The Sunshine State
The Florida craft beer history got off to a bit of a slower start than most of the other states. The first Florida beer company opened in 1896 in Tampa, under the name Florida Brewing Company. The next big one to follow was Jax Brewing in Jacksonville, which opened its doors in 1913. Of course, the Prohibition started soon after, and even earlier in Florida than most other states, commencing in 1918. Similar to the craft breweries in many other states, Florida craft breweries either had to adapt or shut their doors for good.
Jax Brewery managed to survive Prohibition by selling ice and near beer. The company even went as far as to tweak its name to Jax Ice & Cold Storage Company. Florida Brewing Company had a different strategy to attempt to survive, which consisted of ignoring the laws completely, and selling beer, which worked up until 1927 when they were raided and closed down. Sadly many other Florida breweries did end up closing for good, with only a few remaining when Prohibition ended in 1933. On top of this, Florida took a bit longer than most to ratify after the passing of the 21st amendment. In fact, they were the 31st state to ratify and reenter the brewing world.
In the 1950s, small Florida breweries struggled to make a name for themselves, due to the competition with major national breweries that were coming to Florida and building their own facilities there. This led to even more closings of craft and microbreweries in Florida. The success of microbreweries final occurred in the 1980s and 90s. Shortly after this, brewpubs emerged in Florida as well.
Another interesting part that led to the late start and complications of craft breweries in Florida, were the Florida beer laws in place. First of all, Florida state licensing only permits two kinds of breweries, which are brewpubs and restaurants which are allowed to produce and sell limited amounts of beer on site, and production breweries who must distribute their beer offsite. These offsite sales are governed by a three tiered system which is where a brewery must sell to a distributor, who then sells it to retailers.
A different Florida beer law put into place in 1965, put restriction on beer bottle sizes. Only 8, 12, 16, and 32 ounce bottles were considered legal. This law also limited the growth. On top of this, the law also banned many imports and also put restrictions on what time you can buy beer in Florida. For a long time, you could only buy alcohol between the hours of 7 a.m. and midnight Monday through Saturday, and noon and midnight on Sundays. The laws however were changed, so that people may now purchase beer from 7 a.m. through midnight everyday of the week, Monday through Sunday.
These laws and restrictions were all reduced between the years 2001 and 2005, thanks to Governor Jeb Bush. Since then, the Florida craft beer industry has grown significantly, having over 150 craft breweries by the year 2016. This ranks Florida as having the 11th most amount of craft breweries in the United States. Florida beer companies typically produce over 1.2 million barrels of craft beer each year.
With so many top breweries in Florida it becomes easier to separate them by certain areas. Some of the best Florida craft beers come from South Florida breweries, such as: Funky Buddha Brewery, 26 Degree Brewing Company, Hollywood Brewing Company, LauderAle Brewery & Tap Room, Saltwater Brewery, Barrel of Monks Brewing, and Due South Brewing Company. Other great Florida beer comes from the Florida Keys, which includes: Florida Keys Brewery, Islamorada Brewery & Distillery, The Gypsy, Bone Island Brewing, and Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, Grill and Brewery. Last but not least, we have seen some of the best Florida beers come from Breweries in Tampa Florida, including: Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Angry Chair Brewing, Hidden Springs Ale Works, Cigar City Brewing, Coppertail Brewing Company, 7venth Sun, and Ulele Spring Brewery.
In our beer of the month club, Florida beers have been so fun to feature, since we have watched the growth happen so rapidly and recently. Even with a slow start, some of the best breweries exist in Florida today, and we cant wait to see what is still to come in the future.