Brewing Veteran Fran Andrewlevich Talks About The Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival and South Florida Beer Week

Since 2012, Brown Distributing has been putting on and hosting events for South Florida Beer Week (hopefully this New Times guide has been helpful to you this year). As you might have guessed, this is a week-long blitz of one-off tappings, tap takeovers, and a host of beer-centered events.

When searching for a week to put on this series of events, Brown didn’t have to look too much further than the week before the Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival, held every year since 2007 towards the end of January.

This festival, now in its 10th year, has grown from highlighting 26 breweries in 2006, of which 6 were from Florida, to highlighting 59 breweries with 41 Florida breweries represented. It’s the brainchild of Tequesta Brewing Co. and Twisted Trunk Brewing Company co-founder and brewer Fran Andrewlevich. I stopped by his Palm Beach Gardens brewery to ask him about the festival and South Florida Beer Week.

What makes Jupiter Craft Brewers’ Festival different from others around here?

“Brewers bring their A-game, they bring their real stuff. 90% of the time you’re going to see the owner, the brewer, behind the booth, so totally different than most events.”

“Our thing is we just keep it real simple. We don’t do sponsorships, we don’t charge the brewers. We get them rooms. I’ve got 50-60 of the best volunteers on the planet [who] come in from all over the world. The experience when you come in is all about having a good time. You pay your money, come in, and forget about the world for four hours.”

“We’re not trying to make money off of it. Our charity is Autism Project of Palm Beach County, they get the vast vast majority of it.”

How has the festival evolved over the last ten years?

“So it’s mostly Florida [breweries] now. It’s an option that just didn’t exist before. The level of beer, the styles, the varieties, they all have grown along with craft beer with Florida’s resurgence here in the last five years, I’d say. The consumer is more educated, the brewers are more educated, overall the quality is just that much better.”

The precursor to JCBF is Field of Beers, that’s been going on for how long?

“Eight years now.”

What spurned that to become a separate event from the festival?

“Well I just saw the need for it. That’s gone from 250 people to 500 and it sells out in 11 minutes. I was originally a chef … so I just have always been doing food and beer my whole life. Just actually being able to do it, and at that cool venue on the field in the dugouts and all that … and the first year I did it, the guy at the stadium was like ‘What are you talking about? You pair food with beer?’. This was only eight years ago. The chefs do an amazing job and the brewers just do such a great job. It’s kind of the rule of thumb [for brewers]: bring something that people can’t get in our area. So they really step it up.”

How has South Florida Beer Week contributed to what’s going on?

“[Brown Distributing] kind of tagged in on the end of it, but it’s great because the end of South Florida Beer Week is the festival. They were going to do one anyways, and they just said ‘Hey, let’s do all these events plus lets finish it with JCBF’. It was a great complement. Brown started, we love working with Brown, they’re our distributor, so we all came and grew with this thing. It was brilliant… the whole awareness is great.”

And it’s grown a lot since those first couple of events.

“The reps, the bars, the restaurants, are all behind it; it’s not just the brewers anymore. It’s not like [we’re] having to fly the flag, people are flying the flag for us. I love the whole idea, just like we’re finally on the map. I’ve been brewing here for 20 years, and it’s been a long road to hoe.”

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Field of Beers, the food and beer pairing on the field in Roger Dean Stadium, is Friday January 29th, but is sold out. Remember, it took only 11 minutes? Next year, I expect it to be under 10.

The Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival goes on this Saturday January 30th. Even though online tickets are sold out, there will be 1,000 tickets available at the gate on Saturday. $35. Cash only. It is well worth the effort.

Roger Dean Stadium is located at 4751 Main Street in Jupiter. Head to jupitercraftbrewersfestival.com for more information.