Just around the corner from the bars, clubs and restaurants of downtown Gainesville sits First Magnitude Brewing Company, the newest player in Gainesville’s craft beer community.
First Magnitude Brewing Company began when two couples — Meg and Wells The Losen and their friends, John and Christine Denny — noticed the growing enthusiasm for craft beer in the north central Florida community.
The couples, craft beer enthusiasts themselves, saw the business potential and made the decision to open their own brewery and tasting room in August.
The opening of First Magnitude came on the heels of a lawsuit that could overturn a statewide ban on the sale of 64-ounce “growlers,” or jugs, of craft beer.
The ban is unconstitutional, according to a press release on the Pacific Legal Foundation’s website, and the restrictions are “limiting the growth of a promising industry.”
The 64-ounce growler is considered the standard container size in the craft beer world, said Ben Radich, manager at Tipple’s Brews in Gainesville.
“I think it’s a great size for a growler fill, because it’s 4 pints of beer,” Radich said. “Take that home, share it with one of your friends, each of you has about two beers.”
Pacific Legal Foundation filed the lawsuit in federal court on Oct. 28 on behalf of The Crafted Keg, a craft beer restaurant in Stuart.
First Magnitude Brewing Company is one of several new breweries that opened in Florida by the end of 2014, according to Alan Hodges, co-author of the University of Florida study on the economic impact of the craft brewing industry.
Hodges, an extension scientist in the Food & Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida, said the craft beer industry will only continue to expand.
“Year over year, growth in the industry is about 50 percent,” Hodges said. “If you look at other states like Colorado and Washington that have a more mature craft brewing industry, it looks like Florida has significant potential to further expand to at least 10 times bigger than what it is now.”
According to the UF study, as of last year, 122 craft breweries were operating in the state of Florida.
Gainesville is also home to two other breweries: Alligator Brewing Company, housed in Tall Paul’s Brew House, and Swamp Head Brewery, which began construction on an expansion project in July, according to the brewery’s website.
Meg The Losen said that Gainesville is an ideal area for craft breweries to operate.
“We’re fortunate because having the university base plus a lot of alumni and other folks… makes for a good dynamic for having enough business,” she said.
Becoming a destination for tourists and a draw for people moving to Gainesville has always been a goal of First Magnitude, but the growler ban inhibits that to some degree, according to The Losen.
“We definitely see people from out of state. There’s such enthusiasm for people that have these growlers and… to have to say, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t fill that one, we can fill the smaller one and we can fill this other big one but we can’t fill that one’, it really doesn’t make Florida look so good.”
The 64-ounce growler is legal in all states except for Florida, Idaho and Missisippi.
Radich has also encountered tourists from other states unfamiliar with the Florida law who are disappointed when they can’t fill the growlers.
“They don’t understand why it’s illegal, just like the rest of us don’t understand why it’s illegal either,” Radich said. “I think honestly, it’s a very silly law.”
Hodges said that if the lawsuit is successful and the law is found unconstitutional, the craft beer business will see the benefits.
“[The law] probably has slowed it down some,” Hodges said. “The industry could have grown even more if we didn’t have that law on the books.”