about Will Lawson and his brewery Naples Beach Brewery you can find more on the website http://www.naplesbeachbrewery.com/home