- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) - Like many great ideas, Riptide Brewing Company started in a man cave.

After meeting at a local brew club several years ago, three friends - attorney Bob Menzies, general contractor Scott Alexander and Norm Scherner, a former Realtor - started brewing together, first in their garages and then in a rented office-warehouse “man cave” off Jaeger Road in North Naples.

They hosted parties for friends. Their beer received rave reviews. They developed a following. The next step, logically, was to open their own commercial brewery and taproom.

“We’ve always wanted to do something like this,” Menzies said. “We finally quit talking about it and just did it.”

In late November - Black Friday, to be exact - the three friends, now business partners, opened Riptide in a converted shop at the corner of Third Avenue North and 10th Street North in Naples.

It’s the first brewery in the city limits, but at least the ninth to open from Punta Gorda south in the last few years. Naples Beach Brewery opened on Enterprise Avenue in unincorporated Collier County in 2012.

The Riptide brewery and taproom have an industrial feel, mixing cool metals with warm woods. The 10-barrel brewing system is located behind the U-shaped bar so customers can watch the brewing process.

To make it homey, there’s a couch, TVs and board games available for patrons. And in keeping with their nautical theme, the walls are lined with surfboards and a metal mermaid, and the taphandles feature Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.

They have 10 to 12 of their own beers on tap at any time in addition to guest taps from other Florida breweries and a short wine list. They brew everything from light wit beers and blonde ales to hoppy pale ales and dark porters and stouts.

Their beers sell for $3 to $4 for a 9-ounce glass to $5 to $7 for a 16-ounce glass.

In an effort to get things right out of the gate, Menzies said, he and his partners took a road trip to craft breweries around Florida to get ideas and advice. They hired a couple of brewers associated with the highly-regarded Funky Buddha Brewery in Broward County to help them make the jump from a 20-gallon home-brew system to a 300-gallon commercial system.

They also reached out to other Southwest Florida brewers.

“We’ve talked to them all,” Menzies said. “They’ve given us advice, tips, help, ‘Hey, try this, do this, do that.’ It’s not a competition because there’s plenty of people that like it. I like going to (Walt Costello’s) place at Point Ybel, and he likes coming here, and Brian (Hahn) at Momentum and vice versa.

“They’ve been down that road. They’ve got experience. You can’t pay for that.”

After getting a slow start in the sunshine state, craft beer has taken off in Florida over the last four or five years.

Today there are 111 craft breweries in Florida, according to the Brewers Association, an industry trade group. That’s good enough for ninth most in the country, and a jump from fewer than 40 in 2012. But with less than one brewery for every 100,000 adults 21 and older, Florida only ranks 43rd in the country for breweries per capita (Vermont leads the nation with 8.4 breweries per capita). So there’s room to grow.

Menzies said they started putting the business together about a year ago, and had hoped to open by October. But getting their state and federal permits was complicated, delaying their plans. Locally, getting their zoning approved was the biggest hurdle, Menzies said, because Naples codes don’t mention breweries.

Still, they’re happy to be open for season, building name recognition and generating a buzz.

“Half the people who come in here are locals,” Menzies said. “The other half know about craft beer and look for us on websites, Trip Advisor, Yelp, and things like that.”

Steve Ross, who was visiting Marco Island from Denver, stopped by Riptide for a flight of IPAs on his way to the Fort Lauderdale airport Tuesday afternoon. He said he liked what he tasted.

“I’ve been to a lot of new breweries, and a lot of times they taste kind of watered down; they still have part of their process to catch up on,” he said. “I’m actually very impressed by what they have here. The IPAs are on point. They’re very hoppy.”

In the coming weeks, Menzies said, they plan to start kegging and distributing their beer to local restaurants. Down the road, they want to start a canning line in another facility.

“We do want to grow,” he said. “People like our beer. I think we can sell as much as we can make.”

___

Information from: Naples (Fla.) Daily News, https://www.naplesnews.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide