Beer festivals are a dime a dozen these days. But it’s hard to find one that attracts a lot of people and is well run.
Ft. Myers Brewing in Ft. Myers (of course) managed to pull both off with their recent Winterfest, what the owners told me was their 5th or 6th yearly event.
“Look, another industrial park.”
My wife wasn’t exactly kidding when she said that. As Florida’s craft beer scene continues to grow, that growth – more often than not – tends to be in industrial parks. They’re spacious, have plenty of parking when regular businesses are closed but tap rooms are open, and have the necessary zoning for when breweries want to expand and distribute.
This is how we found ourselves, and our 2-year old daughter, heading into the Alico Commercial Park in Ft. Myers.
The brewery in question is Palm City Brewing, opened this summer by high school basketball coach turned brewer and owner Ryan Bowen. Ryan homebrewed for years, finally opening up a brewery after receiving the blessing and financial know-how of his wife Marianne almost five years ago.
What’s in a name?
I’ve met Tim Dornblaser and his brother Steve off and on in the South Florida brewing circuit for a few years now. They fist started pounding the pavement in 2015 as Driftwood Ales, a business partnership with a few others that would eventually fall through.
The Dornblaser Brothers would strike out on their own with the newly rebranded Lagerhead Brewing, and I still have their stickers smartly emblazoned with a black and silver loggerhead. By the time their own slice of the South Florida brewing pie had been carved out, they had rebranded again as NOBO Brewing. The name hearkens to their facility in north Boynton Beach, maybe a five minute walk from other breweries as Due South and Copperpoint.
It’s the giant chalk art of a poop emoji in the men’s restroom that really sets a tone for the whole visit. Not sure what tone, but it sets one.
Tucked away in a quaint little shopping village in the incredibly long city of Naples, FL., lies Riptide Brewing. Started by Bob Menzies, Scott Alexander and Norm Scherner, Riptide moved from an out of the way warehouse in Naples to the aforementioned space on Black Friday of 2015.
Not too terribly long after my visit to Walking Tree Brewing, I was speaking to the Social Media Manager at a brewery that is much bigger and much older than them. This person happened to be at this year’s Best Florida Brewery in Tampa and when they found out Walking Tree had won Best Florida Brewery this year, their reaction was very simple:
“That makes sense.”
One of the best little places to go in central Florida is historic downtown Winter Garden.
It’s well off the beaten path, at least 30 minutes away from the nearest theme park and awfully close to Lake County. It’s delightfully quaint, lined with huge trees, local businesses, and the West Orange Trail cutting right through the middle. I used to ride that trail for hours in my triathlon days.
Some days I research and plan a visit to a brewery, and some days they just fall into your lap.
Driving down from North Florida, my wife and I decided to stop at Yellow Dog Eats in historic downtown New Smyrna Beach. It’s really cute downtown, and ordinarily this is where the story would end. But here’s where we parked our car:
The cruise line industry is starting to embrace the craft beer revolution. Slowly, but inroads are starting to be made. It’s not hard to find ships leaving the state stocked with beers from Concrete Beach Brewing, Wynwood Brewing, and more.
Carnival raised the stakes, however, by installing a shipboard brewery aboard their newest liner, the Carnival Vista.