The Lost Story of Regional Breweries in Florida

October 12, 2017

A "regional brewery" can be described as one that distributes to particular regions on a smaller basis than the nationwide breweries many of us are familiar with today. According to the Brewers Association, a regional craft brewery is one with an annual production level between 15,000 and 6 million barrels. Currently, the Florida Beer Company and Cigar City Brewing are the only regional craft breweries operating in Florida.


Tampa, Florida Brewing Company (1896 - 1961)


City: Tampa, Florida
Capacity: 80,000 annual barrels



(Wikipedia)

The Florida Brewing Company, Florida's first brewery, began operations in 1897 in Ybor City.  It was established by a group of cigar industrialist who realized a lack of competition in the Southeast.  Initially, the brewery opened with an annual capacity of 25,000 barrels. At the time, its brewhouse made it the tallest building in the city. Considering Tampa was one of the country's wettest cities during prohibition, it's not surprising the brewery's owner bucked the law before being raided, shut down and sent to jail for six months in 1928.


(Hillsborough Public Library)

After prohibition, it reopened under new ownership and a new name, the Tampa Florida Brewery Inc. Soon, its German-style flagship lagers, La Tropical Beer, Ale and Brock were sold and distributed all across the Southeast.  The company was also the leading U.S. beer exporter to Cuba. During World War II, production increased to 80,000 barrels of beer a year. Unfortunately, success would come to an abrupt halt in the late 1950s with national brewers Anheuser-Busch and Schlitz building new macrobreweries in Tampa. At the time, the brewery still had Cuba to lean on. This would come to an end as well with the rise of Fidel Castro and the embargo on Cuba, resulting to the brewery closing for good in 1961.

After its brewing days, the building was used for tobacco storage and a Cold War bomb shelter before sitting vacant for 25 years.  In 1999, it was restored and converted into a law firm and office space.


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