40 years ago, emboldened by some freshly-printed consumer beer texts (by M. Jackson, M. Weiner, J. Roberston, etc.), I’d seek out the local beer scene on travels.
I also tried the imports, a suprisingly large range if you had a good retailer source, and regional or national brands. So my beer education is of long standing and predates in fact the craft beer era.
For this reason probably, I retain a fondness for that era, as some of the beers were good and with the benefit of looking back, interesting at a minimum.
In 1973, a brewer called Duncan from the northeast set up a brewery between Tampa and Orlando called Duncan Brewing Inc. His focus was price beers, making beers both under his own name and for private labels.
“Dunk’s”, quite naturally, was the house brand but there were others. Establishing a new, independent brewery then was highly unusual. Still, it happened here and there, e.g., in Alaska in the mid-70s in the form of Prinz Brau, owned by the Dr. Oetker group in Germany. (Yes, of the pizzas you know and love).
It happened in Ontario in ’73 in Hamilton when Henninger of Frankfurt set up brewing there albeit on a brewing site founded by Andrew Peller in the 1940s.
And it happened here in Florida. Who was Mr. Duncan? His full name was Lemoyne Nathan Duncan, originally from Maryland. He lived from 1917 until 2010. You can glean details of his life in this memorial notice.
He sold out to the conglomerate Heileman in 1980 according to Jim Roberston’s The Connoisseur’s Guide to Beer (1982 edition). He may have continued working in the brewery as the notice states he retired at 69.
One wonders what he thought of the craft revival, something he did not capitalise on; it was just too early and Florida then was not the most propitious place for it.
In the 80s the brewery was sold again and at least once after, to independents. Today it’s owned by the Venezuelan beverage and food group that make Polar Pilsner, a big seller not just in Venezuela but elsewhere in South America, in Central America, and into south Florida.
Florida Brewery in Auburndale today hence makes Polar Pilsner, its main brand. The brewery also makes a line of malt beverage (non-alcohol), popular in Hispanic markets.
Other brands in the brewing line include Gator Lager and Amber Lager, which seem Euro lager and craft-styled, respectively. The company also does co-pack and private label work. Maybe the original Dunk’s formulation is on a grocery shelf somewhere…
It seemed long odds arriving in Florida again in 2018 that Lemoyne Duncan’s brewery still exists, but it does. Polar Pilsener is in the older, refreshing, pre-craft style. I won’t judge it until I taste, but online reports use terms such as the Budweiser of South America. In an odd kind of way, perhaps its profile ends by being similar to the Dunk’s of the 1970s, to which Jim Robertson gave a respectful review.
Maybe I’ll even get up to Auburndale. Florida Brewery has a beer garden, I understand, and may make craft-style beers for sale onsite. Get out the GPS.
Postscript: Florida Beer Co. Ltd., which I mentioned earlier, is a different concern, based in Cape Canaveral. It too though is owned by a large group further south, in its case based in Trinidad. Hence Mackeson stout being made in Florida now.