In a never-ending quest to provide the best beverage solutions to customers and maintain a total beverage portfolio, Cone Distributing (Team Cone) is excited to announce the addition of fermented spirits from the Brookstone Distilling Company – a subsidiary of the Sazerac Company. “We are happy to bring a product like fermented spirits into our distribution footprint to satisfy customer requests for products like these,” says Charlie Ingrilli, Team Cone’s Vice President of Sales. “As great new products like these emerge, Team Cone is thrilled to bring them to our customers.”
These fermented spirits will be available for purchase the week of October 8th, 2018 through Team Cone account managers.
What is a fermented spirit?
Fermented spirits are those alcoholic beverages that reach up to 42 proof (21% ABV) and are available for purchase in grocery/convenience stores in addition to bars and restaurants. These products are produced in a manner similar to spirits, but the alcohol they contain is from grape fermentation rather than distillation. For retailers, this means that fermented spirits can be sold without a full liquor license. For consumers, this means that the flavor of national brands of alcohol will be available in grocery and convenience stores without a separate trip to the liquor store.
Which fermented spirits can you expect?
Team Cone will be rolling out three beverages as of October 8th, with expanded offerings to follow:
Stroyski – 42 proof (21% ABV) – No drink is more closely associated with Russia than vodka (translated from a Russian word meaning “little water”). Since it was first produced in Russia back in the mid-fifteenth century, vodka has become one of the most commonly consumed spirits in the world. Much of vodka’s popularity is due to its neutral flavor, making it the perfect addition to any cocktail. We have sought to capture this classic characteristic with Stroyski. Stroyski’s clean, neutral flavor is perfect for mixing in a variety of classic and creative cocktails.
Vera Cruz -42 proof (21% ABV) – Named after a small town in the state of Jalisco, tequila is a Mexican staple that has been enjoyed around the world for generations. Its origins, however, stretch back even further to the old days of pre-Columbian Mexico, when indigenous people consumed alcohol fermented from the agave plant. Vera Cruz Reserva Especial embodies the unique taste that made tequila famous, and the essence of old Mexico itself. With Vera Cruz, superb south of the border cocktails have never been easier to enjoy.
Flash Point -42 proof (21% ABV) – No matter what you’re celebrating, the party can’t start without a little something to set it off. That’s where Flash Point Cinnamon comes in. With a red-hot cinnamon flavor and a unique formula, you can heat things up to just the right temperature without burning out too early.
About Sazerac Company The Sazerac Company was founded in 1850 and has grown to become the largest American producer of distilled spirits in the world. The company is headquartered in New Orleans and makes such well-known spirits as Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Skol Vodka, and Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey. Sazerac is a family-owned American company that has doubled in size every five years for the last 35 years. The Sazerac Company continues its mission as a values-driven trend-setter in the world of distilled spirits.
About Cone Distributing Founded by Douglas P. Cone, Jr. in 1985, Cone Distributing (Team Cone) began business with selling five brands of beer in four rural counties. Less than two years later, the company began expanding territory and suppliers and has not stopped since, building the largest geographic footprint in the state for a Florida beer distributor. Today Team Cone sells beer from over 40 suppliers in 22 Florida counties from a state-of-the-art facility in Ocala and a facility in Tallahassee. Cone Distributing’s goal is to operate a World Class company, distinguishing itself by doing the Right Thing the Right Way All the Time.
South Florida’s Funky Buddha Brewery is to the beer world what Willie Wonka was to the universe of confections – a place where culinary dreams become reality. In a recent interview, Funky Buddha co-founders Ryan and KC Sentz say that they derive some inspiration from culinary sources, always looking for bold flavors from exceptional ingredients. Ryan says that he is fascinated by the flavor profiles of foods like these and he is always thinking about trying to make beers that taste like his favorite cocktails, pastries, or creations.
Here are a few of the culinary-inspired creations of Funky Buddha Brewery:
German Chocolate Cake:Save Some Room for Later (8.8% ABV) At the core of many Funky Buddha beers is the heart of a dessert-lover. Save Some Room for Later starts off as an imperial brown ale but gets layer upon layer of coconut and chocolate. This masterpiece of confection is best shared with friends or sampled with dark chocolate, as it contains multitudes of confectionery flavors.
Marshmallow Squares:Sticky Treats (5.1% ABV) Funky Buddha did not stop with chocolate cake, another staple of childhood – the marshmallow square – also pours from Funky Buddha taps. This beer starts off with a blonde ale that contains rice and then has layers of vanilla for the sweet tooth. Four beers in a pack just might not be enough!
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches:No Crusts (6.4% ABV) Ryan says that No Crusts was the most challenging beer recipe on his tap list. Between balancing the blend of flavors and using the best ingredients, Ryan admits that No Crusts was an Everest that he had to scale. Once he got the blend right though, Ryan knew that he was on to something, and No Crusts has built a cult following, turning heads and amazing taste buds ever since.
Key Lime Pie:Key Lime Pie Tart (5% ABV) This light(er) bodied beer continues the exploration of dessert flavors. The brewery adds key lime juice, cinnamon, and vanilla to a tart wheat beer and what emerges is the liquid version of the trademark Floridian tart treat. The only bad part of this beer is that it is only available in the summer season.
Bacon:Maple Bacon Coffee Porter (6.4% ABV) The beer that brought Funky Buddha Brewery its first national and international attention, according to Ryan. Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, or MBCP, fascinated beer drinkers with the layers of flavor in one glass and begged the question “how’d they do that?” This beer is released yearly at Maple Bacon Coffee Porter day at the brewery and usually makes its way into distribution around Florida.
Which of these beers are you most excited to try? Head over to our Beer Page to find out more about the funky creations of this South Florida brewery!
The origins of Funky Buddha Brewery begin when Ryan Sentz, aspiring homebrewer and entrepreneur, purchased the R & R Tea Bar and Funky Buddha Lounge in 2006. This small and unassuming space would give south Floridians a place to smoke a tobacco hookah, enjoy tea and libations and listen to open mic nights on a very small stage. “The facility was only 700 square feet,” Sentz remembers. “It was enough for a few people and an open mic night.”
Ryan was already inspired by craft beer, and he had been brewing on and off for ten years with homebrew kits. “I loved craft beer,” Ryan admits. “I was the guy whenever I traveled, I had to go to different stores to see what beers we didn’t have in Florida. Back then it was a very different beer scene in Florida.” Ryan’s love of Florida and diverse styles of beer drove him to action.
Ryan had worked with the original owner of R & R Tea Bar to bring in craft beer to the lounge by putting together a small bottle list. In 2007, Ryan decided that he wanted to help the beer scene as a bar owner, so he bought the bar. As the new owner of R & R Tea Bar and Funky Buddha Lounge, Ryan brought in a wider selection of bottles and brought in draft beer. “We quickly got known as the best craft beer bar because we were the only craft beer bar,” Ryan recalls. “When craft beer started getting popular, we would never had survived if we had just been craft beer, because we were in a 700-square foot place. We did hookahs and teas and that paid the bills because there were not a lot of craft beer drinkers.”
This was the birth of Funky Buddha Brewery – and one of Florida’s most recognizable brewery names did not come from the depths of the founders’ minds or their religious affiliations. Instead, the name comes from the name of the business that Ryan bought. He just dropped the name “R & R Tea Bar.” “Basically, the previous owner bought the business and the name came with it. He was lazy and didn’t want to pay to change the sign. But he liked the name ‘Funky Buddha Lounge.’ When I bought it, I was not going to pay for a sign with such a long name – I got rid of the ‘R & R Tea Bar’ and just kept the Funky Buddha Lounge.
Turning heads towards Funky Buddha
It was not long before the tiny lounge needed more space. The move to a bigger space in 2009 would be a fortuitous one – this space had some extra room for brewing. “There was a slightly bigger spot in the plaza,” Ryan remembers. “My business partner at the time thought it would be cool if we put in a small brewing system. We had no thoughts of opening a brewery, it was just something that we liked to do.” In 2010, the new spot opened on Federal Highway in Boca Raton with a tiny brewing system behind the lounge, allowing Sentz to tap and serve Funky Buddha beers to patrons. “That’s when people got really hungry for craft beer in South Florida right around that time, and we were doing a lot of weird stuff that no one else was doing at that time.” The move to the lounge & brewery also coincided with the release of the beer that would bring Funky Buddha international attention: Maple Bacon Coffee Porter. “People would take our beer and trade it all over the country and all over the world,” Says Ryan. “We started getting invites to do festivals outside of Florida. It was weird for us. We were brewing 30 gallons of beer at a time. From there we started doing these festivals, and Maple Bacon Coffee Porter took off.”
Before the Funky Buddha had celebrated their first anniversary, they had made one of the most sought-after beers in the world in Maple Bacon Coffee Porter.
People were amazed by these combinations of flavors and how smokey bacon flavors could be present in a beer, especially since no version of the beer uses actual bacon. “We would go to these festivals out of the state and we would have the longest lines,” Ryan says. “We would pour beers like Maple Bacon Coffee Porter and we also had No Crusts peanut-butter-and-jelly beer, and Bonita Applebaum apple pie beer, and no one had ever heard of us. That happened at Extreme Beer Fest in Boston, Brewvival in Charleston, and The Great American Beer Festival in Denver.” Overwhelmed as he was, Ryan wanted both to expand the brewery and to get someone to help him operate it.
Ryan’s brother, KC Sentz, then stepped into the picture to provide the assistance that Ryan was seeking. “KC and I wanted to open a business together, and I knew that I couldn’t do this on my own. So we started talking, and KC joined on in 2011-2012, and we began working on our larger production brewery in Oakland Park.”
Funky Buddha Lounge opened its doors in 2006. The title “and Brewery” was added three years later. From opening the doors of Funky Buddha Lounge and Brewery to opening the doors of the current Funky Buddha Brewery was another three years. In total, six years passed between the opening of the tiny Funky Buddha Lounge to opening the current Funky Buddha Brewery.
Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park opened in 2013. One of the interior’s most notable features was the mural on the wall quoting fictional flavor king Willy Wonka, an appropriate allusion to the wonderful beers that propelled Funky Buddha Brewery to their acclaimed status. From their production facility, Sentz and his funky team were able to make beers in 30-barrel (945 gallon) batches – a massive increase from the 1-barrel (31.5 gallon) batches that they produced at the Funky Buddha Lounge & Brewery.
Where do they get such wonderful toys?
Where did the idea for a peanut-butter-and-jelly beer come from? “I hate to say it,” says Ryan. “But it seemed obvious to me. There were flavors that we liked and would have liked to see in beer. There were a few other breweries that were doing similar flavors – there was a chocolate beer that tasted like chocolates and other culinary-inspired beers, and I gravitated towards that.” Ryan says that he gravitated towards culinary-inspired beers and worked to make beers that did the same. “Even though .0005% of the breweries were doing stuff like that – that’s what I liked.” Ryan just brewed the beers that he wanted to drink and the drinking public seemed to like them, too. “So, I brewed not necessarily thinking that this was going to be the master plan, to blow up and people would pay attention, but I brewed the beers that I was running to the festivals for. This is what I wanted to try.” His preference toward culinary beers led him to the dessert menu, but there were not many other beers that had these flavors, Ryan says. “I could try a million IPAs, but no one was doing an apple pie beer.”
The timelessness of Funky Buddha’s beers continues today. “The same beers that were popular at the lounge are the ones that are popular today,” Ryan says. “Maple Bacon Coffee Porter is still hugely popular. Our Nib Smuggler Chocolate Porter is a great one for us.
Bob’s Backyard is still a great beer for us.” The beer is named for a Funky Buddha customer, Bob, who had mangoes in his backyard. He brought them to the brewery for beer-making and the beer named itself. Ryan continues, “In the beginning we weren’t going too crazy with IPAs and lagers, we got known for our porters and imperial stouts and did lots of crazy stuff with those.”
With such a myriad of flavors, what could possibly come next for this funky bunch? Ryan says that he draws inspiration from unlikely sources like grocery stores, cooking shows, and cocktails. Ryan admits, “I love making cocktails at home – my wife’s Brazillian, so I was looking up Brazillian cocktails and I had one with cachaça – Brazillian rum. It had passion fruit, coconut, and milk.” His mind went to work translating this into beer. “I immediately thought ‘I have an imperial cream ale in rum barrels! I’m going to add passionfruit and flaked coconut to this. It was one of my favorite beers we’ve done in a while.”
When asked what beer challenges him the most, Ryan doesn’t hesitate: No Crusts. “I couldn’t figure out how to get the peanut flavor just right without destroying the head or having infection issues.” Playing alchemist to all of the flavors and nuances of the beer took time and Ryan was trying to make other beers, too. “Many of the beers like Maple Bacon Coffee Porter might have been right the first time that we made them. No Crusts definitely took a while.” As Ryan figured out the formula for his peanut-butter-and-jelly beer, the beer made sporadic appearances, developing a cult following that always wanted to know when the beer would be available.
The question of the beer’s availability drove people crazy, Ryan remembers. The secret to making the beer is simpler than everyone thought, Ryan confesses: “We’d make No Crusts whenever Publix had a sale on peanuts.” While the beer’s fans were busy trying to figure out the rhyme and reason of its production, the real reason was simply a pragmatic one. “I would go and send all of my employees to different Publix stores and have them buy a cart full of peanuts. My wife would have a cart full of them, and all of our employees would have carts full of them, and we know that when Publix does a buy-one-get-one-free sale on peanuts, it was everywhere, so we would just get everyone and go shopping. We’d say ‘We’re doing No Crusts!’ And our employees would know what to do. There was no calendar, it would just happen when peanuts would go on sale.”
Ryan says that despite growing Funky Buddha Brewery to its current size and having distribution in multiple states, one of the biggest challenges is keeping people’s attention in such a diverse beer market. “Our biggest challenge now,” Ryan admits, “is having so many breweries in the market. We have a tough time getting people to stay loyal to a brand. I think that the consumer is getting to the point that they don’t want to drink a million beers, they want to find a good beer and stick to it. The trick is getting the retailers to follow that.” Long gone are the days when one brewery could sustain several cities or an entire county. Ryan says that one of the ways that Funky Buddha Brewery is trying to differentiate itself is by showing the community that they care about their products and about what the community wants. “We are trying to educate the public and show them that we care about what we do,” Ryan asserts. “A lot of money goes back into the lab and testing and reformulating.” Being a great brewery is more than putting out great beer, Ryan has learned. Each area and territory is different and has different wants and needs. “It’s also challenging now that we’re opening up new markets and we’re going out of state and we’re trying to find each market’s needs and wants. Just because Floridian is doing great in Florida, does not mean it’s going to do great in Virginia. So, understanding each market as we expand is a challenge.”
With all that Funky Buddha Brewery has achieved combined with the frenetic pace of the beer industry, it is easy for the crew to lose sight of how far they have come. KC admits that, “A lot of times, we don’t stop and celebrate our victories, we just move onto the next thing because we need to keep up with everything else that’s going on. We’re proud of how far we’ve come so quickly. It’s incredible to think that we’ve been at this for five years and we’re in seven states.”What started as Ryan Sentz tinkering around with culinary beers has transformed into a brewery making 45,000 barrels of beer annually. Then in 2017, Funky Buddha Brewery was acquired by Constellation Brands, owners of Ballast Point Brewing Company and makers of Corona and Modelo brands of beer. KC admits that the brewery staff sometimes forgets how far they have come and the international attention they have attracted. “What we as a team have been able to do in five short years has been nothing short of astounding. Then to be recognized by some of the leaders of the world in the beer industry and for them to ask us to join their team has been pretty cool.” Ryan is confident that the beer will continue to improve because of “better lab equipment and access to resources.” KC is glad that “Ryan can come up with new recipes and improve on what we have. I can confidently say that our beer is better than it’s ever been. That, to me, is a cool feeling and I am confident every time the beer goes out the door, that it’s going to stay good and stay fresh and we just didn’t have that luxury before.”
KC and Ryan both see the resonance that their beer has throughout their distribution area and they attribute that success to the way their beer fits into people’s lives. “I think another reason why we have been so successful is that we don’t do what we do for marketing purposes,” Ryan says. “We’re not going to do beers because they’re the kinds of beers that sell. We do the beers that we liked and ones that we were passionate about, and people responded to it.” KC is very up front about where inspirations come from. “We like music and we like sports,” he says. “You see a lot of our beers draw their inspiration from music and from sports. Throw in a few ‘80s movies in there and you have us,” he laughs. KC points to the brewery’s newest offering, Vibin’ lager as an example. “Vibin’ is about music – we love music, we want to do more music venues, more concerts, more sports venues because that is who we are.”
Ryan says that one of his favorite feelings is drinking his beer at concert and sports venues. “I remember the first time we watched a Dolphins game at the stadium, and I was drinking my own beer – that was cool.”
Through all of the wins and learning opportunities that the brewery has seen, both brothers agree that the one thing that moves Funky Buddha Brewery forward is the people. Ryan says that he and his brother “have been very fortunate to keep a core team of great people. Even through the acquisition, just to have everyone happy and able to keep pushing forward, that is one of our greatest successes.”
As the season of summer comes to an end on the calendar, Labor Day offers one last chance to get together with friends and family at the pool, the beach, the river, or the park before September and October rattle through into winter time and relatively cooler temperatures. In preparation for those final pool parties, beach days, picnics, and tubing sessions, choosing the right beer can make Labor Day shindigs that much better and brighter. The right ale or lager can add depth and complexity to any dish and the Labor Day cookout is no exception.
Here are a few ideas for Labor Day beers that can endure the Florida sun and keep the party going:
For the Grillmasters:Samuel Adams Oktoberfest (5.3% ABV) The toasty malt in this amber-colored lager will be enough to match flavors with burgers, dogs, and pulled pork while maintaining a relatively low alcohol content. Try one with your favorite bacon cheeseburger, slider, or sausage and see how many layers of flavor this beer really shows.
For the Football fans:Coppertail BrewingIndependent Pilsner (5.5% ABV) College football is finally kicking off for the season – watch parties and football days are back. Why spoil these events with inter-team rivalries? Tampa’s Coppertail Brewing has a beer that doesn’t take sides! Independent Pilsner is light in body but with a touch of hops and a clean finish. And those tater tots, nachos, or jalapeño poppers? Independent Pilsner will not get in the way of any savory halftime snack.
For the Pool partiers:Dogfish Head SeaQuench (4.9% ABV) For those who want to get a few days poolside, SeaQuench has you covered. This beer is a hybrid of three light-bodied styles of beer and has a citrus presence and touch of salt. Those of who might like a low-country boil and/or cedar-plank salmon are in luck also – SeaQuench was specifically designed to pair with seafood.
For the Beachgoers and boaters:Swamp Head BreweryHydroslide Kolsch (4.9% ABV) For those who’re looking to get in touch with mother nature in the motorboat, canoe, kayak, or water shoes, Gainesville’s own Swamp Head Brewery’s summer classic Hydroslide Kolsch is made for weekends like this. Dry-hopped for aroma, this light-bodied ale will quench a thirst and go well with virtually any picnic or cookout food.
For the Bonfire/ Mallow roasters:Abita Brewing’s Purple Haze (4.2% ABV) While some insist that a s’more has to be roasted over a campfire, the oppressive heat of Florida summer cannot be understated. Whether you decide to roast marshmallows outside or make indoor s’mores in the oven, try some chocolate and sweetness with Abita Brewing’s Purple Haze. This wheat lager has an addition of raspberries added to it so that anything sweet and chocolatey will gain the berry flavor. So basic chocolate s’mores become raspberry chocolate s’mores. Chocolate bars become raspberry chocolate bars, and so on.
To find these fine ales and lagers, please click over to our Beer Finder.
Cheers to Labor Day, football season kicking off, and enjoying a day with friends and family. Please enjoy the day and enjoy it responsibly.
Lake City’s Halpatter Brewing Company became one of Florida’s youngest distributing breweries when they signed with Team Cone in August of 2018. The brewery came to fruition in December 2018, the work of three aspiring homebrewers, their families, and the beer-loving community that surrounds them.
When brothers-in-law Chris Candler and Jeremy Gable decided that they would make their own beer, they did not foresee the beginnings of Lake City’s first craft brewery – their only goal was to make great beer and share it with friends. Candler, who had lived in Lake City for 22 years, and his brother in law who lived in Saint Petersburg began conversing over a few beers. Those brewing sessions led the two friends to debate the merits of opening their own beer-making operation. Those talks led to speculation and planning what they would do if they were to open one. “We found that over a relatively short period of time, we were making pretty decent homebrew,” Chris remembers. “The story goes that Jeremy and I came up with the name ‘Halpatter Brewing’ in 2013 with no intention of opening a brewery. It was a joke. We never thought it would happen.” Chris and Jeremy knew that opening and running any business would be challenging, since Chris has been in the world of small business for 25 years. Jeremy’s skills as a graphic designer would be an asset to the brewery, but the guys would procrastinate on taking any action. For the brewery to work, the duo would require someone with more brewing experience. Unbeknownst to Chris and Jeremy, that someone was already brewing in Lake City at that very moment.
The missing piece
Fate intervened in the creation of Halpatter Brewing when one day, Chris opened a local magazine that wrote a story about accomplished Lake City native and homebrewer Jonny Frazier. “We actually met Jonny out of the blue in 2015,” Chris recalls. “At the time, I was sitting in my garage brewing by myself, and I saw there was another homebrewer in town.” Chris first wanted to meet up and brew with Jonny and was more interested in a kindred spirit to brew with than a head brewer for Halpatter Brewing. “I called him up and asked him, ‘Let’s just get together and brew,’” Chris says of his first talk with Jonny. “That was in May. We brewed twice with Jonny and we knew that we had to make the brewery a reality. By October, we were working on starting the brewery. He [Jonny] was the missing piece to the puzzle.” Halpatter Brewing now had a trio of founders, each lending their specific talents to the business.
Jonny Frazier may have been the third member of the Halpatter Brewing founders, but he also brought brewing experience and knowledge from his previous job as an automation engineer. “Jonny built the brewery’s brewing system himself. He did all of the welding, all of the programming – all himself,” explains Chris. “We use a fully-automated batch-processing seven-barrel brewing system. Jonny built it all with touch-screen automation – touch a button and it will brew a batch of beer and it will hold temperature within half a degree.” But Jonny didn’t stop at the brewing system. “Jonny also built our keg washer, our grain mill, and so much of the equipment.” From the time he started, Jonny Frazier’s impact on Halpatter Brewing Company went beyond simply brewing the beer.
Success before opening
In February 2016, Halpatter Brewing Company poured at their first beer festival and that was the moment the trio knew this venture was destined for success. “We had 1,000 people turn out to the first craft beer festival here in town,” says Chris.“We had said that if the craft beer festival went well, then we would know we have a market in Lake City and we’ll pull the trigger on the brewery and go for it.” Well, the festival went very well, and the festival-goers loved Halpatter’s beer and the idea of a Lake City craft brewery. From there, Chris likens the brewery’s momentum to a “wagon full of rocks rolling downhill. We couldn’t have stopped it if we wanted to.” Before they even opened, the brewery had close to 3,000 fans on Facebook. “We have been very blessed with the community being behind us on this thing in a big way.”
Make the building into a brewery
Once the founding trio found a home for the brewery, Halpatter Brewing Company started renovations and construction in June of 2017 and opened in December 1st of 2017.
The home that the guys found for Halpatter Brewing Company solidified the brewery as one of the premier hangout spots in Lake City, and also allowed the brewery to save a piece of local history. “We have become the gathering spot in Lake City where people come and hang out,” says Chris. Part of that reputation is based on the location and building the owners chose for the brewery. The building itself was constructed in 1939 and completed in 1940 as Lake City’s city hall and had been repurposed for several other uses. The building was sitting dormant and the brewery saved the building from possibly being torn down. Much of the original building is still intact; the brewery only blew out one wall and the bones of the building are mostly intact. Chris, Jeremy, and Jonny then added a few more local touches to the tasting room: all of the metal accents are old fire escapes from the Blanche Hotel in Lake City (the hotel is currently under renovation to turn it into condominiums, so the guys were allowed to go in and pull out all of the fire escapes and repurpose them into tables).
Who was “Halpatter”?
Chris says that he and Jeremy were deliberate in their choice of brewery names. “The name of the brewery comes from the Seminole chief Halpatter Tustenuggee, that means ‘Warrior Chief Alligator,’ and he and his group were the first settlers in this area,” Chris says of the brewery’s namesake. These settlers lived right at the base of Lake DeSoto, which sits one block away from the brewery. There’s a sign in town that says that this is the site of the original settlement of Alligator Village. After the white settlers came to town, the area was renamed Lake City by the Florida Legislature in 1864.
Chris has researched the city’s history and is excited for the brewery to take part in Lake City’s future. “Lake City was the fourth largest metropolitan area in Florida at one point,” Chris says. “There are two active railroad lines that come through Lake City – one north and south and one east and west. We were where everybody stopped. Back in the 1920s, we were bigger than Miami. When the interstate came in, the growth just went elsewhere.” Downtown Lake City is growing, too. I’d like to think that we’re helping to bring 750-1000 unique guests into the town each week. We’re seeing a huge rebirth in downtown Lake City. I’m proud to be a part of that, if not a tour de force in helping build that.
Bringing Lake City into the beer
Part of Lake City’s proud past is brought to light by the brewery’s choice of beer names, Chris is proud to say. Every one of the beers in Halpatter’s “Starting Lineup” has a tie to local history.
O’Leno Cream Ale is Halpatter Brewing’s lightest beer and is named for the town of O’Leno, which is now a state park.
Old School Session IPA is named for the roots of the University of Florida, which has roots in Lake City.
Seymour Finn’s Irish Red “Truman Seymour and Joseph Finnegan were the commanding generals at the Battle of Olustee, the largest Civil War battle fought in Florida, which happened about 20 miles east of here,” says Chris.
Big Hal Imperial Brown is a dry-hopped American Brown Ale which tells the story of Halpatter Tustenuggee.
Sixteen Springfields DIPA – Tells the story of sixteen rifles that were thrown into that lake after the Civil War and were recovered. “We’re working on getting one of them to display at the brewery,” Chris says.
The biggest problem is success
Chris recalls opening day and the work that came afterward. “When we first opened, the reception was crazy.” Chris says that the brewery’s tasting room sold more than two times the amount of beer that he had projected. The guys were “expecting a dip in the summer, so we could catch up.” Despite expectations, the brewery had their strongest month of sales in June 2018. After that, “July won’t be as good as June, but it will be our 2nd or 3rd busiest month so far.” So much for a slow summer for the Lake City Brewery.
Chris also admits that “until this month, we’ve been scrambling just to keep up.” He illustrates this point with a visual: “In the hallway downstairs, we stack the kegs – clean ones on the left and dirty ones on the right. We barely have time to clean the kegs to fill them. It’s been like this since we started. Our biggest struggle has been to deal with unanticipated success. We thought we’d be able to run the brewery with seven employees. We’ve already had to hire sixteen to keep up.” Chris admits that one of Halpatter Brewing Company’s biggest challenges has been success. “We’ll have beers that take two weeks to brew that are selling out in nine days. The brewery doubled production capacity in its first six months of operation and only supplies the tasting room.It’s been nuts – it’s a permanent grin plastered across my face, but it’s been a crazy successful venture up to this point.”
Beer from a small town for small towns
Chris says that Halpatter Brewing Company has roots in Lake City and is excited to sell beer in towns like Lake City all over Florida. While Jacksonville and Miami look nice, “We see our market as small towns. We want to be that everyman brewery – that’s how we were born.” Chris hopes the story of Halpatter and their hometown will carry into other small hometowns in the state. “We want to be in Steinhatchee, Apalachicola, and coastal towns. We want to be in Starke and Live Oak and I think that’s where our story will resonate – a small-town brewery selling beer to small-town folks.”
In fact, Chris says that one of his favorite victories that the brewery has scored is helping to revitalize downtown Lake City. “I think we put out great beer, but my favorite thing to do personally is sit on the deck on a Friday night, watching the parking lot fill up and watching people come into downtown. It used to be that we had one restaurant and maybe fifty people downtown on a Friday night. Now we’ll pack the house tonight – the parking lot’s full. It’s great to watch.”