On a trip to America’s oldest city, you might find yourself touring the historic Castillo de San Marcos, the largest masonry fort in the continental United States, standing on the very foundation of American history. It’s an almost unbelievable feeling to look out over the Matanzas River and imagine what life was like for our not too distant relatives, and think about how much this country has grown in less than two-and-a-half centuries since its inception.
St. Augustine’s streets in the historic district are still reminiscent of the past and a walk through town is decorated with historical monuments. The Old Jail has been converted into a museum and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine has continued its service into the 21st century as the home of the oldest congregation in the United States, dating back to 1565. And if you really want the authentic experience, you can see all of St. Augustine’s historical landmarks by way of carriage ride or trolley car.
With many shops and eateries throughout the downtown area, nightly ghost tours, nearby beaches, a thriving nightlife, premium venues, and a rich history, St. Augustine truly has something to offer everybody. And if that something should be a unique and thirst-quenching endeavor into new age craft beer in this old world city, then here are the five breweries that you must visit along the way.
Bogs are wetland ecosystems, abundant with life and characterized by their transition from dry land to bodies of water. And whether or not Bog Brewing Company chose the name for this reason, bogs are a place where life thrives from a variety of outlooks, much like the booming nature of the craft beer community. The craft beer world is a bog that is now very self-sustained, and the taproom at Bog Brewing is a perfect example of life thriving thanks to the 21st-century sensation of the growing beer community.
And Bog Brewing is in no way taking this opportunity for granted. They are a company that believes in classic beer styles brewed with the best seasonal ingredients to provide patrons with an exceptional experience. With everything from stouts to Belgian-style quadrupels (and port-barrel-aged quadrupels in case the whopping 9.7% ABV wasn’t enough for you) Bog Brewing is crafting a lot of styles just right.
Located as much in the heart of the historic city as you could possibly ask for, Dog Rose Brewing Company is another that is brewing true-to-style craft beers. Owner, operator, and head brewer, Doug Murr has taken his first step into being one of the top “Dogs” in St. Augustine’s brewery scene with what is now almost 20 years in the industry.
With occasional yoga nights and donut pairings courtesy of The Donut Experiment, Dog Rose is an invitation for the full gamut of beer drinkers. And with ten dollar growler fills every Monday, I’d say they are one of the most affordable experiences on the market. Try their Lincolnville Lager, named for the wonderful neighborhood in which Dog Rose found its home, brewed with tradition and excellence, using noble German hops to provide a crisp, clean craft beer.
If you are looking for a tour of the brewery, then you’ll have to stray from this 45-minute walk through downtown and head to their original location off of I-95 and SR 16, but if it's taste you’re looking for, look no further than their downtown taproom, located right next door to the famous cathedral and its ancient congregation. With a very helpful staff, a friendly neighborhood vibe, and an awesome rustic design, this convenient location for Ancient City Brewing needs nothing more than to be itself to invite crowds of wandering tourists in for a pint of their delicious crafts.
With beer names that lay exploration on the tip of your tongue like Galleon’s Golden Ale and Ponce’s Pale Ale, I have to say that my personal favorite is Castillo Coconut Porter. I'm a sucker for dark beers and with the added temptation that the brew pairs well with chocolate cake, I found that this porter had just the right amount of rich smoothness to compliment its subtle, charred coffee notes.
I know I promised 5 breweries on this list, but although A1A Ale Works isn’t brewing their own beer anymore, they have filled their tap list with some of the best beers from Florida’s favorite independent craft breweries, and they were at one point an actual craft brewery. With 95% of their craft beers on draft coming from Florida brewing companies, they are truly a Florida craft beer hub. And as if their beer menu isn’t enticing enough on its own, they also come thoroughly equipped with a full liquor bar, extensive wine list, and of course their scratch kitchen.
Just a short walk across Plaza de la Constitucion from Ancient City, this massive restaurant with breathtaking views of the Matanzas Bay is a place to be enjoyed with friends. With great prices and fresh ingredients, this would probably be a good time to have a bite to eat if you’re hitting all of these breweries in the same day, and still be able to have a Florida craft beer while you do so. Although St. Augustine is about as far from the Florida Keys as you could be in the panhandle state, I recommend the key lime pie, made as always from scratch.
The last stop on this journey takes us across the Bridge of Lions to Old Coast Ales on Anastasia Blvd. Although your beer journey might be complete at this point, you’ll find that you’re about halfway between the bridge and the lighthouse so you may want to consider a bit more adventuring. Old Coast Ales is brewing—as the name suggests—some very unique ales from lighter varieties like summer ales all the way to the dark and rich porter.
Old Coast Ales is another company that brews with the season and it’s always interesting to see what’s on tap at the moment. Look out for their famous brew, Kookaburra Brown Ale, which is infused with locally roasted coffee.
St. Augustine might be America’s oldest city, but as far as contributing to the craft beer industry, it’s relatively young but immensely involved. So whether you’re delighting your taste buds in this great foodie city, or electing to satisfy your cultural palate instead, wash it all down with some great craft beer at one or all of these exquisite craft beer locations.