Boynton Beach on verge of new brewery - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Boynton Beach on verge of new brewery

BOYNTON BEACH, FL (WFLX) - When it comes to beer, what does South Florida taste like?

Brewers are trying to figure that out as Boynton Beach paves the way for the second craft brewery in the whole county.

When Palm Beach County brewer Mike Halker approached the city last year to apply for the right to build a brewery, they told him their zoning didn't allow for it.

Like any artist, Halker says he experiments. "Four or five times a week, in really small batches, so we can try this and try that," said Halker.

For now, his laboratory is nothing more than a backyard with some gear for beer. Kettles, strainers and a few taps flowing from a fridge. "The more I explored these things, the more I thought I could do it better," said Halker.

Soon, the size of his tanks multiplied - by a hundred, and he needed more than paper labels that said Due South Brewing.

He is planning to move his brewery, Due South, into a warehouse near Gateway Blvd. But he says that part's easy.

The hard part was getting permission from the city to put an outfit that will both sell and ship beer on land that is zoned as industrial.

With commercial space too small and too expensive for a brewery, the city is expected to make an exception for what it's calling tasting rooms, saying it wants to fill a void in the burgeoning microbrew industry. "There were some municipalities that we went to that we couldn't understand or figure out a way to make it work. When we approached Boynton, they welcomed us in," said Halker.

"There's a lot of craft beer coming in from throughout the country. Why not make 'em here?" said Fran Andrewlevich, the organizer of the Field of Beer festival held every year in Jupiter.

Andrewlevich says there are only a few dozen microbrews in the whole state, and that the rise of a second local brewery is an opportunity to create something almost as valuable as jobs - an identity for South Florida. "It just says that we're up, we're coming, we're doing great stuff," said Andrewlevich. "It just adds a nice flair to the state, like we're not just a bunch of retirees down here,"

Even in a difficult economy for a startup, Halker says demand for craft beers is strong enough to make predictions of selling a quarter of a million beers annually by 2015. "We do hope to say in five to 10 years from now, we'll certainly be a good-sized regional brewery that's available all over the southeast," said Halker.

Eventually, he says he expects to employ 50 people.

Even after unanimously approving the change to the city code two weeks ago, the city commission tabled the issue Tuesday to hammer out language that one member is concerned could lead to a loophole that would allow new adult entertainment businesses to sprout up.

A different member of the commission says approval is expected in several weeks.

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