It’s just so massive. I mean really, really huge.
If it’s not the biggest non-macro brewing system in the state, it’s awfully close. That alone is worth the trip to Lakeland and BrewHub. It’s not difficult to see the 100 BBL behemoth, as it sits behind huge picture windows taking up an entire wall of their tap room.
BrewHub is an interesting, if not often written about, business model. It’s a ‘partner brewery,’ a place where local and regional breweries can go to contract brew, package, and distribute their beers without requiring the massive outlay of capital required to build the facility yourself.
It’s a model currently used by a fair number of breweries, and BrewHub’s clients includewell-known names as Cigar City, Orange Blossom Brewing, Crooked Can, J-Dubs, BJ’s Restaurants, Blackberry Farm, Toppling Goliath, and much, much more.
What’s interesting is that BrewHub is becoming just as known for their own beers, with their award-winning Rome City IPA absolutely burning a path through to the hearts of Florida beer drinkers. BrewHub has even decorated a famous Lakeland swan with the label art from the Rome City IPA; she’s behind the glass in front of that gorgeous brewing system.
While BrewHub can and does make a great beer on their own, they easily and perfectly replicate the recipes from their brewing partners. There’s a massive laboratory buzzing with activity to make sure that each of those beers taste exactly the same as they would if you tried it a year ago or at the tap room for each of these breweries.
That system is helmed by Chris Schoen, brewmaster and amazingly boundless source of brewing information. Literally, just listening to him talk about the importance of something seemingly insignificant as glassware is amazing. Don’t ever ask him where artificial strawberry flavorings come from and you’ll do fine.
It’s amazing to see the facility just to lookat the amazing size of the place. Gigantic rows of fermentation tanks, huge yellow canning and bottling systems, and towers upon towers of empty cans ready to be filled are literally day-to-day sights here.
The tap room is interesting in that the beers in the tap room were all brewed on-site, but aren’t all BrewHub’s beers. When I went, several beers on tap were BJ’s recipes, several from Texas’ Big Bend, and a few from Toppling Goliath.
As a quick aside, you might notice I’m not talking a lot about the stories and details about brewing these beers. That’s intentional. BrewHub brews these beers, but they are, for all intents and purposes, property of their respective breweries. It’s not really BrewHub’s place to dish dirt on their partners.
And why would they? Who would intentionally do that to breweries that are growing? Besides, that’s one of the reasons BrewHub brews their own beers. It’s nice to see Chris and his team flex their creative muscles and show off exactly what they can do. I’ve tried several of these beers already, Deep Dive being one of my favorites.
I like going for the new stuff, though, and for some odd reason I felt it good to start at Deep Dark Secret (Imperial Stout, 13% ABV, 40 IBU). I’m not sure how I started with this. This isn’t a starter beer. This is a beer to sip while you’re in bed so you can finish it, enjoy it, and let the itis lull you to sleep when you finish.
As an aside, it’s an imperial milk stout brewed with the rather oppressive and impressive combination of chocolate, vanilla, peanut butter, molasses, Belgian candi sugar, and coca powder. It’s just as massive and decadent as it sounds.
And it’s one hell of a beer to drink during a brewery tour.
The tour has a lot of interesting things to see, including three barrels filled with (if I’m correct) $75k of fresh, local honey. It’s sort of interesting to see.
I was there in the middle of a busy production day. Sort of in the middle of the packaging room was their beer case for samples and six packs for brewers to bring home. Those brewers were quite amusingly friendly, which is how I found myself trying to blog and take photos with a snifter of an imperial milk stout in one hand and a Blackberry Farm pilsner in the other.
That’s a lot of work, but someone has to do it. I heartily recommend the trip to Lakeland. If you’re driving from Orlando to Tampa on I-4, you will definitely be passing the facility. It’s that huge beige building with the bottle cutout between exits 25 and 27. it’s worth a visit, but definitely go for an actual tour. It’s just amazing to see.
And do it with some of that imperial milk stout. It’s just so good.
Drink Florida Craft,