A toast to the coast: breweries in Southwest Florida

Sip, savor and saison. The craft beer and spirit scene in Southwest Florida is an excellent way to drink what the locals drink while enjoying a vibrant scene of breweries and tasting rooms that often feature food, games and a family-friendly environment.

Calusa Brewing

Calusa Brewing is a family-owned and operated brewery in Sarasota. The name comes from the Native Americans that inhabited Florida's Gulf Coast, and was chosen because the Calusa embodies the spirit of the brewery as a group of people with tremendous respect for the water and natural resources of the destination.

Featured popular beers include the Dissonance Brown (a coffee and cinnamon brown ale), Citronious (a citra IPA) and Focus (citra/mosaic IPA.) Other styles of beer include barrel-aged barleywine, dark german-style lagers, nutty stouts and floral pilsners. Calusa Brewing has food trucks Tuesday through Friday, 5 to 9 p.m., Saturady, 4 to 10 p.m. and Sunday, 1 to 7 p.m.

Sarasota Brewing Company

Sarasota Brewing Company is the oldest brewery in Sarasota, located in the heart of Gulf Gate. Since 1989 the brewery has served delicious beers alongside award-winning burgers and Chicago beef sandwiches. The brewery features 20 season beers that rotate throughout the year. The restaurant and brewery also features a full bar for those who would prefer a cocktail, or even a boilermaker (shot + a beer.)

Big Top Brewing Company

Big Top Brewing connects and celebrates The Ringling Circus, Sarasota's performing arts, great architecture and more local establishments through its artfully crafted brews. Since opening its doors in 2013, the brewery has become a favorite among locals and holds weekly events such as Humpday BINGO Night & BBQ, weekly brew runs, beer pairings and more.

Core Big Top brews include the Circus City IPA, Conch Republich Key Lime Wheat, and Trapeze Monk (a witbier.) Other popular beers in rotation include a peanut butter chocolate brown ale and a coconut & coffee porter.

JDub's Brewing Company

Food truck rallies, yoga in the beer garden, live music sessions, outdoor movies and more. There's almost always something going on at JDub's Brewery, or at least, almost always something new on tap. JDub's opened around the same time as Big Top Brewing, in 2013. JDub's has emphasized a commitment to the community with volunteer activities, appreciation days, a weekly 5k fun run and more.

JDub's flagship IPA is Up Top! — but other popular brews include their Kolsch-style, Poolside, passion fruit and mango wheat ale called Passion Wheat and a milk chocolate porter: Bell Cow. Limited release variations of JDub's flagship beers quickly disappear soon after getting tapped, so be sure to check what's brewing.

Brew Life Brewing

Brew Life Brewing's motto is "Beer is life. Life is great. Brew Life," and as an uber small batch brewing business,  it's not about the size of the batch, but the taste of the beer. That and coming up with fun names for it's selection of rotating taps, such as "Danger Zone" (Imperial Stout), "Unicorn Hunter" (Citra Pale Ale), and "Samoan Tiger Coconut Porter."

Brew Life Brewing is in a plaza at the corner of Beneva and Clark road, and while the exterior might appear innocuous, the inside is a care-free, laid back environment with multiple gaming systems, a pool table and even a pinewood derby track.

3 Keys Brewing & Eatery

3 Keys Brewery is a family-owned, small batch brewery that emphasizes it's establishment as a "community gathering place that appeals as much to craft beer enthusiasts as it does familes with children out for a good meal." 

Fresh food from the brewery includes Kentucky beer cheese served with tortilla chips or veggie sticks,  burgers, waffle sandwiches (such as the classic 3 Keys Waffle Sandwich, which includes breaded chicken, thick maple bacon, bourbon butter,  LTO and pickles in between beer batter waffles,) pizza, and salads. The best food item menu might be the pint of thick cut, maple bacon.

The brewery rotates multiple beers every week and 3 Keys brewery does not distribute to other establishments. Some beers on tap include Mouthful of Freedom IPA, Tis the Saison, Porter? I Hardly Know Her and Sir Mixon-A-Lot (which includes fresh oranges from Mixon Farms.)

Good Liquid Brewing Co.

What's Good? Is the phrase behind the name at Good Liquid Brewing Company. The brewery is a husband-and-wife owned-and-operated craft microbrewery in Bradenton.

The establishment features 20 taps including adventurous combinations such as a rasberry jalapeno cream ale, an award-winning honey rye pale ale, and a candied yam ale, as well as traditional staples including a gose, a milk stout and multiple varieties of pale ale and IPAs.

Food trucks are available at the brewery on the weekends and other events include trivia night and wine down Wednesdays.

Naughty Monk

Naughty Monk is a Belgian-inspired brewery, based on a friar the owners befriended on a tour of Belgian breweries (the stop was unplanned, and the story is very interesting!)

Taste Belgian blondes, dubbels, and tripels brewed with dates, plums, coffee, pine and citrus hops. Naughty Monk goes beyond Belgian flavors however, and also includes double IPAs, stouts and American lagers. Games at the brewery include darts, cornhole, pool tables and more.

Darwin Brewing Company

Darwin Brewing Company near downtown Bradenton features artisan ales and lagers, such as Summadayze IPA, Circa 1926 (pale wheat ale,) Llama Mama Milk Stout and Pirata Pils. That's just the start, however, and the brewery's full selection includes a refreshing assortment of more than a dozen other year-round and rotating beers of different styles and varieties. The Cuban-born, German-educated Brewmaster Jorge Rosabal seemingly combines heritage with worldy-knowledge to create  flavors inspired by South America's Andean and Amazonian regions.

Motorworks Brewing

Motorworks Brewing is located in downtown Bradenton and features a popular lager (V Twin Vienna) as one of it's flagship brews. Others in the core line-up include Intellectual Property Ale, Midnight Expresso Coffee Porter, Rollcafe Red Ale and Pulp Friction Grapefruit IPA. The brewery's rotating seasonal beers include fruit-infused IPAs, floral wheat and pale ales, and rich chocolaty stouts and porters.

Motorworks features a large beer garden with a big deck that surrounds an enormous oak tree. The garden features a 3-hole putting green, 2 bocce ball courts, a dozen cornhole sets, a live music stage and a 22-ft projection screen.

Siesta Key Rum

Drum Circle Distilling (AKA Siesta Key Rum) has won numerous awards for its spirits, including spiced rum, toasted coconut, silver, gold and more. A small, artisan distillery located in Sarasota, Drum Circle Distilling was founded in 2007 by Troy Roberts. Today, visitors can try rums at the distillery's tasting room Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and take a tour of the distillery by pre-registering. 

Siesta Key Rum can also be found at Total Wine & More, or in several liquor stores within the Sarasota-Manatee area.

Check out what's going on at the breweries

Calusa: The Process West & N. East
Any Give Day at JDub's Brewing Co
CraftSeeker: Calusa Brewing Co
"Brewing the easy way." - JDub's Brewing Co
SNN: Brew Life
Calusa Brewing Company
FOX 4: Big Top Brewing