How to Beercation in Tampa
If you follow me on social media you know I'm all about a beercation. I've recently returned from my first trip to Tampa, Florida. Not to visit Busch Gardens, I was there to drink beer, and lots of it. Every summer a group of beer writers/bloggers and industry folk gather for the Beer Bloggers Conference and this year we ventured to Tampa Bay. I never thought about Florida as a craft beer destination prior to this trip. I was so wrong.
Tampa Beercation Tips
Make Nice with The Locals
I became a fan of Cigar City living in Athens, Georgia so I made their brewery my first stop. They had tons of taps, really casual atmosphere, lots of happy dogs running around and big bags of gourmet popcorn. I'm plagued with indecision when faced with a huge tap list but the bartenders were really helpful and patient with me as I tried most everything. I was surprised by the White Oak Jai Lai IPA and fell in love with the Puppy's Breath Robust Porter. I befriended a couple of other beer bloggers at the bar and they pointed me to Angry Chair Brewing for my next stop.
Located in the hip Seminole Heights, Angry Chair is small brewery that is known for their barrel aged beers but had some really tasty berliners and goses on tap too. My favs? The Dos Dos Birds tropical sour and the Two Pump Chump Porter with Hazelnut and Coffee. I could've tried everything but dinner called. Starving and clueless in a new city, the bartender recommended I head to the Mermaid Tavern.
About a 10 minute walk from Angry Chair, the Mermaid Tavern was quaint and packed but not too surprising given the huge tap list and late night kitchen. I met up with my friend Lauren from Good People Brewing and we caught up over a couple of beers and bahn mi sandwiches.
To survive hours of beer tastings everyday you have to eat and due to the busy conference schedule, the Beer Bloggers Conference thankfully kept us fed with many beer paired feasts. On our first night in town, our host hotel, the Tampa Marriott Waterside, brought some of Tampa's best beer to us and treated the group to a multi course beer paired dinner. Funky Buddha, Green Bench Brewing, Coppertail, and Cigar City each brought two beers that were paired beautifully with the hotel's culinary creations. I ate one of everything and two of many things. It was all so delicious I forgot to take photos.
French Toast Double Brown Ale - Funky Buddha
Yes this is as good as it sounds. This decadent brew was paired with a brown ale basted breakfast sausage sliders with maple hollandaise arugula and a poached duck egg. YES.
Obey Your Thirst Gose - Coppertail Brewing
Give me a giant growler of this business and park me on the beach. This lemon lime gose was perfectly tart leaving you wanting more and paired with a yummy tuna poke.
Marshal Zuhukov Imperial Stout - Cigar City Brewing
I spotted this barrel aged beauty from across the ballroom and had to have it. The chocolate and cherry truffle tart it was paired with was a heavenly bonus.
Beer paired meals are on the rise around the country and Tampa seems to be on the forefront of this trend. I think I'll plan my next trip to Tampa around the Eggs & Kegs Brunch at Cigar City.
Get on the Brew Bus
For a low maintenance exploring, check out Tampa's Brew Bus. Grab your crew and tour breweries around Tampa without worrying about driving or deciding where to go. They have different tour options depending how long you think you can hang or you can organize a private tour. In a genius move, founder Anthony Derby, turned the Brew Bus into it's own brewery too so guests can enjoy their beer while en route to the next stop. On our last night in Tampa, visit Tampa Bay put together a fantastic progressive dinner with the Brew Bus. We visited Cigar City, Coppertail Brewing, and Ulele Spring Brewery for a different course with several Brew Bus beers in between.
Cigar City treated us to cuban sandwiches and pours of their famous Hunaphu Stout. Coppertail Brewing had a private bar and balcony set up for us overlooking their brew house and variety of small plates that they'd paired with their tap list. The last stop for my group was Ulele Spring Brewery on the riverfront. We caught the tail end of the sunset in their beer garden while enjoying their signature charbroiled oysters and a tasting of their house beers. It was I'm pretty sure our dinner was a custom experience designed for BBC participants but the Brew Bus has a variety of tours available year round. I'd highly recommend doing a Brew Bus tour if you want to visit several places without worrying about driving. Click here for Brew Bus info.
Tampa is so proud of their brewing scene and it shows. If you like beer get down to Tampa asap and experience some really great beer and exceptional hospitality. Check out Visit Tampa for more planning tips!