You know what's weird? Co-owner Saralyn and I have lived in Florida's capital since 2006 and I can count on one hand how many times I've actually been down at the Capitol Building, let alone visited either the House or Senate chambers. The building is such a constant in this town that you almost forget it's there...despite its importance. Unless you've got business with the state, you merely look at the Capitol as a means to an end (usually for me, it's an obstacle to drive around on my way to and from picking up ingredients) :)
Well, I promised that our political crusades would die down a bit after last week, and I've "kinda" kept that promise. For those of you who follow our FB page, I sincerely ask your forgiveness. No really - it's just that now we're THIS close to becoming an official member of the Florida craft community, seeing poorly written legislation that's extremely harmful to the craft industry, let alone small business and economic vitality, really has begun to get under our skin. There are so many things to get excited about in the craft beer environment that you almost forget about the industry's pitfalls...which are usually and unfortunately politically driven. Our page has had nearly a daily request for your activism - be it a request for you to email your house or senate representative with concerns over proposed legislation - but you know what? Your efforts absolutely made a difference! Case in point: Gabe and Scott's Excellent Adventure this past Monday afternoon.
So there we were - two (future) brewery owners looking to make an impact and testify before a House sub-committee on the benefits of craft brewing and the drawbacks of the ridiculous and (at the time) absolutely horrid HB1329 - AKA, the Craft Killa Billa. We pregamed with Josh Aubuchon, he of the Florida Brewers Guild. Man, this guy is sharp and we, as the craft brewing industry of Florida, are lucky to have someone of his caliber and passion working on our behalf.
Scott and I don't dress up that often. Okay - Scott does...I don't. Even when I'm supposed to be formally addressing Florida House Reps, I can't even find my way into a necktie for fear that I'll somehow strangle myself. But I digress - Scott and I get all dolled up to appear to testify in front of a House committee and blather on & on about how a shit bill like this will be extremely harmful to our business and metaphorically assassinate our buddies at Canopy Roads Brewing Company. No joke, we were ready fo' wo'. (for war, FYI). We joined forces with Ben from Intuition Ale Works, our good friend & supporter Jonathan from our local buddies at Proof Brewing Company, and new friends Rob & Jennifer from Fort Myers Brewing Company in a combined effort to unleash hell at 3:30 PM, EST, Monday, March 24th, 2014.
But to our surprise, Josh says: "No need, gents - we just want you to waive your time in support of this bill." What? Apparently, Representative Steube (sp?) thought the bill was so horri-bill (see what I did there?) that he removed ALL of its language and essentially replaced it with policy that was positive for the craft industry. Good right? Well, we had to go to be sure. Ready to testify if need be.
Long story short, we didn't need to. And perhaps that was a good thing - Scott and I had such an excellent political adventure that we totally got lost trying to find the dang room where these politicians were going to determine the fate of a bill that was initially total FUBAR, then replaced with cute, fluffy bunnies just itching at a chance to be the next internet meme sensation. At least we looked sharp-ish. What we found out: Monday was all about politics, baby. Ray Rodrigues introduced a crap bill that absolutely reeked with the stench of a thousand dirty diapers (aka: influence from big beer conglomerates), and he got indirectly spanked for it with a "strike-all" that removed all the bad words and replaced 'em with good ones. "Waive in support, Madam Chair!"
Larger implications - bills like HB1329 (house) and SPB7120 (senate) will likely die before they reach their respective chamber floors - while the more favorable bills introduced by pro-craft politicians (didn't know they existed, did ya?) will see the light of day...finally. Extremely interesting and insightful to watch how bills like this evolve and can turn on a dime, just like that.
One of the takeaways Scott and I both had was the fact that one of the House Reps (I forget his name) noted that he received over 160 unique emails (non duplicates...and more importantly, non-form emails - meaning the individual emailed the representative directly), that same week in opposition of the originally-written HB1329 text. We can only assume that several of them were from you, our dear readers! For that, we cannot emphasize how much it means for the industry and for a budding brewery like GrassLands Brewing Company. Whenever you feel like you don't have a voice...take our word for it - you absolutely do! This same politician was somewhat on the fence before in his perspective of the general Florida population's embracing of the craft industry - but that all changed because of you and people like you. Know how freakin' awesome that is? Trust me, it is.
Anyways, that's about the short & skinny of me and Scott's wacky trip to the Capitol. I'm sure it won't be our last...so we'll be ready to roll again when duty calls. It's just that important to us! Keep an eye out for these bills and the similar, even more craft-favorable, bills that have been already introduced. Doth my eyes deceive me? We're lookin' at 64oz growler fills in our future, folks! YES!
With that, we wish you an awesome weekend, my dear readers - because you most definitely deserve it! We're taking a Tallahassee pause and heading to Orlando for a hot minute...then we'll be back in action again! If you're in the philanthropic and/or good humor mood and want to get a taste of our beers, head on over to Ability 1st's event Saturday night and say hi to Scott and Andrew! They'll be pouring our Anhaica Florida Common and our Guacara Rye Saison! YES(x2)!