Last updated: 10:00 AM ET, Wed March 09 2016

7 Key Breweries in Florida’s Rising Craft Beer Scene

Features & Advice | Michael Schottey | March 09, 2016

7 Key Breweries in Florida’s Rising Craft Beer Scene

Photo via Facebook/The Brew Bus - Tampa Bay

It’s more than a little shocking that beer culture in Florida isn’t further developed, but decades of LandShark and Yuengling being the signature brews haven’t done much to foster a real craft brewing mindset.

There’s more than likely something to be said for the overall mishmash of culinary and imbibing cultures as well. Southern Florida, as a whole, has always been a better place to find some small batch rum and an awesome mojito, while Northern Florida’s muscadine grapes (and heavy doses of retirees) have made it a sort of mini-wine country.

Thankfully, a bunch of smaller brewers are making sure that Florida is a place where any beer fan could fly into town and grab a few tours and a couple of prized 12-packs for the trip home.

Funky Buddha Brewery, Fort Lauderdale

I’ll wholeheartedly admit that my personal feelings about the Funky Buddha are skewed thanks to some fond memories, but I wouldn’t let warm fuzzies come before cold beers! Plus, I’m not the only one who enjoys these, and the masterfully crafted beers have begun to spread northward into statewide distribution. For IPA fans, the awesomely named Hop Gun (DANGER ZONE!) is a must try, but the Floridian Hefeweizen is far more drinkable on a warm South Florida evening.

READ MORE: 4 Must-Visit Hotels for Craft Beer Lovers

Tomoka Brewing Company, Ormond Beach

Tomoka’s brewing is much more intimately Florida than many on this list. From local styles (using a slightly sour malt combination) to local ingredients like the aforementioned muscadine grapes in the Fall seasonal and Plant City’s Strawberries in the Spring brew, Tomoka is making sure it’s more than just a brewery that happens to be in Florida. Even Tomoka’s attitude and subtle quirkiness is Florida in style, with occasional beers like the Elvis Peanut Butter Banana Sandwich Brown Ale, which comes in both regular and “Heavy Hitter” (Imperial) styles.

Due South Brewing Co., Boynton Beach

A week ago, I probably would have described Due South as a small little operation, but the brewery recently announced an expansion project that will double its current size! Needless to say, the supply is rising to meet a pretty significant demand. Head Brewer Mike Halker is an IPA devotee, so dial into the Category 5 IPA, which has taken home a lot of hardware in recent Florida Beer Championships. Due South might also have the best stout on the list, though. Its Mariana Trench Imperial Stout is only brewed once a year, but worth planning your trip around!

Brew Bus Brewing, Multiple Cities

If Brew Bus were just a magical brewery tour-hopping wonderland of enchantment, it’d deserve to be shoehorned onto this list. However, beer is also served on the buses in between stops, which will be the awesomest thing you’ve read right up until you learn that the beer Brew Bus serves is its own craft brews.

With outlets in South Florida, Tampa and Jacksonville, it’s possible to make the Brew Bus part of any vacation. Frankly, anyone not planning their next birthday around this company is in need of a reassessment of their priorities. Pro Tip: The South Florida tour makes a stop at the Funky Buddha, so we already know where you should start.

Cask and Larder, Winter Park

Many of the places on this list have food (and really good food to boot!), but it wouldn’t be overstating it to call Cask and Larder the place that tips most toward restaurant on the restaurant-brewing scale. Recently, I wrote about its sister restaurant, “The Ravenous Pig,” and owners James and Julie Petrakis are James Beard nominees who have been featured in just about every corner of the foodie world.

However, even if you go for the amazing food, don’t discount the beer. Grab a growler of the Wit’re Park or get real adventurous with the craft beer flight. Or, hey, just pick the beer you want and have the suggested food pairing. It will be delicious either way.

M.I.A. Brewing, Doral

If Cask and Larder is the most like a restaurant on this list, M.I.A. is the most like a chic Miami nightclub, with bright colored beer labels and an intense and laidback cool. Though the calm atmosphere is more subdued than a South Beach hotspot, those in the know will probably be hitting up both on the same night. And now, you too are in the know. Fall for the Tourist Trappe, which is a tripel brewed with blonde malts and cane sugar. It is both incredibly drinkable and a great way to kickstart a night on the town.

READ MORE: 6 Great Craft Beer Spots in Las Vegas

Cigar City Brewing, Tampa

No list of Florida’s craft brewers could be complete without Cigar City, since the large Tampa company has been doing it longer and at a higher level than others on this list. It blazed the trail and set a high standard for the other contenders. In fact, in an era where LandShark is now looked on with disdain and Yuengling is becoming just another cheap beer on every sports bar menu, many Floridians will point to Cigar City’s Jai Alai (a drinkable, mild and sweeter IPA) as one of the true taste-of-Florida brews that make this state’s beer scene a lot more attractive than it was even a short time ago. 

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