I first fell in love with craft beer at a bar in New York. Valhalla, with its long tap list and delicious German noshes, was the favorite spot for a group of Random House assistant editors and designers. But it wasn’t the only craft beer spot within walking distance. I lived three blocks from The Pony Bar (in its original Westside location). And The Blind Tiger was less than 10 minutes away by subway.
When I moved back to Pinellas County, I thought I’d have to leave craft beer behind, along with all the wonders of New York.
I soon found that the Tampa Bay Area was actually brewing up quite a craft beer scene. These are just a few of my favorites:
Gimme that gose. This is my all-time favorite local beer. The brewers at Rapp also make an absolutely delicious Chocolate Peanut Butter Stout, which I use in what I will humbly call, “The Best Brownies in the Whole Damn World.”
The Dunedin Red Head Ale is one of those beers you can drink any day, anywhere. I can, anyway. It’s balanced, simple, and flavorful. With a pint of the Red Head Ale and a plate of fish tacos from this brewery’s kitchen, I am a happy woman.
Pair O’ Dice Brewing
The Lucky Lucy. Every year, I look forward to this release like other people look forward to Starbuck’s Pumpkin Spice Latte. And I love their marketing–it’s tuned in to their audience, fun and engaging. As a craft beer fan and a marketer, you can’t ask for better than that. #GetAPair
Now that I’m a craft beer mama, I really value a brewery that makes good beer and has ample distractions for my kiddo. Cage Brewing fits the bill—with its sandbox, playhouse, green field and, of course, Pink Panther sour Berliner Weisse.
7venth Sun Brewing
Curiosity, creativity and bravery—7venth Sun has all three. And I love just about everything they produce because of it. Favorites might be A Puzzle We Can Blend, Passion Sauce, and Do You Even Sudachi, Bro?
Beyond the Bay … Escape Brewing
Full disclosure: My brother-in-law Matt Thompson is co-owner and head brewer of Escape Brewing. But, also full disclosure, the beer is amazing. When I first sampled The Other West Coast IPA, I told him, “This is the best IPA I’ve ever had. This is the beer that will make you famous.”
I stand by that claim, but really all their beers are awesome. Just recently they did a collaboration with 7venth Sun Brewing, called No One Likes You, that is absolutely out of this world good.
My True Favorite? The Community.
There are just too many good beers coming out of our area to pick favorites. What I truly love about the Tampa Bay beer scene is the camaraderie and collaboration among the brewers and the sense of community that is shared by both those making the beer and those drinking it.