Restaurant Editor Chris Sherman looks at brewpubs, microbreweries, tap house and beer festivals around Florida.
Across the state, brewpubs, microbreweries, tap houses and beer festivals fill a new thirst for beer in endless variety, with menus from bluesy barbecue to gastropub. (Both brewpubs and micros make and sell beers; micros also bottle and sell retail off-site.) Hip restaurants brag on their beer lists, and trendy bars sport dozens of draft taps. Below are just a few of Florida's offerings. For current listings, check the BeerFly directory at beeradvocate.com and floridabrewersguild.org.
Cigar City Brewing Co. - Tampa
After years of planning, amateur brewer Joey Redner Jr. started Cigar City, selling beer in take-home "growlers'' filled at the draft tap. Two years later, he bottles beer to sell around the state and in New York City. The brewery says its brown ale, Maduro, is perfect with a mild cigar. It ages other beers in cigar box cedar, dedicates its pale ale to jai alai and adds notes of Cuban coffee and guava to others. When brewers handed out awards this year, Cigar City (along with Swamp Head) took home the most gold.
Abbey Brewing - Miami Beach
Abbey Brewery's monastery beers and dark cloisters seem out of place on cosmo-crazy Miami Beach, but it does keep South Beach hours, open until unmonk-like 5 a.m.
World of Beer - Tampa
The World of Beer now has 13 locations across Florida with dozens of drafts, hundreds of beers and packed houses.
Dunedin Brewery - Dunedin
Mike Bryant samples his Biere de Cafe, an ale with roasted chocolate and coffee beans, at his Dunedin Brewery. [Photo: Douglas R. Clifford/St. Petersburg Time]
When the brewery tapped its latest brew, a Highland Games porter made with peat-smoked malt, it got the traditional salute of the Scots-loving town, a parade of 20-some bagpipers inside the brewery?and out.
As a former head of the Florida Brewers Guild, Bryant credits changes in Florida law allowing the import of odd-size bottles — and the more exotic beers they contained from Belgium and elsewhere — for exciting a new DIY generation to try.
Swamp Head Brewery - Gainesville
Swamp Head started when Luke Kemper returned to Gainesville from beer-crafty Colorado and wound up starting a brewery with a family friend who was a skilled home brewer. He now sells from Jacksonville to Sarasota. And there's honey — from local bees, it brags — in a few brews.
| Know Your Beer
Malted grains, hops, yeast and water combine and ferment in dozens of styles, strengths, flavors and colors. Each has its own balance of malty sweetness and hoppy sharpness. A Pilsner can be as distinct and masterful as a heavy dark beer.
» Classic lagers are bottom fermented, cooler and more aromatic. Fermentation of other beers is at the top, warmer and quicker.
» Porters are stronger beers made from dark malts; stouts are very strong porters.
» Wheat beer (or Weissenbier) has more wheat than barley; hefeweizen is cloudy and still contains yeast.
» India Pale Ale (IPA) is strongly hopped ales descended from British ale exported to India.