Extra, extra, read all about it – Bartow beer lovers rejoice! The city’s first microbrewery, Front Page Brewing Company, is set to open this month. The craft brew culture in Polk County is ever-growing and we are not complaining. We sent Front Page owner, Johnnie Levin (JL) a few questions to get more acquainted with the brewery. Of course, once they open you will catch the LKLD team at the Front Page taproom – you know, for journalistic research purposes.
LKLD: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Are you from Bartow? How did you get into the business of brewing?
JL: My husband Bill, and I do live in Bartow. We’ve been here for about 10 years and absolutely consider Bartow our home. After semi-retiring from a corporate career, I was looking for what to do with the next chapter of my life. It sounds cliché, but as a lifelong fan of craft beer, it was worth seeing if getting involved in the craft beer industry was an option. I completed the University of South Florida-St Pete Brewing Arts Certification Program and almost immediately after beginning the program, I knew it was where I wanted to be. From there, the concept of opening Bartow’s first-ever microbrewery started to come to life and we’ve never looked back.
LKLD: Tell us about the Front Page concept. Will there be a tasting room or will you just be producing and distributing?
JL: Front Page Brewing Company brews our own beer and initially we are selling it only in our taproom. Avenues for distribution will be explored at a later date. We will also have rotating guest taps to help showcase other great craft breweries and cideries.
LKLD: How long has this project been in the works? When do you expect to open?
JL: We’ve been working on this project since really the start of me joining the USF-SP Brewing Arts Program, but the detailed planning and preparations started in mid-2018. In March 2019, we acquired our building and, after finalizing our architectural plans with The Lunz Group, we partnered with Springer Construction to start working on the extensive renovations in September 2019. In February 2020, the renovations were completed and we started preparing for our grand opening in early March.
LKLD: Why the name Front Page?
JL: It never ceases to amaze me how many people have a connection with this building because of The Polk County Democrat newspaper. They, or a family member, worked in the building, delivered newspapers, came inside to renew their subscription or take out an advertisement. We wanted to recognize and honor the deep connection the building has with the community. Our logo, with the dog holding the paper, helps bridge that connection with something we are personally passionate about – supporting and advocating for animal welfare.
LKLD: How big is the space? What will your brewing capacity be?
JL: The building itself, with the small addition we made, is now 7,600 square feet. Of that, the taproom takes up over 3,200 sq ft. In our brewhouse, we have a 10 bbl (barrel) brewing system and a 1 bbl pilot system. In addition, we have a front patio and rear green space for our patrons to enjoy their beverages.
LKLD: What will the interior of the space be like? What look or feel are you trying to achieve?
JL: The interior definitely has an industrial look and feel to it, and yet it’s open and inviting. Large glass storefronts in the front and rear of the taproom allow lots of natural light in and two large windows allow patrons to see into the brewhouse.
LKLD: What will your initial beers be?
JL: At the time of writing this, we have not yet completely dialed in our line up; however, we are not going to focus on a particular style, but rather try to have a wide variety and continually bring new styles or variations on those styles to the taproom. Brewing craft beer is truly an art form. Brewers are passionate about their craft and love to experiment and explore all of the different ways beer can be made. We are also listening to what our customers want and hope we can not only give them great quality beers in the styles they know and love, but also introduce them to ones they may not have had before.
LKLD: Tell us a little bit about your brewmaster and the rest of the FPB team.
JL: Our Head Brewer, Scott Douglas, came to us with a brewing background that started in Bradenton, FL, at 3 Keys Brewing. His career later took him out to Odell Brewing Co in Colorado. When Scott decided to come home to Florida, it happened to coincide with our search for a brewer and, as they say, the rest is history. The rest of our staff come from a variety of backgrounds, including breweries, and all of them have a passion for this industry and are super excited to serve up Scott’s brews.
LKLD: What do you hope this brewery brings to the Bartow community?
JL: We want to be, first and foremost, Bartow’s (and surrounding areas) “local.” The idea of a “local” is one that the British have had for centuries – a brewery/pub in a town or village that is the destination for all of the locals to go enjoy their favorite beer and socialize with their friends and acquaintances. This concept is growing rapidly in the US, as breweries and taprooms are opening in not only neighborhoods of larger metropolitan cities, but also in the smallest of towns all over the country.
Front Page Brewing Co.
190 S Florida Ave, Bartow, FL