Jeff and I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Florida for a quick vacation. We were lucky to spend several days in the Sunshine State to visit family and enjoy a little fun in the sun. It was a long overdue trip to visit my parents, and the time went by way too fast. However, we did manage to sneak in some time to further explore the beer scene, at least in the areas we visited. Here’s a quick recap of some of the best craft beer spots we were lucky enough to visit during our trip, plus some gratuitous pictures of beaches and manatees and all that Florida-y stuff. Enjoy!
Independent Bar and Cafe (Tampa, FL)
Literally, this was our first stop after landing in Tampa. The Biergarten at the Independent was the perfect setting for some beers and a warm and breezy Florida night. With a fantastic selection of beers from around the world, so we sampled around the menu quite a bit, pairing our beers with some delicious snacks and sandwiches from their café menu. Sadly we were too busy socializing with the family to take any real notes or even any photos, but we did enjoy several memorable Florida craft beers. The Golden Sour with Mango by Green Bench Brewing was absolutely incredible, as was the Diversion IPA from Escape Brewing Company. Diversion IPA was also the most fun beer for us to order, but that’s mostly because for entirely too long we thought it was called Da Virgin IPA. Ha! Good times…
Dunedin Brewery (Dunedin, FL)
Dunedin Brewery is not new to us, and as “Florida’s oldest craft brewery” they aren’t likely new to anyone local either. But we love this place. Perhaps it’s all sentimental since we poured for them the first time we volunteered at GABF. With good beer and food, Dunedin Brewery is one of those places we go just about any time we’re in town. We visited for lunch and enjoyed some pulled pork sliders and four great Dunedin ales: Apricot Peach, Pacifica Pale, plus their standard Pale and American IPA. All were great beers for a sweaty Florida afternoon.
Surfside Taphouse (Clearwater Beach, FL)
Clearwater Beach has always been a favorite hangout of mine. When I was a kid I mostly enjoyed it for the sand and the surf, but as I grew older the nightlife was fun, too. Now Clearwater Beach also appeals to my inner beer geek, with several spots for craft beer popping up along Mandalay Avenue. We stopped at Surfside Taphouse and enjoyed some tasters. Surfside Taphouse offers all the usual big-beers you would find on the beach, but they also had a pretty impressive list of local craft beers on tap. We enjoyed tasters of beers from local breweries like Cigar City, St. Pete Brewing, Tampa Bay Brewing, JDubs, plus some not-so-local beers that we can’t get at home, like Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. They were all good beers, but we didn’t take notes or pick favorites. In all honesty, it was hot, and we had to drink them quickly so they didn’t get too warm, so taking good notes wasn’t a priority! However, for the selection alone, we’d recommend Surfside Taphouse to anyone visiting Clearwater Beach.
Copp Brewery (Crystal River, FL)
Our last stop was the most unexpected. We were visiting my mom up in Citrus County when she suggested a local winery, Copp Winery. What we didn’t figure out until we arrived was that Copp Winery was also Copp Brewery. Best of all, both the wines and beers there were incredibly good! Located in a tiny restored house with the brewing operation outside in the back, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Inside there is a winery tasting room in the front and a brewery taproom on the side. Guests are encouraged to settle in anywhere and try anything they like, which we did! We had a few free samples of wine and purchased a taster flight of the beer. Everything was delicious! In addition to your standard red and white options, they had some sweet tropical wines that were really tasty. The beers were incredible, too! We loved the True Southern Grit, a pale ale made from a recipe that includes corn grits. Other brewed favorites were the Kings Bay IPA and the Maple Chocolate stout. Copps was a great find and definitely worth seeking out if you ever make it up to Citrus County.
If there is a bad beach in Florida, we haven’t found it. No doubt there are bigger and more popular beaches in the state, but we are happy sticking to those nearest to our family. During this trip, we explored the sandy shores of Clearwater Beach with my dad. The sunset at Clearwater Beach is amazing, especially when viewed ankle-deep in saltwater with your toes in the sand. We also love that the beach is just a short walk to the Palm Pavillion, my favorite beach bar, where you take in the salty air with a pina colada in your hand, and plenty of great live music.
Crystal River (not really a beach, but still awesome)
A bit further north we explored the Crystal River area with my mom. Here we wandered the more rustic shores to collect scallop shells and spot the local wildlife. We spotted everything from turtles to manatee, and even a few gators. We both agreed that we could easily spend all day enjoying the views from the waterfront bars, watching the birds and boats and beachcombers.
Fun with Family
Though it was a quick trip, we packed in lots of fun with the family. Yes, it was hot, and yes we bitched about the humidity more than we would like to admit, but we still had a fantastic time. Thanks, Mom & Dad for showing us around all your local beaches and watering holes. We can’t wait to come out & do it again!