(Mirror) Fort Lauderdale is known for its warm, sunny days, and nothing goes better with that kind of weather than a cold beer. With South Florida’s increasingly hip, young population it should come as no surprise that there are many craft breweries popping up in the area.
Craft beer occupies a popular niche in the social scene here, so you won’t have to stray far to find that frosty glass you’ve been craving. Take your pick among nanobreweries, industrial microbreweries, beer gardens and brewpubs.
Each brewery has something special; some focus on brews alone, others offer food pairings, and nearly all provide a place to chill out and relax. Start with a sampler or flight in a rainbow of rich ambers and browns. Order a pint of your favorite and kick back with a menu featuring local, seasonal dishes. Or take a guided tour and see if your beer tastes even better after you’ve been behind the scenes. You’ll even find dog-friendly venues so your favorite four-legged friend can join.
With so many breweries and beer bars in the area, you have countless taps, flavors, pub foods and experiences to explore. Downtown or by the water. Local mango or a malty import. Beer culture is thriving in Greater Fort Lauderdale.
The grand-daddy of them all is Funky Buddha, which operates in a huge complex just off Dixie in Oakland Park. Funky Buddha began in 2007 in an unassuming strip mall on Federal Highway in Boca Raton. What began as a hookah and tea bar began serving up some of the finest craft beers available in South Florida at the time. In 2010, utilizing a one barrel brewhouse — barely larger than most homebrew setups — Funky Buddha’s first batches were an instant hit: beers such as Orange Creamsicle Wheat, Ginger Lemongrass, and the beer that broke the mold; Maple Bacon Coffee Porter. The popularity of that brew enabled Funky Buddha to expand to its current complex in Oakland Park, which also offers an expansive food menu and live music.
Gulf Stream Brewing Company recently opened along the revitalized 13thStreet corridor and focuses only on beer. Their passion for beer is matched only by a dedication to their community and sustainability. The brewery reclaims waste-water used during the brewing process, donates spent grain to local farms for feed, and actively supports the Coastal Conservatory Association. There are tours of the brewery and community events held from time to time.
Vero Beach-based American Icon Brewery recently opened a location in Fort Lauderdale, near 4thand the train tracks. It’s easily identifiable from its murals of American icons such as Jimi Hendrix. Classic brews such as American Blonde Ale and Milk Stout, to experimental barrel aging and sour beers, are all named after American icons. It also offers a full menu with suggested beer pairings for each item.
Established in 2015, Flagler Village Brewery is a craft beer brewery in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Located on the upper level inside The Brass Tap at Flagler Village, it utilizes a two-barrel brewing system to craft such brews as Dankness Monster (session IPA), Ft. Lagerale, Flagler Red Ale, and Hopshake (American Pale Wheat). Each week you can find fresh offerings of both experimental brews and flagship beers on tap to accompany a full menu of food offerings.
Among the newest breweries is American Craft Aleworks, which has a focus on handcrafted beers featuring flavors inspired by the culinary world. The 200-seat restaurant is located on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach. The head brewer for American Craft is Erik Miller, who started his career as a professional brewer in Cleveland, Ohio in 2016. He will be brewing on a 10-barrel system producing fresh crisp lagers, roasty porters, hazy IPAs, fruited Berliners and more. The full bar will include craft Prohibition-inspired cocktails including Bathtub Gin, French 75, and Sazarac. The restaurant also offers a curated wine program.
Take a look at the Ale Trail published by the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB for an extensive guide to local producers. Some of the new producers mentioned are not listed on the current map. Go to sunny.org for the most updated version.
Forget images of Granny Clampett and her distilling in the backwoods. Today’s distilleries are run like chemistry labs by hip, young entrepreneurs. Thanks to recent legislation, craft distilleries are able to operate in Florida, creating artisanal batches of the hard stuff. From rum in Miami to vodka in Palm Beach, dozens of craft liquor distilleries have now been established in Florida, with more coming online seemingly every month.
Phillip McDaniel, owner of St. Augustine Distillery, founded the non-profit Florida Craft Distillers Guild in 2012 to advocate for the burgeoning industry. The guild’s first victory came with the passage of legislation (House Bill 347), repealing a Prohibition-era law that made it illegal for micro-liquor distillers to sell and conduct tastings on premises.
“We recognized if Florida was going to be competitive in craft distilling, we needed to enjoy the rights of other craft wineries and craft breweries,” McDaniel said.
Craft distillers can now sell two bottles per year to each customer on site. Many have begun adding on-site tasting rooms and gift shops and providing craft liquor tours of their operations.
Not only have the new distilleries created a new economy, they’ve brought in locals and tourists from around the country.
“For us, we like to visit wineries across the country,” said David Nant, who drove from Titusville in Brevard county recently to tour the Palm Ridge Reserve distillery. “So, this is a similar experience. We appreciate people doing things like this.”
“The new trend for tourism is personal growth, an educational vacation,” said McDaniel, who spent 35 years in sales and marketing before opening St. Augustine Distillery, located in a century-old ice plant turned into a distillery producing a crowd-pleasing vodka.
Florida’s rich agricultural background is another reason why distilleries proliferate. Sugar cane rules at Florida Cane Vodka in Tampa. Pat O'Brien and his partner Lee Nelson, owners of Florida Cane Vodka, use sugar cane to make small-batch artisanal vodka, which comes in about a dozen flavors. Cane Vodka flavors are made with natural fruit from nearby locales, including strawberries that come from Plant City and blueberries that were harvested in Hernando.
“We're surrounded by all these great resources in Florida,” O’Brien said. “We decided to use sugar cane. Most vodka is made from grain or potatoes. We sourced our sugar cane from South Florida and keep it local.”
Tours are offered twice a week at Florida Cane’s Brandondistillery. You can see the vodka being made from the adjoining tasting room.
Closer to home, the recently opened ChainBridge distillery in Oakland Park is drawing upon owner Bela Nahori’s Hungarian heritage to create fruit brandies and vodka.
Many of the distilleries below offer tours and sell to the public. As always, it’s best to check in advance.
Alchemist Distilleries, Miami - alchemydistillery.com
Big Cypress Distillery, Miami - bigcypressdistillery.com
ChainBridge Distillery, Oakland Park - facebook.com/ChainBridgeDistillery
Miami Club Rum, Doral - miamiclubrum.com
Oak and Cane, Fort Lauderdale - oakandcane.com
Palm Beach Distillery/Lost Harbour Spirits, West Palm -lostharbourspirits.com
South Florida Distillers, Fort Lauderdale - southfloridadistillers.com
Steel Tie Spirits, Palm Beach - steeltiespiritsco.com