Beer Tripping | Ybor, Florida (Tampa Bay Area)
Feature Blogger Fish Reninger
If you haven’t heard of Ybor, it is a historical neighborhood just WEST of downtown Tampa. The small town is known for its history as being America’s largest cigar manufacturing city. Once flourishing with hundreds of millions of cigars being rolled daily, it now hosts one last standing cigar factory & a bustling street full of restaurants, cigar-rolling bars, and breweries. Established in 1880 by Vincente Martinez-Ybor it was the first American town to be successfully run by immigrants, mainly people from Spain, Italy, and Cuba. Walking the streets you can still feel its history from the beautiful historically accurate renovations of the old cigar factories to the protected chickens that wander its streets. Follow me through the list of my favorite Ybor breweries, all walkable or accessible by the historical Trolley.
Zydeco Brew Works
My first visit was to Zydeco Brew Works. This brewery features a fantastic New Orleans-inspired menu. I paired the Havarti shrimp n’ grits with a pint of the Ybor Premium, their ode to the American Premium Pilsner. They also had a Gold Klub Lager with a balanced German bready malt character and a zip of minerality. Though I didn’t get a chance to try the kicked keg of Pilsner, aptly named “All I Wanted Was a Pilsner,” it was clear these brewers know their stuff. I recommend this crispy, clean lagers. And if you’re feeling wild, they have a small barrel room. I tried the Savage Golden Ale which was brett fermented with notes of Pinot Gri and grapefruit.
Big Storm Brewing Company
Located above 7th, the main strip of the small town sits Big Storm Brewing Company’s taproom. The original brewery opened in Clearwater and has expanded to four locations, including Ybor. Their large upper-level plaza taproom features beer, food, and cocktails.
I started with the Bromosa, a 7.0% tangerine-infused, dry-hopped IPA. It had a powerful punch of zesty tangerine. This IPA gave me real Sunny D vibes. I followed it with the Sunny Keylime wheat ale, another zesty bop. The beer was key lime pie in a light-bodied wheat, making it a refreshing summer ale. My final pour was the Hurricane Party Cherry Watermelon Sour, which poured a deep shade of ruby. Probably the sweetest of all the fruit-forward styles, I recommend it for your sour-loving friends.
Tampa Bay Brewing Company
Tampa Bay Brewing Company suckered me in with their walkability from the Ybor Trolley tracks. They featured an IPA-heavy menu. My favorite pour was the Reef Donkey IPA, the name referencing a stubborn fish the sea fisherman goes after. The dry-hopped American Pale Ale drinks like a session IPA. It features Motueka, Equinot, & Citra hops, giving this beer a lemon/lime aroma with a dank citrus/tropical fruit flavor. The Coral Head IPA was a big, layered tropical bomb. For less hop-driven ale I recommend the Citrus Cove, a refreshingly fruited blonde ale popped with balance notes of orange & tangerine from the real citrus fruit additions.
Citrus beers were a common theme in the Florida craft I tried. One of my favorites was the Endless Zest from Barriehaus. The Endless Zest is an homage to Florida, a light crisp lager with notes of honeycomb & fresh orange. It’s made with local Florida-grown navel oranges!
Barriehaus features a wide range of German-style lagers. I recommend the Heritage Helles, The Dark Munich Dunkel, or Family Tradition Vienna lager, a 2022 World Beer Cup Winner. The most interesting part of this brewery was learning one of the founders had brewing in his lineage stemming back to his great-great-great grandfather opening a brewery in the Midwest in 1863.
Coppertail Brewing Company
Tampa Bay is full of wildlife. Manatees, sharks, rays & if you’re lucky, you might see a few cryptids. Though I have yet to experience the mystery of the deep, I did find the Tampa Bay sea monster-inspired brewery, Coppertail Brewing Company. The name is based on a “copper-tailed” creature the owner’s daughter saw when she was five, slithering back into the bay’s waters.
We of course went for the beers. The menu was packed with hazy IPAs, fruited sour styles & a few unique styles in between. I started with a pour of the Independent Pilsner, followed by the Free Dive, a classic style IPA packed with C-hops. They enjoy playing with adjuncts at Copper Tail. The Chocolate stout was a decadent beer. It rolled in at 7.0% and featured cocoa powder from Kokoa Kamili, Tanzania & house-roasted cacao nibs. The White Sangria Florida Weisse was a sour featuring pink pineapple, apricot, mango, tangerine, orange zest, and white grape must.
My favorite feature of this brewery was the confessional booth in the gift shop. I made sure to stop by and thank the goddess Ninkasi for an exceptional trip.
So next time you make your way to Tampa, take the free downtown Trolley down to Ybor. These breweries won’t disappoint! And maybe you’ll have time to grab a rolled cigar at JC Newman Cigar Company, Ybor’s last functioning cigar factory.