The Beer Issue 2018: OGs and Newbies

How Tampa Bay's exploding craft beer scene has affected veterans and recent additions alike.

click to enlarge The Beer Issue 2018: OGs and Newbies
Julio Ramos

A lot has changed in Tampa Bay beer over the last six years or so.

Many, many new breweries (and new craft beer fans) have come; a reassuringly small number have as yet gone. Trends have arisen. Local brands have gained national prominence, and even national money in the form of big-time investment.

It’s all the logical and inevitable result of the exponential growth of craft brewing’s popularity in the greater Tampa Bay region. Like any trendy scene, such things are to be expected.

But how does it affect the most important elements in that scene — the breweries themselves? Are the ones that established themselves before local craft blew up feeling the pinch, or pressure to change their operations to fit a different market? Are the ones that opened up shop most recently able to learn from the mistakes of the brewers that came before, or take advantage of the trends, tech and opportunities that have come to town in the last half-decade?

We talked to the principals behind four of the oldest craft breweries in the area — Dunedin Brewery, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Saint Somewhere and Rapp — and five of the newest — Arkane, Caledonia, Flying Boat, Dissent and Zydeco Brew Werks — about how the changes in our local scene have affected their businesses, their expectations and their brews. And refreshingly, we found that those changes haven’t influenced their original goals: to make the beers they love the best they can, and share them, on their own terms.