Rick Clemo, left, and Andy Polce, owners of the House of Beer in Dunedin, have been pleased with the growth of their business.
DUNEDIN – The owners of the House of Beer on Broadway see the positive side of having competition nearby: Dunedin has become a destination for craft beer lovers.
They call it “The Beermuda Triangle. Don’t get lost unless you want to.”
As the locals know, just north on Broadway is the 7venth Sun Brewery. To the east on Douglas Avenue is the Dunedin Brewery.
“I have never seen an industry where we help each other as much,” House of Beer co-owner Andy Polce said. “When 7venth Sun opened up, (2012) we were all for it. We get it; this town gets it.”
The craft beer industry – besides creating destinations – has benefited the local economy by creating jobs, taxes and spinoff businesses.
Rick Clemo, Polce’s partner, is pleased with the growth in business at the Dunedin House of Beer since the establishment opened 5 1/2 years ago.
“We started very modestly. We had 13 bar stools and 40 taps,” Clemo said. “We have since expanded twice; now we have the whole building. I can easily say it exceeded my expectations on this particular business.”
Polce has financial planning and real estate background; Clemo’s background is in computer science. The former neighbors and home brewers “got to talking” and decided they wanted to open a craft beer bar.
“You couldn’t even get a Sierra Nevada downtown when we opened,” Polce said.
Though craft beer was the catalyst, people come to House of Beer because it’s a friendly neighborhood bar attracting people of all ages, Polce said.
They also opened stores in Palm Harbor, Gainesville and Citrus Park.
The Dunedin House of Beer has about a dozen employees. Two of them are home brewers.
“They have been trying to open their own brewery,” Polce said. “They have been in the process for a couple of years. … We are helping them get started and meantime we are taking advantage of the fact that these guys brew great beer that we are going to be serving here. It’s as local as you can get. All those monies get pumped right back into this town.”
Craft beer breweries and bars have helped revitalize urban areas across the country.
“They are bringing people down and they are spawning neighboring businesses,” Polce said.
Some types of businesses have to make substantial investments in dilapidated warehouses and other structures to open.
“Breweries don’t have to do all that,” Polce said. “Garage doors opening it are fine. They’re wonderful,” Polce said.
Based in Boulder, Colo., The Brewers Association, a voice for craft brewers, says that at the end of 2013, the number of breweries in the United States reached the highest level seen in the country since the early 1870s, 2,822. Of that amount, 98 percent were small and independent craft brewers.
The craft brewing industry contributed $33.9 billion to the U.S. economy in 2012, creating more than 360,000 jobs.
“It does have a profound effect on the economy,” said Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association.
Craft beer has reinvigorated some of the local supply chains, he said, and brewers are much more likely to incorporate local ingredients into their beers beyond malt and hops, such as fruit from Florida or a local coffee blend if they are making a coffee stout.
“It’s a much more finely meshed economic impact than in the case of the overall beer industry,” he said.
Along those lines, Mary Johnson, owner of the Beer and Winemakers Pantry in Pinellas Park, said the sales of beer-making equipment have increased substantially in the past two years.
“I guess that could be with all the breweries opening up or just a general interest in craft beer,” said Johnson, whose business has been opened for 41 years and is the first home-brew shop in Florida.
People come to her store for equipment, such as fermenting buckets, brew kettles, as well as ingredients: the hops, the malts, the grains and the yeast.
In the past years, the business has doubled the line of ingredients for beer types.
“It’s getting more specific as far as the ingredients go,” she said. “Years ago it was more generic,” she said.
Marketing becomes local as well, so the economic impact of the craft beer business spreads out.
The nationally known brewing companies aren’t as likely as the crafter beers to spend money on advertising in the local newspapers, Watson said.
“Craft brewers are part of the community. For many of these small brewers they are not selling their beer more than a five-mile radius around their brewery so they are going to connect with local advertisers. They need to connect with their consumers in a local way because that’s where their market is,” Watson said.
When a craft brewing wants to make T-shirts, they are much more likely to look for a local T-shirt printer rather than a single national source, Watson said.
He believes the industry will continue to grow, also in Florida, which he said is “under indexed” when taken in account some of the per capita measures for the number of breweries.
“When you look at Florida in breweries in capita, it ranks 46th in the country and barrel produced per capita it ranks 45th. Florida has a huge population and should be able to support a ton of breweries. And we are seeing that. … Every month there are new breweries. It’s growing pretty rapidly,” Watson said.
He believes Florida’s growth in the craft beer industry will begin to trend toward the national average.
“Down there in Florida, you have producers that are growing as fast as they can make beer. Look at Cigar City (Tampa). They just signed a deal with Brew Hub, a partner brewer who is going to be ramping up their production because they can’t produce fast enough to meet the demand in Florida,” Watson said.
Florida has 66 craft breweries, ranking 13th in the United States, with an economic impact of $875 million.
Several Craft beer establishments continue to open in downtown St. Petersburg.
“The breweries that are popping up are creating jobs,” Polce said. “It’s been a booming industry. The last five years the growth has been insane.”
Clem and Polce, who both live in Dunedin, take pride in their community involvement. They participate in a lot of events and help raise money for charities.
They like what they have to offer for the customers, and judging by the growth of their business, the feeling is mutual.
“Once you go craft beer, you don’t go back,” Polce said.