A trip to The Florida Winery at John’s Pass Village is a rite of passage for tourists and Bay area residents alike. What began as a beachy wine shop became something more seven years ago when winemaster Matthew Powers got a home winemaking kit, set aside a section toward the back of the store, and started adding his own unique Florida flavors to the lineup.
After several years and multiple awards, Powers began casting about for another project to hold his interest.
“I’m really not much of a wine drinker,” he says. “Four years ago I started getting into craft beer and I loved it, I got a homebrewing kit and started playing around in the back of the winery, and now we’re here.”
“Here” is Mad Beach Craft Brewing, a large brewery, event and entertainment space on the second floor of the John’s Pass Village Boardwalk, above the winery. One end of the room is dedicated to brewing, while a majority is taken up by a stage, indoor cornhole, TVs and a double-sided bar and communal tables arranged in a contemporary concrete-and-diamond-plate version of a traditional German beer hall.
“We’ve got 1,000 square feet to brew it, and 6,000 square feet to drink it,” Powers says.
You won’t find traditional German styles on the bar’s taps, however; like the space itself, Powers’ beers are modern updates, brewed as much for the folks who visit the area for fun in the sun as for the discerning craft crowd. Some, like the Passion of the Ale passion fruit pale ale and Life’s A Beach orange blossom honey wheat, are light and citrusy, while others — such as the Madeira Vice IPA and Imperial Amber Ale — hew closer to more familiar styles. The bar also serves Powers’ award-winning meads, as well as ciders and sangria.
The taproom has been open since New Year’s Eve and features 15 taps, some of which are reserved for other local breweries where Powers guest brewed while learning the ropes, including Largo’s Barley Mow, Clearwater’s Pair O’ Dice and Cigar City. He plans to add a kitchen, and is looking forward to diving in to this year’s upcoming Tampa Bay Beer Week; Mad Beach will be hosting a screening of the brewing documentary Blood, Sweat and Beer on Thursday, March 12.
“There are worse jobs,” he says with a laugh.
Favorite local beer that isn’t his: “Right now, probably Cigar City’s Maduro [brown ale]. It’s like first love, you know? You can’t go wrong with that. We have it on tap here all the time.”
His signature Mad Beach beer: “I might say Life’s A Beach or I Yam What I Yam [sweet potato ale], they’re both our signatures, for different reasons. Life’s A Beach is light, sessionable, great for on the boat. I Yam What I Yam is more of a Southern thing, the sweet potato and vanilla flavors. They’re our most popular, and they’re unique, too. There are so many breweries out there, you have to offer something different.”
Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company
12945 Village Boulevard, Madeira Beach