On September 28, Hurricane Ian made landfall in Cayo Costa in southwestern Florida. The dangerous Category 4 hurricane destroyed virtually everything in its path.
Two weeks later, Floridians are left with the monumental task of rebuilding their lives and businesses; many are left without their homes.
When Unseen Creatures' head brewer Dave Lester saw the destruction, he knew he had to do something. "Seeing the footage from Fort Myers was sobering. We're just two hours away. I just went on vacation with my family there." Lester decided the best way to help was by doing what he does best. "I don't have a lot of money, but I make beer every day."
Lester came up with a recipe for a hazy IPA and named it Florida Strong, and decided to share it with anyone who wanted to make the beer. Lester says he chose a hazy IPA because it's an easy beer to make. "Most brewers would have the ingredients on hand. Plus, it's a popular style of beer."
He then invited brewers in Florida to a collaborative meeting last Friday to see if anyone wanted to brew the beer. The response was overwhelmingly positive. "About 20 breweries came on Friday for collab day," says Lester, including four from areas affected by the hurricane: Point Ybel and Crazy Dingo in Fort Myers, Ceremony Brewing in Bonita Springs, and Riptide Brewing in Naples.
Lester says that the collab day was a chance for the brewers to get together and make connections. "It sounds like we were doing a lot of work, but honestly, we were hanging out. It was a nice day to have a few beers."
The collab day allowed the four brewers from Southwest Florida to meet brewers from the east coast of Florida who could potentially collaborate on other beers. "I know Crazy Dingo almost got destroyed completely," says Lester, adding, "This is an opportunity for some of the breweries to keep their name alive and keep making beer while they rebuild."
Lester and his team at Unseen Creatures are currently working on a website where they will share the Florida Strong beer recipe for any brewer who wants it. "I only ask that money be donated to an organization that's helping the rebuilding efforts on the west coast," he adds.
This isn't the first time a beer recipe was shared with the intent of raising money. In 2018, Miami brewers joined breweries from across the country to brew an IPA to help the California Camp Fire relief efforts. Weathered Soul Brewery in San Antonio released the recipe for its Black is Beautiful beer to any brewer who agreed to donate 100 percent of proceeds to "local foundations that support police brutality reform and legal defenses for those who have been wronged."
On November 5, Unseen Creatures will hold a release party for its version of Florida Strong, with proceeds going to Community Cooperative in Fort Myers. "They run a soup kitchen and a meals-on-wheels program, so they have the resources to help people immediately," says Lester. The brewery will be selling four packs of Florida Strong and will be doing additional fundraisers. Details are still being worked out and will be posted on the brewery's website shortly.
If you are a brewer and would like to brew your own version of Florida Strong, email [email protected].