When I graduated from Rickards High School in 2007, I never thought I would end up back in Tallahassee. I was 18 years old and eager to leave. I thought that if I could only live in New York or San Francisco, I would lead a more interesting life. What I didn't realize at the time is that I was surrounded by a small but passionate community and that a decade later I would be helping lay the groundwork for Tallahassee's biggest brewery to expand for the second time.
When I travel around the state pouring at beer festivals, I find many people that have never been to Tallahassee or have any idea of what our city is like. The transient nature of this town has played into the idea that Tallahassee is a temporary space. People come for a degree, a session and then move on. But this is changing.
When I moved back in 2012, I was amazed at how much the city was growing. I saw buildings and places being built and people choosing to stay here and do something awesome. Many of the Blueprint 2000 projects that were talked about for years were finally coming to fruition. Initiatives like the Knight Creative Communities Institute and others have brought us programs like #IHeartTally, farmers markets, and festivals. These campaigns promote the natural beauty and outdoor activities of our area. Some of my personal favorites include the new parks and trail extensions. Visit Tallahassee has been a beacon for tourism that showcases the many locally-owned businesses and organizations that our community has to offer.
When I first heard that someone was trying to open a microbrewery in Tallahassee and on Tennessee Street of all places, I laughed. That changed when I walked in the door at Proof. I saw passion, excitement and an attitude of "build it, and they will come." I knew right then that this was something I wanted to be a part of.
For many years Florida was considered a beer wasteland. Restrictive laws had made us one of the worst states for selling beer. When the laws loosened in the 90s, Florida entrepreneurs started paving the way for local craft breweries. My first beer was a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and I loved it. At that time, most good beers were coming from the West coast. My first Florida beer was from Cigar City Brewing in Tampa. I was blown away that a beer so good could come from my state.
When I started with Proof, I worked in the liquor store, formerly called Liquor Loft. At the time there were very few Florida beers on the shelves. The Florida beer we did have always sold out. Tallahassee was thirsty for craft beer.
From the beginning of our brewing operation, we have been in a constant state of growth. When I started helping in the brewery, washing kegs and mopping floors, there was only one production employee. Over the years I worked my way up to the position of Lead Brewer and now help oversee a production staff of ten. With our expansion, we will help to generate an estimated 102 jobs in the community over the next few years. It has been incredible to be a part of a growing company. The staff here are some of the most dedicated and passionate people I’ve ever worked with.
Breweries have been shown to be an economic and community catalysts for growth. The Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality (OEV) has estimated that we will have a $23 million total economic impact on our community. Proof has contributed $60,000 in charitable contributions in the last two years. Additionally, we are revitalizing a seventy-year-old building on the South side of town. I’m excited to work for a company that is engaged in this community. The city in which I grew up.
It's amazing to go grocery shopping or eat at a restaurant and see a beer I brewed being enjoyed. I am proud of everything we have accomplished and happy that I am able to do this in the city I love. Our team has won many awards over the years, this year we placed #1 best beer and #1 best brewery at the annual Hunaphu’s Day. It’s considered by many in the craft beer scene to be one of the best beer festivals in the world. We recently attended our first international beer festival in Madrid, Spain. I’m deeply humbled to help put Tallahassee on the craft beer map and help us become an internationally recognized brewery. This community, which has been here for years, has embraced us and many other local businesses and is helping to make Tallahassee the city it should be.
Great things can happen anywhere when dedicated people work together.
-David Kant-Rauch (Lead Brewer at Proof Brewing)