You’ve heard of beer and food pairings, sure. But 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
The Fountain of Youth is one of Florida’s best-known legends, but even legends have some truth in them. Florida’s freshwater springs are an important link to the natural world - places to relax on a hot day, sanctuaries for wildlife and even sources of drinking water. As we look at ways to preserve, protect, and enjoy these watery resources, one brewery in the heart of Florida’s spring country is making connections to our aquatic ancestry.
First Magnitude Brewing Company
Located in an industrial park on Gainesville’s southside, First Magnitude Brewing Company is easy to miss when you first drive by. The massive, nondescript, white warehouse is a behemoth compared to the young brewing operation inside, but the enthusiasm the team has for beer making seems to fill the building.
“Straight up passion for beer kept us going, ” said Meg The Losen, a co-owner at First Magnitude, as she explained the origins of the brewery. What started as an enthusiasm for craft beer culture grew into a business. “We were excited about it and everyone else was excited - that can get you a long way in a start-up.”
Brewmaster John Denny had been a home brewer for many years before First Magnitude was founded. John has a Ph.D. in education administration, but with his book on craft brewing in one hand and a smile on his face as he describes the beer, it’s clear that he loves the career change.
“Craft beer is something we always enjoyed as a hobby,” The Losen said.
The brewing takes place in a small portion of the large warehouse. Nearby pallets of grains and hops mingle with giant sets of the game Jenga and makeshift cable spool tables, blending the workspace with space for thirsty patrons. The connected tasting room, dubbed The Source, offers First Magnitude seasonal and year-round beers as well as beer from other Florida brewers.
First Magnitude’s beers are great overall, but the English Drift really stands out as a drinkable darker beer - it’s also a style not usually produced by a Florida craft brewery.
“People new to craft beer will say things like ‘that looks like cough syrup. I don’t think I will like that, ’” The Losen said. “But once they try it they really like it.”
If you’re looking for something different, the brewery also offers a locally made cider from Royal Manor Meadery in Interlachen. Be warned - the cider looks and tastes like apple juice, but at 8 percent alcohol this apple’s got a bite. First Magnitude is also planning on carrying some of Royal Manor’s meads in the future.
“We love the fact that Royal Manor is local, ” The Losen said. Keeping it local is something the folks at the brewery feel strongly about, especially its local water resources.
“We are very focused on the springs, ” The Losen said.
Even the names First Magnitude gives its beers can be traced to spring sources. The term First Magnitude comes from the amount of water that flows out of a spring, and 72 as in the 72 Pale Ale, is the constant year-round temperature of the springs.
“Everything we do in the future will be springs- and water-related.” The Losen said of the brewery’s outreach projects with the community.
Each of First Magnitude’s year-round beers has a different personality just like the springs the brewery gets inspiration from.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park / Siren Blonde Ale
There are accounts of sailors seeing mermaids in the waters around Florida but most likely were manatee sightings. Nevertheless Florida has its own sirens of the deep. You can see real mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park. For almost 70 years this Old Florida attraction has been entertaining guests of all ages with underwater performances ranging from sight gags like drinking soda underwater to full productions of “The Little Mermaid ” all while the audience remains dry in a submerged theatre.
Silver Springs State Park / 72 Pale Ale
Sometimes you have to balance a shining star with something pale. Silver Springs is one location that has stolen the spotlight in many films. From James Bond to Tarzan Silver Springs has been the site of some famous Hollywood productions. Nowadays Silver Springs sees more sightseers than stars but the main attraction is still the famous clear water. You can get a great view of the springs from one of their famous glass-bottom boats.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park / Drift English Mild
There’s nothing like drifting along in a tube down a river in the middle of summer. One of Florida’s most famous rivers for tubing is the Ichetucknee which starts in Ichetucknee Springs State Park. The gentle current of the Ichetucknee River powered by spring water makes for a relaxing ride through a shaded canopy of oaks. Generations of visitors have taken the icy plunge into the startlingly blue waters. The Ichetucknee exemplifies the need to cut loose and go with the flow.
You may not find the Fountain of Youth on your Florida journey, but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel young again by taking an adventure. Jump in, the water - and beer - is fine.
If you go…
What: First Magnitude Brewing Company
Where: 1220 SE Veitch St., Gainesville, FL 32601
Phone: (352) 727-4677
What: Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Where: 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, Florida 34606
Phone: (352) 592-5656
What: Silver Springs State Park
Where: 1425 N.E. 58th Avenue, Ocala, Florida 34470
Phone: (352) 236-7148
What: Ichetucknee Springs State Park
Where: 12087 S.W. U.S. 27, Fort White, Florida 32038
Phone: (386) 497-4690
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