Exploring Florida Craft Beers - Cigar City Brewing Co, Tampa FL | BottleMakesThree.com

Exploring Florida’s Craft Beers

In Travel by Chris

Cigar City Brewing Co, Tampa FL | BottleMakesThree.com

In case you noticed, we’ve been on a bit of a sabbatical from the blog the past several weeks. We took a small break from writing – first to take a trip to visit family in Florida, and then to catch up from the work that piled up while we were away. The extra catch-up work was totally worth it, though! We had fun spending time with family in Florida… too much time goes by between visits. While we were in Florida we were able to sneak in some visits to several great craft beer spots, of course, so today we bring you highlights of the four craft breweries we visited during our trip. Next time you’re in the Sunshine State, seek them out!

Tampa Bay Brewing Company

Our first stop when the plane landed was grabbing a quick bite to eat and a few beers at Tampa Bay Brewing Company. Tampa Bay Brewing Company is located in the historic Ybor City district, just a short drive across town from Tampa International Airport. Brewing since 1995, they feature several craft beers on tap along with a full food menu, making them the perfect spot for hungry travelers who want to quickly immerse themselves in some Tampa culture.

At Tampa Bay Brewing Co we enjoyed two beers.  First was Reef Donkey, a dry-hopped American Pale Ale with citrus aroma and slightly tropical flavor. It’s the perfect beer for the tropical Florida climate. We also had an Old Elephant Foot IPA, which was bitter and hoppy, thanks to plenty of Northern Brewer, Centennial, and Cascade hops. Both beers were delicious and were the perfect accompaniment to a pair of Brew House Pretzels, served with Porter Mustard Dip and a Wild Warthog Weizen Pepper Jack Fondue. Yummy stuff!

Cigar City Brewing Company

No trip to Tampa would be complete without a trip to Cigar City Brewing Company. In fact we would argue that a trip to Cigar City is reason enough to plan a Florida vacation, especially if you’re a fan of great craft beer. We visited Cigar City with my dad, Rick, and stepmother, Kathy. Dad likes beer, but by his own admission he usually sticks to Bud Light Lime. Kathy isn’t really a beer drinker at all. We were curious if Cigar City could win them over with their beers, or if their brews were best reserved for craft beer geeks like us. We didn’t need to worry, because after many samples we all found a beer to love at Cigar City.

We stopped by Cigar City on a Wednesday afternoon hoping to catch one of their hourly tours, but then quickly decided to skip the tour so we could spend more time in their tasting room. There was a huge selection of Cigar City beers on draft, and each of us got our own flight of four. For our tasters, Jeff mostly stuck with the strong, high IBU selections, while I tried a bunch of random beers from the several unique flavors available. Jeff’s favorite Cigar City beer is the Jai Alai IPA, so he really enjoyed the White Oak Jai Alai, as well as the Hunahpu’s Day Mega Collaboration American IPA. My favorite, hands down, was El Coco Cream Ale, a collaboration beer that Cigar City made with 5 Rabbit Cerveceria out of Illinois. This beer had an amazingly rich coconut aroma, with a creamy coconut and caramel flavor. It was so good! then again, after the four of us tasted a total of 16 samplers, we pretty much decided that Cigar City Brewing doesn’t make a bad beer. The beer was great, the tasting room was comfortable, the staff was incredibly friendly and of course our drinking companions were the best. We’ll definitely do this again. Next time maybe we’ll even catch a tour.

Barley Mow Brewing Company

Since we introduced Dad to craft beer at Cigar City, he decided to find out of there were any craft breweries close to his home in Clearwater. When we discovered that Barley Mow Brewing Company was located just a quick drive away in downtown Largo, so we had to stop by for a flight. This brewery looks small from the outside, but don’t let that fool you. I tried four of their brews: Quackalope American IPA, Son of a Seabiscuit Amber, Selkie Belgian Rye Pale Ale, and Nuada Chocolate Coffee Stout. They were all excellent beers, so I couldn’t even pick a favorite. All were deliciously different styles, but very enjoyable. Barley Mow Brewing may have been unfamiliar to us before, but now that we’re in-the-know I’m sure we’ll be back.

Dunedin Brewery

We’ve been wanting to pay a visit to Dunedin Brewery for years. Not only because Dunedin Brewery is Florida’s oldest craft brewery, but we also have sentimental memories of Dunedin Brewery, even though we’ve never set foot in the door. During our first year volunteering for the Great American Beer Festival, many moons ago, we poured for Dunedin Brewery. We have fond memories of the beers being good, and the brewers being incredibly friendly and informative to a couple of craft beer newbies. One of the brewers gave us a lesson in their beers and the beer styles in general before we started our shift, and it made all the difference. In fact, that first GABF ignited a passion for craft beer that has grown ever since, inspiring us to learn more about beer, try new and unique beer styles, and to eventually start brewing our own. You could say it’s ultimately what led us to creating Bottle Makes Three. So thanks Dunedin Brewery, we owe you one.

Unfortunately Jeff missed out on this visit; he had to return home a few days ahead of me for work obligations. Instead we had a nice dad and daughter lunch, just the two of us. Downtown Dunedin is a cute area, filled with countless shops and restaurants, and looks like a great place to spend an afternoon. Dunedin Brewery fits right in, and adds to the vibrancy of this downtown by providing great beer, food, and lots of local entertainment most nights of the week. I arrived knowing that the beer would be good, and I wasn’t disappointed. Dunedin Brewery’s Pale Ale remains my favorite, though their coffee brown, Biere de Cafe, was a close second. The big surprise for me was the food – which was so delicious! For lunch I had the Southern Pulled Pork Sliders. I got three huge sliders, served on kaiser rolls, smothered in beer-infused barbecue sauce and topped with coleslaw, accompanied by beer-battered onion rings. Yum! My dad’s cheeseburger sliders & fresh-cut fries were delicious too. Dunedin Brewery seems to have it all: great beer, incredible food, and cool location. I’m a big fan! (Don’t worry Jeff, we’ll take you next time.)

In Summary: Florida Craft Beer Rocks!

Florida is much more than theme parks and beaches, especially for craft beer lovers. There are tons of great beer spots to be visited, and we barely scratched the surface of what the Florida craft beer scene has to offer. If you’re planning a trip, visit the Florida Brewers Guild or Beer in Florida websites for more information, and save time to visit a local Florida brewery during your trip. To help our vacation live on, in spirit anyhow, we brought home a few bombers of Florida beer. It was tough to pick just three. Next time we need to take a bigger suitcase.

I think during this visit we converted my dad to a bonafide craft beer lover. He’s learned a few new styles, set up a profile on Untappd and is rating his tastings like a pro! Next visit I’ll have to start working on my Mom. She thinks she doesn’t like beer, but we’ll see about that..

Florida Craft Beer Haul | BottleMakesThree.com

Our Florida craft beer haul

Cheers!