TBN Weekly- As the popularity of beer produced by smaller breweries continues to grow, local communities are benefiting in a number of ways. Pinellas County is no exception.

Florida had 195 craft breweries and was ranked 10th in the nation at the end of 2016, according to the Brewer’s Association. As of 2015, about one-third of the state’s microbreweries were in Tampa Bay and about 20 percent of those were in Pinellas County, according to statistics compiled by Forward Pinellas.

In 2017, 86 of these small-production breweries were open in the Tampa Bay region with more than 30 doing business in Pinellas, according to Dan Bjerk, senior international trade specialist for the U.S. Department of Commerce, who is working on a new project to help breweries expand their market.

The industry is growing rapidly, which is good news for owners and local communities, as more people begin to covet the taste of beer produced at microbreweries and fall in love with the creativity of craft beer.

The Brewer’s Association defines microbreweries as those that produce less than 15,000 barrels of beer a year with 75 percent or more of its beer sold off-site. A brewpub is a restaurant-brewery that sells 25 percent or more of its beer on site. Craft brewers are “small, independent and traditional,” per the Brewer Association’s definition. They produce 6 million barrels of beer or less. They’re innovative. They use traditional ingredients but often incorporate non-traditional ingredients to create unique tastes.

These new smaller breweries are making a difference in downtown and industrial areas throughout the county in a variety of ways.

Forward Pinellas has been researching how local municipalities have been revising their zoning codes to accommodate the needs of local brewers. Brett Burks, Forward Pinellas program planner, talked about some of what the agency has discovered in a March 7 blog post.

Breweries combine commercial and industrial uses. Brewpubs are best suited for areas zoned for retail uses that allow manufacturing. Microbreweries need a location that allows light manufacturing uses with a smaller retail component.

Brewpubs are great fits for downtown and commercial areas near bars and other restaurants, and microbreweries, which have a taproom or tasting room, are suited for commercial or industrial areas, as well as transitional areas between downtown and industrial lands.

Alicia Parinello, another Forward Pinellas program planner working on the brewery project, said Forward Pinellas was working to make sure breweries were included in the countywide plan. The agency is educating county commissioners and municipal leaders, as well as working with local governments on ways to attract microbreweries to their areas through a variety of incentives.

She said that through Forward Pinellas’ research role, it was able to give advice about adjusting regulations, identifying proper locations and other information based on what had been done in other communities. Staff also can provide technical assistance if needed, especially for municipalities that don’t have their own planning staff.

She said there had been a lot of interest from local governments.

“They want to see what others are doing to attract them,” she said. “There is an economic benefit to breweries.”

In fact, breweries are springing up all over the county from Tarpon Springs to St. Pete Beach with a big concentration in downtown St. Petersburg. Parinello said not only are the small breweries bringing a lot of economic growth, they are locating in areas where redevelopment is needed. Owners are taking over rundown spaces and sprucing them up, which is a boost to the entire area.

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