Kyle Jones co-founded LauderAle back in 2013, and while it has grown dramatically since then, it was still one of the smaller breweries in the competition. To win one of the top awards –for the second year in a row, actually – was a bit of a shock to Jones.
“We never really expected to win the first time, so winning this year again was just really a surprise,” Jones says.
The Best Florida Beer Championships is held every year, an event sanctioned by the Beer Judge Certification Program. The championship culminates in winners being announced at the Brewers’ Ball. Jones says the event is nothing more than a bunch of kegs under tents, with a couple hundred people helping themselves to whatever they want to try.
Jones brought the same beer that won a gold medal last year: the Black Mamba, a foreign-export-style imperial stout. It’s similar to a Guinness, with no added flavors or additives found in many beers these days, and Jones says maybe that’s what helped it win. “It’s just a good, simple foreign-export stout, and I think that’s why the judges liked it,” he says.
Now, Jones is thinking about what to bring next year. The Black Mamba will be making a return, but Jones is also considering which of his other beers to bring. He’s thinking a New England-style IPA called Lunch Money and the Gulf Stream Cream ale, a smooth-drinking beer that goes down like a vanilla milkshake.
But first, Jones and partner Joey Farrell are getting reading for the brewery’s three-year anniversary. They’re planning a two-day festival for the last weekend in July, which will coincide with the release of Gulf Stream in cans and two new bottled beers.
All of it is still something of a surprise to Jones, who just never saw this success coming. “Most breweries, they open up with a ton of money and huge equipment and big plans to corner the market,” he says. “We really didn’t have a plan or know what we were doing. We just wanted to make beer.”
Turns out not having a plan worked. According to The Best Florida Beer Championships, it’s clear they’re making some of the state’s best.