Florida beer has grown by leaps and bounds for several years now, with the state’s haymaker breweries making names for themselves in the last ten years. While ten years of monumental growth in craft beer has been a boon to the state and its beer scene, new breweries are working to make names for themselves all the time. Many breweries are winning awards, accolades, and respect ever day, but some manage to fly under the radar and not get the accolades they deserve. In the last two years, so many breweries have come up in the Sunshine State and some of them are making good beer, some are doing good business locally, and some manage to find their niche and pour liquid gold.
While local beer enthusiasts may know the inside scoop, here is the skinny on a few local breweries (in no particular order) around the state that will be making more and bigger headlines soon. (Please note that for this article, the cutoff was right around two years in business or less, otherwise this article would be twice as long.)
Arkane Ale Works: Largo, Florida may not seem like the cradle of breweries, but this small town in Pinellas County has been the longtime home of Barley Mow Brewing (now renamed as Sea Drift Ales), and is close to other Pinellas County breweries, but Arkane Ale Works decided to make their home in a shopping plaza here. And it’s a good thing that they did because those who are in the know about this small brewery are happy to know about their liquid wares. Arkane does not seem to shy away from making any style of beer and making their mark on that style. The brewery’s evolution can be summed up by their “about us” page: “It started as two poor kids with a dream and has grown into two poor kids with a dream and a Facebook page, but the best is yet to come!” The beer(s) that clinched their inclusion: Gimme Swelter Mango Habanero Berliner Weisse and Joza Gose.
Walking Tree Brewery: Walking Tree Brewery out of Vero Beach has been taking the beer awards circuit by storm, winning several medals in the Best Florida Beer Competition then this year the Veroans took their prowess to Denver and the Great American Beer Festival and won a Bronze Medal in the coveted Imperial Stout category. These guys have proven that they can do high gravity and low gravity beers well – look for more great things from Indian River County. The beer(s) that clinched their inclusion: Barnacled Manatee Barleywine and Duke Snider’s Imperial Stout.
Red Cypress Brewery: Florida has so many towns that begin with the word “Winter,” hopefully none of them get mixed in with the home of Red Cypress Brewery, Winter Springs. While it is a small community, the beers that come out of this brewery are very respectable, not to mention that they have also won a Great American Beer Festival award for their altbier Deep Roots. This brewery turns two years old in a few years and has cans, draft, and crowlers available. Find Winter Springs on a map, and get there. The beer(s) that clinched their inclusion: Imperial Smores Death Roll.
Playalinda Brewing Company: Brewmaster Ron Raike has been a staple of the Sunshine State’s beer community since Shipyard Brewing had a brewery in the Orlando International Airport (that is a long time). Ron has moved through several breweries in the state, and he gets better each time he moves, this time landing at Playalinda Brewing Company in Titusville. His attention to nuance and detail in beer make him a powerhouse in brewing and Playalinda Brewing is all the better for it. The breweries (there are two locations) also serve food, and the world is better for the pairings. The beer(s) that clinched their inclusion: Key Lime Slice, Bring It! Double IPA, and Go Big! Imperial Stout.
Civil Society Brewing Company: Within a short drive from Walking Tree Brewery is the brewery that is turning the state’s hop profile on its head: Civil Society Brewing in Jupiter. In a nondescript shopping plaza, these guys have made their name on IPAs – hazy and otherwise. It’s not uncommon to see patrons walking out with 5-8 crowlers of their beer, and with good reason, but hoppy beer is not all these bulldogs do well. While drinking your way around their tap list might wreck a palate, it shows that as brewers, these guys can paint with all the colors of their palate, from mildly hoppy to the wheaty to the imperial stouts and beyond. After just a few drafts, maybe even a savage beast will be more civilized. The beer(s) that clinched their inclusion: Pulp and Juice.
Crooked Thumb Brewing Company: While many areas of Tampa Bay have a brewery within walking distance, the small hamlet of Safety Harbor did not. Sure, it was not far to Clearwater, Largo, or Pinellas Park, but they did not have a brewery of their own until Crooked Thumb Brewery rolled up its doors and began pouring. Once the taps started flowing, though, it was not long before the small Pinellas County town knew they had something special. From their love of Belgian beers down to their classic pils to their gose that is in a class all by itself, Crooked Thumb Brewery’s next and newest beer can’t come soon enough. Plus, now they have a steady lineup of cans and are distributing. The beer(s) that clinched their inclusion: Grapefruit Gose and Chai Porter.
DEEP Brewing Company: This Tallahassee brewery’s motto is “Brewing Greater Depths,” and that is what they deliver in their beer. From their pilsner to stout, the beer that brewer Ryan LaPete produces is a labor of love and one that has driven this small brewery for the year it has been open. LaPete’s beers are interesting and unique and have crafted a distinct place in the still-evolving Tallahassee beer scene. DEEP is definitely a brewer to watch as more beers come to market and more beers cross the taps in this cozy tasting room. The beer(s) that clinched their inclusion: Chamber Goat and Pilsner.
Barrel of Monks Brewing: (A little over the two year mark, but only by about 9 months…) This Belgian-themed brewery from South Florida turned heads with their Tequila-Barrel Tripel at Hunahpu Day, and held that attention by releasing one of the finest witbiers in bottles — Wizard Wit. In addition to featuring the likeness of a pop culture icon well known from J.RR. Tolkien’s novels, this jewel of Belgian-inspired American beers just nails the spirit of the style. While their distribution is limited, when in South Florida, this one is a must-visit stop. Brewer Kevin Abbott made a name for himself brewing with the Funky Buddha Lounge and Brewery, but departed to work with Barrel of Monks right around the time Funky Buddha’s production brewery opened. Now Abbott (kind of appropriate name for a Belgian-themed brewery) is the Director of Operations at Barrel of Monks and he continues to hone his craft. The beer(s) that clinched their inclusion: Wizard Wit and Quadrophonic.
Ology Brewing: These Tallahassee brewers are neophytes to the Tallahassee beer scene, but they make a great impression with their Sensory Overload New England IPA as well as their session stout, and their Stone Fruit Sour. While they have not even celebrated one year as a brewery, the beers they brought to the Proof Invitational and the ideas on their draft list point to great things from this young brewery.
Calusa Brewing: Calusa Brewing started small and are doing well with their 8500 square-foot facility in Sarasota. Currently in limited distribution, I have only been fortunate enough to try their beers twice, but the ones that I have tried have been memorable enough to say that a visit is overdue. The beer(s) that clinched their inclusion: Citronius IPA and Dissonance Breakfast Brown.
While Florida was late to the national craft beer explosion that is currently taking place in the United States, the state is working hard to catch up. While none of these young brewers are making any styles exclusive to them or any unique styles of beer, with every offering they tap, these brewers prove that just because others have brewed a certain style of beer does not mean that it can’t still be art. Everyone seems to make an IPA, but not everyone can make an IPA as an art form. While these eight young brewers continue to spread their wings, I for one cannot wait to see what new art awaits their draft lines.