-- By GERARD WALEN, beerinflorida.comCelebrate American Craft Beer Week
Compiling a list like this provides some difficulties. Mainly, how do I write this without irking those that did not make it? It can’t be done in a state such as Florida, where the craft beer scene continues to skyrocket and new hot spots seemingly open every week. Suffice it to say that there are many more breweries, bars, brewpubs and gastropubs that deserve to be on a best-of list. Most of these spots I've visited personally; the rest are based on reputation and discussions with others in the craft beer community. Here they are in no particular order.
14929 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., Tampa. (813) 977-4104. Dunderbaks.comMr. Dunderbak’s
This longtime Tampa institution began its life as a franchise deli in the University Mall about 40 years ago. It only had five beer taps, and one of them was Icehouse from Miller. Current owner J.B. Ellis, a stockbroker at the time, bought it, worked on improving the beer selection, and when the mall lease expired in 2009, he moved to a new and bigger location in New Tampa. Styled after a traditional German beer hall, Mr. Dunderbak’s now has 55 beer taps and more than 400 in the bottle. As you might expect, the list leans toward European brews, but plenty of U.S. craft beers are on the list as well. The food menu retains the German influence, and live German music is performed during dinner on weekend nights.
3924 W. Spruce St., Suite A, Tampa. (813) 348-6363, Extension 206. CigarCityBrewing.comCigar City Brewing Tasting Room
Back in 2009, there were a few independent breweries scattered about the state – Dunedin Brewery, Tampa Bay Brewing Co., Florida Beer Co. and others – but after Joey Redner opened Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, the craft beer scene in the Sunshine State went into overdrive. Led by the success of their flagships Jai-Alai India Pale Ale and Maduro Brown, Redner and head brewer Wayne Wambles zoomed onto the country's craft beer radar. Their beers won medals at national competitions, and the reputation spread. Now, even with an expanded brewhouse running 24/7, the brewery still can only produce enough suds to quench the thirsts of Floridians, though beer geeks around the world clamor for it. The tasting room underwent a recent expansion, and because most beer tastes best fresh, it’s the perfect place to drink it – and take a growler or two home.
975 Cattlemen Road, Sarasota. (941) 363-1262. Facebook.com/CnBpubCock & Bull Pub
Before many people in Florida were even aware of craft beer, owner Howie Hochberg was pouring it for loyal customers right here in Sarasota. Beginning on Main Street in downtown, then in the current location on Cattlemen Road, the Cock & Bull’s beer selection has evolved and grown along with the explosion of new craft breweries in the country over the past few years, with 40 taps and more than 900 bottles. While the beer is the highlight of this pub, the music runs a close second. Hochberg brings in local and national touring acts most weekend nights to play on the outside stage in an area that also features a huge firepit. The pub has hosted fundraisers for various charities, and is often the first spot that visiting beer geeks hit when they arrive in town.
2810 Corrine Drive, Orlando. (407) 893-9832. Facebook.com/redlightredlightRedlight Redlight
This Orlando beer geek landmark consistently gets named to lists of best beer bars in the U.S. and world by the likes of Draft Magazine and RateBeer.com, and it well deserves it. In September 2012, it moved from a cramped space with a dive-bar atmosphere to a more spacious locale that exudes a warehouse vibe. With 23 rotating drafts, two beer engines for cask-conditioned ales and more than 250 bottles, many rare, Redlight Redlight attracts not only locals, but beer tourists who are aware of its reputation. Servers impress with their extensive beer knowledge. No food, but patrons can order from the menus of local restaurants for delivery right to their bar stools.
Downtown: 10 S. Palafox Place, Pensacola. (850) 497-6073. North Pensacola: 204 E. Nine Mile Road, Pensacola. (850) 912-6181. Hopjacks.com.Hopjacks
Some Panhandle beer geeks credit Hopjacks with starting the craft beer scene in Pensacola when it opened in 2008, and with 112 brews on tap and nearly that many in bottles, they may have a point That's just at the downtown location; another Hopjacks in North Pensacola has 85 taps and a similar bottle list. In this case, they're not all craft – you will find mass-produced lagers and imports on the menu, but they’re in the minority. Among the brews are those produced by the local Pensacola Bay Brewery, which is just a short stroll from the downtown store. The food menu includes pizza with nontraditional toppings such as toasted pine nuts, sweet yellow corn and maraschino cherries.
2621 N. Federal Highway Boca Raton. (561) 368-4643. TheFunkyBuddha.comFunky Buddha Lounge and Brewery
Anyone seeking a different craft beer experience would not be disappointed in this Boca Raton establishment. More than a craft brewery, the Funky Buddha also offers a hookah bar, 40 styles of loose leaf tea, wine, kava and organic coffee, snacks and desserts, live entertainment and more, not to mention a homebrew supply store next door. Six of its taps pour the on-premise-brewed beer, while another nine are hooked to kegs of beer from other craft breweries. And there are more than 100 craft beers available in bottles. The brewers there are not afraid to experiment: Its Maple Bacon Coffee Porter is one of its most popular, and the owners recently announced that they are building a new production brewery in nearby Oakland Park so they can produce enough to distribute it more widely.
- Ravenous Pig/Cask & Larder
These are two separate businesses owned by the same people: Central Florida natives and chefs James and Julie Petrakis. The Ravenous Pig operates as a fine-dining gastropub in downtown Winter Park, just north of Orlando. The beer list is small, but features highly regarded craft brews from U.S. breweries. The Cask & Larder, just down the street, is a brewpub proper where award-winning head brewer Ron Raike works his magic with hops, malted barley, yeast, water and occasional local ingredients such as his Millions of Peaches ale that’s brewed with “actually, just 316 Arcadia, FL, peaches,” according to the tap list. Only the beer brewed on premises is served at the Cask & Larder, and Raike likes to change it up. Groups of eight or more can reserve a private table right next to the brewhouse for a “Whole Cookery Feast,” which is family-style dining centered on a serving of a signature butchered cut, such as smoked suckling pig, smoked duck or rib eye and beef ribs.
910 King St., Jacksonville. (904) 388-9551. Facebook.com/kickbacksgastropubKickbacks Gastropub
More than 600 different beers in bottles, 84 on tap and breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week make this gastropub a must-visit when seeking craft beer during a trip to Jacksonville. In the revitalizing Riverside neighborhood, Kickbacks focuses on the beer, but its reasonably priced food menu includes not only standard pub fare, but pasta, steaks and “vintage” dishes such as Spaghetti-Os, Ramen Noodles and Hamburger Helper. It can get quite crowded – it’s in the midst of an expansion – so reservations are recommended, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. The tap list and menus are available on a free smartphone app, which comes in really handy if you’re seated away from the bar or out of sight of the chalkboard tap list. It’s located just a short walk away from local breweries Intuition Ale Works and Bold City Brewery, so you can enjoy a pint or two of locally brewed beers at the source before or after your visit to Kickbacks.
8101 Park Blvd, Pinellas Park. (727) 546-6732, CajunCafeontheBayou.comCajun Cafe on the Bayou
Appearances belie the charm of this Louisiana-themed restaurant tucked away on the shore of Cross Bayou next to the Wagon Wheel Flea Market in Pinellas Park. What appears at first to be a rundown “shack” (the owners’ description), houses some of the best and spiciest Cajun cuisine you’ll find outside Louisiana. But the Cajun Café is about the beer, too. Owner Paul Unwin is a beer connoisseur who travels the country and the world seeking rare and coveted brews, and the taps flow exclusively with beer made in Florida. If you want to experience a wide range of fermented adult beverages, be sure to attend his craft beer festivals held each spring and fall, as well the Sour, Lambic and Berliner Weisse festival in the summer. The next one of those is scheduled for June 15.
111 Busch Drive, Jacksonville. (904) 696-8373. Budweisertours.comBudweiser Brewery
Huh? Why is this on the list? It’s neither craft beer nor even owned by Americans anymore (Anheuser-Busch is a subsidiary of Belgian conglomerate InBev). Whether you like the product or not, every self-respecting beer geek should know about brewing on a massive scale, if for no other reason than perspective. Instead of taking the free tour, which consists of informational signs next to windows on from which you can look down at the brewery, spring for the Beermaster tour. You and a small group will be guided through the brewery floor itself, dwarfed by hundreds of giant stainless-steel tanks and machinery, and observing the seemingly endless bottling and canning lines. You’ll learn that the malted barley is delivered via rail cars instead of 50-pound sacks, and that the old saying is true: A macrobrewery spills more beer in one day than many craft brewers produce in a year.
Top 10 Florida Beer Destinations
/ Wednesday, May 15, 2013