Image courtesy of Boardwalk Food Co

The Craft Beer Drinker's Guide to Sarasota

Explore Sarasota's beer scene and get tips on baking with local beers from Andy Yochum, creator of Sarasota-based Boardwalk Food Company's line of 'beer snack' bake mixes.

Florida and craft beer are a natural pairing any time of the year: refreshing wheat ales with Sunshine State citrus notes cool down summer days. Inventive IPAs and adventurous sours appeal to the Gulf Coast's creative culture. Even dark, rich porters and stouts are at home in Florida—where tropical ingredients like cacao, sugar cane and the coffee bean are key local flavors at every craft brewer's fingertips.

Sarasota, already a key player in Florida's culinary scene, is currently establishing a reputation as a craft pint paradise. Craft beer lovers can enjoy Florida flavors at hometown breweries, and keep up with other American craft breweries at local pubs—where variety is always on tap.  

Sarasota Craft Brewery Scene 

It's a marvelous time to be a craft beer drinker. Sarasota is a central figure Gulf Coast Florida's brewing scene, and one of the fastest-growing contenders on the craft market. Here's what's on tap:

Big Top Brewery
Big Top Brewery

JDub's Brewing Company's flagship beer, Up Top! IPA made a big splash when the Sarasota brewery and beer garden opened its doors in 2013. Today, in addition to Up Top!, JDub's Poolside kolsch, Passion Wheat tropical wheat ale, and Bell Cow chocolate milk porter can be found chilling in craft beer grocery aisles around Florida—but Jdub's retains its hometown persona with events like yoga and movies in the beer garden. At the brewery, weekly rotations of small batch specials are featured alongside JDub's favorites. Throughout 2016, Jdub's is featuring a 'Fruits of Florida' IPA series: hop-forward beers brewed with seasonal flavors of blueberry, lychee, raspberry and orange.

Since 2013, Big Top Brewing Company has been crafting up circus-themed beers that celebrate local history and 'big top' culture—including flagship beers like the hoppy Circus City IPA and Trapeze Monk, a citrusy Belgian witbier. A rotating favorite, the 'Ashley Gang Imperial IPA', is a nod to the self-styled 'King of the Everglades,' John Ashley—an early 20th century outlaw, bandit, bootlegger and bank robber from southwest Florida, near Sarasota.

Delving centuries deeper into local history for its namesake is Sarasota's newest brewery, Calusa Brewing, which opened in summer of 2016. The brewery is named for the indigenous people of the region: the Calusa Native American tribe, who inhabited Gulf Coast Florida waterways prior to their extinction in the 19th century. Calusa means 'fierce people'—thus the brewery is inspired by its namesake to produce bold brews. Favorites include the Calusa Dissonance Breakfast Brown, a coffee and cinnamon brown ale, and the Calusa Surrender, a citrus saison with a peppery finish.

JDub's Brewing Company
JDub's Brewing Company

Sarasota's craft beer culture owes recognition to the microbrewery that started it all. Sarasota Brewing Co., southwest Florida's oldest microbrewery, opened its doors in 1989. On opposite ends of the tasting spectrum are two Sarasota Brewing Co. favorites, the light and refreshing Sarasota Gold and the robust Midnight Pass Porter. Sarasota Brewing Co. offers at least five of its own unique brews on tap at any time, along with a rotating selection of the brewery's favorite beers from around the world.

The two newest players in the local craft beer game are 3 Bridges Brewing and Brew Life Brewing, both opening their doors in 2017. 3 Bridges Brewing operates out of the same space as Off the Wagon Brewery & Kitchen in Venice making it the first brewery to try out the south Sarasota County landscape. Brew Life can be found near Calusa Brewing in a strip mall on Beneva Road and is a standalone taproom with entertainment such as video games and even a pinewood derby track.

Darwin Brewing Company, now based just north of Sarasota in neighboring Manatee County, earns national recognition for its creative brews inspired by South American flavors. Before outgrowing its space, the original Darwin Brewing was located in downtown Sarasota's Rosemary District in the historic Citrus Exchange Building—a citrus distribution warehouse dating to the 1920s. Darwin's popular Circa 1926 tangerine wheat ale pays homage to the particularly fruitful 1926 tangerine season in the warehouse where the brewery later got its start.

Baking with Craft Beer: Boardwalk Food Co. 'Beer Snacks'

In a foodie town that's filled with breweries, mixing the culinary arts with craft beer simply makes sense. Sarasota residents Andy and Kim Yochum began with an old beer bread recipe, and with a little experimenting in their home kitchen, put a fresh spin on 'beer baking'.

In 2014, the Yochums launched Boardwalk Food Co. with a selection of 'beer snack' home baking mixes: beer-baked soft pretzels and bite-size beer muffins called 'Poppers'. Boardwalk Food Co. beer mixes are available at locations in Sarasota including Big Top Brewing, Morton's Gourmet Market, Nellie's Deli, and the Siesta Key Sweet Shop. Beer snack mixes may also be ordered at www.boardwalkfoodco.com and via Amazon Prime.

The secret ingredient in all Boardwalk Food Co. mixes is any craft beer of the baker's choice—and experimenting is highly encouraged! Andy sat down with Visit Sarasota to share some of his favorite local beers that are readily available in most Sarasota grocery stores for 'beer snack' baking.

JDub's Brewing

JDub's Back Patio
JDub's Back Patio

-Bell Cow Milk Chocolate Porter with Original Poppers: For Poppers that taste delicious alongside a hot cup of coffee or a cold glass of beer, Andy suggests JDub's signature chocolate porter. Poppers bake up with a deep, rich porter flavor and a hint of creamy chocolate that doesn't overwhelm with sweetness.

-Poolside Kolsch with Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels: The cinnamon sugar pretzel flavor stands out against the crisp, light flavors of JDub's signature kolsch.

-Passion Wheat with Original Pretzels: Fruity flavors of mango and passionfruit sing, lending a summery note to Boardwalk's Original pretzel recipe.

Big Top Brewing Company

-Circus City IPA with Rosemary Sea Salt Poppers: The mild bitterness of Circus City hops mingles with the rosemary and sea salt flavors, without being overwhelming, at the end of each bite.

-Trapeze Monk with Original Pretzel Mix: When applied to soft pretzel baking, the orange-spiced notes of this Belgian witbier create a light citrus taste that appeals to a variety of palates.

-A Hotter Blonde with Cornbread Poppers: Big Top brews its rotating favorite, A Hotter Blonde, with jalapeno peppers and honey—the perfect complement to cornbread. To kick up the heat and flavors, Andy suggests including chopped up jalapenos and cheddar cheese in the bake.

Calusa Brewing

-Dissonance Breakfast Brown with Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels: This beer combines coffee and cinnamon with the caramel notes of a brown ale, making it a perfect pair with Boardwalk's Cinnamon Sugar pretzels.

Darwin Brewing Company

-Circa 1926 Tangerine Wheat with Original poppers: The citrus taste of this beer finishes with spiced notes,  and works very well to produce a light, citrusy Popper.

-Pirata Pils with Rosemary Sea Salt Pretzels: Darwin's crisp, refreshing pilsner highlights the rosemary flavor of the pretzels. Andy suggests it as a great beer to use for Boardwalk's 'pizza pretzel' recipe.

Grab your growlers and get sipping (and baking), Sarasota—and be sure to tell us about your favorite local brews!

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