That was it.
Now, at bars across the country, he can buy pineapple-infused beer or a pint made from coffee grounds. The beverage comes in an array of colors, from deep blue to practically black.
But when Pelosi — now the brewmaster at Sarasota Brewing Company — began brewing in his home in the mid-1980s, beer was one color: fizzy yellow.
“Now everyone and their brother want to put every type of fruit and nut in it,” Pelosi said as he leaned on a huge silver fermenting tank. “It’s not a bad thing.”
Beers of all flavors and colors were on display throughout Sarasota and Manatee counties on Saturday as Venice and Bradenton hosted beer festivals.
Combined, the Venice Brew Bash and the Lucky Dog Bradenton Beer Festival attracted several thousand thirsty visitors Saturday, a testament to how popular the beverage and local breweries have become.
The Lucky Dog Bradenton Beer Festival hosted 40 breweries, while the Venice Beer Bash served brews from some two dozen different brewers.
Jim Parrish, who helped organize the Bradenton festival, said he wanted the celebrate the more than 100 breweries that have opened in Florida in the past year.
“We called every brewer within an hour drive,” Parrish said. “And look how many came. This is great.”
There now 2,538 breweries in America, according to the Brewers Association — more than in any previous point in history (the second highest concentration of breweries happened in 1887, when 2,011 breweries operated in the U.S.).
Sarasota and Manatee counties are home to six fermenting businesses — Big Top, Motorworks, JDub’s, Darwin’s, Little Giant (not yet open to the public) and the Sarasota Brewing Company — five of which opened within the past five years.
The Sarasota Brewing Company, the brewpub at which Pelosi works, is the oldest in Southwest Florida and opened in 1989.
When it opened, Pelosi guesses, there were 10 other breweries in the state. Now, there are dozens more, most of them craft breweries, which the Brewers Association defines as producing less than 6 million barrels a year and using ingredients to enhance, rather than lighten, flavor.
Pelosi said that number began to rise around 2000, but has risen exponentially in the past three years.
He has seen brewers move away from the traditional German four-ingredient recipe and towards a cornucopia of new tastes.
In Bradenton, 24-year-old Jillian Edel sipped on an ale from the Little Giant Brewery. It was brewed with tamarind, a pod-like fruit.
“It tastes like I’m skipping through a field of flowers on a mountaintop with my best friend,” Edel said laughing. “It’s really good.”
Edel, from Fort Myers, said she prefers craft beer to mass-produced beer because of its taste.
“It reminds me too much of cheap college drinks,” she said of the major brands. “With craft beer, it’s a recipe made with heart instead of a formula thought up for business purposes.”
“It’s so exciting now,” Pelosi said. “With local brewers, you don’t just have three huge corporations making beer that all tastes the same. There’s a multitude of different tastes.”
Herald-Tribune staff writer Alan Shaw contributed to this report.
That was it.