City Commissioner Stephanie Madden is partial to The Bean, a coconut-and-coffee-flavored blonde ale brewed by Swan Brewing Company and served at its beer garden on Lake Wire. She is even more a fan of what the craft brewery and taproom has done for an out-of-the-way corner of downtown Lakeland.
“I have been a big fan of Swan Brewing, and they really were trailblazers. I think they have done a lot for that area. I’m so excited when I see folks parked all along the lake, enjoying that beautiful scene,” she said.
At its first monthly meeting of 2019 on Thursday, Madden and the other members of the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board unanimously approved a grant to Swan Brewing
for $61,257 in funds. The grant would cover the cost of two 20-barrel fermenting tanks, each holding 31 gallons; a 10-by-20-foot cold storage room; and associated costs, such as new equipment and kegs.
Dan Thumberg, a co-owner of Swan Brewing, presented the request to the agency. He said his company is trying to get a share of the potentially lucrative craft beer distribution market. The CRA money will be used to expand the brewery’s operation and enable it to sell its products through a distributor to restaurants and bars throughout Lakeland and into Central Florida.
“Because we’re at 85 percent efficiency, we don’t have any capacity to satisfy distribution. We need to increase our fermentation capacity, our cooler space and add some keg cooperage,” he said.
Thumberg said his plan is to start distributing Swan Brewing’s products in Lakeland first, at such downtown spots as Molly McHugh’s Irish Pub, Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille and Revival cocktail bar, then expand elsewhere in Polk County and beyond.
Swan Brewing opened in April without any financial support from the CRA, and it has quickly proved to be a popular spot for Lakelanders who enjoy specialty brews and live music. It currently lists 30 craft beers and ales on its website, some of which have been top-rated by the beer app Untappd.
Alis Drumgo, interim CRA manager, noted that funds were not available at the time Swan Brewing was in the planning stages, and he commended Thumberg and his partners for their perseverance and success. In response to a question from acting chairman Cory Petcoff, Drumgo said the funds for the grant would come from the CRA’s small project assistance fund.
Madden said she was thrilled that Swan Brewing came to the CRA for help despite being turned down during the planning phase.
“This is exactly what the CRA is all about,” she said.
After the grant was approved, Thumberg said he and his partners did not expect to expand this soon.
“We thought we had time. We thought it would be three years, but we came out of the gate running. We started to get brand recognition in Tampa and Orlando, and when other breweries were reaching out to us, we knew it was time. Restaurants were asking, ‘When can we have your products?’ But we were barely making enough for our taproom,” he said. “It’s nice when the city can come through and see something that aligns with the CRA.”
Thumberg did not give a date for completion of the expansion project.
In other business, the Advisory Board received updates on the following:
- A lighted shared-use path that will run along the west shore of Lake Parker up to Lake Parker Park.
- A planned roundabout at the current site of the five-point intersection at West Main Street, Lake Beulah Drive and Hodges Road.
- The disposition of a 0.41-acre CRA-owned lot at Massachusetts Avenue and East Oak Street. Drumgo reported that there are two potential buyers for the property, who will submit requests for qualification.