”This is going to be the next Florida brewery to take off.”
“Seventh Sun is going to explode and hit the craft beer scene from out of nowhere.”
“These flavors are ridiculous!”
“They are really raising the bar for Florida craft beer.”
In the span of about an hour, I heard all of these remarks and many more like them at the Seventh Sun Brewing release party. From the moment I stepped in and tasted the Key Lime Berliner Sublime, I knew something special was happening.
On January 7, Seventh Sun Brewing in Dunedin, Florida, poured its first beers and joined the rapidly growing family of Florida craft breweries. Located in a small strip mall in the downtown area, and literally right around the corner from Dunedin Brewing Company, Seventh Sun is the child of co-owners Justin Stange and Devon Kreps.
Stange has brewed most recently at Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, and before that at Sweetwater Brewing Company in Atlanta. He and his girlfriend/business partner Kreps had been working on opening Swell Beer in Tampa Bay, but after some obstacles decided to bring Seventh Sun to fruition.
I had a chance to talk to Devon after the event and asked her about the new brewery. I was particularly curious about the apparent Florida influence on the beers, specifically the various fruit additions.
“Our Berliner Weisse, Midnight Moonlight, really was the inspiration behind adding fruit to the beer,” Kreps said. “There are already so many fruity-citrus notes in this beer that we wanted to add fruit that would bring forward some of the already present flavors. The intention was not necessarily Florida influenced; it really happened more organically. The beer was really the factor that dictated the flavors. Also we built a great relationship with TeBella Tea in Davis Island who has some really fantastic blends and does anything from fruit blends, herbal blends to black and green tea blends. They came up with some interesting fruit blends that have had great synergy with our beer. One added bonus is that playing around with some of these fruits allows us to produce a wider variety of beers, and we can get creative and have fun with the flavors.”
As for influences to their brewing, Krep cites “Russian River Brewing Company and traditional Belgian Lambic brewers like Jean Van Roy of Cantillon, and breweries like O’Dell Brewing Company for their inspirational wood-aged line up.”
Technically Seventh Sun opened in December 2011, serving other breweries’ craft beers while waiting for the licensing to serve their own came through.
Their first pour of opening day was auctioned off on eBay for $202.50. The winning bid went to a trio well known in the Florida beer community: Joey Redner and Justin Clarke of Cigar City Brewing and Zach Schuster of Brown Distributing. The three toasted with the fan-favorite Donut Porter to kick off the afternoon. The profits from the auction went tovHomeless Emergency Project (HEP), a local charity in Pinellas County. The doors opened at 2pm, and according to Stange, they had gone through 400 wristbands in just two hours.
Seventh Sun Beers on Tap at the Release Party
- Midnight Midnight (Berliner Weiss)
- Overhead IPA (Simcoe and Amarillo dry hopped)
- FYA (single hopped Extra Pale Ale)
- Belgian IPA (American-Euro hop hybrid)
- Saison in Paradise (French-style with Grains of Paradise)
- Noix de Cocoa (French Saison and herbal coconut)
- Donut Porter (Chocolate Porter with glazed donuts)
- Key Lime Berliner Sublime (Berliner with key lime herbal blend)
- Kiwi-Cherry Coconut Berliner
- Pearvocative FYA (FYA with herbal blend)
While I would have loved to sample all ten taps, I had to limit myself to two for the afternoon. I chose the Overhead IPA and the Donut Porter, both of which were incredible. The Overhead rivals any of the best IPAs I have had, and the Donut Porter is a sweet chocolate Porter with—you guessed it—the flavor of glazed donuts throughout. Ridiculously good. I had a few samples of some of the others as well: like the tart and delicious Key Lime Berliner Sublime, and the FYA is an extremely good hoppy pale. I am very excited to try the rest of their lineup soon.
When asked about the immediate future, Devon explained, “Year-round we are going to offer the Midnight Moonlight, Saison in Paradise, and FYA. These three will also be the first to be distributed. We plan on rolling out distribution during the very recently created Tampa Bay Beer Week, March 3-10.”
Seventh Sun is just the first new Tampa Bay brewery of 2012 to offer its beers to craft beer-thirsty in Florida. With the impending opening of at least three others in the coming months, there looks to be another surge in locally-owned breweries operating in the Bay Area. Florida is definitely getting some long-awaited attention in the craft beer world.
Sean Nordquist is a beer writer and blogger in St. Petersburg, Florida. His articles routinely appear in the weekly print magazine Creative Loafing, as well as his own popular blog Beer for the Daddy. He is an active participant in the growing Florida craft beer scene. Sean is also an educator, focusing on environmental science and climate change issues, and a graduate student in the field of Global Sustainability. Find him on twitter at @beerforthedaddy.