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Craft Beer and Tampa

July 08, 2013

Beer needs water and great beer needs great water. Tampa has an abundance of both and ample evidence is found in the burgeoning craft beer scene in the metropolitan area. The 2014 Annual Meeting affords geographers the opportunity to experience this craft beer culture first hand.

Freshwater has long been important to the inhabitants of the Tampa Bay area. Prior to European contact, the Tocobaga people lived in close relationship to the interface between the large Floridan aquifer and the saltwater of Tampa Bay by subsisting on abundant shellfish (Marquardt 1986). Centuries later, major players in the national and global beer markets like Yuengling and Anheuser-Busch InBev, respectively, avail themselves of the clear freshwater flowing from the approximately 260,000 square kilometer aquifer to brew millions of barrels of beer (Ryder 1985).

The consumption of water by the beer industry is a cause for concern. Large players in the industry such as Anheuser-Busch InBev ship large quantities of water out of a local area in bottles, cans, and kegs (Olajire 2012). This consumption drains local supply, but also pollutes it with runoff from the brewing facility. At the scale of a large brewery, this usage can amount to millions of liters of water a year moving out of the local area. Local production and consumption have the potential to keep beer nearby in every sense by minimizing carbon footprints through lower transportation costs and by keeping the beer in the local water cycle. The old saw that “one only rents beer” takes on a different hue when related to local water use.

The past 25 years have seen local beer take off in Tampa “A city the size of Tampa can support a local brewing market,” says Justin Clark, vice-president of Cigar City Brewing. Craft brewing has carved out a special place on the landscape and a vibrant, competitive market has arisen in the metropolitan area. Clark remarks that the ethos among Tampa brewers is to brew the beers that the brewers like and hope that others will like them as well. Competition is welcome. Citing a good relationship with the national brewery Yuengling, Clark says that the local brewing scene welcomes new players in the market and benefits from new breweries opening.

The following breweries, brewpubs, and taprooms are just a sampling of what is out there in Tampa. April is a great time of the year to explore all that the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area has to offer with its craft beer culture.

Cigar City Brewing

No other brewery in the Tampa Bay area can touch the legendary status that has been acquired by Cigar City. Started in 2008, CCB is consistently rated one of the top breweries in the country. Their flagship is the Jai Alai IPA, perfect for Florida with its notes of mango and and floral hoppiness. In the summer, the big seasonal hit is the Cucumber Saison, taking the refreshing style and injecting a salad note. This may be odd to some palates, but it follows in the great tradition of Belgian saisons such as Foret to not limit ingredients in order to make a refreshing beer.  CCB’s tasting room is pure minimalism, but with beer this good, you do not really care. www.cigarcitybrewing.com

Peg's Cantina

Located in the the oceanside town of Gulfport, just west of Tampa, Peg's Cantina has been filling bellies with delicious food and tasty brews for almost a decade. The rustic, idyllic setting is the perfect place to take in all that Florida weather has to offer, while cooling off with pints of Freewheel Pale Ale, with its notes of sour pineapple and blood orange rind. Or take the adventurous route and try the Rare DOS, an Imperial Stout. This is also home to what many consider to be the first truly unique Florida style, the Berliner Weisse, a tart sour beer. They are set to open their offshoot brewery, Cycle Brewing, in St. Petersburg in late 2013. www.pegscantina.com

Dunedin Brewery

Tampa Bay brewers do love to be near the water, and this is also true of the oldest continuously operating brewery in Florida, Dunedin Brewery. Named after the town it is located in, Dunedin Brewery has been turning out craft beers for 17 years. Though the town has a Scottish heritage (the name comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland), the atmosphere in the tasting room is pure surfer/hippie, with jam and bluegrass bands entertaining the crowds almost nightly. From their Apricot Wheat Ale to their Nitro Stout, they have a range of beers for every palate.  Right down the road is the newer 7venth Sun Brewing. While still a young gun, it may be giving Cigar City Brewing a run for its money as best brewery in the area. www.dunedinbrewery.com.

Tampa Bay Brewing Company

Located in the heart of Ybor City, Tampa's historic cigar rolling district, TBBC has been turning out great food and fantastic beers since 1996. What was once a two-story building used to house horses, TBBC is now a drink-and-eat mecca for vacationing families and late night revelers. Their Elephant Foot IPA is seen on taps all over Tampa Bay, and with good reason. It is a slightly peppery and pine resin thirst quencher. The Warthog Weizen is an authentic take on the classic German style - full of clove and lemon notes. Be sure to come hungry to TBBC as well. www.tampabaybrewingcompany.com.

The Pour House

For sheer selection and an apt name, The Pour House, located in downtown Tampa near the Channelside District, has you covered. With over 40 taps and hundreds of bottles, they have something for everyone. The room is big and spacious, with plenty of outdoor seating to enjoy the skyline. www.pourhousetampa.com.

The Tampa Bay Brew Bus

This bus service shuttles beer fans around the Tampa area. Available for rentals and pick-up and drop-off, they promise the ultimate craft beer experience with great service and safety in mind. www.tampabaybrewbus.com. ♦

Toby Martin Applegate

Doug Nelson


Marquardt, William H. "The development of cultural complexity in southwest Florida: Elements of a critique."Southeastern Archaeology (1986): 63-70.

Olajire, Abass A. "The brewing industry and environmental challenges." Journal of Cleaner Production (2012).

Ryder, Paul D. "Hydrology of the Floridan aquifer system in west-central Florida." Available from USGS, OFSS Box 25425, Denver, CO 80225. USGS Professional Paper 1403-F, 1985. 63 p, 46 fig, 5 tab, 97 ref. (1985).

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