Whether visiting for the NFL’s biggest game in February 2021 or simply a long weekend, Tampa Bay is home to some of the most highly-regarded breweries in the craft beer world.
Many others seek recommendations, ask friends, or Google around, but as a website that has covered the Tampa Bay area and lived there for more than ten years, here are our staff’s pics for not-to-miss beers when visiting the Hillsborough County area of Tampa. (Please look for our subsequent coverage for breweries on the Pinellas County side of Tampa Bay and beyond.) This coverage is best suited for breweries to visit if staying near the Buccaneers’ stadium or Ybor City in South Tampa.
Cigar City Brewing Tocobaga Red Ale (7.2% ABV, Year Round Beer): Red IPA is a lost art, and Tocobaga Red Ale could make every other red ale seem inferior because of its huge Citra hop presence (think caramel malt and big citrus and tropical fruit presence blending together). Cigar City Brewing is best known for their flagship Jai Alai IPA, but that beer is widely available across the U.S. If in Tampa, drink around and drink fresh and see just how memorable this outstanding red ale is when it is at its freshest.
Coppertail Brewing Night Swim Porter (6.2% ABV, Year Round Beer): Another brewery with outstanding IPAs, Coppertail Brewing’s Free Dive IPA keeps the lights on, but if in Tampa for only a short while, try a Night Swim Porter. Relatively light in body with the presence of locally-roasted cacao nibs supporting the flavor profile, Night Swim brings the goodness of dessert to the table any time of day. Come for the ‘dive, but stay for the ‘swim.
Magnanimous Brewing Golden Rule European Lager (5.5% ABV, Year Round Beer): The lightest beer on the list from the newest brewery on the list, Magnanimous Brewing opened their doors in October of 2020 and Golden Rule has been available on draft and in cans since day one. A delightful malt character combines with the clean finish of a lager and one tallboy can just isn’t enough for a day on the water or watching a game.
Any Berliner Weisse from Hidden Springs Ale Works (5.5% ABV, Always Available): Hidden Springs Ale Works is nestled in the Tampa Heights neighborhood and these Berliner-lovers seem to always have a selection of lactose-spiked delectables available for their adoring public. These taste experiences are available in bottle shops and at the brewery in flavors like Neapolitan, orange creamsicle, sweet potato casserole, and mango/ coconut/ papaya, and more. If unique Berliner weisses, sour ales, or dessert beers are the order of the day, Hidden Springs has the tastes to satisfy.
Control Freak Pale Ale from 7venth Sun Brewing (5.2% ABV, Year Round Beer): 7venth Sun Brewery has two homes in the Tampa Bay area, one in Pinellas County’s Dunedin (original location) and one in Seminole Heights in Tampa (production brewery). No matter where it’s on tap or in cans, 7venth Sun’s Control Freak Pale Ale is just that, a balanced and lovable combination of Citra hops, mosaic hops and a bready caramel malt that lets the hops shine while playing its own part in the symphony. Whether the name is an allusion to the recipe or the person making the beer is irrelevant – the most fortunate person is the drinker.
Tampa Bay Brewing Company Quat Fruit Ale (5.0% ABV, Spring Seasonal): Every year the brewers at Tampa Bay Brewing Company head east to Dade City, a small hamlet that is headquarters to the Florida Kumquat Growers. The brewers then take their pick of the best ‘quats of the season and return back to the brewery to make Quat – their liquid ode to this lovable citrus fruit. It’s tart, it’s citrusy, it’s light, and it’s lovable – best experienced in the early spring, and then it’s gone until next year. For a uniquely Floridian treat, seek the ‘Quat, and you won’t be disappointed.
Angry Chair Brewing Vodnik Czech-Style Pilsner (5.6% ABV, Year Round Beer): This stalwart brewery in Seminole Heights has made its reputation with humungous imperial stouts, bestial barleywines, and mammoth pastry milk porters. The brewery’s best-kept secret is their outstanding pilsner that is almost always available in cans. Don’t sleep on their award-winning Vodnik Czech Pils in cans or on draft. While Angry Chair has been known to surprise their fans and randomly load the cooler with stouts, porters, or barrel-aged treats, drinkers who seek the Vodnik will never come out thirsty or unsatisfied.
Any traditional German ale or lager from Dunderbrau inside Mr. Dunderbak’s (Variable ABV and Availability): While many German-inspired bier halls and biergartens dot the United States, few have a brewer/ owner with a reputation like J.B. Ellis, owner and brewer of Mr. Dunderbak’s and Dunderbrau. J.B.’s watchful eye ensures that the Rheinheitsgebot is followed to the letter, where appropriate, and that tradition is adhered to as much as possible in this Tampa institution. Dunderbrau’s beers hail from the European brewing tradition and the owner’s love of beer. Whether the day calls for an alt in the style of Dusseldorf or Polotmavy Czech Amber Lager or a red ale in the style of the Flemish brewers, Dunderbrau has them on draft and ready to match them with any number of authentic German and European dishes.
Late Start 3 Play Neapolitan Stout (11.2% ABV, Limited Availability): Late Start Brewing started off as just that – a three-way brewers collaboration of guys that just never had the time to start their own brewery because they were always brewing someone else’s beer. Since brewing requires so much time, the brewers never had time to strike out on their own, so they would collaborate and brew when they could. Then, when chance struck, the trio of brewers were offered their own small brewery inside of the Pour House at Grand Central, and Late Start Brewing had a home and a place to tap their inspired beers like their Neapolitan stout that captures the essence of three desserts in one and at an otherworldly 11.2% ABV, sends the drinker off satisfied like a visit to one of Tampa’s lauded dessert restaurants.
Brew Bus Brewing You’re My Boy Blue (5.3% ABV, Year Round): One of Florida’s largest crops made into beer, proof that not all of Florida’s fruit beers are big, imperial, and sour. Sometimes, outstanding fruit beer is one to be enjoyed on the beach or savored with a spring sunset. Brew Bus Brewing’s You’re My Boy Blue brings the sweetness of Florida blueberries to an enjoyable, approachable beer found throughout the Tampa Bay area or matched with a cheesecake or brie wheel for an elevated experience.
Whatever the reason for a visit to Tampa Bay, from football to hockey to concerts to the outdoors, some of the finest breweries in the country stand ready to pour their hearts out to the beer-loving public. The tastiest beer available can be found in Tampa’s bars, breweries, and watering holes of all kinds for visitors both news and seasoned. All anyone has to ask around the city is, “what’s on tap?”