The craft beer segment has exploded over the last few years in Central Florida and the rest of our great sunshine state. Craft beer can be found around Florida in more than 300 brewery’s throughout. Many start out as hobbies in a house or garage then move into professional spaces. Some have storefronts, some in warehouses or commercial spaces in industrial business parks. A lot of areas have multiple brewers within a few miles so these small businesses face big challenges with competition and distribution. Many of these small brewers only sell their beers on tap or in various to-go containers like Kegs, Growlers, Crowlers, Bottles, and Cans. Many brewers have a passion to make the perfect beer, a brewery restaurant, or hang out spot. This segment continues to grow and keeps getting exciting as more tours and groups focus on getting us to try and meet all of the amazing people who like me, love beer.
What got you starting to do craft beers at home? What was that push that took you from home to an actual brewery?
Robert: We brewed in the garage forever, everything just came together we just jumped after talking with friends. For us it was like a perfect storm we had family support, co-workers, a perfect location that fell into our lap. We were just brewing for us, we did it for fun and for the love of beer. We drank what we made for us, because of my passion, I kept trying to make the perfect beer. 5 years before we started the brewery, I made a beer for a work competition and we won that first competition. From that time on it was always in the back of my mind to make that next step. That award gave us the confidence that we had the right beer to do it, after that it was a matter of time and getting the right pieces in place. Every three months we did the same beer over and over around once a week until we got the flavors right...finally that hobby turned into a perfect plan for a brewery.
If you had a chance to meet someone in the brewery business alive or dead, who would it be?
Robert: During the early days of my beer journey I was fascinated with Sam Calagione the founder and president of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware. We have similar stories, where we started with our buddies then that passion turned into careers. I look at him as one of the pioneers in the craft beer movement. Dogfish Head had some of the first beers that made me want to copy or emulate. When I tried those beers that I thought were perfect, I want to see if I could do the same thing.
Your building was a gas/service station in the past? Have you done any themes or homage to that history?
Robert: We knew the landlord, they picked that location up with us in mind before they even asked us. It was a perfect location for many reasons. Our Brewhouse is in the garage bay and our bar is in the convenience store. No, we have not done any themes in regard to the gas or service station. We did, however, we did name our IPA after the former owner who was a minor league baseball player named Buddy Lake. We love our building and location in Sanford.
Do you have a mentor?
Robert: No not really, I have really just read and done much with myself. I have just have researched or learned from research so that I can perfect my craft. If I had to reference someone it would be Von Raike he is someone who I have admired and asked a few questions to, he gave me some advice. I always have respected his opinion, it always meant a lot to me.
I love some of the beer names? How do you pick your names?
Robert: Most of our beer names are inside jokes. Names let us have a window of time when we created that beer. It’s like we are freezing that moment in time with a name. We just wing it off the top of our heads. We have lists but we never remember them. So we just wing it when we make one we like.
Dammit Karl? Is that from Friends?
Robert: No it is not, most people think that is a walking dead reference. It’s because of our bartender his name was Kyle. People kept calling him Karl and we thought that was always funny. After a while we started to blame things on Karl, he was something to blame mistakes on. No one really knew that we were blaming things on a person who did not exist. We like inside jokes!
What is your favorite Pizza Restaurant? Who has your favorite pizza?
Robert: Mr. Z’s on first street, hands down!
Most areas have a food that they are known for food and Orlando does not have that, what would you say is Orlando’s signature beer is?
Robert: I think we are just getting to the point where we are getting close if I had a guess it would be a Berliner Wiess for Orlando. Orlando is starting to put out some great versions of a Berliner Weisse, I think that light beers are great for our hot weather in Florida so they are perfect. Florida went from being the worst to the top 10 in just a short period of time for brewing beer. The 64 oz growler ban years ago had a big grip on the Orlando area and it stopped breweries from opening up so it put us behind some other states.
I’m a fan of the fraternity connecting brewers, Is there really a brotherhood and are brewery’s as close as it seems?
Robert: We all have a friendly competition the overall feeling is like a brotherhood. I feel that our world has the least amount of jerks compared to others. You know, it’s hard to be a jerk when you are talking about beer or drinking beer. We may not all be best friends but we are all here to help and support each other if needed. I feel that I can connect with anyone if needed. Our industry has good people and I enjoy that.
I see flavors like Cucumber Mint Gose... What is the craziest flavor you have done?
Robert: I don’t do crazy, I like traditional styles. I have not been into fancy flavors or types. I want to make a perfect version of a style. In my weird brain, I want to make great versions of classic types or traditional styles.
You recently started to do Crowlers, what other changes have you made or changes would you still like to do?
Robert: Crowlers just started, we have always done Growlers. They are 32 oz cans we ordered our equipment before this Covid outbreak. It has been great to be able to expand on our to-go order options. We can deliver beer through 2nd Kitchen and Bierme. We are hoping that we will continue to remain a revenue stream for after this is over. This will be a silver lining in all of this as this is a tough time right now. We are managing to keep things going during the time as being small we can weather the storm due to keeping our budget as a focal point. We have always operated on a tight budget and have kept our spending down since we started.
I saw a Starwars cup in a photo, what character can you most relate with?
Robert: Yes. I can relate, but that's a hard question! I am a Star Wars geek! My favorite is Qui Gon Jinn, Liam Neeson’s character in the Phantom Menace. His character was into being mindful or zen. His philosophy is that we are all connected. I like to live in the moment, I do not like to stress about was and let the past stress me out. Don’t stress about something unless you can actively change it. We can’t stress about the past, we can only learn from it as we can’t do anything about it.
Best quote from our talk:
I am a family man who gets to enjoy his hobby with friends and family.
Inner Compass Brewery is part of the Central Florida Ale Trail which is part of the Central Florida Brewers Guild. There are currently 27 breweries on the Ale Trail. Check out Inner Compass and many of the other great brewers in Central Florida! You can check out the Ale Trail at www.centralfloridaaletrail.com. Central Florida has really made some major leaps forward and has some great people to meet and beers to try with them! I picked up a Damit Karl, Meh?, and Bridge the Gap had brought them home in Crowlers. Click here to see a Crowler being made!