This is a guest post by Doug Werly. He’s an almost-but-not-quite native of Florida and a true believer of everything local. He’s fallen hard since his days of Bud Light Lime (though he secretly still has a stash in his fridge) and now can’t pass up an opportunity to try anything new, and especially anything from around the corner. He somehow knows about (almost) every event or release, and is always spreading the beer nerd phenomenon, one pint at a time.
It’s said that time flies when you’re having fun. That certainly rings true with the folks at Bowigens Beer Company where they’re coming up on their 2nd Anniversary Party this Saturday, February 18th at high noon and lasting until 10pm (ish). The party this year is, of course, going to be bigger and better.
The brewery hasn’t seen many changes up front in the tap room, but there have been quite a few updates in the brew house, where they’ve recently tripled their production. They started distribution through Progressive distribution (who also handles other local accounts like Cask & Larder, Hourglass Brewing, and Redlight Redlight) and are only on draft currently.
There is currently still construction going on in the parking lot, but it’s expected to be completed before the party (even if they have to get out there and do it themselves). Several different bands are again coming out this year, but they’ve switched up the beer releases. Last year, they had six main beers and special beer releases throughout the day, which made it much more difficult to get all of the small batches. This year, they’ve gone the opposite route and are planning on having 12-15 full batches of beers on draft. They’ll have two special small batch releases during the day: their next variation of Hefe’n Awesome-er (imperial dunkelweizen) and a cask ale that they haven’t quite decided on yet. They say they didn’t have any complaints about it last year, but we certainly can all appreciate a much easier time getting the good stuff.
In addition to all of that, they’re planning on having more games, a longer bar outside, and even a session beer or two so you can last the marathon if you are there all day. They’re releasing a special bottling of Theogenes, an American Barleywine, that they’ve made in small batches before. It’s double the grain bill of any beer they’ve made and they expect it to easily finish out over 12%. Everything at the event is cash only, so bring those hundos.
I was able to catch up with Bobby Bowen, one of the two owners of Bowigens, for a quick chat about the anniversary party, where they’ve been, and where they’re going.
On the Central Florida beer scene: “Everybody has their own experience when they’re opening up and they always laugh about it and kind of share stories about new random things everyone has to do. A lot of the guys opening up after us have come in and we’ve talked, and tried to help them out, and they’ve helped out with struggles we haven’t had yet. It’s been a great community so far and we’re stoked about the Central Florida scene. We trade stuff and try to make the scene better as a whole. There’s always outliers and not everyone’s the best of friends ever, but for the most part, everyone’s been more than helpful.”
About the community and struggles: “Most of the feedback from customers and the community is positive, and we pride ourselves on our quality. Our biggest personal struggle, just because we’re one of the smaller guys, is trying to grow and get our name out there. Other people may know more about other breweries because of advertising, which is completely fine.”
On where they’ve been and where they’re going: “In two years, we’re a little bit ahead of pace from our initial business plan. We’re coming along and production has been good, we’re just a bit above our curve. We have big plans for the third and fourth year. We have year 1 through 15 planned, but that’s just us being us. The plans for the near future is to get more into distribution and we want to start packaging in cans.”
On longer term goals: “We want to expand our barrel program as well. Currently, it consists of one barrel [see below] that we have to wheel around the brew house whenever we want to do something. Obviously expanding that needs more room, so we’re considering expanding the current location or getting a secondary place. There’s a lot of different options and we’re trying to figure that out. We could keep the current location as an anchor taproom and getting another production facility off-site or trying to expand the current location.”
“We also want to touch on our Hidden Track series, which is our sour series. We’re starting to do some new sour stuff which should be ready in another year or two. The room for that isn’t here so, that’s the biggest things. More packaging, more production, do more funner stuff. We have a line coming out where we have 8 different wild yeast strains from the local area and we’re experimenting to help get our sour program off the ground. We could probably even fit a cool ship in the rafters. It’s harder to do in Florida because you have do it at the right time because of the higher temperatures.”
On how they plan to grow: “We’re not completely trying to follow the same track, a lot mentality right now is to grow as big as fast as you can and just keep rolling with it. We’re kind of set in our roots, we definitely want to grow to a point where we hit an amount we’re comfortable with where we can get beer in the places we want to get beer and do some of the cool things we don’t have room for now. We’re not going to keep doubling and tripling in size every year. Our model is we’re going to grow as much as everybody wants us to. If it’s successful and people are still loving the beer, then we’ll kind of roll with that. Last year we saw consistent grown month over month, but the lack of visibility due to the construction hasn’t helped. We’ve been lucky with the local community and obviously they’re the ones that help us grow.”