6 Tastemakers to Watch
Meet These Rising Stars Working to Set Our Cultural and Business Agendas in the Year to Come.
(page 4 of 5)
Will Lawson, 35
NA PLES BEACH BREWERY
The owner of Southwest Florida’s first microbrewery is committed to his craft—and that’s making us thirsty.
Will Lawson is a beer guy. That’s the first thing you need to know.
The second thing you need to know is that he doesn’t give up, especially not when it comes to the first thing. When he moved to Naples in 2003 and discovered the town lacked the variety of beer choices he enjoyed in his native Michigan, Lawson let his imagination begin to brew. As a hobby, he started making beer in his home and, later, completed a beer study course at the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago.
Now, the fizzy fruits of that labor are ready to be savored. With the opening of the Naples Beach Brewery in November, Lawson has officially become the owner of Southwest Florida’s first microbrewery. Already, Lawson is hard at work creating a variety of heady libations, including red ale, hefeweizen and a Belgian golden ale that Lawson is convinced will be a crowd favorite.
“We’ve had a great audience and gotten great reviews from everyone who’s tried it,” he says of the golden ale, which is flavored with mango and ginger.
Naples Beach Brewery will brew six beers to start, two of which will be distributed locally. Popular Naples watering hole South Street is among the local restaurants that have committed to sell at least one of his beers.
In some markets, the trend is toward bigger, bolder craft beers with exotic and unusual flavors. But in Southwest Florida, Lawson says he has found that customers want something else—lighter, drinkable beers that complement their tropical lifestyle. That’s what he is offering.
“You feel like you’re drinking a special, handcrafted beer that a brewery spent a lot of time and attention on,” he says. “But they’re still pretty easy on the palate. You can have a couple of them and you’re not falling out of your seat.”
For those who find themselves suddenly craving a cold one, Lawson is holding brewery tours at his Enterprise Avenue facility. Offered on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, the tours are a chance to experience the brewery and its 55-gallon, three-vessel system, as well as sample all six of Lawson’s beers and to better understand the intricacies of brewing.
Craft beer has picked up momentum in the past few years,” he says. “It’s not a fad anymore. It’s more mainstream. And given the opportunity, I can show people diversity in the beer styles.”