Drink Local Florida Blog

What does it Mean to Drink Local?

Drink Local T-shirtWhat makes a local craft beer? Admittedly, it’s somewhat of a gray area, but it’s an important point to address. This website was created to list every local brewery, distillery, cidery, meadery and winery in the Sunshine state, but what does “local” mean? It's not the same for everybody.  

In general, if the beer, wine or spirits are actually made here in the state of Florida, that establishment will be listed. The reasoning behind this is that if the beer is made here then it is employing people who live in Florida who spend much of that income locally and contribute to our state’s economy. This is why even Yuengling is listed on our brewery list pages. They are headquartered in Pennsylvania and privately owned by people who live there, but they have a large brewery in Tampa.

Several breweries listed on this website may not fit your definition of “local.” I’m not here to bash big beer, but given the forced closure of restaurants and breweries (except for to-go sales) due to COVID-19 until at least the end of April, I’ve put more thought into my purchase decisions. It is important to me, during this tough and uncertain time, to directly patronize the independent, small craft breweries. I’m not hating on the big guys, but they are much more likely to make it out of this mess when we get to the other side.

With that in mind, I wanted to write about several Florida breweries owned partially or in whole by “big beer.” I enjoy a lot of beers from these breweries, but I know I’ll be able to buy them months and years down the road. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for many of the smaller breweries in Florida with the same degree of certainty.

Take Funky Buddha for example. What started as a local craft brewery in the Ft. Lauderdale area is now owned by Constellation Brands (STZ), a publicly traded Fortune 500 company that owns major beer brands like Corona, Modelo and Ballast Point.

Concrete Beach Brewing Lager by the pool I’m not trying to single anyone out here. Cigar City Brewing in Tampa was acquired by a private equity firm to form an LLC of five major craft breweries, including Oskar Blues (Dale’s Pale Ale), as an investment fund.

Concrete Beach Brewery in Miami was founded and still owned by a subsidiary of the publicly traded Boston Beer Company (SAM), makers of Sam Adams, who more recently acquired Dogfish Head.

 Are you ready for this one? Craft Brew Alliance, Inc. (BREW) owns 24.5 percent of Wynwood Brewing Company in the Miami area. Other brands they own include Kona and Redhook Ale. AB-InBev (BUD), the Belgian company that acquired Anheuser Busch, owns a 32.2 percent stake in Craft Brew Alliance. AB-InBev is attempting to purchase the remaining stake in Craft Brew Alliance, but this acquisition is still being reviewed by the Department of Justice.

Because CBA owns about one-quarter of Wynwood and AB-InBev currently owns about one-third of CBA, AB-InBev owns nearly 8 percent of Wynwood Brewing. Another way of thinking of it is CBA owns 16.5 percent of Wynwood while AB-InBev owns about 8 percent and Wynwood Brewing still retained 75.5 percent ownership. If the AB-InBev acquisition of Craft Brew Alliance is allowed, they would then own 24.5 percent of Wynwood Brewing.

Veza Sur Spanglish LagerInterestingly, Wynwood Brewing is directly competing with Veza Sur Brewery, a newer brewery in the Wynwood area that was formed and wholly owned by AB-InBev.

Lastly, Florida Beer Company was acquired by a Trinidadian conglomerate that also owns Carib Brewery and is licensed to brew exports for Heineken, Guinness and others.

All of these are included in our lists of Florida breweries, and I believe they should be. As long as the beer is still made here, it employs people in the industry and gives consumers more choice. The profit might roll up to people who don’t live in Florida, including shareholders of the publicly traded companies all over the world. Of courses many Floridians own equity shares of these companies as well.

Our definitions of local may be different, but we don’t want to mislead on what a local beer is. That decision, and which beers you buy, is ultimately up to you. Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder. And if it is important to you, then look for the Independent Craft Brewery logo. I love Cigar City beers and beers from others discussed above. I will continue to buy those beers in the future, but for the time being will only buy direct from my local microbreweries.

I’m writing about this because I believe most people do not know the full extent of “big beer” in the local craft beer scene. Use this knowledge for both your personal consumption decisions and possibly investment decisions. Public ownership of breweries isn’t entirely a bad thing. You could purchase stock in Constellation Brands, Boston Beer Company and/or Craft Beer Alliance who each own (ranging from partial to full ownership) Florida craft breweries. This means you can own a small piece of equity in these breweries too.

Posted: April 4, 2020