The Sunshine State may best be known for sun, sea, and sand. But in recent years, Florida has become an emerging market for the beer business — particularly, craft beers.

A loyal craft brew following has found its way to Florida. In recent years, microbreweries have been popping up along the Gulfshore. In Southwest Florida alone, 17 craft breweries have established themselves.

The craft brew scene in Florida may be in its infancy, but it’s steadily growing year by year. With craft breweries on a meteoric rise across the state of Florida, here are some interesting things to know about this booming beer business.

Florida’s Liquor License Laws

If you’re a restaurant owner looking to tap into this emerging market, your establishment will need the right liquor license. Bars, restaurants, and businesses in the state of Florida intending to sell craft beer are required to get the right Florida liquor license types.

Fortunately, obtaining a liquor license for craft beers is a simple process.  

The sale of craft beers on premise will require a COP license. The sale of craft beers off premise will require an APS license. COP means Consume on Premise. APS refers to a Package Sales license.

These licenses allow restaurateurs and business owners to sell craft beer on their establishments. If your establishment intends to sell wine and spirits alongside beer, you will need a different license.

Alcoholic beverage laws

If this is your first time in the Sunshine State, it pays to be informed about the state’s alcoholic beverage laws. Alcohol laws differ not only by state, but also by metropolitan area. Learning what is legal ensures you don’t break any laws without knowing it.

While Florida is no exception to the minimum legal drinking age (21) in the United States, penalties are severe for businesses that provide alcohol to minors.

Penalties can include heavy fines or jail time. The minimum age to tend a bar or sell alcohol for consumption on and off premise is 18. Likewise, 18 is also the minimum age for the sale of beer or wine for consumption elsewhere.

Hours of sale is dependent on local municipalities. Without local ordinances relating to the sale of alcoholic beverages, the latest hour alcohol may be sold is 2 a.m.

Craft brewery legislation

While there are still relatively small players in the state of Florida, the surge in demand for craft beer has many distributors and craft brewers wanting legislation changes. In recent years, craft breweries have gained support from legislators to have greater control over the sale of their beers.

The state recently introduced House Bill 679, allowing craft breweries self-distribution rights. However, these rights are limited to 7,000 kegs, restricting larger breweries and distributors who don’t qualify for these restrictions.

Be mindful that your craft brewery must also comply with Florida’s liquor license laws. Each will vary according to local municipality and county.

The journey to brewery ownership

If you’re looking to tap into this burgeoning market, you must understand, opening and managing a brewery is no small undertaking.

Thinking of opening a craft brewery in the state of Florida? Here some things to consider, such as:

  • Choosing the right license that suits your needs
  • Obtaining approval for zoning
  • Checking zoning requirements
  • Applying for a Federal and Florida’s Brewer’s Permit
  • Applying for a Manufacturer’s License

As it belongs to a highly regulated industry, opening a craft brewery will require considerable capital and a substantial amount of time. Meeting all state and county requirements ensures your brewery business will stand on a sound legal foundation.

Sampling Florida’s brewing boom

While the Pacific Northwest has cornered the craft beer market, Florida has slowly become a craft beer powerhouse in recent years.

Just a few years ago, Florida was lacking in its craft beer selection. Now, the Sunshine State has become the country’s fastest growing craft brew state. In fact, in 2017, Florida was home to 224 craft breweries, ranking 10th in the nation.

This boom has had a significant economic impact on the state. In 2016 alone, the craft beer industry contributed just over $3 billion. This has resulted in impressive job creation within the state.

If you’re looking to visit the Sunshine State to sample this booming business, the best counties to visit include Tampa Bay, Marco Island, and Boca Raton.

Richard Bantock is the President of Liquor License Consultants, Inc. (formerly known as The Liquor License Guy) which specializes in the purchasing and selling of Florida liquor licenses. For 20 years, he successfully operated liquor store, nightclub, bar and restaurant companies, gaining first-hand knowledge of business planning, financial negotiations and the liquor licensing process. Liquor License Consultants, Inc. reflects his insight and expertise.