One Saturday afternoon in August, more than a dozen people had already gathered inside a small, nondescript brewery just minutes after it opened for the day. The Naples Beach Brewery, with its popular beer tastings and tours, has quickly emerged as a buzz-worthy standout among Neapolitans. Located in Naples’ industrial district and wedged between shutter manufacturers, the no-frills microbrewery is the first of its kind in town.
When owner Will Lawson first opened in November 2012, he sensed it wouldn’t take long for the tours to catch on. Lawson first moved to Naples a decade ago from Michigan, when he noticed the lack of craft beers in local stores and around the Paradise Coast. He recalls feeling burnt out at the time, working at a golf course and dreaming of opening his own business with no idea what it would be. That Christmas, his wife bought him a home-brewing kit and the amateur hobby morphed into an all-encompassing passion.
Four years later, Lawson attended a prestigious brewing school, Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, which included a five-week stint in Munich. He ultimately returned to Naples with his wife to turn his passion for beer into a business—and fill the niche opportunity he spotted years earlier. “Naples has a sophisticated population,” says Lawson, “and sophisticated people enjoy these types of craft beers. We’ll get people from their 20s to 60s and even 70s because they’re curious.”
Today, the microbrewery is packed on tour days, supplies dozens of local bars and restaurants with its unique brews and plans to expand in 2014 to keep up with demand. Tours, including tastings, can take up to an hour as Lawson walks patrons through the brewing, fermentation and storage process.
A Bavarian wheat beer, dubbed the Naples Beach Weizen, is one of six beers on tap. The unfiltered brew pours a hazy straw color, while the traditional Bavarian yeast strains give the beer a fruity, slightly sweet smell and taste. Other brews include rye, dark, amber and red ales—but the one that has bubbled up as most popular is the Mango Ginger Tripel, made with crystallized ginger and mango chunks. The flavor profile is deliciously balanced, not too sweet as one might suspect, and registers the highest in alcohol content (7.75 percent). It’s also the most expensive and complex to brew so it’s only available for tastings and not sold commercially yet. But that will change in the fall of 2014, when Lawson plans to open an estimated 5,000-square-foot facility—nearly four times the size of the current location.
Naples Beach Brewery
- Tour & Tasting: Fridays, 4-8 p.m. and Saturdays, 3-7 p.m. Private tours available Thursday evenings. All tours subject to change based on festival dates and tap takeovers;
- For an up-tp-date schedule, call 239-304-8795.
- Admssion: $15 (includes tasting, plus two full beers)
Photography by Vanessa Rogers