Florida Craft Beer: Marker 48 Brewing, Weeki Wachee
You’ve heard of beer and food pairings. How about beer paired with authentic Florida experiences? Join us as we explore the state through the flavors of Florida’s craft beer culture.
By Stephen Kubiak, VISIT FLORIDA
Legend has it mermaids lure sailors to their deaths with their otherworldly singing, causing ships to crash upon rocks along distant shores. But Florida’s mermaids have something more entertaining and less life-threatening in mind.
Weeki Wachee Springs has lured travelers driving along US-19 for years with the promise of real mermaids performing aquatic aerobatics in crystal-clear spring water. As the legend of these sirens grew, so too did the area around them. Businesses started to pop up beside the sleepy town of Weeki Wachee, population 12, including Marker 48 Brewing.
Stop for the mermaids, stay for the milk stout.
Marker 48 Brewing is easy to miss as you drive along Cortez Boulevard between Weeki Wachee and Brooksville. The brewery is surrounded by automotive repair shops, blending into a mélange of industrial buildings adorned with rolling doors because it too was once a repair shop.
Maurice and Tina Ryman, owners of Marker 48, didn’t see car parts when they first viewed the property - they saw potential.
“(The building) was really the whole package we were looking for,” said the Rymans. “We loved the bay doors on all sides, which reminded us of many breweries out West we had visited who open their doors up when the weather is nice.”
The taproom, stripped of stacked tires and oil filters, has a beautiful rugged industrial finish with polished concrete floors, exposed metal rafters and rolling doors for walls. At the bar, a glycol line runs under a metal plate where patrons can rest their beer to keep it chilled on warm Florida afternoons. The pit where mechanics would change oil has become an amazing space that serves as a speakeasy-themed cellar for barrel-aging.
Hernando County natives who met in high school, the Rymans take pride in supporting the community through such initiatives as Tap for a Cause, where they donate all proceeds from a limited-release beer to a local nonprofit. They also partner with Pine Grove Elementary School in Brooksville, providing spent grains to be used in the school’s farm-certified, u-pick garden.
“What’s really cool is that some of the herbs, fruits and vegetables will come back to the brewery to be used in special beers,” said Gerard Walen. Walen, the writer behind the blog, Beer in Florida, is a founding member of the brewery.
Outside, the charm and character of the building spills over into the adjoining beer garden. Under huge vinyl sunscreens and strands of light bulbs, the artificial turf is covered in tables, reclined patio chairs, a ping-pong table and giant Jenga game. On busier days, beer is served out of an old Airstream and live music on the stage drowns out the nearby highway noise. The smell of smoked brisket wafts through the air from the nearby Barbie Cue food truck in the parking lot. The vibe is more backyard barbeque than brewery, but the beer is anything but party fare.
Made with the same water that the local mermaids swim in, the expansive tap list is quite impressive for a brewery of its size. In the land of sirens, start with Mermaid’s Milk, a smooth, sweet milk stout, or its variant, Strawmaid, Mermaid’s Milk on a nitrogen line and treated with strawberries. For sitting outside in the beer garden, try the Flor Rye Da, an easy-drinking Kolsch at 5 percent ABV (alcohol by volume). There’s Red Right Return, a smooth Irish Red that was inspired by a channel marker - which is what Marker 48 is named after.
“We wanted a (brewery) name that had local ties, but also had meaning to us,” said the Rymans. “Since we love the water so much, we chose one of our favorite local channel markers and went with that.”
One of the most unique Marker 48 beers is Spring Release, a Double IPA that involves submerging a bourbon barrel filled with beer in a local spring for 25 days.
If you follow the siren song the rest of the way on State Road 50 to where it meets US 19, you’ll find Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, home to Florida’s famous mermaids. Since 1947, when former Navy frogman Newt Perry opened the classic roadside attraction, visitors have sat in the underwater theater and watched the mermaids perform in the crystal-clear waters of Weeki Wachee Spring. The mermaids perform several shows throughout the day, giving visitors ample time to explore the other amenities of this unique state park.
Weeki Wachee Springs is home to Buccaneer Bay, a spring-fed water park that features four slides, a sandy beach and splash pad for the kids. As you’re swimming, you may even spot a manatee slowly making its way towards the spring. The park also offers wildlife shows that feature native wildlife like alligators and snakes and a river boat cruise that takes guests down the Weeki Wachee River. Before you leave the park, be sure to take a photo with a mermaid, because you’re going to need proof that you met a real siren of the sea.
If You Go
What: Marker 48 Brewing
Where: 12147 Cortez Blvd, Weeki Wachee, FL 34613
What: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Where: 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, FL 34606