“We Served our Beer Anonymously at Weddings”
Head Brewer Shares His Experiences Moving from Homebrewer to Pro Brewer in New Smyrna Beach, Florida
New Smyrna Beach Brewing Co. is located in historic downtown New Smyrna Beach, Florida. You don’t need to schedule a tour to see their brewing equipment and process, because you can’t help but be on “tour” while in their taproom. Their fermenters actively ferment right in front of the patrons, and often, you’ll see the brewer transferring or kegging a batch of fresh beer just feet away. Maybe he’ll even take your idea for the next batch of beer.
Portland Kettle Works recently spoke with New Smyrna Beach’s Head Brewer and Co-Owner Chris Coyle who generously shared his experience starting this idyllic brewery / taproom and making the move from homebrewer to pro brewer.
New Smyrna Beach’s PKW fermenters, brite tank, and brewhouse
PKW: Where did you find the courage and inspiration to make the move from homebrewer to pro brewer?
NSB: For years, my wife (then girlfriend) and I have really enjoyed traveling and camping. Since Florida had less than 50 breweries at the time (2010-2013), and none in our area, our favorite thing to do on our adventures was seek out the local craft brew of the nearest town. One night, while enjoying a growler around a great fire, we couldn’t help but notice that our hometown needed great local craft beer too! So, after a couple years of homebrewing and perfecting recipes, we served our beer anonymously at two friend’s weddings. We couldn’t believe the response. Everyone wanted to know where they could buy this “liquid gold.” That’s when we decided to pursue opening a brewery.
PKW: What was the biggest challenge moving from homebrewer to pro brewer and how did you overcome it?
NSB: Getting approval from federal, state, and local officials was definitely a huge challenge. At the time, there were no other breweries in our city, and believe it or not, in the entire county, so even the officials were unsure of what was allowed in the approval process. Then to complicate things, our TTB [Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau] paperwork was delayed during the government shutdown of 2013. It took us longer than we had hoped, but our persistence and unwillingness to give up helped us overcome and get to where we are today.
PKW: Now that you’ve gone through the process, what would you do differently?
NSB: If we could have started out bigger, that would have definitely made things a lot easier in the long run. But really, that would have changed our story and street-cred, so maybe our path was just what we needed. We initially opened our taproom and brewery in 900 sq. ft. [83.6 sq. m.] with a homemade brewhouse, a couple china-made 3.5 bbl fermenters, and two long-draw draft chillers for temp control to the fermenters and brite. After two months of being open we couldn’t keep up with demand, and the struggle continued until we decided to expand to a much larger location with larger and more professional equipment from Portland Kettle Works.
PKW: What has brought you the most success in your business?
NSB: I think staying independent and relatively small is something that really resonates with our customer base. Patrons love that we have several staple beers along with a rotating selection and one-off batches of fresh beer. They also love looking at the big shiny tanks, and us hard at work making the beer. And I’m here A LOT trying to keep up with the demand. Producing a quality product that people like to drink doesn’t hurt either.
PKW: What’s your funniest/most memorable moment at the beach brewery so far?
NSB: The day we shut down our old location and moved around the corner to the bigger spot, we had a party for all our mug club members and close friends and family. After everyone had a couple of beers and admired the new digs, we all walked back around the corner to where it all began for a final “cheers.” It was a very bittersweet moment as there were a lot of memories in those 900 square feet. Of course, though, we couldn’t all fit in the front door. As I prepared for the final moments in the space where countless hours and years were spent, I could see there were a lot of regulars that were sad to see it go too. Thankfully, the situation provided some comic relief when I had to yell “Make room for my mom!” just so she could get in the door. Ironically, proof that moving to a bigger spot was the right move.
New Smyrna Beach bartender Lola tastes a freshly-brewed beer
Plan a trip to the Atlantic Coast of Florida (60 miles northeast from Orlando) and stop by New Smyrna Beach Brewing Company. Enjoy their delicious beer brewed specifically for the local beach lifestyle while you relax and watch the next batch of beer being created right in front of you.