Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Moving Forward...

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

No matter how we approach life, it keeps moving forward.  Such is the nature of time and our ride along with it.  As such, we now enter the holiday season.  Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I hope you found time to reflect on some of the things in your life you can be thankful for.  I, for one, am very thankful to be surrounded by my family and friends who love and support me.  I am thankful that I have found myself back in a career that challenges and fulfills me.  I am thankful for the friends I have made over the past year in the craft beer community, and how much I have learned.

Thursday of this week is the much-talked-about Tampa City Council meeting that could determine the fate of the Cigar City Tasting Room.  Letters have been written, phone calls have been made, and now it is down to the wire.  It is probably safe to assume that the three who voted "no" will continue to do so even if only out of ego-driven stubbornness.  It is also probably safe to assume that the three "yes" votes will hold, seeing as they are based on logic and common sense.  Which leaves - once again - Charlie Miranda.  Here's to hoping he makes the right decision.

Here is the info about the meeting, as posted by Cigar City:
For anyone planning to attend the City Council meeting where the wet-zoning for the Cigar City Brewing Tasting Room will be voted on this is the pertinent information.
Date: Thursday December 2nd 
Time: 10:30 AM
Location: 315 East Kennedy Boulevard (Downtown)
City Hall, 3rd Floor
Tampa, FL 33602
This is a public meeting so anyone may attend and speak if they so choose or just attend to show support. We encourage everyone that has the time to attend. Thanks again for the overwhelming support and well wishes. Win or lose we are humbled by the support from the community and beyond.
Joey Redner and the CCB Staff
If you are in the Tampa Bay area - or are going to be - think about attending if at all possible.  Your support would be greatly appreciated.

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
 - Edmund Burke

Friday, November 12, 2010

On A More Positive Note...

"You have it easily in your power to increase the sum total of this world's happiness now. How? By giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged. Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime." -Dale Carnegie

The past two days have been a tad wild and emotional in the Tampa Bay craft beer community.  The uproar over the situation with Cigar City Brewing and the Tampa City Council has been loud and passionate.  I know a lot of people have called, written letteers, sent emails, and so on.  The next vote is not until December 2nd, so there is a tendency for our outrage to fade and die down.  Don't let it.  Instead, find out all you can about the issue.  Strip away the hearsay and rumor, and get supportable facts.  The stronger a case we can make - with real solid facts - the harder it is for rational people to refute.  Of course, assuming we are dealing with rational people is a BIG assumption.

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer." ~Abraham Lincoln

So, on to the positive!

This weekend is the Fall Beer Festival at the Cajun Cafe on the Bayou.  If you have never been, you have to go.  It is a small event, but you will not find a bad beer in the place.  Paul Unwin - the owner - loves craft beer, and has made it a point to be sure his festival is about enjoying good beer.  Its not about how much you can drink, finding the highest ABV, or being a beer snob.  Its about the beer, and about the people who make it and enjoy it.  You can read more about the event here.  I highly encourage you to attend if you can.

Also, you should check out the following other events over the next week:
Remember, our goal is to support, promote, and educate.  And by "our" I mean all of us who appreciate the artisanship that is craft beer.  We are not drunken angry mobs.  We are not elitist, exclusionary, snobs.  We come from all walks of life, all backgrounds, and represent countless regions and socio-economic levels.  What we share is a common belief that good beer should be available to those who want to enjoy it responsibly, that craft brewing is a welcome and beneficial addition to any community, and that the world needs to be educated to these facts.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster - Sun Tzu

And the beat goes on...

The situation with Cigar City and the Tampa City Council has not changed since yesterday.  The call has been heard across the country and people are still talking about it.  But I want to urge caution.

In the past 24 hours I have heard claims of racism (the three members voting no were African-American, the three voting for were white), back-room shady dealings, and personal vendetta.  I am not saying any of these are or are not true, but no one has shown me any evidence to support these claims yet.  I would hate for one of these rumors to take hold only to find out it was baseless.  It is not only unfair, but it hurts our cause.

Here is how I see it:
  • As long as Cigar City has followed the laws and complied with everything required of them, there is no good reason to deny them their request.
  • If there are issues with crime that can be attributed to the operation of the Cigar City Tap Room, we need to know that.  And that means we need evidence of that.  Not hearsay and "what I am hearing on the street."
  • If there are traffic or parking -related issues related to the operation of the Cigar City Tap Room, we need to know that, too.  And again, there needs to be data to support that claim.
  • However, if there is something else at work here, it needs to be exposed.  It needs to be called out.  And it needs to be addressed in a public forum for all to see.
Maybe that is too simple and reasonable.  But it seems like the best way to go about running a city.

Another comment that was thrown around was "well, that's what happen when you have no beer culture..." Really?  No beer culture in Tampa Bay?  Then explain to me the success of places like Cigar City, Saint Somewhere, Dunedin Brewery, and the Tampa Bay Brewing Company.  Tell me how places like the Oldsmar Tap House, Peg's Cantina, Willard's, the Pour House, and Mr. Dunderbak's survive?  We may not be Portland or San Francisco or Asheville, but considering what the craft beer landscape in Florida looked like even three or four years ago, I would say we are doing pretty damn well.

No beer culture in Florida?  Tell that to Redlight, Redlight in Orlando.  Tell it to Swamp Head brewing in Gainseville.  Tell all the locations of World of Beer they don't know what they are doing.  Explain to the owners of the Independent and the Rex that there is no "beer culture" for them to cater to.

I could go on.

As I mentioned on Twitter earlier today, the notion that Florida has no "beer culture" is like saying there is no "culinary culture" in England.  The claim is antiquated and patently false.  There was also the assertion that a "craft beer leader" - who wished to remain anonymous - in Florida agreed with the claim.  I have been writing about craft beer for over a year, and have traveled quite a bit, met a lot of people from all over.  Apparently I have not met our "leader".

Frankly the idea of a "craft beer leader" is laughable to me.  Craft beer lovers - the writers, the homebrewers, the fans, and even just the drinkers - work together just fine without someone guiding us.  Independent-minded, and just as passionate about our beer as anyone from Colorado, California, or Oregon.

So don't tell me there is no beer culture in Florida.  And don't tell me our "leader" agrees with you.  If he or she does, they are no leader at all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hell Hath No Fury...

There is nothing like a good political debate to rekindle one's activist spirit, no?  In case you have been living underneath some kind of Prohibition-era rock for the last 24 hours, you have at least heard about the recent kerfuffle with Cigar City Brewing and the Tampa Bay City Council.  If not, there are plenty of places you can go to read up on it.

The bottom line is three members of the Tampa City Council want to stop Cigar City from having a tasting room where people can buy locally produced craft beer, drink locally produced craft beer, or have craft beer events.  Never mind that it is a local business, owned and operated by local residents.  Never mind that they employ over twenty people locally.  Never mind that they attract visitor (and their money) to the Tampa Bay area, who then in turn spend their money on restaurants, hotels, and other activities.  One would think that in these difficult economic times, the idea of a local business thriving and succeeding would be encouraged, especially if said business is following all of the rules.

But apparently that is not enough for Tampa Council Members Gwen Miller, Thomas Scott, and Curtis Stokes.  Their claim is that "the neighborhood don't want it", with "it" being the wet-zoning and extended operating hours for serving beer or wine.  They have made very vague claims that alcohol-related crime is up, but when confronted with evidence to the contrary, they defended the allegations with "well, not everything gets reported."

Sorry, in my world that does not fly.  Which certainly makes some of us wonder what this is really about.  Are these three part of the insidious neo-prohibitionist movement that often rears its ugly head in times like these?  That would mean their argument was more of a "moral" one than one based on any kind of facts.  There is some grumbling that this is payback for the Council's long and well-documented battles with owner Joey Redner's father, Joe Redner.  Whatever the reasons, the bottom line is voting against making the zoning and hours permanent is tantamount to voting to kill jobs and keep dollars away from Tampa.  It is inexcusable and Miller, Scott, and Stokes ought to be held accountable.

One of the positive things to come out of this event, however, is how the craft beer community has rallied around Cigar City.  From Wayne Wamble's initial post on Facebook, the cry went out far and wide and craft beer lovers from all walks of life answered the call.  Letters, emails, and articles spread like wildfire.  A new Twitter hashtag was created (#SaveCCB), and a Facebook group was set up by DosBeerigos.  I have said before and I will say it again: Beer People R Good People.