The sunshine state was, for many years, known as a dry state when it came to beer. While the rest of the U.S. (and the whole world) was experiencing a renaissance of beer culture and production, Florida was coming into conflict with laws preventing craft brewing from taking place.
It took strong grassroots opposition from small companies like Dunedin to change the tide and bring the craft of beer making out into the light.
Before we discuss our top picks for Florida Keys breweries, let’s look at the history of brewing in Florida to gain an appreciation for what these old-timers did.
History of Beer in Florida
The history of Beer in Florida is rather unique. The cities of Tampa and Miami were two of the most corrupt cities under the prohibition, meaning that brewing remained in the public imagination during this time. In fact, the fall of Floridian beer came long after the 21st amendment was passed in 1933.
By 1965, big breweries were buying out local competition at an alarming rate. Busch, Schlitz and the other usual suspects had moved in and taken over from smaller producers. This was bad for the beer industry but rather good for employment and investment in the area.
Florida had become an extremely easy place to market the popular post-war pale lagers made en masse by the big brewers, and local legislators were paying attention. When Miller was looking to open a brewery in the state, the local government couldn’t wait! But then, Miller decided to open their plant in Georgia.
In retaliation, Florida signed the ‘bottle law’, prohibiting the size of beers that could be sold to the public. This prohibition backfired, creating a situation in which wholesalers created storage facilities specifically to the appropriate dimensions stipulated by the law. Due to the good old imperial system, this law practically banned imported beer in Florida. It took 35 years for local brewers to regain interest in locally brewed, ‘unusual’ brews.
Best Florida Breweries
The Oldest Florida Brewery: Dunedin Brewery
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Established in 1995 by Normal Bryant, Dunedin Brewery enjoys its position as the oldest microbrewery in Florida. And it’s got more than a long history to brag about. Going through their website you’ll find a list of awards and accolades that stretches from 1999 to 2021. Defeating the wholesale industry who’d been fighting to keep a limit on bottle sizes, Dunedin became a champion of the local brewing industry.
Duendin is located at 937 Douglas Avenue, Dunedin, FL. Dunedin’s taproom offers indoor and outdoor seating and regularly functions as a venue for some of Florida’s best bands.
Dunedin offers a range of beers, some seasonal, some fan favourites. Some of our favourites include:
- Lemon Wit: A Bavarian witbier with hints of citrus and spice
- Biere de Cafe: A collaborative brown ale with local roasters at Joffery’s French Roast.
- Red Head Red Ale: An American amber with typical caramel and toffee notes
Dunedin offers a range of snacks and lunch meals.
The Most Innovative: Odd Breed Wild Ales
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Paying homage to Belgium’s mysterious tradition of lambic-style beers but focusing on local fruits and ingredients, Odd Breed Wild Ales uses the past as a springboard for new craft-beer concepts. Brewing lambics and wild ales is a long, laborious process that takes years of research and experimentation. Their dedication to the craft shines through in the complex flavours and processes.
Brewmaster and founder Matt Manthe discovered his passion for beer after living in Belgium for a few years. Upon his return to America, Matt pursued beer making with a passion, eventually returning to Europe to study the craft in Berlin. This long-term commitment has turned Odd Breed into one of the best breweries in Florida and one of the most talked-about too.
Odd Breeds Wild Ales is located at 50 NE 1st St, Pompano Beach, FL 33060 and has a clean, open indoor space with long tables designed to bring visitors together.
Odd Breeds focuses on wild-fermented ales, but their range includes other styles as well. Here are some of our favourites:
- Kamikaze Goldfish: A dry-hopped wild ale aged in French oak
- Torito Scotch Barrel: A wild Baltic porter
- Tie Rack: a spelt Saison with cherries and raspberries aged in French oak.
Odd Breeds currently doesn’t serve food so this is one of those Florida Keys breweries you don’t visit when you’re hungry!
The taproom is open Thursday through Sunday.
The Biggest: Funky Buddha
2022 marks 12 years since Funky Buddha opened as a small brewpub in Boca Raton. What started as a small team of committed individuals, brought together by a ‘sketchy craigslist ad’, is now Florida’s biggest brewery (by output).
This doesn’t mean that Funky Buddha has in any way rejected their founding principles of quality, unconventional ideas and innovative ideas. This has carried them through many years, eventually being named a top 100 brewery and winning gold at the World Beer Cup in 2016.
Funky Buddha is located at 1201 NE 38th St, Oakland Park, FL 33334 and its taproom boasts a massive indoor area that also functions as a point of sale for take-aways. If you want to take the experience a bit further, you can book a virtual tour of the brewery by booking on their website.
Funky Buddha produces a range of seasonal and year-round beers, but here are three of our top picks available all year round:
- Fuhgeddaboudit Red Ale: A beer that’s literally made to go with pizza, this red ale is crisp and refreshing with notes of bread crust and caramel.
- Eternal Summer Blonde: Infused with the flavour of the sunshine state itself, this blonde ale is suitable for drinking from noon until sunset.
- 42 Hazy Daze: This IPA incorporates a touch of wheat which adds both a nutty sweetness and a cloudiness to the beer. It’s surprisingly crisp for an IPA with notes of Mango and Peach.
Funky Buddha offers a range of lunch and dinner options, with an extra delicious ‘Sunday brunch menu’ that includes a Cuban sandwich, shrimp and grits and other classic local style meals.
Florida Breweries At Their Best
If you’re in the Sunshine State and looking to find some of the best local beers, these three Florida Keys breweries are the perfect places to start your journey into the exciting, up-and-coming world of local brews.
Jake has been a craft beer and homebrew enthusiast since his college days. He loves scouring Europe for unique and unusual hops to add to his beers.
Founder of Jake’s Brew Haven – he currently hosts beer-tasting sessions at select local pubs in Baltimore.