Craft beer has officially hit the Tampa Bay area — Big Time. In celebration, Tampa Bay Beer Week starts March 3rd, kicking-off with the annual and perfectly executed Florida Brewers Guild Beer Fest. Modeled after Philly’s Beer Week, Tampa’s will have mucho events happening all week at many sud-centric hangouts.
The Sun Coast area has been making a splash in the craft beer world for a few years now. Only a while ago, it was a place of Budweiser and boat drinks but thankfully that has been changing at an exponential pace.
A sign of the revolution: Craft beer bars, often with a salivating 30+ quality brews on tap, have been multiplying and can be found in every part of the metro. Aspiring suds snobs can now savor and evaluate fine ales from around the world.
Great beer is brewed here too. The Dunedin Brewery is the oldest brewpub and craft producer in Florida. In 1996 it was joined by Ybor City’s own Tampa Bay Brewing Company. A couple of smaller restaurant and in-house beer makers such as Peg’s Cantina in Gulfport have popped up and others are in the works.
The meteoric rise of high-end Cigar City Brewing, in particular, along with artisan Belgian style producer Saint Somewhere Brewing Company have helped put quality Tampa Bay suds on the national beer geek road map. New breweries such as Dunedin’s Seventh Sun Brewery and Tampa’s Cold Storage Brewery are also looking to make their mark in this industry. Many predict Tampa Bay will be the next craft beer destination — I say it already is.
Here are a few of my favorite local brews, in no particular order:
Cigar City Jai Alai IPA- A fantastic, international award-winning IPA. Plenty of bitterness and citrus hop throughout. But not for the meek.
Cigar City Tocobaga Red- On the bitter side for a red ale, complete with citrus hop flavors. A smooth caramel malt backbone helps balance this red.
Cigar City Jose Marti American Porter- Rich and warming, this porter is perfect for those cool winter evenings. Malt forward, with loads of dark malts.
Cold Storage Craft Brewery Florida Avenue IPA- It’s on the lighter side for an IPA with solid grapefruit and pine hop flavors. Would make for a good introductory IPA, or one for the summer heat.
Dunedin Brewery Piper’s Pale Ale- This hop-forward pale ale is nicely balanced and a Bay area staple. More bitter than most (within the style) but not intimidating.
Dunedin Brewery Redhead Red Ale- Clean and malt-y, with prominent caramel and biscuit malt notes. A real crowd pleaser.
Dunedin Brewery Apricot Peach- Refreshing, with apricot and peach flavors noticeable but not over-the-top. A warm weather wheat beer perfect for the beach.
Saint Somewhere Brewing Company Lectio Divina- Tarpon Springs own Belgian Strong Ale is complex and tasty. Tart and fruity, with some nice spice note. A must try for Belgian beer connoisseurs.
Tampa Bay Brewing Company Old Elephant IPA- Potent, even by IPA standards, with tons of grapefruit and citrus hop flavors. This one is for hopheads only.
Tampa Bay Brewing Company Wild Warthog Weizen- An authentic German Hefeweizen with plenty of appropriate banana and clove flavors. Thirst-quenching on the patio and it makes a wonderful gateway beer for the bud crowd.
Tampa Bay Brewing Company Jack the Quaffer Porter- This old world porter is mild, smooth, and drinkable. Plenty of roasted, chocolate, and nutty malt notes make this an Ybor favorite.