Breweries… Every major city has them. But some cities are better beer cities than others… yeah, I’m talking about you Denver, Asheville and both the ones named Portland (Oregon & Maine, in case you aren’t good at geography).
I’ve never seen Tampa in the conversation about great beer. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t brewmasters trying to change that. A Google search says there are 98 craft breweries in the greater Tampa Bay area. Cigar City is by far the largest followed by 3 Daughters, so beer from both are easily found outside of the region.
But these 5 local breweries within the city limits of Tampa that are making their mark on the local beer scene. Each has a distinctive focus, from stout to lager to sours. Try these five beers when you’re in town.
Best German Lager: Barriehaus Beer Co.
Although Jim Barrie is a newcomer to the Tampa beer making scene, he comes from a long line of brewers. His great-great-great grandfather immigrated from Germany and started a brewery in 1863. He was part of a wave of German immigrants in the mid 19th century who made German inspired lagers popular in the U.S. The next two generations in his family also went on to found and run a brewery. So when Jim opened Barriehaus in 2019, he decided to pay homage to these ancestors and focus almost exclusively on European lagers.
Since lagers ferment slowly from the bottom up at low temperatures, they take significantly longer to make than the ales that many other breweries make. And thus, it requires a larger investment in more tanks, equipment, and space. But Jim Barrie decided it was worth it. And its paid off, because in just three short years, Barriehaus has become one of the most respected breweries in town.
Best IPA: Magnanimous Brewing
Owner Charlie Meers had been working in the beer industry for decades as a sales director, events coordinator and tasting manager. He was well known in the beer festival scene well before deciding to open his own brewery. So, when he found a spot to open Magnanimous Brewing just north of downtown in the Tampa Heights area, there was already plenty of buzz around his beer.
That buzz helped, because they opened in the middle of the pandemic in 2020 – a year that was perhaps more challenging for bars, restaurants, and breweries than any other since Prohibition.
Their focus on IPAs has produced some exceptional ones. I have complete confidence in saying that their Juice Lord IPA is one of the best beers in the city, and probably the state. The fact that they can’t keep up with demand and often run out supports my statement. The rotating tap also includes some double IPAs, lagers, and usually at least one sour.
Partnership With Gingerbeard Coffee
Other than the beer, one of the great things about this brewery is that they have a partnership with Gingerbeard coffee. So they open at 7am every morning to serve the signature nitro brew, drip coffee, or the usual range of coffee drinks. Even though I typically stick with coffee until at least noon, you can actually buy beer starting at 7am as well, in case that’s how you roll. I won’t judge you.
Unbeknownst to the staff… until I informed them anyway, the WiFi here is among the best in Tampa. There are plenty of tables and outlets at the bar, so you can bring your laptop and work here over coffee and then beer every day. It sure beats working in an office cubicle next to your coworker Karen who talks loudly on the phone to her deadbeat boyfriend all day. Read my article on the best spots in Tampa to work remotely from to see more about here as well as other great spots to work remotely from.
Best Sour Beer: Woven Water
If it were a battle of the newest breweries to hit Tampa, Woven Water would be the winner. It opened in October of 2020, just 2 weeks after Magnanimous. After finding the perfect location in Tampa Heights, the pandemic struck and delayed their opening. But good things come to those who wait. And the good things often come in the form of sour beers here at Woven Water.
The Sour Beers
Like other breweries, they are constantly rotating their beers. But the seemingly never-ending variety of sour beers that could be available on any given day include:
- The Revenant: flavors of blackberries, marshmallows, cinnamon, and coffee
- Blueberry Lemon Upside Down Cake: conditioned on blueberries, lemon, and vanilla cake
- Mango Raspberry passionfruit FUSION: a thick sour beer flavored exactly as the name suggests
But Woven Water also keeps a few IPAs, lagers, and even hard seltzers in rotation for a well-rounded mix of beer.
Although they don’t serve food, just a few doors down is Isaac’s World Famous where you can grab some great burgers, wings, and chili and bring it in with you.
Best Stout: Angry Chair Brewing
Here at Angry Chair Brewing, stouts are the name of the game. That’s what most people come for. Although they do serve an award-winning pilsner and a variety of sours, pale ales, and porters as well. They don’t do flights, but serve 5-ounce pours, so you can essentially create your own. And I recommend doing just that. I thought the Adjunct Trail, a sweet stout with coconut, hazelnut coffee, and lactose was my favorite stout in the Tampa. And then I tried the Rocky Road and that became my new favorite. And then I moved on to the German Chocolate Cinnecake and you get the point. I finished the day confused and questioning everything I knew about stouts.
Taps rotate, but some of the sweet stouts you may find on tap include:
- Adjunct Trail: with coconut, hazelnut coffee, and lactose 10.5% ABV
- Rocky Road: Sweet stout with walnuts, chocolate, marshmallow, and lactose 11% ABV
- German Chocolate Cinnacake: Sweet stout with coconut, cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate, and lactose 10.5% ABV
- Tin Roof Sundae: Collaboration with American Solera in Tulsa, OK. Sweet stout with peanut butter, marshmallow, chocolate, vanilla, and lactose 10% ABV
- Felicitous: sweet stout aged in red wine and bourbon barrels, with raspberry, cocoa nibs, vanilla beans 11% ABV
Best Hefeweizen & Belgian White: Pour House
This is the smallest of the breweries on this list. It’s in the Channelside District, which is an area near downtown that was once a warehouse and shipping district. But it has now turned into a young professional’s neighborhood as more and more large fancy apartment buildings are built.
Like Magnanimous, they also have a partnership with Gingerbeard Coffee to serve coffee in the mornings. They have great WiFi and so it’s often filled with people working on their laptop each morning. I lived across the street for a couple months, and so this was my go to spot for when I had work to do and appears on my list of best places to work from as a digital Nomad in Tampa.
Although they don’t currently bottle any of their beer to go, they maintain over 30 beers on tap from other local breweries as well as their own. They make several sour beers, and a couple hefeweizens. My favorite, and one of the best sellers though, is the Belgian White Ale dubbed “La Flama Blanca.”
The outdoor space is shared with a few other restaurants and shops, and each has their own outdoor bar. This makes for a great spot to watch football on Sundays or anytime one of the local professional sports teams are playing.
(Bonus) Best Overall: Coppertail Brewing Co
Tucked away in a former mayonnaise plant turned olive packing company, Coppertail Brewing Co is the third largest craft brewery in the area, so it’s not exactly unknown. Their best seller and one of their core beers, Free Dive, is a commonly found in restaurants and bars in Florida.
They opened in 2014 after a difficult renovation, which involved reconstructing the walls and deciding what to do with a railroad track that ran thru the center of the building. They have come a long way in 8 quick years.
They brew several core beers year-round, as well as many limited beers throughout the yea
Coppertail Core Beers
- Free Dive: American IPA 5.9% ABV
- Unholy: Belgian Trippel 9.2% ABV
- Night Swim: Porter 6.1% ABV
- Independent: Pilsner 5.5% ABV
Other than great beer, one thing that sets this brewery apart from the others is the food. Not only do they serve food (many of the others don’t) but it’s excellent pub style food. Try any one of the slider options (pulled pork, jackfruit, smoked chicken, hot chicken, or panko shrimp), dry rubbed smoked & fried wings, or one of the daily specials.