Audubon Florida and South Florida Breweries Launch the Everglades Brewers Council

Audubon Florida and a coalition of South Florida breweries have teamed up to launch the Everglades Brewers Council. Our members are driven by a united goal: to protect South Florida’s water and amplify regional resilience by promoting Everglades restoration and other vital conservation policies.

Brewers are acutely aware of the importance of having a steady supply of clean water; beer is, after all, 90% water. In South Florida, clean water is inextricably tied to the health of the Everglades ecosystem. 

“Craft breweries bring people together,” says Celeste De Palma, Director of Policy at Audubon Florida, “Audubon protects the places birds love because we know that where birds thrive people prosper. This new partnership reinforces the notion that the Everglades is key to South Florida’s prosperity, and that everyone has a stake in protecting the ecosystems that sustain us.”

A restored Everglades is imperative to South Florida’s future. The Everglades provide drinking water to nearly eight million Floridians; about one out of every three people in the state. The water that flows through the River of Grass replenishes our aquifers, and the wetlands act like kidneys, filtering out impurities in the water. Increasing waterflow into the Everglades and, consequently, into our aquifers, makes South Florida more resilient in the face of some challenges we face. South Florida’s population is predicted to grow, increasing demand on the aquifer, and sea levels are rising, placing our wells at risk of salt water intrusion.

Additionally, the Everglades help fire South Florida’s economic engine, attracting tourists, offering habitat for commercially important fish species, and sustaining agriculture. These iconic wetlands, home to more than 350 species of birds, are woven into South Florida’s identity, treasured for their biodiversity and their beauty.

“We live in the fabulous Florida Keys,” says Cheryl McBay, owner of Florida Keys Brewing Co, “Without clean water, there is nothing fabulous about them.”

Jose Mallea, president of Biscayne Bay Brewing Co, says, “Protecting the Everglades as a source of fresh water is vital to our way of life.  As brewers we cannot operate without clean and available water. From brewing to farming, it is vital for our health and our economy that action be taken now!”

“The importance of clean water to the brewing process runs deep; the slightest impurity can lead to off flavors and affect the overall quality of beer," says Jaime Medina, head brewer and co-owner of Spanish Marie Brewery.

Allen Steen, owner of Mad Robot Brewing Co, says, “I've lived my whole life in the great state of Florida, so the importance of the Everglades has been ingrained in me since I was a child. These wetlands are vital to the state's way of life, identity, health, and economic future. The brewing industry in Florida has become a significant part of the state's tourism. As brewers, we depend on clean water to make a quality product and to continue to attract beer seekers from outside of the state.”

Current challenges like recurring algal blooms and sea level rise prove that the time for significant funding is more important than ever to accelerate restoration.  That’s why Audubon Florida and the members of the Everglades Brewers Council delivered a letter to leadership in the House and Senate urging them to come together and pass a spending bill that includes $200 million for Everglades restoration in FY20 and ensure that the residents, businesses, and wildlife that depend on the Everglades ecosystem continue to thrive. See a copy of the letter here. 

The members of the Everglades Brewers Council currently include:

Biscayne Bay Brewing Company

Florida Keys Brewing Co.

Gulf Stream Brewing Company

LauderAle Brewery

Mathews Brewing Company

Mad Robot Brewing Co.

M.I.A. Beer Co. 

Saltwater Brewery

Spanish Marie Brewery

The Tank Brewing Co.

Tarpon River Brewing


Historically, water in the Everglades flowed down the Kissimmee River, overflowed the banks of Lake Okeechobee, and moved in a slow sheet across South Florida until it reached Florida Bay. Throughout the 20th century, the Everglades were drained and water was rerouted by a series of pumps, canals, levees, and other structures. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, which was signed into law 20 years ago and is one of the largest ecosystem restoration projects in the world, recreates the original north-south flow of water and delivers it in the right quantities and at the right time to recreate more natural hydrological patterns.

Consistent and significant funding for this effort is needed from both State and Federal partners. This year, the Florida Legislature approved a historic $400 million budget to support the restoration effort. Earlier in June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a spending bill before the summer recess that included $200 million for Everglades restoration in Fiscal Year 2020. In September, an appropriations bill containing $200 million for Everglades restoration in Fiscal Year 2020 cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee, but stalled in the full Senate. Because Congress did not enact appropriations before the end of the fiscal year, the House and Senate approved a continuing resolution to keep the federal government running until November 21st and avoid a shutdown at the end of September. Now, the House and Senate must compromise on full appropriations for FY20 before November 21st to avoid a shutdown or another continuing resolution, which would fund Everglades restoration efforts at the previous year’s funding levels - $67.5 million - and not the $200 million that has been fought for this year.

About the craft beer industry:

Florida craft beer is a $3.6 billion industry that continues to exhibit strong growth. According to data from the Brewers Association, the state now has 1.7 breweries per 100,000 adults over 21. There are 60+ breweries in South Florida alone. In 2018, Florida’s breweries churned out nearly 1.4 million barrels of beer, a number that continues to rise. As small businesses, they are contributors to local economies and important community hubs. 

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