Mar 26, 2023 - Food and Drink

Your guide to Tampa Bay's best breweries

BarrieHaus Beer Co. represents good beer and local sports pride. Photo: John Frank/Axios

BarrieHaus Beer Co. represents good beer and local sports pride. Photo: John Frank/Axios

Tampa Bay breweries cover the waterfront when it comes to different tastes and trends β€” making it easy for beer fans to find their favorites.

What to know: The beer scene has exploded in the decade since I left Tampa. But on a recent return trip, a faithful friend ferried me to the top-rated breweries and helped me develop this guide to the best beer in Tampa Bay.

  • Cheers to him β€” and I hope you enjoy it.
Hit makers

Three breweries set the tone for the Tampa Beer scene and have a national following, so start with them to calibrate your tastes.

Cigar City: An OG cult brewery, Cigar City quickly became known nationwide for its big stouts like the Hunahpu's and Marshal Zhukov's and interesting takes on traditional styles, such as its white-oak-aged Jai Alai IPA. Visit the original location on Spruce Street for an extensive tap list.

  • Sip: Big stouts are the ticket and Jai Alai is the flagship, but don't sleep on Maduro, a classic and delicious brown ale.

Angry Chair: Building on what the head brewer learned at Cigar City, Angry Chair went all in on big, pastry stouts filled with adjunct ingredients like marshmallows, chocolate and vanilla beans. The decadent beers are hot commodities and built the brewery a national cred.

  • Sip: Go for the all big stouts, but refresh your palate with a Slushii, a fruited tart Berliner Weisse that's also a trendy pour.

7venth Sun: This woman-owned and operated brewery started as a small outfit in Dunedin and expanded to the Seminole Heights neighborhood in 2017, where it found a home in an old roller skating rink. The second location helped the beer list extend beyond its mainstay saisons and lagers to barrel-aged beers and IPAs.

  • Sip: Graffiti Orange Wheat is an original, but look for fun-flavored experimental beers like a banana Berliner Weisse.
1-mile brewery tour

Tampa Bay's breweries are as sprawling as its neighborhoods, but three new standouts are located within 1 mile of each other just north of downtown Tampa, making them a fun walking or biking tour.

Hidden Springs Ale Works: The creative side of craft brewing is on display at Hidden Springs, which serves a lemon-bundt-cake-inspired lager and a peanut butter and jelly sour. Most of them are surprisingly well-balanced given their whimsical nature.

  • Sip: Enjoy the craziness, wherever it may take you, and expand your beer mind.

Magnanimous: This is the place to indulge in IPAs, and the hazier the better. The beers showcase different hop combinations that create fun fruity flavors with more round mouthfeel than bitterness.

  • Sip: Juice Lord, a hazy IPA, put them on the map, so start there.

Woven Water: An Instagram-able taproom, fun beer list and cocktail menu make this a hip place to visit. Their super-fruited sour ales (akin to a smoothie) are the most popular sips but you can also find solid lagers and "blurry" IPAs.

  • Sip: The fruited sours, some with lactose to mimic a milkshake, are interesting and don't disappoint.
New arrivals

A handful of newer and smaller breweries are showing promise and worth a visit.

Common Dialect: The mutual language here is beer, and the Seminole Heights brewery doses it with a hip vibe. The draft list isn't extensive, but it rotates quickly and gives you plenty to taste.

  • Sip: Try the hazy IPA and a lager to wash it down.

Ology: Ology β€” a Tallahassee-based brewery that is landing some hits and gaining wider attention β€” opened in Angry Chair's former space in Seminole Heights in September.

  • Sip: Hazy IPA and Berliner Weisse sours, the unofficial style of Florida, are the go-tos.

Late Start: Led by veteran brewers in the Tampa scene, Late Start made beer at Pour House Tampa and hopes to open its own location downtown this year.

  • Sip: The hazy IPAs get Instagram likes and we'll see what they do next.
Ybor City breweries

Ybor City lands on every traveler's list, so whether you're visiting or showing around out-of-towners, it's good to know the best places for a cold beer.

BarrieHaus Beer: The outdoor beer garden (also dog friendly) is the main draw and the lager-focused brewery makes plenty of classics to keep you cool. The simplicity in beer styles is a nice change of pace.

  • Sip: The Czech pilsner and helles, two traditional styles, are a good place to start.

Coppertail: Located in a historic building and steeped in Tampa relics, Coppertail offers tours to help the uninitiated get oriented. The tasting room includes a food menu and dog-friendly patio.

  • Sip: Start with the flagship Free Dive, an old-school IPA.
Across the bay

Tampa isn't the only place to find great beer. Head to Pinellas County for these three great breweries.

Cycle: This barrel-aged beer specialist in St. Petersburg makes much-coveted velvety stouts, like the recent coconut, strawberry pancake edition, and boozy barleywines. Tune into their social media for special bottle releases.

Green Bench: The science of fermentation is on display at Green Bench. You can find beer, cider and mead at Green Bench's Webb City Cellar site adjacent to the main St. Petersburg taproom, which offers more traditional beer pours.

  • Sip: Experiment with their foeder-fermented and wild ales to experience the complexity of well-cared-for beer.

Arkane Aleworks: Tucked in a shopping center in Largo, you'll find a brewery with a growing reputation for good beer. The tap list covers all the hot styles, from hazy IPAs to pastry stouts and fruited sours.

  • Sip: The all-citra-hopped Fat Clouds, a hazy double IPA, is a winner.

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