Oh, Florida. The land of theme parks, alligators, and the elusive Florida Man, news media’s favorite kook. The state gets a bad rap most of the time, but the retirement-friendly peninsula actually isn’t so terrible (unless you hate humidity). Not only does it offer relaxing beaches, some semi-decent sports teams and so much room for nature activities(!), it has some pretty great craft breweries. We’re not joking— Florida is a burgeoning hot spot for beer, and you’re totally missing out if you don’t give the craft beer scene a try. Here are 10 Florida breweries that are absolutely deserving of your attention.
Photo: Courtesy of Facebook/Bold City Brewery
This family owned brewery shares a name with the city in which it resides. The “Bold New City of the South” is Jacksonville’s nickname, and bold is an adjective that definitely describes this little brewery. Bold City has been around for 14 years and become a local favorite with solid flagships like Duke’s Cold Nose, a brown ale and Mad Manatee IPA. If you can time your visit right, look for their barrel-aged versions of Mad Manatee and the seasonal Super Secret Stout.
Photo: Courtesy of Facebook/Swamp Head Brewery
It makes sense that Swamphead is located in “the Swamp”, a.k.a. home of the Florida Gators. A brewery known for its sustainability efforts and love for the state of Florida, Swamphead offers several standard beers like the Big Nose IPA and Stump Knocker Pale Ale. If you’re looking for something a little less ordinary, look for Field Trip, a peanut butter-and-jelly amber that’s brewed sporadically. It’s guaranteed to take you back to the days of elementary school. Only this time, it’s more fun because you can drink.
Photo: Courtesy of Facebook/Cigar City Brewing
At Paste, we’ve been known to have strong feelings for Cigar City. In 2013 we rated it as the 2nd best craft brewery in the country, and they have been featured several times in tastings. Definitely the most popular craft Florida brewery, they are most famous for their Jai Alai IPA and limited Hunahpu, which is so damn good, it’s earned its own special release event. Currently, Cigar City is distributed in six states on the East Coast, including Georgia, Virginia and Pennsylvania. But a trip to the brewery is a must for any beer nerd.
Photo: Courtesy of Facebook/Orange Blossom Brewing Co.
Orlando is more than just theme parks and the horrendous I-4. Not only does Orange Blossom Brewery have really ridiculously good looking packaging, it has two versions of their most sought after beer, the OBP and OBP^2 (Orange Blossom Pilsner and Orange Blossom Pilsner Squared, respectively.) They are both made with local honey, and the squared version has 11% ABV. Now that’s a strong pilsner.
Photo: Courtesy of Facebook/Proof Brewing Company
While I’ve never been to Proof, it was recommended to me by a real live Tallahasseean, a former Florida State Seminole who, thanks to her sorority, knows her beer and knows it well. The small brewery recently started distributing cans, so you can find their beers beyond the brewery. Try the EightFive-O, an American Pale Ale named after the Tallahassee area code, (850) that’s dry hopped with whole leaf Citra for a crazy strong nose. Or try Assassin Caterpillar, a sweet brown that balances chocolate and caramel with a robust American hop bill. Also, it’s named Assassin Caterpillar.
Tampa Bay, Fla.
Photo: Courtesy of Facebook/Big Storm Brewing Co.
This Clearwater brewery has several award-winning beers, including the Oktoberfest Märzen Lager, which placed gold at the 2016 Florida Beer Championships. Big Storm has only been around since 2012, but already it’s making a splash in the brewing world— right now it’s the fastest expanding craft brewery in the entire state of Florida. They have both easy-drinking beers (like the Low Pressure session IPA) for those looking for something light to drink in Florida’s hot sun, and complex craft brews, like the 11% Lie To Me, an imperial cherry stout.
Photo: Courtesy of Facebook/Aardwolf Brewery
The aardwolf is a small animal that looks like a cross between a wolf and a meerkat that lives in Africa. It’s also a hell of a name for a brewery. Aardwolf is small, but they manage to brew a little something for everyone. They have a particularly smooth-drinking Belgian Pale Ale, which won an award in the Great American Beer Festival in 2015. Other stand-out brews include the Hipster Popsicle (if only for the hilariously tongue-in-cheek name) and the pucker-worthy San Marco Sour. If you make it into the taproom, seek out something from Aardwolf’s Pilot Batch series, small batch experimental brews released every Wednesday at exactly 5pm.
St. Augustine, Fla.
Photo: Courtesy of Facebook/Ancient City Brewing
Straight from the oldest city in the United States of America, Ancient City takes their history and location to heart. Most of their beers are named after parts of St. Augustine’s landscape or past. Their Irish red ale is named after the Matanzas River, the pale ale is named after the fountain of youth-seeking Juan Ponce de Leon and the IPA is named after Anastasia Island, the site of the infamous (and supposedly haunted) St. Augustine Lighthouse. You’re on the beach, so try the Key Lime Kolsch or the Castillo Coconut Porter.
St. Petersburg, Fla.
Photo: Courtesy of Facebook/Green Bench Brewing Co.
We’ve written fondly about Green Bench Brewing Company before at Paste. In an interview from 2014, brewer Khris Johnson told us about his beer philosophy: “It’s pretty simple, actually: We brew beer that we love drinking. I only make beers that make me excited, and I strive to exceed the quality level of every previous batch I brew.” It’s a simple philosophy, but for Johnson and his team it’s clearly working—The massive 6,000 square foot brewery in downtown St. Pete is constantly bustling, and they’ve become known for brewing a wide spectrum of beers, from easy-drinking saisons to the Middle Eastern Brown Ale brewed with Yemeni spices, dates and raisins. They even had the chance to make a beer with the Tampa Bay Rays, a brew called “2-Seam Blonde Ale”.
Photo: Courtesy of Facebook/GrassLands Brewing Company
GrassLands is pretty much brand new to the scene, and have only been brewing their own beer since August of last year. As of right now, they haven’t started distributing, so you’re going to have to make some effort. Cut them some slack though, it’s worth the trip and you can grab a growler from their taproom. Plus, you can pair a visit to the taproom with a game at Doak Campbell Stadium, or maybe a sit down with Governor Rick Scott, or whatever else brings you to Florida’s capital. GrassLands has a knack for naming beers (Hopline Bling, Smoked Beer Everyday). Check out their margarita-inspired gose, or something from their well-curated guest taps.
Annie Black is a contributing writer for Paste Magazine. When she isn’t people-watching at dive bars, she’s probably taking a nap or thinking of ways she can reference Will Ferrell movies in her writing. Follow her on Twitter for “stuck-in-traffic selfies” and stories about cats: @helloannieblack.