Let’s be honest, one of the hottest and fastest growing breweries in Florida is Hourglass Brewing, based in Longwood. Their bombers are everywhere, and the signature 16 oz. cans are starting to pop up around the state as well.
I recently interviewed head brewer Mike DeLancett about those cans, wild beers, and SMaSH beers.
When did you first discover craft beer? What was the beer that really opened your eyes to brewing?
I first discovered craft beer by way of Belgian import beer. My father and grandmother were born in Belgium and I have always been drawn to history and cultures so I started exploring some of that end of my lineage through brands like Brouwerji Smisje, Gulden Draak, various Trappist breweries, and the like in the mid 2000’s. On the American side, Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head opened my eyes to what people could do with hops and other unique ingredients and it all sort of spiraled outward from there. I started brewing on my back porch with friends and seeking the guidance of a number of other local brewers like so many people.
When did you start brewing?
I started professionally brewing mid 2013 by volunteering my time here at the old brewery location. I was between jobs and found myself with some free time and the determination to break into the industry, and basically hung around until we expanded into our new location here. I’ve learned a lot along the way and intend to keep learning for many, many years to come.
What would you say is your signature beer, and how did it come about?
We’re a pretty eclectic crew over here and brew a variety of stuff so we don’t like to pigeonhole one particular signature. But If I had to pick, I’d say the most unique things we are doing are our New England Style Sour IPA’s. My partner Matt is from up north and we started exploring that style early on, alongside the famous “Florida Weisse” fruited Berliners. At some point we came to the realization that the fruity character of the hops would play nicely with the tart acidity of the Berliner style and hybridized them into big hop forward sour ipas with a focus on the fruitiest hops we could get our hands on. Another thing we’re really enjoying is the expansion of our wild and sour program, in particular our barrel fermented sours. We found ourselves getting through second and third fill barrels from our clean side and selling them at a loss as décor. So we steamed a few out and started pitching bacteria and wild yeasts right into the barrel itself and ended up taking our first gold medal for it at Best Florida Beer this year, so we’re pretty proud of that.
How did you come about finding your brewing space?
I can’t speak to our original location as it predates me, but our new location was conveniently located up the street, much bigger, and air conditioned with lots of parking. It seemed like a no brainer when it was time to grow, and if you headed to our old spot there was no way you could miss it.
How do you get inspiration in developing recipes and names for your beers?
Matt and I are inspired by a lot of cultural and historical influences, as well as music, pop culture, and much more. In that vein we always maintain that homebrewer spirit of “ooh, I don’t know what that is, let’s make a beer with it”, albeit probably with a bit more of an idea of how things will turn out than in days past. From there it’s a bit of stretching the culinary side of our brains to see what best accentuates a flavor profile. We like beer that tends more towards nuance and complexity, so we try not to slap you in the face too hard with any specific flavor most of the time. We’re also big fans of real ingredients. No extracts or artificial flavoring. You’ll often find a crew of us processing more real fruit than is sensible, or shucking oysters. It’s all part of the adventure and it breaks up a lot of what could be a monotonous daily grind type process.
What was the inspiration behind the name of your brewery?
Brewing is all about timing. From the brew process itself, to landing ingredients, meeting seasonal release schedules, and having the patience to wait for things to get where they need to be. We do a lot of reacting and a lot of waiting, and the hourglass is just our little reminder that we need to be on top of things and patient simultaneously.
There are a lot of people getting interested in joining the craft beer industry. Do you have any advice for these people?
Read. You can learn so much by reading from others experience. Volunteer if possible. Make yourself available to do the things a local brewery needs help with and don’t overlook the value of sweat equity for education. It also gives you a huge lead on if the reality of the day to day hard work is something you’re actually into or if it’s just romance. Above all else, just educate yourself in every way possible and start brewing at home. The more you understand the process, the more easily you’ll pick up the conversion to large scale. A bit of mechanical or bio chem knowledge never hurts either. Find a niche you’re valuable in and never approach any task like it’s below you.
Do you see an end to the recent Florida craft beer boom?
It think we’ll be growing for another few years but I do personally foresee a near future retraction. We’re seeing a lot of folks who may not have the support they need to survive growing struggles for resources and customer base. While it’s true a lot of us do well sharing the same customers, I have an inkling that there can only be so many sharks in the pond, and that we’ll see a trend towards more neighborhood oriented and specialty breweries. Which I think is great, but it all depends on what you’re in it for. We don’t need 700 mass produced lawnmower beers or we just become what we started out pushing against. But that unique allure of local community artisans creating their own twist on something – I don’t think that’s going out of style anytime soon.
After being behind places like Tampa and Jacksonville, it looks like Orlando is finally catching up to being a beer destination. How do you feel about what is happening in the city and environs?
We’re definitely coming into our own over here. It’s great to see so many new breweries emerging and to hear from patrons that they’ve made the trip to our taproom a planned part of their travels. Orlando is a big spread out town hat can easily support a number of breweries, especially with burgeoning tourist traffic, and with the advent of the Central Florida Ale Trail, and support of Seminole County Tourism Board, we’ve really started organizing a collective of breweries toward a common goal.
What were the origins of the SMaSH festival? How much has it grown?
SMaSH was birthed over a few rounds at our weekly meetings here at Hourglass with our friends over at BrewerLong. We were looking for a way to help unify the craft beer communities that had sprung up around Central Florida, do something to give back to the local community that has supported us so well, and help educate consumers further on what makes craft beer so special and how much the process really matters. Smash beers are a big thing in the homebrew community (which most craft brewers have evolved from), and the focus on everyone using the two same base ingredients to create a plethora of vastly different beers demonstrated the importance of process so well.
We wondered why it hadn’t been attempted more on a large scale with pro brewers, and suspected the logistics of interrupting brewing schedules and scale had a lot to do with it. After meeting with some ingredient suppliers and a handful of other local brewers we found there was real interest and people were surprisingly open to and excited by the challenge and with the city of Longwood officially behind it, it just blew up from there. For our second year we’ve doubled in size to over 40 breweries and expanded its scope to include breweries from around the state. The community is even more involved and a lot of local businesses have stepped up to support the cause. It’s going to be a big deal.
You are one of a few Florida breweries canning exclusively in 16 oz. Cans. What made you decide on this format?
We decided on 16 oz. for a couple of reasons. First, we have always prided ourselves on having a true 16 oz. pint in the taproom, and wanted to reflect that serving in our package. Secondly, we’ve got great in house artists and it gives them an eye catching canvas to create some wild and loud cans that draw your attention on the shelf. In an increasingly competitive market for shelf space we felt it was important to echo the character of our brewery through to the retail format.
Who comes up with the phrases for Speakeasy Sunday?
Speakeasy Sunday is a long and ridiculous tradition that we love at Hourglass. We usually leave it up to the manager on shift to have fun with, and if you’ve met our team, you know they’re a colorful group.
Drink Florida Craft,