Florida isn’t known for its beer. Look at the back of your bottle and chances are it’ll note it’s from a few thousand miles beyond the Sunshine State. The West has largely driven the craft beer renaissance, and microbreweries are plentiful in San Diego, Portland and Denver. Florida brands like Cigar City in Tampa (see more below) have gained some national recognition. But for its size, the state has only about 1 brewery per 100,000 people. That ranks it in the bottom 10 nationwide, according to Brewers Association’s statistics from the end of 2016. But as the state continues to swell in population, more distilleries are starting up—the number has almost doubled since 2014. “We have a healthy market. We’ve been a little late to the game compared to the rest of the country, but we’ve started to fill up the map,” says Gerard Walen, author of Florida Breweries.
Of course, quantity doesn’t equal quality. With insight from Walen, along with the beer connoisseur websites Untapped and Beer Advocate, here are five Florida breweries worth visiting and a few of their best beers to put on your radar.
Cigar City Brewing (Tampa): This was one of the first Florida breweries to get hot. Also, its beers are fairly common on store shelves. The citrus-y Jai Alai IPA is one of its most popular beers. Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout is its most acclaimed—but sold only once a year at the brewery in a limited release.
Funky Buddha Brewery (Oakland Park): The Hop Gun IPA and the Floridian Hefeweizen are its flagship beers. But this brewer is known for its experimentation. The Maple Bacon Coffee Porter is a gold award winner at World Beer Cup, but it comes around only once a year in January at the Maple Coffee Bacon Porter Festival.
Angry Chair Brewing (Tampa): The Imperial German Chocolate Cupcake Stout comes highly acclaimed—and sounds very filling. Another Milk Stout, The Awakening, is made with Tampa’s Buddy Brew coffee.
Cycle Brewing (St. Petersburg): This upstart recently shocked the world; reviewers on RateBeer.com placed it among the top 10 breweries in the world. Its Rare DOS is an imperial stout aged in rum barrels.
Saint Somewhere Brewing (Tarpon Springs): This widely distributed brewer specializes in traditional Belgian-style ales. But it’s worth a trip to Tarpon Springs to visit the Brasserie Saint Somewhere, housed in a refurbished 1912 abode. The spiced Saison Athene is brewed in the tradition of the farmhouse ales found in the beer-happy Wallonia region of Belgian.