Jax Ale Trail - Craft Beer in Jacksonville, Florida

By Janet K. Keeler

Vacationers, beer aficionados and day trippers have plenty of craft brew to sample all over the state of Florida.

There are 350 microbreweries in Florida with more opening every year. Dunedin Brewery in the Tampa Bay area was the first to pour craft brew in Florida, tapping its inaugural kegs in 1996. In the following years, Dunedin Brewery’s vision and success enticed other entrepreneurs to experiment with grains, hops, water and yeast plus some innovative flavors (coffee, mango, basil?) to put their own stamp on their craft beer.

Travelers and locals have benefited from the innovation and there is hardly a beer style that can’t be found in Florida. From German pilsners to American wheats to Belgian saisons to all manner of IPAs, pale ales, bitters and sours, there’s a taste for all beer palates.

As you travel about the state, here are just some of the microbreweries worthy of a stop.

Tampa Bay Area

The Tampa Bay area region is home to the most craft breweries in the state, with 110 places pouring beer in all sorts of styles. There are 46 in Pinellas County alone, likely owing to the online certificate program in brewing arts at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg campus.

Some of the most popular breweries include Cigar City Brewing in Tampa; 3 Daughters Brewing and Green Bench Brewing Company in St. Petersburg, and the grand-daddy of local brew, Dunedin Brewery in Dunedin.

There are many more off the beaten path including:

Bastet Brewing, Tampa

You don’t have to walk like an Egyptian at Bastet Brewing in Tampa, but you might find yourself humming the ’80s Bangles song when you stop in for a Vienna lager or a dry stout. The walls are decorated with Egyptian iconography and homages to rulers and pharaohs. And the name? Bastet is an Egyptian cat goddess. All this ancient brew-ha-ha is a nod to the importance of beer in ancient Egypt where it was often used to pay salaries and was buried with the dead to take to the afterlife. It’s hard to know if you’ll feel the same about the Blood Lust sour ale but it’s worth a try. Bastet Brewing is a small place with big taste.

Rapp Brewing, Seminole

Greg Rapp opened his microbrewery in 2013 in an industrial warehouse space in Seminole, way, way, way off the beaten track. Beer lovers found their way to Rapp Brewing through word-of-mouth and became regulars for the award-winning beer. Rapp, who is considered one of the grandfathers of Tampa Bay brewing, died in 2019 but his daughter has taken the reins. Rapp Brewing specializes in long-lost styles like gose, Lichtenhainer and Czech amber lager. This is the place to belly up to the beer bar for experimentation (chocolate covered banana!) and Kölsch, the legendary beer that originated in Cologne, Germany.

If I Brewed the World, St. Petersburg

There’s quite a premium on clever names in the craft brew world. Against the Grain anyone? How about Cherry Cheeks or Hazy Daze? One microbrewery in St. Petersburg doubles down with one of the cleverest business names: If I Brewed the World. If I Brewed the World calls itself the mixtape of breweries which signals that the beers are wide-ranging and they like to have fun. A top taste is the BeeryCrunch wheat ale which can sometimes be found at big box liquor stores, but if you want to be a St. Pete insider, order God’s Waiting Room, a grapefruit West Coast pale ale. That was St. Petersburg’s nickname before it became hip and rent and condo complexes went sky high.

South Florida

A cold brew can’t be beat on a hot day and South Florida has more than 60 microbreweries—from Palm Beach down to the tip of the Florida Keys— to get a mug of something on tap when the temperature sizzles. Or any other time of the year.

Funky Buddha in Oakland Park may be one of the most recognizable names—its Floridian Hefeweizen and Vibin’ lager can be found in liquor stores. And J. Wakefield Brewing in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District is a tourist attraction with its Star Wars-themed murals. And good beer.

But there are others to visit. Here are a few to start your South Florida microbreweries crawl.

Spanish Marie Brewery, Miami

If you want a story with your brew, head to Spanish Marie Brewery near Kendall which bill itself as a “Prohibition Era Craft Brewery.” There’s a long tale on Spanish Marie’s website about 1920s alcohol smuggling, a crafty and fickle gangster’s widow and candy stores masquerading as speakeasies. The secret beer garden serves up cheeky beer too, like So Long, Lover Boy sour ale and another sour called Shake that Grim Off Your Face. There’s a restaurant, too.

Invasive Species Brewing, Fort Lauderdale

If you don’t think taxidermy and craft beer mix, head to Invasive Species Brewing in Fort Lauderdale to quaff a dark German beef under the watchful eye of something stuffed.

The tap room has a mad scientist feeling but know that one of the brewers has Funky Buddha roots that show up in the fruity sours and IPAs. Lots of care goes into the beers here and the Burmese python on the label reminds us that it’s not just tourists who become permanent residents in the Sunshine State.

Barrel of Monks Brewing, Boca Raton

Barrel of Monks Brewing in Boca Raton started like a lot of Florida’s microbreweries. Friends talking over a couple of brews is the birth of this business idea. Such is the case at Barrel of Monks which specializes in classic Belgium beers like witbier and tripels. The brewers pride themselves in traditional technique but that doesn’t mean they don’t think out of the abbey ale. Try a Single in Havana, a Belgian blonde with notes of guava. Hello, warm winter vacation.

Central Florida

Florida’s central interior is well-known for theme park fun and the football faithful at the University of Florida, but craft beer lovers will find more than 60 microbreweries worth a stop.

The Central Florida breweries pay homage to traditional techniques with Sunshine State fruity tweaks.

The award-winning Ravenous Pig restaurant in Winter Park is now brewing its own beer, and Crooked Can Brewing Company with locations in Winter Garden and Orlando should win the award for the best graphics. A monocle-wearing guy named McSwagger is prominent on every can.

And there’s more:

Redlight Redlight Beer Parlor, Orlando

In the Audubon Park neighborhood of Orlando is a strip mall that’s a little different than the thousands of strip malls all over the state. Redlight Redlight Beer Parlor has preserved the ambience of the Weathermasters air conditioning/heating business that used to hold up this corner of the mall. Now it’s a neighborhood hangout serving award-winning beer including the malty, bold New Wave Biere de Garde that was recently honored as the best in Florida for specialty beer. There’s food too, along with beer that puts a Redlight Redlight twist on traditional sours and Belgian brews. 

Swamp Head Brewery, Gainesville

Gainesville is gator country and not just because there are alligators in the many nearby lakes, but also because the University of Florida’s mighty Gators are dominant in many collegiate sports. And the football stadium is nicknamed The Swamp. Swamp Head Brewery continues the reptilian love with its love of all things Florida, including its Florida-first mission. Some of Swamp Head’s brews include Key Lime Pie sour; Florida Slush raspberry lemon Berliner, and

Tropical Vibes mango guava wheat. And Pink Growlerade with sports drink powder laced with dragon fruit? For sure a nod to Gatorade created by scientists at UF.

Grove Roots Brewing Co., Winter Haven

Central Florida is citrus country and Grove Roots Brewing Co. in Winter Haven honors those juicy roots with four flagship beers. Slanted Ladders; Wakes of Grain; Rind & Shine, and 6am Pickers sport labels with a vintage packing crate feel but play with traditional beer styles with coffee and squeezes of oranges, tangerine and grapefruit. The taproom is where visitors will find a menu of beers as wide as a citrus grove: wheat beers, sours, ambers, imperials, stouts, pale ales, IPAs, pilsners and even hard seltzers await.

Southwest Florida

Southwest Florida has some of the state’s most visited beaches from Manatee County south to Lee County. The growing Southwest Florida microbrew business—which is pushing inland—is starting to get attention, too, with craft beer that’s winning awards and drawing more visitors.

Riptide Brewing in Naples is a good place to stop for refreshment after a day in the sun (bring sunscreen!). Scotty’s Bierwerks in Cape Coral is serving German-style brew for the growing local population who can pick up their favorites in cans to take home. Or back to a vacation rental.

You’ll find Southwest Florida microbreweries on roads less traveled. Here are three to check out:

Millennial Brewing Company, Fort Myers

On the edge of downtown Fort Myers and just a few blocks from the Caloosahatchee River, Millennial Brewing Company is combining its generational techiness with Old World brewing techniques. This is the place where lawyers from the nearby courthouse mingle with off-duty tattoo artists and vacationers. What’s everyone drinking? Beer for sure but the choices range from English brown ale; German Marzen; Belgian tripel, and American IPA and lager. Feeling adventurous? Order a pour of Solen’ya Pickle Beer of Sour Apple Blow Pop. That’s candy to our ears.

Motorworks Brewing Company, Bradenton

To say that Motorworks Brewing Company in Bradenton is hot isn’t just talk. It really is hot. Spicy hot. Motorworks took first and second place in the chili category in the 2023 Best Florida Beer competition. Those honors came for its Mango Habanero IPA and Tequila BA Datil Imperial Porter. They both sound like a good accompaniment to the loaded tostones—fried plantains loaded with pulled pork, pico de gallo and topped with queso fresco—served by the Dynamite Kitchen at Motorworks. The name of the brewery is a tribute to the 1920s car dealership that was the previous occupant of the space. Big beer garden, a stage for live music and dog friendliness are also draws.

Bone Hook Brewing Co., Naples

The award-winning whiskey barrel-aged barleywine is a good reason to visit Bone Hook Brewing Co. in Naples if you keep in mind that it’s not wine at all but a strong ale. It’s made by fermenting grains—not grapes like wine. They serve seasonal beers on tap along with their core beers that are also available for purchase in cans. Bone Hook’s menu is loaded with favorite pub food.

Space Coast

The Space Coast and Treasure Coast offer some out-of-this-world brews at about 30 microbreweries. Among the 30 are a variety of spots from Cocoa Beach Brewing Company brewing some award winners in a tiny house near the Atlantic Ocean to the jazzy Pareidolia  Brewing Company in Sebastian with a full “pub grub” menu.

Playalinda Brewing Co. in Titusville has a broad variety of brews from milk stout to red ale to saison. And that’s just a start of craft beer on the Space and Treasure coasts.

Hell ‘n Blazes Brewing Co., Melbourne

If you and the family are headed to watch a launch from Cape Canaveral, Hell ’n Blazes Brewing Co. in Melbourne is  the place to take your multi-generational gang before or after liftoff. Northern Flow is an award-winning American lager, as is Huggins Hefeweizen. The seasonal Todd’s Crumb Catcher, a brown ale with notes of oatmeal and cinnamon, might be the most interesting beer on the board. Think oatmeal cookies. There’s a game room for kids and those who want to play darts, plus the menu is extensive. The owners renovated a 110-year-old hardware and farm–supply store.

Ocean Republic Brewing, Stuart

Surf, sand, sun and suds? That’s what Ocean Republic Brewing in Stuart promises. There are plenty of boating and fishing opportunities on the St. Lucie River with the beaches of the Atlantic close by. Ocean Republic’s award-winning Tropical Breeze fruit beer and Glassy American-style amber ale offer pure refreshment after a day on the water. There’s a rather friendly-looking sea monster on the label and the Coffee Kraken and Kraken beers are both German Kölsch. Points for naming cleverness with Don’t Go Breaking My Tart, a fruited kettle sour. Dolphins don’t have fingers but the pub menu says they serve them (made of mahi, of course) plus there are six varieties of poutine, the Canadian dish of french fries topped with salty, gravy, meaty goodness.

Hyderhead Brewery, Deland

It’s not often that a Florida microbrew invites its patrons to wear a kilt to the taproom, but Hyderhead Brewery in Deland has such strong Scottish roots, it does just that. The scruffy-furred Highlands cow is Hyderhead’s logo and they actually serve haggis on sourdough bread. Well, that’ll go with strong pale ales, wheats, stouts and more. Can’t decide? Get a flight. Or forgo the beer altogether and dive into a Scottish whiskey, also a specialty. Most microbrewers are long on colorful stories but owner Jeffrey Hyder’s “wee” attempt to honor his moonshine and Scottish ancestry is one of the best.

Nature Coast

Florida’s Nature Coast is a haven for fishing and water enthusiasts. It’s the place to snorkel with manatees and paddle along lazy rivers. It’s now a burgeoning craft beer region. Nature Coast breweries may not be as numerous as in some more populated counties but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a solid cold brew on a hot day—or any day for that matter.

And just like other microbreweries in the state, you will be just as entertained by the names of the beers as you will their taste. Escape Brewing in Trinity has The Other West Coast India pale ale and a double India Pale ale called Interesting at Parties. Who are we to question?

Other microbreweries along Florida’s Nature Coast to check out:

Craft Life Brewing Co., Land O’Lakes

A good time can be had by all at Craft Life Brewing Co. thanks to bingo and trivia nights plus live music and food trucks. That’s not to say the award-winning suds aren’t centerstage. Craft Life has won silver medals in the Best Florida Beer Competition in 2019, 2022 and 2023. You’ll find beer for nearly every taste on top, including sours, pale ales, stouts, and some super hoppy brews. Look for Craft Life in west coast Florida counties from Hernando down to Sarasota.

Cotee River Brewing, New Port Richey

Cotee River Brewing Company gets its name from the nearby Pithlachascotee — Cotee for short — that runs right through the historic town of New Port Richey. Cotee River Brewing opened in 2018 and is the town’s first craft brew. Six to 10 taps flow daily with housemade brew and the offerings change regularly. Lots of blonde ales with an Irish red to mix things up.

Nine State Brewery, Inverness

Nine State Brewery is named for the nine states—starting in Massachusetts—that the owner traveled to find his beer home in the Sunshine State. It’s a Friday-to-Sunday-only joint but it’s worth planning a trip for, thanks to the Korean food menu and the beer to go with. Consider pairing Jeannie’s Mango Ale blonde or the German hefeweizen with a spicy bulgogi bowl. 

 - Intuition Ale Works

North Florida

If you find yourself on the far north end of Florida’s east coast, you’ll have plenty of craft breweries to explore. There are 25 craft breweries in North Florida that are popular with locals and tourists alike.

In Jacksonville, Tepeyolot Cerveceria specializes in Mexican-style beers and a full menu of Mexican food and some twists on the theme including chicken and waffle burritos. Engine 19 Brewing Co. is closer to the beach and popular with folks coming or going and looking for pub food and housemade brew.

Others on the north Florida Atlantic coast to check out:

Wicked Barley Brewing Company, Jacksonville

It will be hard for Wicked Barley Brewing Company to remain anonymous after its American-style cream ale—called Remain Anonymous—took first place in that category in last year's state beer competition. But that’s just the latest aware for the microbrewery with a full-service restaurant. The website boldly states that Wicked Barley brews “naughty beers for bold souls.” We will say there’s some wicked fun beer names including Argument Starter amber ale and I Hope They Serve This in Hell Imperial IPA.

Halpatter Brewing Co., Lake City

You gotta love a place that brings together beer,  trivia and tacos (or sometimes burgers). A full schedule of events at Halpatter Brewing Co. make this craft brewery a lively hangout. Besides all manner of ales—red Irish, cream, pale and American Brown—and plenty of other styles including stouts and porters, Halpatter serves up local history. The brewery is named after Seminole warrior Halpatter-Tuskenuggee, sometimes called Chief Alligator, whose village was just a few blocks from the NE Hernando Avenue brewery. 

Ancient City Brewing, St. Augustine

St. Augustine was founded in 1565 and is said to be the site of the first Thanksgiving not long after the Spanish arrived. This was 50 years before the communal feast of pilgrims and indigenous peoples in Massachusetts. So, you can see where Ancient City Brewing found the inspiration for its name. Ancient’s core beers include Castillo Coconut Porter and Anastasia Island IPA. Seasonal beers rotate throughout the year.

Northwest Florida

There are nearly 40 craft breweries in Northwest Florida, more commonly called the Panhandle. Most are clustered in Pensacola and Tallahassee, but it’s worth your while to seek out some of the more isolated Panhandle breweries.

Wakulla County’s only brewery, Civic Brewery Co., is in historic Sopchoppy which you might pass through heading from St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge to connect with U.S. 98 that skirts the Gulf of Mexico. Likewise, Eastpoint Beer Company on Apalachicola Bay. Bring your pup, order a pepperoni pizza and pair it with an Eastpoint Blonde.

Coastal County Brewing, Pensacola

There are plenty of fun and games in the beer garden of Coastal County Brewing but make no mistake—they aren’t fooling around with the beer. Coastal’s Irish-style red ale and American-style red ale were named among the best in the state professional beer competition in 2023. Coast has an extensive pub food menu.

Amicus Brewing Ventures, Tallahassee

A group of church friends has transformed the city’s historic waterworks building into Amicus Brewing Venture. Live music acts perform on the deck while patrons sip beers with heavenly sounding names, among them Sermon on the Stout flavored with coffee and the Czech-style Pastor’s Pils. This newest kid on the Tallahassee brew scene aims to be the friendliest gathering spot in town.

3rd Planet Brewing Co., Niceville

There are plenty of nice things about Niceville, and the two locations of 3rd Planet Brewing Co. are among them. The brewery was started by Air Force veterans which isn’t surprising given Eglin Air Force Base is just a few miles away. They brew bold beers and have won awards for their German-style doppelbock, wood- and barrel-aged strong beer and international-style pilsener. Check out the website for the food truck schedule.

Places to Remember