Debary-based Central 28 Beer Co. is pretty new to the Central Florida brewing scene, but they’re already starting to make a handy little name for themselves along the I-4 corridor. Between gold medals and their first can, UpRiver, well into distribution, they are poised to be much more visible in the coming years.
I spoke to Geoff DeBisshop, brewmaster and co-owner, about disc golf, Spanish restaurants, and the joy of blood oranges.
How did the name Central 28 come about?
Our brewery is located on the 28th parallel. Also, our co-founder has 28 as his lucky number as well. Finally, we’re in Central Florida, so it all ties together.
When did you first discover craft beer? What was the beer that really opened your eyes to brewing?
I worked in in pretty good beer/wine shop in Connecticut in high school, so I was pretty aware, but not a full convert. More just interested. I lived in Seattle for a time after college, and the craft beer culture there had already begun. That was when I first “got it”- it was a visit to Big Time Brewery in Seattle’s University District.
When did you start brewing?
When I moved back to Connecticut, I was working at night and was free during the day. I got a frantic call one day from one of my friends (Rob Leonard, who has owned and operated New England Brewing Company for 10 years or so) that worked at Elm City Brewing. They needed help on the bottling line that day, and that was it. I stayed, moved up the ranks, etc.
What would you say is your signature beer, and how did it come about?
We’re so young that I hesitate to say what our signature beer is. I’ve learned that you can’t tell people what to drink, they tell you what to make. At the moment, our biggest seller is an American Pale Ale (UpRiver Pale) and we just won a gold at the Best Florida Beer competition for our Trekker Bier, a light saison/grisette type beer.
How did you come about finding your brewing space?
We originally had a tentative space in Sanford, but, long story short, that fell through. We searched high and low from the north side of Orlando to southern Volusia county, and this space had a tucked away, functional appeal.
How do you get inspiration in developing recipes for your beers?
It might be a food, chef, something I’ve read, a new hop variety, someone else’s beer.
You have a beer named after a famous, but closed, restaurant (El Bulli). How did you develop this beer and come to name it how you did?
I had read a great piece on Ferran Adria and El Bulli and was completely inspired with his passion and approach. One of my favorite bands is Wilco and there is a great documentary about their landmark album “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” where their main songwriter (Jeff Tweedy) talks about taking straightforward songs, pulling them apart and putting them back together in more interesting ways. The approach that El Bulli takes struck me as similar and really resonated, so the wheels started turning.
Have you seen any Florida ingredients that you’ve wanted to brew with?
Not Florida specifically, but tropical fruits are of course interesting: guava, mango, etc. We just released a blood orange IPA that I’m very happy with.
Coming from New England and Maryland, are there any recipes that are easier or harder to brew in Florida?
The heat certainly challenges the equipment a little more, but executing the brewing process is the same.
There are a lot of people getting interested in joining the craft beer industry. Do you have any advice for this people?
If you are passionate about it, go for it. But understand it’s not easy. It’s not all recipe formulation and beer dinners.
Do you see an end to the recent Florida craft beer boom?
I started brewing in New England and started and ran Evolution Craft Brewing in Maryland for 6 years prior to this. My opinion is that Florida is way behind the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. So my feeling is that we’ll be riding the wave for at least the near future.
Why do you all seem to love disc golf so much?
Ha! I’ve actually never played, but we have a very popular course just down the street and we’ve established a great relationship with the folks that regularly play there. Disc golfers does seem to be our target demographic!
Drink Florida Craft,