Swamp Head Becomes First Solar-Powered Brewery In Florida

Luke Kemper, the owner of Swamp Head Brewery, shares a laugh over a beer with tactical manager Brandon Nappy. The brewery creates many seasonable beers but has found success from the first original five beers, which are available year round.
Luke Kemper, the owner of Swamp Head Brewery, shares a laugh over a beer with tactical manager Brandon Nappy. The brewery creates many seasonal beers, but has found success from its original five beers, which are available year round. RJ Schaffer / WUFT News

When the sun shines, the beer will flow.

That’s the case at Swamp Head Brewery. The Gainesville beer producer became the first solar-powered brewery in Florida after installing solar panels on the roof of its new location off Southwest 34th Street.

From the beginning, the goal for Swamp Head has been sustainability. Luke Kemper, owner and operator, said, while the price to install the panels was high, it was important to act upon the eco-friendly ideals the brewery has preached from its beginning in 2008.

Though he has yet to go on the roof himself, Kemper said about 50 panels have been installed with plans to install more when they have a better understanding of the energy saved once the brewery is fully operational.

The move toward an eco-friendly set-up goes beyond solar panels. Next to the brewery is an acre of land  purchased solely for conservation.

“It backs up to a larger conservation area,” Kemper said. “You’ve got deadlooking trees back there where there’s a giant wetland, which is something we were excited about when we bought it. That was part of the reason of picking this site.”

Kemper said when he purchased the property, the city asked him to help maintain it, not only by taking general care of it, but also by getting rid of invasive species.

He said they were given a list of plants meant to be removed from the property and was told the city will check yearly to ensure they are cleared.

The solar panels and the preservation of land are the two most visible projects Swamp Head is working on but some of the less noticeable aspects of the brewery are also infused with conservation.

“It never ends as far as ultimately what we want to do,” Kemper said. “Eco goes in all different forms and fashion. We try to buy anything we can that’s made in the USA to cut down on travel costs and transportation. Anything we can buy local, we buy local.”

The brewery sends its spent grain to farmers at the University of Florida to feed cattle. Soybased inks and recycled cardboards are bought as alternatives to normal ink and paper. The can caps are made of 96 percent recycled plastics and the tasting room offers growlers, which are jugs customers can return for refill.

Swamp Head has been working with the Alachua Conservation Trust and the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute to help money for coastal conservation.

Brandon Nappy, the tactical marketing manager for Swamp Head, said the brewery owns the land from the end of the warehouse to the Gateway apartment complex.

He said the brewery’s plan is to continue building north, while making sure not to touch any of the preserved land, providing the brewery with about 60,000 square feet of operation space.

Nappy also said the expanded operation will mean more jobs.

The previous location only allowed for the production of 6,000 barrels of beer while the new location will allow for triple that amount. The company, which mostly focused on selling to the Gainesville area before, is now looking to enter into more markets in Florida.

The brewery plans to add six new employees in production and the tasting rooms and eventually 21 positions in marketing and sales, as Swamp Head continues to grow.

Nathan Dipietro, who stands behind the bar made of recycled wood, has worked as a “beertender” at Swamp Head for two years.

He said he’s watched the brewery grow from its beginning and thinks the brand has succeeded because the quality of its beer.

“It’s just fun for us to now have a permanent home,” Dipietro said. “I get to watch the sunset every night while I tend the bar and look out at the woods. That’s awesome.”

About RJ Schaffer

RJ is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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