Tallahassee - A Rising Craft Beer Market?

As the college football season descends upon my hip town of Tallahassee, FL and the Seminole Nation gets totally nuts – I find myself thinking about craft beer markets and what makes regional breweries successful. The demographics of Tallahassee are unique among college football towns. Contrary to popular opinion, Tallahassee isn’t just Florida State. It’s Florida’s capital (thousands of state employees and legislative personnel – both young and old) and home to around 200,000 residents annually. As a resident of Tallahassee since 2006, it’s obvious that I take this location into consideration when thinking about GrassLands’ future home. But can it support a 10+ barrel production brewery? I’ll attempt to answer that as best I can.

By my count, there are two very active craft brewing operations that call Tallahassee home: Proof Brewing Co. and Momo’s Pizza Brewpub. For a while, there was zero craft brewing activity in Tallahassee save for the town’s two homebrewing clubs (North Florida Brewers League and Brewers of Anarchy). Recently, there’ve been a few rumors of breweries in planning (aside from GrassLands). Additionally, the market for craft beer has been inclusive more than exclusive as of late. Numerous breweries have worked within Florida’s three-tier distribution system to get into the Tallahassee market. I feel that Proof and Momo’s, in addition to a few other craft beer bars like Fermentation Lounge/Marketplace (Tallahassee’s best impression of Asheville’s Bruisin Ales), have really made an impact in adding to the popularity of craft beer in Tallahassee.

Proof started out as a liquor store right near the Florida State campus and owner Byron Burroughs eventually turned it into a craft beer bar/liquor store with a vision of one day making it a production brewery. As of just a few months ago, it now serves as Tallahassee’s only production brewery. I know the head brewer Larry and his stuff is no joke. Very good. Proof is a good example of making craft beer popular to demographics that typically drink American Lite Lagers (i.e. Bud Lite, Miller Lite, Coors Lite). Being so close to campus, a major segment of their market are 21 to 25-year olds. I feel old as hell sometimes when I enjoy some Proof brews. Proof (literally) that a craft beer market can be supported by people as young as 21.

Momo’s is a traditional brewpub. They already had a decent tap list at their northside location (in addition to some of the best pizza slices I’ve ever had), so when I found out that longtime homebrewers John and Sara were going to begin brewing onsite, I knew it’d be successful. John and Sarah make some seriously awesome beers and it’s hard to get any better than pairing what they make with Momo’s pizza. I’ve heard rumblings that Momo’s near-campus location is going to produce beer as well. That’d be freakin’ awesome too.

So what am I getting at? It would appear that Tallahassee has potential in the craft beer market. It certainly has its challenges - a sub 500,000 population, for example – but the community embraces the city very well. Tallahassee is striving to become the state’s next version of Austin, TX or Asheville, NC…somewhat smaller, yet extremely vibrant cities. There are a ton of bars and restaurants in Tallahassee in addition to much larger markets that aren’t too far away (i.e. Jacksonville, Panama City/Pensacola, Orlando, Atlanta).

Given this, I feel that Tallahassee can support not just one major production brewery, but numerous. It’s in a good spot – one where people's general interest (and taste) for craft beer is on the rise combined with an influx of young professionals and a chamber of commerce that is heavily involved in making Tallahassee much more than FL’s capital. When people think of Florida, they tend to not really think about the panhandle as much as places like Jacksonville, Orlando & Miami. Because of this, I think that Tallahassee can really make an impact in its own community and region – and a craft brewing presence can further that impact. If you haven't been paying attention, it’s already started.

Tallahassee is certainly on my short-list of locations to make GrassLands a reality. I’ve definitely got a soft spot for FL’s capital and only time will tell, I suppose. While the GrassHoppers are in full force with their reviews and I'm in R&D mode, I’ve got plenty of time to roll GrassLands’ future markets around. Regardless, keep your eyes open for Tallahassee, big things are certainly on the horizon for Florida’s capital.

Tonight, batches #2 and #3 of Le Roi Rouge will be dryhopped with 2 oz of Cascade hops and should be ready to bottle in about two weeks! Exciting stuff on the way, and I’m so thankful to have you guys along for the ride! With that, I’ll leave you all for now. Next week, we’ll talk Brewfest Tallahassee! Enjoy your (long) weekend, dear readers – you deserve it.