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Grabbing life by the malts

Homebrewing shops put beer production into consumers' hands

Photo: Aldrin Capulong, License: N/A

Aldrin Capulong

“Beginning in the '70s, people started to grow tired of fizzy yellow American lagers,” Holmes says. “They wanted something different.”

So beer people helped power legislation through Congress that decriminalized homebrewing for the first time since Prohibition. Homebrewers and microbreweries have pressed against the Big Three ever since.

“There's more competition in the market now,” Libera says.

The two men hold beer classes to wax poetic about brewing techniques and trade notes with customers. Their students drink the beer they like, whether a substantial brewery bottles it for them or not. And whereas entrepreneurs like Libera and Holmes sense business opportunity, most homebrewers produce with no commercial aspirations.

The hobby flourished on the West Coast during the '80s, where the first modern-day wave of microbreweries and homebrewing communities sprouted up. It has gained a stronger foothold in garages and kitchens throughout Central Florida thanks to stores like Sanford's Homebrew Shop, Heart's Homebrew Supply in College Park and various clubs and classes (see sidebar).

“Aaron and I never realized how many homebrewers were here in Orlando, isolated and unaware of the larger brewing community,” Holmes says. “I'm glad our shop can bring those brewers into the fold.”

Craft-beer nuts used to blot this city off the map as a wasteland, but no more. Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour has won international renown with its selection of rare brews, and plans to move into a new, larger space on Corrine Drive this summer; the recently opened Oblivion Taproom is close on its heels with its selection of out-of-the-way beers. Respected Orlando restaurateurs Jim and Julie Petrakis (chef-owners of the Ravenous Pig) plan an in-house brew operation at their upcoming Cask & Larder, embracing the brewpub business model that has become commonplace elsewhere in the country. Cask & Larder will be housed in the old Harper's Tavern space on Fairbanks Avenue, and the brewmaster will be Ron Raike, who has been crafting limited-edition brews down the way at Shipyard Emporium.

“There was a time you couldn't even find a Sam Adams here in Orlando,” Holmes says. “This city has grown up, and homebrewers played a large role in making that happen.”

To find a market where the little guy can revitalize an industry – from the comfort of his own home, no less – is rarer than plucking a fossil from limestone. It simply hardly ever happens today.

“What you're starting to see is a fascinating conversation between homebrewers and microbreweries,” Holmes says. “Homebrewers want good examples to model their beers after, and I think microbrewers are starting to cater to those needs. You really don't see that elsewhere.”



Hop to it

Dabbling with your first batch? Visit these homebrew hot spots to learn more: 

Sanford Homebrew Shop
117 S.Magnolia Ave., Sanford

Heart's Homebrew Supply
6190 Edgewater Drive 

Orlando Brewing 
1301 Atlanta Ave. 

Central Florida Home Brewers
P.O. Box 547063 
Orlando, FL 32804 


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