Gainesville, Florida is a city surrounded by wetlands, with abundant nature trails and underwater caverns and freshwater springs. Hiking is a huge part of the culture in the Northern Central Florida city. The city is also home to many state parks, botanical gardens, and the Florida Museum of Natural History, which features an incredible butterfly rainforest exhibit. Wildlife and lush ecosystems are a huge part of Gainesville’s identity, and the city is one of the leading promoters in solar energy, pioneers in our collective green initiative, but these are not the details at the forefront of our minds when we think of this city.
Instead, the only thing we can picture when we hear the name Gainesville is the University of Florida. And for just reason. The University of Florida is the number one employer in the entire metropolitan area with the university hospital, UF Health, coming in second. It is the 5th largest school in the country in terms of enrollment and has been the former stomping ground of several famous musicians like Tom Petty as well as some formidable alumni.
Thanks to the University of Florida, Gainesville has become one of the top college towns in the state, if not the entire nation, with an impressive athletic department and an esteemed following of students and fans alike.
And what goes better with college culture than some great watering holes in which to avoid cramming whilst perpetuating some much needed confidence?
Gainesville has enough bars to keep 52,000+ students satisfied, but they’ve taken things a step forward with the addition of some excellent breweries, the likes of which you won’t find in any old college town in America. Here are 5 Gainesville breweries that you should absolutely give a shot:
Partly because of OCD and my inability to put something that has the word “first” in it anywhere other than first, and partly because their commitment to green solutions and community empowerment are the truest testament to what makes a brewing company great, I’ve decided to present you first with one of the most influential brewing companies in the state, First Magnitude Brewing. The Southeast’s first carbon-neutral brewery has raised over $34,000 through their annual 7.2k Springs Run to support the Florida Springs Institute, teaching people about Florida springs. The company also donates to springs protective initiatives and hosts an annual Clean Creek Revival, removing trash from local creeks.
And I can go on and on about the good they’re doing for the environment, but I’d recommend popping into their taproom and asking them yourself. I’ve heard that their Saltwater Intrusion Gose w/ Florida Peaches (currently on tap) is outrageously delicious, but if you’re looking for something a bit more traditional, their Wakulla Hefeweizen is a great go-to with which the company promises to donate a percentage of their sales to protecting the springs. With over 100 different beers brewed annually, I’m sure you’ll find something that piques your fancy.
Although the original Big Top Brewing is in Sarasota—they also have a third spot in Pensacola—the Gainesville location has just as much personality and unique flare. Taking their name from the tents used in traveling circuses, Big Top is paying homage to the vibrant cultural history of the owners’ hometown.
And with equal enthusiasm and vibrancy, the owners have crafted some of the best beer in this college town. Big Top has a wide reach in terms of distribution, and one of their more common beers, Hawaiian Lion, can be found on shelves just about everywhere in the state. It’s a coconut coffee porter brewed with Java Dawg Coffee and 150 pounds of fresh coconut per batch, and is truly one of the best dark beers around.
Join them at the taproom for great food and live music or on the weekend for bottomless mimosas at brunch!
Built out of an old ice and cold storage factory that was originally erected in 1903, Cypress & Grove Brewing are believers in tradition and the creation of a quality product using the finest ingredients and nothing else. The building is set around a 700-ft-deep well that originally pumped water to make ice. Now the brewery uses the well and the fresh water that they’ve tapped into from Florida’s aquifers to brew their delicious, handcrafted beers.
And beer isn’t all that they do. They also offer four flavors of homemade soda including: Concord Grape, Lemongrass-Lime, Peach-Ginger, and Strawberry-Lemonade. Some of the ingredients used in crafting each of these delightful flavors come from their own home grown crops and are each very refreshing.
Blackadder Brewing is one of the most interesting breweries that you might ever visit. With most other brewing companies trying to fit into the modern world of craft beer, Blackadder is intentionally providing an old-world vibe, and brewing Belgian-inspired beers to fit with the nostalgic atmosphere. When you walk into Blackadder’s taproom, you might feel transported to another time or at least another place. As a frequenter of the part of the world that they’re modeling themselves off of, I have to say they really nailed it.
And if you take a gander at their menu, you’ll find that the majority of their own brews as well as their guest brews are those of Belgian or German origin. You’ll find a lot of bocks, saisons, and weizens as well as the occasional lambics, fruits, or wilds. Almost their entire menu stems from traditional beer styles from two of the most famous beer-loving countries, and they’ve honored those countries admirably.
Definitely the oldest and most famous brewery in the Gainesville area, Swamp Head Brewery has made continuous efforts since its inception in 2008 to craft some of the best beer in the state without ever straying from their core beliefs. What it all boils down to at the end of the day is Swamp Head is as they say “inherently, Floridian,” and in their ongoing attempts to make themselves recognized as “Florida’s brewery,” they’ve found themselves nestled in the hearts of the community that they love so much.
Possibly their most recognizable beer, Big Nose, is an IPA loaded with flavor, crafted with the crystal clear water of Okefenokee Swamp. It’s one of the best go-to beers that can be found just about anywhere in the state and as always, comes with some of Swamp Head’s interesting artwork on the can.
And one of the best things about Swamp Head and Cypress & Grove is that they send their spent hops to be consumed by local cows that find the meal very nutritional.
Gainesville isn’t just a college town. It has so much to offer students that can’t be found at any other university in the state. It’s one thing to have great bars near your school, but another thing entirely to have 5 breweries, each giving their best efforts to make the community a better place.
So if you’re a UF student, an alumni in town visiting your old stomping ground, or just passing through on your way south into this great state, stop at one of these breweries, have a pint, and see what craft beer is really all about.