BEER BY THE BAY

Every now and then I like to get out of town on a beercation, sometimes for just a couple of days or even more. Recently, I took a beercation to one of the hottest beer regions in Florida: Tampa.

Like Jacksonville, Tampa can trace its beer beginnings to the late 1800s. Eduardo Manrara, a business associate of Vicente Ybor — the genius who brought cigar manufacturing to what is now Ybor City — opened Ybor City Brewing Company near a freshwater spring around. The brewery was later renamed Florida Brewing Company.

Since then, Tampa’s beer industry has gone through ups and downs just like many across America. In 1959, Anheuser-Busch opened a brewery in Tampa which has since closed. But brewing, particularly craft brewing, began a slow upswing that eventually led to more than 50 craft breweries being built in the region.

I visited several breweries during my stay in the Tampa area; here’s what I found:

Angry Chair Brewing Company In the up-and-coming neighborhood of Seminole Heights, Angry Chair has a cozy neighborhood taproom that attracts a young, hip crowd knowledgeable about well-crafted beer. I tried an amazing sour called Kung Fuzu Apricot Sour. At only 4.7 percent ABV, it was a refreshing brew I will certainly try again.

Tampa Beer Works This little brewery’s in an industrial park in the Tampa suburb of Brandon. The tiny tap room is cooled by a single window air conditioner, but the brews are worth a visit. A standout is the amusingly named Get Falked (named for the road where the brewery is located). This double IPA clocks in at 8.5 percent ABV, so if you drink too many you’re likely to get … well, you know. Unable to drive.

Marker 48 Brewing Company About an hour north of Tampa, mermaids swim in Weeki Wachee Springs near Marker 48. Built in a former auto-lube shop, this brewery is a labor of love for owners Tina and Maurice Ryman. It has a beer cellar in the old oil pits, a copper-topped bar with refrigeration lines running underneath to keep glasses cold, and a beer garden complete with a camper (soon to be an outdoor bar). My favorite brew at this inviting spot is a plum-infused version of its Knot Witty witbier.

Yuengling Brewing Company Since 1829, when David G. Yuengling established Eagle Brewery in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Yuengling has been producing its distinctive quaff to slake East Coast drinkers’ thirst. The Tampa brewery opened in 1999 to help meet demand when Stroh’s shut down. A 45-minute walking tour reveals a wealth of history about the company and the family who still owns it. And there’s free beer at the end!

I still love our Northeast Florida breweries — and their tours — but when you’re away from home, remember there’s always time for beer.

 

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