After spending a whole month in park Maria and I were excited to hit the road again and discover more great beer destinations and meet more great people. Tampa has been an emerging beer scene for awhile now and we knew that we could find some good brews (which we did) but were even more impressed with the beer community. Everyone involved with the craft beer scene seems to know everyone else personally and will recommend that you visit them. No rivalries here.
When we we visited Cigar City Brewing with Gerard Walen of roadtripsforbeer.com and beerinflorida.com for the Saturday tour we were immediately impressed with tour guide Bob Lorber’s engaging and amusing version of CCB history. His knowledge of beer and the Tampa brewing scene made the “3rd best brewery tour in the US” even better. After only three years of existence CCB has become the most well known craft brewery in Florida and a well known brewery across the nation. After the tour Bob joined Gerard, Maria, and I for some beers and spent a good amount of the conversation talking about Tampa beer as a whole and giving us the names of other breweries we should visit: Tampa Bay Brewing Co, Dunedin Brewing, Seventh Sun, Saint Somewehere, Peg’s Cantina and Brew Pub, Yuengling, they even strongly encouraged we to go to Little Giant, a brewery that isn’t even open yet but apparently taking visitors!
The more Tampa area breweries we visited the more we realized there are a lot of interwoven connections between the businesses. Peg’s Cantina and Brewpub’s head brewer, Doug, was Cigar City’s 3rd employee and now Peg’s manager Christina helps out at CCB as well. The guy who welded Cigar City’s new expansion system also created Peg’s custom brewing tree. The head brewer at the recently opened Seventh Sun Brewing in Dunedin used to work at Cigar City while some of the people at Dunedin Brewery helped Seventh Sun with get their space up and running. It seems like every time we talked to someone at a new brewery they would mention a connection to one of the others.
The craft beer industry is known for it’s open and supportive nature, but Tampa’s regional pride helps give it a unique atmosphere. When David, head brewer at Tampa Bay Brewing Co, started he simply wanted Tampa to have good beer. Cigar City told of a similar story and continued to say that they wanted to share “the fascinating culture and heritage of the Cigar City of Tampa” with the rest of the nation. Most of their beer names are tied to local history and culture as well. Overall, the breweries in Tampa don’t view the others as competitors but as comrades who are all trying to make great beer in Florida and put out a product Tampa residents can be proud of. Many of them recall the history of GOOD beer in the state, and for most, it doesn’t go back too far.
I was even so impressed with the beer scene here that I voted for Tampa for Beer City USA in this year’s competition. There is still time to vote here: http://www.facebook.com/BeerCityTPA. While it would be hard to say it is the best (in all actuality there are just too many great towns hosting excellent breweries to pick just one!!) they certainly are working to change the perception of craft beer in Florida and are doing a mighty fine job at that!!
When your ready to plan your next beer trip, don’t forget about Tampa, it’s got some big things to offer and the beach is not too shabby either!
Here are some more photos from our time in Tampa!