With our headquarters in Washington DC and the bulk of our correspondents found near America’s top producing craft beer regions on the coasts, it only makes sense for us to start a new series giving all the states their due, featuring breweries large and small, plus the histories behind them.
For the sake of clarity and with an eye toward avoiding any bias, we’re doing this thing alphabetically. Number nine? Yes… the ninth state on our list, most commonly known as The Sunshine State, is Florida. While it’s the third largest state in population (just under 20 million), it’s also been notoriously late to the craft beer revolution due to stringent state regulations which have now been almost completely vanquished. There are 102 brewers making up the Florida Brewers Guild, and a total count of roughly 111 craft brewers (nearly doubling in size from 2013 to 2014). The state ranks 9th in total breweries and 43rd in breweries per capita, according to the Brewers Assocation.
It should come as no surprise that the first brewery in Florida resided in the same city that’s been it’s most prolific, Tampa. The Ybor City Brewing Company (changed a year later to Florida Brewing Company) was founded in 1896 by cigar businessmen Vicente Ybor and Edward Manrara. In its prime they produced 80,000 barrels annually and were the leading exporter of beer to Cuba.
Ybor’s son Salvador was notoriously arrested and the brewery raided for distributing beer during Prohibition in 1927. The brewery, then called the Tampa Florida Brewing Company, was sold and closed in 1961 following the trade embargo with Cuba, and the establishment of Schlitz and Anheuser Busch breweries in Tampa.
Dormant of independent breweries until 1995, Florida’s craft beer rebirth started with the opening of Dunedin Brewery, as well as The Ybor City Brewpub of Tampa Bay Brewing – both opening the same year, both in the Tampa area. Originally founded in Melbourne as Indian River Brewing, Florida Beer Company is the state’s largest brewer today, producing over 35,680 barrels annually.
Opening in early 2009, Cigar City Brewing took Tampa and the country by storm with their unique take on what craft beer can be by using ingredients and beer names that dig into the roots of Tampa’s rich history. The brewery is known for their Jai Alai IPA and big, rich 750ml releases often using their Marshal Zhukov Imperial Stout as a base, most notoriously their variety of Hunahpu Imperial Stout releases.
Seven More Breweries We Like and You Should Check Out
Funky Buddha Brewery(Oakland Park) – Opened in 2010 in Boca Raton, three years after it’s beginnings as a hookah and tea bar and with merely a 55 gallon brewhouse, these guys have changed the game in Florida. With adventurous brews like Orange-Creamsicle Wheat and their highly sought after Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, they’ve expanded quickly and now distribute as of last fall.
Green Bench Brewing(St. Petersburg) – Named after the 2,500 green benches that once populated the streets of St. Petersburg, encouraging their residents to slow down and discover their fellow citizens, this brewery of the same name has taken on the same community purpose. In town since 2013, St. Pete’s first craft brewer has set themselves apart with amazing small batch sours and a wide variety of creations certain to please any palate.
J. Wakefield Brewing(Miami) – Barely open 6 months, this home brewer turned brew master has already caught everyone’s eye with his top 10 rated Dragon Fruit/Passion Fruit Berliner Weisse. He became one of the first brewers to use CrowdBrewed in order to raise his start-up capital for his eclectic location, which reflects the art scene ever present in the Wynwood district of Miami.
M.I.A. Brewing (Doral) – Yet another brand new brewery, only open about a year, has already made a name for itself for with it’s amazing selection of beers and tasty, regional cuisine. And you’ve gotta love a tap list with names such as Miami Weiss Hefeweizen, Rye Tortugas and Tourist Trappe. These guys have quite a following and the chops to back it up.
7venth Sun Brewery(Dunedin) – We were lucky enough to sample a wide variety of their brews when they brought what must have been a whole truck of kegs to Portland this spring for CBC – their beer, including a number of collaborations, were everywhere. In operation for three years now, 7venth Sun focuses their production around Belgian inspired ales, spirit-barreled beers and oak aged sours that you must try to believe.
Tomoka Brewing (Port Orange) – Volusia County’s first brewery, open since July 2013, started as a 1 BBL nano-brewery in Ormond Beach. It continues on as a “sour lab” focusing on brett beers, sours, goses, etc. while their main operation in Port Orange, a 15 BBL brewery open just this year, also serves as a full-service restaurant with a phenomenal menu that includes their famous beer dough crust pizza.
Wynwood Brewing (Miami) – Standing apart from the field in Miami as it’s “first craft production brewery,” established in the street-art laden district of the same name, Wynwood has prided themselves in creating works of art since 2011. Featuring their GABF Gold winning Pop’s Porter and always offering small batch seasonal offerings, you can’t go wrong with these stalwarts of the Miami scene.
Last but not least, we await the opening of Black Cauldron Brewing in Orlando, started by our Florida Correspondent Jeanna Malines and her husband Ken.
Didn’t find a brewery near you listed here? Check out Beer In Florida for an excellent state map.