By staff writer

December 2018 – 2 min. read

With nearly 100 state-of-the-art breweries (among them, the internationally known crown jewel that is Cigar City Brewing), Tampa Bay has become a destination for craft beer tourists from across the country. Consistently ranked among the country’s top cities for craft beer, the craft beer industry in Tampa has had a positive impact on both the local economy and job creation. A recent report from the Tampa Economic Development Corporation concluded that “craft brewing had a $3.07 billion economic impact in Florida in 2017 and was responsible for more than 23,000 jobs with an average wage of $42,000.”

But for those locals who know a thing or two about Tampa’s history, there is nothing coincidental about this development. Beer production in Tampa is about as old as the city itself. It all started in historic Ybor City at the end of the 19th century, when a group of cigar factory workers decided that they needed a local source of crisp lager to complement all the fragrant maduros they were rolling.

Production obviously slowed during Prohibition, but it is now back and more robust than ever, coinciding nicely with the city’s prodigious redevelopment efforts and sharp rise in popularity.

In Tampa Bay, 2017 marked another record year for tourism, with the region welcoming 116.5 million visitors, up from a 112.4 million visitors in 2016, a 3.6 percent increase. Santiago Corrada, CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, attributes this to the area’s unique flavor.

“Our marketing has been focused on how unique we are — the art, the culture, the history, the diversity,” Corrada told our Invest: Tampa Bay team when he sat down with them earlier this month. “We started with that, and we’ve seen a great evolution of the culinary scene and craft beer breweries. We’ve taken a tongue-in-cheek approach to why you should come here and why we’re so unique. We’re not just about palm trees, the sun and the water. You can have distinct experiences here.”

Among those distinct experiences is sipping a local brew and taking a stroll down Tampa’s newly revamped Riverwalk, which, as Mayor Bob Buckhorn says, really was the lynchpin for reviving the city after the recession.

“The completion of the Riverwalk has transformed our city. It has done exactly what I knew would happen,” Mayor Buckhorn told Invest:. “Once we focused on the water and made the [Hillsborough] River the center of our urban experience, private capital would be deployed in tens of millions of dollars.”

“And now you can grab a beer and walk the entire Riverwalk with that beer in hand,” Mayor Buckhorn added. “It’s a great place to come hang out.”

To celebrate being distinguished by USA Today as the leading craft beer city in the Southeast, Visit Tampa Bay partnered with one of Tampa’s local breweries to launch its very own brew. Treasured Lager is a joint endeavor between Florida Avenue Brewing and Visit Tampa Bay that highlights Tampa’s rich history of commercial brewing and also provides a glimpse of what’s ahead.

“We started working with our craft breweries several years ago, and the success since that time has been tremendous,” says Patrick Harrison, chief marketing officer of Visit Tampa Bay.  “While many cities claim to be craft beer destinations, we are one of the original and best […] Watch for other additions in the near future.”

For casual beer drinkers and snobs alike, Tampa will certainly not disappoint. After sauntering along the Riverwalk, Tampa’s Brew Bus is a great way to sample the rest of the world-class breweries peppered throughout the city. And if you find yourself across the bay, Visit St. Pete-Clearwater offers a similar romp through the many breweries of Pinellas County in its beer passport program. The affectionately titled “Gulp Coast Passport” is a guided tour through the many craft breweries along the coastline and Downtown St. Petersburg. Participants are given a physical beer passport to chart their progress, collect stickers and win prizes.

Some of the notable spots not to be missed are Angry Chair, Coppertail, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Cycle Brewing, 3 Daughters Brewing and, of course, Cigar City. There’s no question that beer has a significant economic impact on Tampa Bay’s economy, so grab a pint and help keep the brew flowing!

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:
A Welcome from Bob Buckhorn:
Visit Tampa Bay:
Visit St. Pete-Clearwater:
Tampa Brew Bus:
Gulp Coast Brewery Tour: