2019 was another banner year for Big Bend beer
It is no secret, we are ALL about supporting local — especially locally produced independent beer. We like knowing the people that make our beer — and the dollars we spend in local breweries, stores, and restaurants, stays in Tallahassee. Additionally, when it comes to beer, fresh is best and what could be fresher than the award-winning beer made just up the block?
While Tallahassee did lose one of our more established breweries with the closing of GrassLands Brewing, 2019 featured a ton of great moments for the local beer scene. As 2019 winds down, and we look forward to the new brews, and breweries, that 2020 will bring to our area — we decided to recap a few of the events in our area over the last year.
Proof found their 'forever home'
One of the largest — in both scope and square footage — stories we covered this year had to have been Proof Brewing Company's move from their Railroad Square location to their forever home at 1320 South Monroe St. While retaining as much of the original 1948 facility as possible, Proof owners Byron and Angela Burroughs and their team created a tasting room equal parts inviting, modern, fun, and comfortable.
While the new tasting room is impressive, the end product — the beer — certainly had a number of marquee moments in 2019; most notably Proof's Key Lime Pie Evil Kiss Berliner Weisse taking home the honor of "Best Beer" at Cigar City Brewing's prestigious Hunahpu's Day celebration in early March.
The "Best Beer" accolade was accompanied by being announced as the runner-up for "Best Brewery" at the festival and marked the third year in a row that Proof had been named in the Top 3 for best beer and brewery (Best Brewery/Best Beer 2018, 3rd Best Brewery/3rd Best Beer 2017) at the Cigar City's signature event. With its incredible new space, focus on quality, and delicious array of beers, it is not hard to see why Paste Magazine had Proof in the running for Top 50 Best American Breweries of the 2010s — receiving an honorable mention.
Deep takes Gold at Best Florida Beer
In March, Deep took a quick dive into competitive waters and came up with gold! The brewery that just celebrated 3 years in August, kicked off 2019 with some new hardware from the Best Florida Beer competition in Tampa with a gold medal in the "Amber or Red Ale" category for REEFRaction. And they also scored a silver medal in the "English Brown Ale" category for their Jack Browne Southern English Brown Ale.
Most impressive though was REEFraction's 3rd place finish for Best Florida Beer overall — a beer judged against the winners of all the individual categories and then determined by other brewers to be the best. Impressive indeed.
Jack Browne would be a popular "character" of sorts at Deep throughout the year as it made a much-anticipated debut in cans, and also join the ranks of Reef Dweller IPA, Spear Pressure Golden Ale, Shallow End Florida Lager and Nyctophile Sweet Stout as a core offering.
The ability to expand core offerings and really go big for their CANiversary event (3 year anniversary), where they rolled out 3 new cans, a bottle release, and no fewer than 12 new treatments of beer, was surely aided by Deep's installation of their larger brew house. More beer is more better and we can't wait to see what Deep rolls out for 2020.
Lake Tribe (c)Hopped It Up at Howser
In 2019, Dick Howser was the backdrop to a season long ode to one of the greatest ambassadors for college athletics — Florida State Baseball head coach Mike Martin. College baseball's all-time leader in wins — the man fondly dubbed "11" — decided to retire in 2019 after 40 years at the helm. We are not sure there is a stronger duo than baseball and beer, and throughout a wild season of ups and downs, and nostalgic trips down memory lane, Lake Tribe Brewing was there for it all.
Somehow between brewing the latest Wildwoods Project (Volume 3), planning their 4-year anniversary, and rolling out an exciting tea beer collaboration with Tallahassee Tea Company, Lake Tribe made their baseball debut at Howser; pouring two of their signature beers, Red Cloud IPA and Becksters Satsuma Wheat. We're not saying the Tribe Vibe was the key to the Noles' incredible run to the College World Series, but we're not going to deny it either.
Ology's Surprising Huna Day
Already riding an incredible wave of momentum coming into the year, it was pretty evident that Ology was primed for a huge 2019. So big, in fact, that they had to open a second facility in town just to contain it!
OK, so maybe that second facility was always in the cards, but in a year that saw their beer go into distribution in a number of states, bring home "Best Brewery" and runner-up for "Best Beer" at Cigar City's Hunahpu's Day festival, have a beer (Passionfruit/Blood Orange/Raspberry Juice Lab) rate in the top 5 on Untappd at the Great American Beer Festival, pour in Europe, and open a new facility and tasting room, it's hard to decide what news is the biggest coming out of the 6th Avenue — and now Power Mill Court — brewery.
While Beer Society Co-Founder Danny Aller gave Ology's new Power Mill location the full Beer Society treatment in his featured piece in the Democrat, the bigger news (if there can be news larger than 3,500 plus square feet of dedicated brew space) for Ology might've come out of Tampa.
Ology's ability to deftly produce delicious Barrel Aged American Sours certainly opens doors, but to be named "Best Brewery" and have the second best beer (PBR Juice Lab) at Cigar City's world renowned Hunahpu's Day Festival definitely set the stage for a year of incredible beer and Ology did not disappoint. Tallahassee's youngest brewery's list of festival invites and collaborations reads like who's who of independent beer.
Fools Fire coming
Not long after GrassLands closed, Fermentation Lounge owner Jon Nash announced he was taking his brewpub project — Fools Fire Brewing — full-time and would be opening a tasting room at the end of 2019/early 2020. Their brewery space will be located right next door to Ferm - one of Tallahassee's OG craft beer bars - and should be opening its doors soon! Stay tuned for details on that, but if you're looking to taste Fools' beer in the meantime, you can catch them pouring at the Tallahassee Beer Festival on Jan. 25 and then at Brews By The Bay on Feb. 1.
Big Bend breweries making moves
Tallahassee may be the foundation for the TLH Beer Society, but we also cover all the craft breweries within a 100-mile radius as well — and those folks had a big year too.
Down in Apalachicola at Oyster City Brewing, 2019 saw them finally put their beer in cans thanks to a partnership with Brew Hub in Tampa. You can now find cans of OCBC Tate's Helles Lagers, Apalach IPA and their flagship best-seller Hooter Brown in stores all around the Big Bend.