Campus News

Beer Tasting and the Great Florida Craft Beer Guide

On Feb. 16 The School of Arts and Sciences hosted a special event and a guest speaker Mark DeNote. The event included a speech about aspects of Tampa’s history in regards to the city’s breweries, and it was followed by a beer tasting from selected Florida craft breweries.

Mark DeNote is an alumnus who graduated from Saint Leo’s School of Arts and Sciences in 2004 with a degree in English. He also met his current wife at Saint Leo and is a father of three kids right now. Since graduating, DeNote has done research about Florida craft beer. He tested over five thousand different beers, while travelling around the world. However, his journey is not over yet. On his bucket list are many more countries that he wants to travel to experience the culture and history of each country’s beers.

He started writing about beer because he wanted to make his hobby into a profession. As of now he has written two books about the history of Florida beers. His best-known book, The Great Florida Craft Beer Guide, was published in 2014 and is the only book that goes into detail about the history of Florida brewing.

In his lecture he talked about the struggle of writing the book while being a full time teacher and having a family. He said that not every writer is fortunate enough to get grants for writing, but nowadays his work finds a higher appreciation. He travelled throughout the entire country of the United States to publish articles about beer tastings and the history of brewing. Since he started writing about beer he has seen a big change.

“Florida only had just over a hundred craft breweries when I started and now there are over one hundred and fifty. Tampa Bay had twenty five and now there are around fifty,” said DeNote.

Currently Mark DeNote is teaching online classes at Saint Leo and is working for a brewing company as a writer.

To the question of whether he could see himself opening a brewery he said: “Yes, all the time, except that I am a terrible brewer. As I said earlier, brewing is so much incantation. I have a friend, who is a home brewer and we get together and we make meads, which are honey wines. I want to join the brewing market, but right now the market is so saturated with people like me who want to get into beer and every brewery owner I know tells me not to do it. It is a tough market right now. I have marketing skills; I’m a writer, an author, a social media guy, and with everything I have I cannot get into the industry.”

During the event, DeNote presented his findings and elaborated on the research that he has been conducting. All the information was included in a speech titled “Florida Beer: Past, Present, and Future.”

The event itself was initiated by DeNote himself, with the help of the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Mary T. Spoto, Ph.D., as well as the Administrator of Events and Special Programs, Jennifer Orendorf, M.A.

“Mark DeNote is really knowledgeable about the history of Ybor City, and how the brewery was started, dating all the way back to the 19th century. His talk was centered on the development of it since then, the wading of it during the prohibition and starting back up, and how it is growing,” said Orendorf, who was the main coordinator of the event.

“He is passionate about the history, and it is his scholarly focus, so he has researched it a lot and wrote about it in two books. He, himself is not a brewer, but he knows a lot of them, and he visits many of the brewers from all around Florida,” said Orendorf.

DeNote’s speech was not the only attraction during the event. Those who decided to attend the presentation in the Greenfelder-Denlinger Boardrooms of the Student Community Center had a chance to taste several types of Florida craft beers.

The beer was donated by Florida brewers who attended the presentation as well.

“Everything here is donated, so the six brewers that are here have brought in their products, and they volunteered their time,” said Orendorf.

When asked about the future of the event, and if there is a chance that it will take place at Saint Leo University again, Orendorf said: “We hope so. The turnout of the event was not as good as we had expected, but we would like to try to host it annually.”

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