Beer Can Island Brewers
Apollo Beach, Florida: Beer Can Island Brewers Club is a home brew craft beer club created to serve the South Shore area.
The group started simply enough. Tom Tanner, one of the group’s founding members, posted on his neighborhood’s website that he was selling some home brewing equipment. Jay Patel, another founding member, responded to the post.
One thing led to another. Tom and Jay started talking all things ‘home brew’ and it grew from there. By the spring of 2014 they had found several others interested in participating in a group and they formed Beer Can Island Brewers.
While many of the group’s original members lived in Apollo Beach they wanted to be sure the club’s encompassed the whole South Shore area. The goal was to become THE home brew club in South Shore.
So, the name Beer Can Island Brewers was born and it didn’t take long for the group to start attracting members.
Original members Tom Tanner, Jay Patel, Dr. Matt McDowell, and Matt Gordon began promoting and marketing the club by wearing t-shirts and hats they had printed with the Beer Can Island Brewers logo. Next they launched a Facebook page, a Twitter account and Instagram feed.
“We really started with a good core group from the neighborhood,” Tanner says, “and then they brought in others.”
The Founding Fathers of Beer Can Island Brewers
“I started to enjoy beer in my mid-20’s,” Tom says. “I just got to a point where I loved trying new things. My wife bought me a Mr. Beer Kit for Christmas and I was hooked. I made so many different recipes with it,” he adds.
Next, Tom discovered a home brew store in Tampa and graduated from his Mr. Beer kit to more sophisticated home brewing equipment.
Jay Patel is considered the ‘beer savant’ of the group. He’s been tasting beers for over 20 years. “He’s definitely the most well-versed about different beers in our club,” Tom says.
Jay skipped the Mr. Beer kit phase and went straight into sophisticated home brew equipment. “I knew what I wanted and how much I was willing to spend,” Jay says. “Home brewing can be as expensive as you want. Money and better equipment, can give you a more consistent outcome with the beer you brew and lessens the level of effort,” he adds.
Dr. Matt McDowell admits to brewing primarily what he knows he likes. He experiments less than some of the others, although the group refers to Matt McDowell as a ‘success story’. He was a bit of a beginner when he joined, but he’s risen in the ranks to become a more expert home brewer.
Matt Gordon, a pharmacist by trade, began brewing ages ago and it’s a hobby he also shares with his father who will visit the Beer Can Island Brewers club when he’s in town. He’s also been voted the group’s treasurer. They refer to him as the ‘Master of Coin’.
The Group Today
Today, the group is strong with about 20-25 members, men and women, and each brings a variety of experience from beginning home brewers to some seriously experienced ones. Some just like beer and wanted to learn how to brew it, while others have been brewing since 20 years. A few of the group’s members have even gone on to found professional breweries.
It’s a bit of a mash-up, too. The group includes pharmacists, sales reps, retirees, some real estate agents, and IT folks to name a few.
They meet monthly, the last Friday, in one of the member’s homes and each meeting is typically organized around a topic or technique. For example, they may pick a specific part of the brewing process and discuss the different ways it can be accomplished as a home brewer, or they may discuss recipe creation or talk about a software that supports the brewing process.
One of their recent topics was on ‘lagering’ and temperature control, which is hard to manage in Florida.
“As brew clubs go we’re relatively small,” Tom says. “There are some massive clubs in Tampa, but we were keen to start one here so we didn’t have to drive to Tampa. We’re not trying to be the biggest, just serve this community.”
The group is pretty loose with ‘membership fees’, too. They fund as needed by selling Beer Can Island Brewers t-shirts and hats.
Education, Pouring Events and Competitions
Education and learning from each other is one of the primary goals of the club. We like to demystify the process for people who’ve never brewed before and we’re happy to mentor beginners.
Beer Can Island Brewers also takes their education on the road, doing local pouring events such as the recent March MiraBay Dragon Boat races. Beer Can Island Brewers club members donate the beer to pour at different events and the member who donates then gets to talk about the beer, the recipe and how the brewer made it.
“We love to share what we brew,” Jay says. “And we get to educate the community, too”
About a quarter of the Beer Can Island Brewers’ members participate in competitions around the State such as the Best Florida Beer Pro-Am and smaller events and competitions such as the Florida Museum of Fine Arts’ Beer Project and the Ultimate Beer Project in St. Petersburg.
“We enter lots of competitions and pouring events,” Tom says. “It gets our club great exposure.”
About Home Brewing
It’s all about the recipes. While Tom works from 15 – 20 recipes Jay has about 60 recipes he uses.
“They’re not all great,” Jay admits. “Some are experimental, but I like to try variations of recipes, too.” His most widely appreciated beer is his Dark Mild .
Tom’s ‘Baltic Porter’ won Gold in the Best Florida Beer competition in 2016. He’s entering it again this year.
Home brewing became legal in 1978 and there are restrictions regarding how much beer you can brew at home (100 gallons per drinking-age person per household). It’s a hobby that has seemingly exploded onto the scene in the past few years.
“It’s a great hobby,” Tom says. “Before I was into music and playing music, but that’s not easy when you have a family. Now, I can home brew and be right here with the family.”
It’s also a hobby that involves a lot of processes, science, math and myriad of things – which tends to appeal to a broad audience.
“The level of effort can be as simple or complex as you want,” Jay says, “and the level of knowledge is what you want to make of it, too.”
So what is the process? Well, at the risk over oversimplifying, the process is typically 14 days from brewing to drinking (give or take several days, several variables and lots of details too many to mention here).
Goals for the future?
“We’d like to get enough members that feel comfortable entering competition, so our club can be represented more widely.” Tom says.
When discussions about beer clubs comes up, Beer Can Island Brewers wants to be included in that conversation alongside some of the larger Tampa beer clubs.
Interested in Joining Beer Can Island Brewers?
They’d love to welcome you. For more details:
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/BeerCanIslandBrewers/