Something big brewing in Tallahassee: Twice monthly craft beer column coming to Democrat
We all know that Tallahassee is Florida's capital city.
It's also home to the Capitol building.
And slowly but surely, we like to think it's beginning to become known as something else:
The Craft Capital.
Hi, everyone ... we're the Tallahassee Beer Society — and we're a group of guys and gals who think a LOT about our locally brewed craft beer. So much so, we formed an entire community centered around being the authority about just that.
So where did we come from? How did all this get started? Well, we'll get to that.
But for now, a request: We hope you'll tune in every other week to this column as we —the TLH Beer Society, as we're known in the streets — go around the "Brew Bend" and take you on a journey inside our local craft breweries.
Because there is truly something special brewing in Tallahassee right now. And we're all lucky enough to have a front-row bar stool for it.
OK, so let's walk back a second and clear something up: Maybe the Tallahassee craft beer scene, which is currently home to five brick-and-mortar breweries, has a way to go before it catches up to the reigning Florida craft beer kings. Places like Tampa, which has over 50 craft breweries to date, or Miami, or even Jacksonville have seen craft-beer scene explosions in recent years.
But Tallahassee's craft beer scene is growing ... and faster than anyone ever expected.
It all started in 2012 with the brewery we often refer to as Tallahassee's "OG Brewery:" Proof Brewing Company. They were first. They're still the biggest. And they are truly the Godfathers, so to speak, of this craft beer foundation on which the city is building.
Lake Tribe Brewing and GrassLands Brewing quickly followed, then Deep Brewing and Ology Brewing — the newest kids on the block — both opened in the last two years.
All five are high-quality breweries — breweries that are earning statewide, and national, recognition on a regular basis. They even received a special two-page spread in the most recent Visit Tallahassee Visitor's Guide released late last year.
That, to us, made it official: Tallahassee was now a craft beer destination.
So why all the sudden attention on TLH beer? Because the suds being brewed here, collectively, aren't just good.
The brewing industry is and always has been a grassroots movement. Tallahassee's story is no different. All five of our local breweries are diverse and eclectic, and each started from humble beginnings with the support of the community. And all five have emerged as great local staples, not just for craft beer in Tallahassee, but for the entire Florida region.
And it's because of this deliciousness that the Tallahassee Beer Society was born. Someone had to be responsible for keeping track of it all, right? To be the megaphone for the #DrinkLocal community? That's our role. And it's exciting to be a part of something special.
The Tallahassee Democrat thinks so too.
They're giving us this opportunity to regularly tell our local breweries' stories; what they're up to week-by-week; and what's coming down the pipeline next — from new beers, to local beer events, to collaborations with area food trucks, to news on expansions — and possibly even new breweries.
On that note, we also have two burgeoning breweries on the horizon you will be hearing more about soon. Fool's Fire Brewing produces small batches of goodness out of longtime Tallahassee craft beer fixture, Fermentation Lounge, which is located in the All Saints District. And Tally Brewing Company may be slinging its beers named after popular Tallahassee's streets before you know it. Stay tuned.
Now, we certainly aren't the first beer society in the state — we openly credit the Jacksonville Beer Society for giving us the idea to first start a Twitter account last July ... then a Facebook account ... and then an Instagram account.
Soon, like our craft breweries, the TLH Beer Society grew quickly. And now we have one of the biggest social media footprints in the state.
Because of this reach, we were able to make "Tallahassee Beer History" happen recently — and that's really what this introductory column is all about from here.
On Jan. 4, local Tallahassee software development company, Cuttlesoft, approached us with an idea.
And their idea was this: Get all five heads of Tallahassee's local breweries ... in one room ... to talk beer together ... for the first time ever.
We'd record it as part of Cuttlesoft's renowned podcast, Startup Capital, at the WFSU studios — and it'd be one of the marquee episodes in Season 3 set to release this Spring, per the direction of Cuttlesoft's Nick Farrell. Founded in 2016, Startup Capital is a podcast and editorial series telling the stories of Tallahassee entrepreneurship.
"No problem," we said.
So an email was sent to Proof owners Byron and Angela Burroughs; and GrassLands co-owners Gabe and Saralyn Grass; and Lake Tribe's Ross Family; and Deep's founder and head brewer Ryan LaPete; and to the brilliant "beer scientist" behind Ology's beer, Nick Walker.
The response from everyone came swiftly.
Fast forward to three weeks ago, and Tallahassee beer history went down. The first "Tallahassee Beer Summit" -- as we like to call it -- featured Byron, Gabe, Ryan, Nick and Jesse Ross (the head brewer at Lake Tribe) together in the studio talking the history, the current state and the future of Tallahassee beer.
And let us tell you, that history is rich, the present is on fire — and the future is even brighter.
Just ask Byron.
"Proof was originally the first craft beer bar in Tallahassee on West Tennessee Street, but my wife and I decided we were doing so much time brand building for these out-of-state brands. Florida brewing was really what needed help and really what needed to grow. And Tallahassee needed a brewery," he told Startup Capital podcast host Alissa McShane.
"So we opened up in our lower level in 2012 and started brewing on a three-barrel system, and we did about 500 barrels our first year. But we realized pretty quick that we needed to — just based on demand alone — expand out of that and began planning to open up the Railroad Square facility where we are now. We opened that in 2014, and that's grown 100% a year every year since."
You read that right: 100% growth. Every. Single. Year.
Proof's success has no doubt paved the way for everyone else to enjoy a piece of the craft beer pie in Tallahassee -- but all our craft beer breweries have also forged their own path. Not long after GrassLands opened their doors, they were winning medals and brewing collaborations with other Florida breweries.
Lake Tribe recently doubled its hours of operation and added to its giant outdoor deck space with a new fire pit next to its music stage. Deep started distributing all around the city just a year after it opened and it has pledged to release a new beer every week. And Ology has been an incredible addition to the Midtown bar and eatery scene, and they just announced an elaborate sour beer program called Juice Lab for 2018.
All the while, Proof's beer was the first to go into cans and into Tallahassee stores — and their famed stout, Creatures of the Dark, was recently named the No. 1 stout in America by Paste Magazine, which is widely considered the national craft beer authority.
All this and more was discussed on the Startup Capital podcast, and it's one that Cuttlesoft — and Tallahassee -- will surely be proud of when it airs.
"It's been amazing to watch Tallahassee's craft beer scene grow so quickly over the past few years. When we had the idea to bring all of the brewery founders together for an episode, we didn't realize that it had never been done before," Farrell said. "It was really cool to hear all of their stories, and learn more about the people behind the beer. Once edited down, this interview will paint a fascinating portrait of the brewing scene in Tallahassee."
Yes, it's an awesome time to be a craft beer drinker in Tallahassee, folks.
And we hope this column is the beginning of a beautiful friendship you'll come to develop with Tallahassee beer — if you haven't already.
Until next time, remember to drink local and support local.
That's what the Tallahassee Beer Society is all about.
Cheers to TLH Beer!