The Want List: Hop On These Florida Craft Beers

Fresh is the flagship IPA brand from Civil Society, which brews in both Jupiter in West Palm Beach.

Orange isn’t the only “juice” flowing out of the Sunshine State these days.

A guy walks into a bar and says, “Hey, got that IPA from Miami I logged on Untappd during Art Basel?”

That’s not the punchline to a bad joke. From hyped hazies to crispy beach crushes, Florida’s exploding number of craft breweries have been on a winning streak with virtually every style of beer imaginable. And with more than 400 brewhouses across the state, it’s no wonder the region is warming up as one of the hottest destinations to grab a cold one, proving a six-pack looks just as good in a proverbial Tommy Bahama shirt as a lumberjack flannel counterpart.

From the northwest panhandle down to the muraled warehouses of Wynwood, we canned our favorite sips from the place where the sand is fine and the alligators roam. While some of the best have strictly-regional distribution, you’re likely to find several wandering up to your favorite bar or bottle shop even up north.

HOPPIER

Fresh — New England-Style India Pale Ale (6.2%) —  Civil Society Brewing, West Palm Beach

We fell for Fresh years ago at a tiny tasting counter in Chelsea, where, “it’s from where?” and “are you sure your tap lines aren’t crossed?” felt like perfectly reasonable questions to ask at the time. This signature juice bomb, generously hopped with Citra and Columbus, helped catapult Civil Society to world renown. You’ll generally find cans in the to-go fridges at either location—if and you’re a snowbird with ties out east, they often make summer rounds at Peconic Beverage in Southampton.

Zero Zero — Double India Pale Ale (8.0%) — Calusa Brewing, Sarasota

It’s only right that the Gulf Coast town sharing its latter phonetics with another carbonated beverage (not to mention big Brooklyn energy) has emerged as the West Coast’s craft beer hub. Calusa Brewing Company is a staple of that scene—Zero Zero, their staple single-hop Mosaic DIPA, is an absolute standout even among the myriad styles of “deliberately-fermented warehouse ales” they’ve pulled off. We get fresh-squeezed Five Alive on the nose with a malted-pinecone finish.

Steele’s IPA – India Pale Ale (6.3%) — History Class Brewing Company, Panama City Beach

If it’s brewed in this part of Florida, can’t it technically be an “East Coast” and a “West Coast” IPA? Stylistically speaking, Steele carries the traditional traits of the latter: a clear pour, malty backbone, and woody undertones that numb a needly little bite that’s sure to give hopheads their fix. And if that still isn’t enough Left Coast for you, stroll to the San Francisco-inspired deli down the street, if you’re not getting your nom in the brewpub itself.

MALTIER

Jaco — Pilsner (5.0%) — Funky Buddha Brewing, Fort Lauderdale

This one slaps, and we don’t just mean the bass. The comes-and-goes offering is named not for jazz legend (and longtime Broward resident) Jaco Pastorius himself but his eponymous local park, where it first debuted at a 2016 Oktoberfest. It’s cornflake-crisp, with a hit of peppery earthiness under herb garden-floral notes from the Northern Brewer hops.

Florida Special — Lager (3.8%) — Coppertail Brewing Company, Tampa

Whether you’re hitting the beach, hosting a backyard barbecue, or hanging on a boat (with or without T-Pain), this approachable crowd-pleaser is a perfect stock-up to toss in the cooler. A clean head, gently-hopped body, and mild ABV make for an easy drink to consume in more copious quantities—though please, do so responsibly. Moreover, the classically-beautiful can design, harkening to the Schlitzes and Schaefers of yore, always looks good in hand.

Monk in the Trunk — Red Ale (5.5%) — Inlet Brewing Company, Jupiter

Even just over a weekend in South Florida, you can’t help but encounter this beer multiple times. It’s not really a red ale,  definitely not a Belgian Wit, and you certainly won’t feel a trappist. So what is it? It’s Monk in the Trunk! As a staple on craft beer lists at virtually every kind of establishment, you owe it to yourself to try this liquid existential crisis at least once. This bronzed-out “Florida Man” doesn’t wander too far from home, so be sure to give this Sunshine State original a sip while you’re there—you’ll be glad for the friar commitment.

WHEATIER

El Jefe — Hefeweizen (5.0%) — J. Wakefield Brewing, Miami

Palm trees give a lot of shade, but their fruits sure make for refreshing beer. After hours of sweating it out in direct sunlight wandering from the Wynwood Walls down to the Miami Selfie Museum (the mere existence of which feels like a perfect rationale to imbibe), this coconut hefeweizen, which you’ll find almost always on draft at J. Wakefield’s Star Wars-themed taproom, might just be the brew you’re looking for. A heaping dose of coconut flakes take this traditional German wheat beer to a tropical escape—and your mouth is invited.

Daytona Dirty Blonde — Blonde Ale (4.1%) — Persimmon Hollow Brewing, Orlando

Looking for something soft and grainy that won’t leave you lightheaded? This Central Florida blonde might just be your new crush, and it’s down for any affair from table to tailgate. A mellow, smooth-bodied brew, it pairs perfectly with pub grub, noshes, and fancier meals alike, and the mild hop tones—that’s the “dirty part”—add a gentle slap of floral bitters under those feels of gold.

Miami Weisse — Weissbier (6.0%) — MIA Beer Company, Doral

If you don’t love a punny label, why are you even drinking beer? This Floridian walk on the tart side, MIA’s much-beloved flagship, comes with the kind of name that reminds you why hard seltzer culture takes second fiddle at best (if it even exists). Hefe esters throw out strong hits of banana, orange, and vanilla, with a slight nudge of spice that comes up underneath. The end result is a light to medium-bodied flavor excursion sure to aid your vice.

WILDER

No Puns — Gose (4.4%) — Odd Breed Wild Ales, Pompano Beach

There’s no word play on this label. Odd Breed is easily the most specialized brewery in Broward, carving a niche with barrel-aged farmhouse ales and mixed culture fermentations. They’ve brought in the toys to bring in the funk—and this phenomenal gose proves their mastery. Heaps of fresh citrus go in the wort with a dusting of salt and just-ground Indian coriander, which ferments in the tank before going into French oak puncheons. Soft tannins finish off a sour, woodsy profile that make it wholly stemmed glass-worthy.

Alice — Barrel-Aged Sour (6.6%) — Webb’s City Cellar (Green Bench Brewing), St. Petersburg

When the team from Green Bench Brewing Co. opened their barrel-aged offshoot, Webb City Cellar, they chose the name in homage to a historic, seven-block-long drugstore that hawked a whopping 77 departments’ worth of retail and entertained guests with a live mermaid show. One could argue the foeder-fermented Alice series captures a similar degree of sensory overload, packing a peachy, oaky, spicy, citrusy bliss with a chardonnay dryness. If you can’t get over to the taproom, bottles make their way well into the northeast.

Riot Juice — Berliner Weisse (5.5%) — Hidden Springs Ale Works, Tampa

Beers like this aren’t for everyone, especially if you’re lactose-intolerant. But if you’re a fan of Lambics, fruit-topped cheesecake, and can handle milk sugar in your beer, this non-vegan sour with blackberry, lime, and vanilla pours out to be an indulgent treat. It’s not always on draft at the Hidden Springs taproom, but the cans get good mileage around the state of Florida—if you’re not local, perhaps a traveling friend can bring it home to you in time for dessert.

THE DARK SIDE

Broward County Brand Scoop — Double Imperial Stout (13.9%) — 3 Sons Brewing, Dania Beach

Fair warning: You may have to hunt this one down. The award-winning Broward County Brand (BCB) line of stouts is a coveted ticket to pastry town, and its annual release is met with anticipation akin to Goose Island’s Bourbon County—long considered the gold standard of dark, barrel-aged brews. Aged for 16 months in Elijah Craig casks, Scoop strikes with chocolate-covered strawberry, following with a bourbon-vanilla finish to sharpen out the Guyanese cacao. You can’t ride the Dania Beach Hurricane anymore, but this liquid excellence, with its double-digits ABV, might well be the next-best thrill ride in town.

Rare Dos Series — Imperial Stout (10-11.0%) — Cycle Brewing, St. Petersburg

Beer jargon can be intimidating to more casual enthusiasts. For those struggling to remember which brew is what, the naming convention of this West Coast stout series follows easy logic: R1 was aged for one year, R2 for two, and R3 for three. The provenance of the barrels varies—Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark, Buffalo Trace—which seems of little relevance considering they’re all consistently solid. Good luck finding a favorite, it won’t be easy when they’re all so good.

Solace — English Porter (6.0%) — Woven Water Brewing, Tampa

Lately, there seem to be almost as many ways to take your coffee beers as the bean-soaked water itself. If you’ve had a traumatic experience on the more “experimental” side of the spectrum, you’ll no doubt find this no-nonsense, English-style Coffee Porter a refreshing sip. It’s one of many reasons to visit Tampa’s Woven Water Brewing, a new kid on the block that quickly assimilated into the cool crowd.

Change up the home in your home brew.

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