St. Pete/Clearwater is the epicenter of Florida's booming craft beer renaissance, home to the state's oldest and some of its newest and most highly regarded craft breweries. Nine independently owned breweries and brew pubs, along with a branch of a Maine brewery, thrive here. Five more are planned.
The St. Pete/Clearwater Craft Beer Trail runs from Tarpon Springs to Treasure Island. Here you will find a wide array of small, independent breweries making beer unavailable anywhere else. A tiny warehouse brewery specializing in highly regarded Belgian-style farmhouse ales sold across the country. A neighborhood brewpub run by a 5th generation Austrian brewer with a penchant for breaking the rules. A laidback cantina making one of the highest-rated beers in the world. A beach brewpub crafting beer in the kitchen. And a little place in a Pinellas Park warehouse named the best new brewery in Florida.
Think of it as the Sunshine State's answer to California's wine country. Sample fresh, finely crafted artisanal beer right where it's made. Take a tour, meet the brewer, enjoy samples with other beer enthusiasts and maybe take some home with you. Beergeeks and newbies alike will find something for every palate. It's an hour's drive end to end. Pace yourself.
Bella Brava (an Italian favorite in St. Pete) co-owner Mike Harting and head chef Ty Weaver have joined forces for this ambitious project in a former plumbing supply building on the edge of the Warehouse Arts District and the Grand Central District. Weaver tested his brews at the restaurant for a year, inspiring big plans: a 30-barrel brewhouse, a 2,000 square foot tasting room, with plans for a canning line and local distribution. A range of styles will be on tap, from light sessions to barrel-aged stouts. VIBE: Spacious, modern tasting room (look for the handprints of Harting's three daughters on the bar). TASTES: Dunkelweiss, Summer Blonde Ale, Summer Storm oatmeal stout. TOURS: Call ahead. CONTACT: 222 22nd St. Petersburg. (727) 495-6002.
A small tavern with 14 taps featuring a rotating lineup of house-made IPA's, Porters and stouts, along with American craft beers focusing on Florida breweries. Limited distribution to select local craft beer bars. VIBE: Casual, warm American pub. TASTES: Quackalope IPA, Grapefruit Pale Ale, Passion Fruit Blonde. TOURS: Free, just ask. CONTACT: (727) 584-7772. 518 W Bay Dr Largo.
An experimental brewpub featuring a rotating lineup of beers made on premises by select homebrewers. Also 20 taps of American craft and bottles, Cajun food and live music. VIBE: Shopping center brewpub. TASTES: Any homebrew on tap. TOURS: Just look around. CONTACT: (727) 873-3900. 11270 4th St N St. Petersburg.
Officially the first brewery in downtown St. Petersburg, the brewhouse took a few months to crank up (beer brewed at the original location at Peg's Cantina in Gulfport filled the gap). An instant hit, owner/brewer Doug Dozark scrapped plans for a 3.5 barrel brewhouse for one twice the size. A long narrow storefront, with the brewhouse in back and tasting room up front. Same world-class beers with 12 rotating taps listed on a chalkboard. VIBE: Downtown hipster with sidewalk seating. TASTES: The sessionable Fixie or Cream and Sugar, Please coffee porter (made with Mazzaro's coffee). TOURS: Call ahead (or take a peek on the way to the restroom). CONTACT: (727) 320-7954. 534 Central Ave. St. Petersburg.
Housed at Peg's Cantina in laid-back Gulfport and home to one of the highest-rated beers in the world, Rare DOS, along with a developing style called Florida Weiss. The cozy bar features six rotating house-made beers, three American crafts (often Florida) and Mexican food. VIBE: Low-key casual. TOURS: Free, just ask. TASTES: Dancing Cody IPA, Florida Weisse. CONTACT: 3038 Beach Blvd. Gulfport. (727) 328-2720
Florida's oldest craft brewery with dining and live music. Fermenters and mash tuns loom over the airy bar/dining area. VIBE: Laid back Florida with a Scottish touch. TASTES: Red Head Ale, Nitro Stout, Apricot Peach. TOURS: Thur-Sat., 5 p.m. $5, souvenir glass, samples. CONTACT: (727) 736-0606. 937 Douglas Ave., Dunedin.
A 1926 red brick garage a short walk from Tropicana Field has been transformed into a tribute to small-batch beers and to St. Petersburg, once known as the City of Green Benches. A 1,500 square ft., 12-tap tasting room features an expansive view of the 15-barrel brewhouse and opens onto a family-friendly outdoor beer garden. Partners Nathan Stonecipher, Steven Duffy and Khris Johnson (the head brewer) evoke St. Pete history and a handcrafted aesthetic (the beers too: Green Bench IPA, Maximo, Skyway Wheat). VIBE: A cozy, hand-crafted look matches the hand-crafted beers. TASTES: Green Bench IPA, their "bench-mark" beer. TOURS: Free, Saturdays, 2 and 4 p.m. CONTACT: 1133 Baum Ave. N. St. Petersburg (727) 800-9836.
A brewpub with a German sensibility, run by a fifth-generation Austrian brewer experimenting with Lambics and high-gravity beers. He also makes his own beer sausage. VIBE: Lively shopping center pub with German accent. TASTES: Wildberry Lambic, Fischer Hefeweizen, Bohemian Swinger. TOURS: Free, any time. CONTACT: (727)216-9682. 3438 East Lake Business, Palm Harbor.
Located in a warehouse in a light-industrial park near Carillon Park, with a 20-tap tasting room, a 15-barrel brewhouse and ambitious expansion plans. Husband-wife owners Ken and Julia Rosenthal are young mechanical engineers with Anheuser Busch experience who returned home to Florida, inspired by Austin's craft beer scene, to join the Tampa Bay craft beer boom with a focus on flavorful session beers. About that unusual name: They are taking a gamble in paradise. VIBE: Warehouse chic, with tasting room view of expansive brewhouse. TASTES: Little Joe Oatmeal Stout is a signature. TOURS: Free, 1, 3 and 5 p.m. or call ahead. CONTACT: 4400 118th Ave. N, Suite 208 Clearwater (727) 755-3423 (DICE)
The first brewpub at the beach and smallest stop on the beer trail. A casual, economical, tourist-friendly bar/eatery in downtown Treasure Island with three rotating drafts made in the kitchen. VIBE: Beach-dive lively and tourist-friendly. TASTES: IPA, Porter. TOURS: Only if it isn't busy. CONTACT: (727) 367-3400. 245 108th Ave., Treasure Island.
Named Florida's best new brewery by ratebeer.com for 2012, the small warehouse operation breathes new life into forgotten styles like Gose and Lichtenheiner, with a 20-tap tasting room and wide array of finely crafted German-centric brews. VIBE: Relaxed, casual, dog-friendly. TASTES: Gose, Berliner Weisse, Chocolate Hazlenut Porter. TOURS: Anytime, just ask. CONTACT: (727) 692-7912. 10930 Endeavour Way Suite C, Seminole.
A boutique brewery in a warehouse five minutes from the historic sponge docks specializing in Belgian-style, bottle-conditioned farmhouse ales made with wild yeast. Available across the country and locally where craft beer is sold. VIBE: A humble warehouse in an industrial park. TASTES: Saison Athene, Lectio Divina, Serge. TOURS: Thurs., Fri. 6-8 p.m. $10, souvenir glass and three samples. CONTACT: (813) 503-6181. 1441 Savannah Ave, Unit E, Tarpon Springs.
An outpost of the award-winning New England brewery, featuring a dozen Sea Dog and Shipyard drafts from Maine, small-batch specialty brews made on premises, including a cask-conditioned ale. VIBE: Spacious Florida/Maine brewpub. TASTES: Blueberry Wheat, whatever's on cask. TOURS: Free, just ask. CONTACT: (727) 466-4916. 26200 US Hwy 19 N Clearwater.
A short walk from the Dunedin Brewery with a small tasting room and outdoor patio. Stellar reputation for small-batch IPA's, wild ales and barrel-aged beers. VIBE: Cozy, warm and (dog) friendly. TASTES: Donut Porter, Midnight Moonlight Berliner Weiss, FYA Pale Ale. TOURS: Free, any time; advanced notice requested for groups. CONTACT: (727) 733-3013. 1012 Broadway, Dunedin.
A few places in walking distance to America's Best Beaches to consider.
The first craft beer bar along the beaches, opened in late 2012 with 20 taps and some bottles. Fine wines, too. (727) 483-5990. 524 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater Beach.
A half dozen crafts on tap out back, a mix of Florida and notable out of state labels. (727) 363-7425. 10601 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island.
Craft beer right on St. Pete Beach. No draft but a deep selection of national brands in bottles. (727) 368-9000. 3850 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach.
The first brewpub along the barrier island beaches, with a rotating, limited lineup of beers made on a tiny system in the kitchen. (727) 367-3400. 245 108th Ave., Treasure Island.
Breweries elsewhere in Tampa Bay worth visiting.
The world-renowned Tampa brewery credited with fueling Florida's craft beer boom, with a 24-tap tasting room and lots of tours. (813) 348-6363, ext. 206. 924 W. Spruce St., Tampa.
The region's second-oldest craft brewery, it also is a restaurant with beer-influenced foods featured on the Food Network. Indoor and outdoor seating in historic Ybor City. (813) 247-1422. 1600 E 8th Ave, Tampa.
Pasco County's only brewery, in an industrial park warehouse with a small tasting room and a rapidly expanding lineup and output. (727) 807-7998. 2438 Merchant Avenue #103 Odessa.
A container for draft beer to go. Florida restricts growler sales to commercial breweries in 32 oz. and 1-gallon sizes. Bring your own or buy at the brewery.
A bar or restaurant making beer consumed on premises only (no growler sales).
The most popular craft beer style, India Pale Ale is known for an intense hoppy bitterness.
An ancient beer style of great complexity, fermented warm with yeast that rises to the top.
America's most popular style, clean, light, crisp, made with bottom-fermenting yeast at colder temperatures.
Tart, highly carbonated, low-alcohol (2-3 percent) wheat beer, traditionally served with raspberry or woodruff syrup. Weisse is German for white.
New Florida style of Berliner Weisse, fermented with fresh fruit.
Female flower of the hop plant. Preservative, bittering agent and aroma-enhancer ranging from pine to pineapple.
Smaller than a micro brewery, producing under 100 gallons a batch.
French for season, a Belgian ale fermented at warmer temperatures with special yeast producing earthy, tart, slightly sweet flavors.
Lighter in lower in alcohol (5 percent or less), intended for longer sessions of consumption.