ABOVE: Wolf Branch Brewing's tap room manager Victoria Rooney shows off some of its retail brews available. (Photo by Wolf Branch Brewing)
On sweltering Florida summer days, it doesn’t get much better than cooling off with a favorite icy cold brew with friends. The summer of 2020 has made it challenging for local bars, but one local micro brewery and bar is making sure it’s still able to satisfy beer lovers’ cravings.
Due to state-wide restrictions on bars to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Wolf Branch Brewing, with tap rooms in downtown Mount Dora and Eustis, is struggling, but has been relying on its retail sales of sealed beers-to-go. In addition to bottles of beer, the craft beer brewery also provides growlers, special jugs that allow draft beer to be transported home without a degradation of quality, and crowlers which are 32-ounce cans sealed in front of customers upon purchase. Every purchase of a sealed container helps this locally-owned family business.
Wolf Branch Brewing focuses on crafting old-world styles of beer with modern tastes. Between both locations the brewery offers: Honey Jalapeño Cream Ale Kiwi Kolsch Villa IPA Coocha Coffee Milk Stout Plum Banana Peach Berliner Wolfees Pale Lager Grapefruit Seltzer Uncle Mikey’s Peach Blonde Ale A brand new pineapple IPA plus several guest taps.
Communities can help their local breweries by buying beers to go, leaving Google and Yelp reviews and interacting with them online by liking a brewery’s posts or commenting.
The seed of Wolf Branch Brewery was planted in 2015 when Jose Villafana, an army veteran and amateur beer-maker, set off on his trek to become a master brewer. Since then, Jose and his brothers-in-law, Josh Greenberg and Chris Dunlop, honed their craft. The trio and Jose’s father, Jose Villafana Sr., opened their first 1,700 square-foot Wolf Branch Brewery in downtown Eustis in 2017 followed by the opening of another tap room in downtown Mount Dora as the anchor tenant Mount Dora Marketplace on the corner of 4th Avenue and Donnelly Street in 2019. Both taprooms were popular with bar patrons, but were required to cease serving alcohol for on-site consumption due to COVID-19 mitigation restrictions.
During the current restrictions Florida has on bars, the most challenging aspects for the brewery have been managing logistics, maintaining adequate inventory, and cutting costs to pay bills, said Greenberg.
The brewery has seven employees that it continues to pay because they are considered family, said Greenberg who also said the business was able to get Federal PPP assistance, but the amount was only proportional to assisting one location, so they have been very grateful for local support.
Wolf Branch Brewing is located at 119 N. Bay Steet in Eustis and 100 E. 4th Avenue in Mount Dora. For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, click here. For local things to do, click here and for the area's free mobile app, click here.