Navigating Tallahassee’s Craft Beer Scene in Thirty-Six Hours

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Whether you’re passing through Tallahassee, staying for a weekend, or spending a week with the in-laws, you should treat your palate to its robust craft beer scene. I had the pleasure of spending a recent weekend in Tallahassee while my wife was working, so I made it my mission to experience as many of the craft breweries, bottle shops, and brewpubs in thirty-six hours (well, thirty-five, thanks to daylight savings!) as I could handle. You’re welcome!

One of the things I always do when traveling near a state border is see how close the nearest bottle shop in the neighboring state is. Often times, you’ll find that there is a slightly different distribution network that provides access to craft beer that is only available in that state. Luckily, Thomasville (GA) was only twenty-five minutes from where we stayed, so I made the trek up to Bird Dog Bottle Company to snag some beer from Creature Comforts, one of my favorite breweries out of Athens, GA.

If you’re looking for a more local bottle shop in the Tallahassee city limits, you may that find ABC Liquors has a surprising beer selection. The staff is always friendly and usually knowledgeable, and they allow you to break four and six-packs so that you can buy singles. They also offer growler and crowler fills at great prices. At ABC Liquors, you’ll find a more diverse beer selection than the local supermarket, including some limited release bottles from big breweries like Goose Island, Wicked Weed, and Funky Buddha. Speaking of growlers, Tallahassee is home to Growler Country, a local growler filling station that’s veteran-owned and founded by a couple of brothers who love craft beer. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my growler with me, so I didn’t stop by (though they sell empty growlers there. One of their best attributes is that they do keep an updated tap list on their website and carry some beer that you may only be able to find at their filling station. Market Square and Beer Stop are two bottle shops that come heavily recommended by craft beer aficionados such as myself, so stop in and check them out if you want to shop around town more.

When hunger sets in, it can be satisfying to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. The best place we found to eat great food AND drink great beer was Proof. They offer something for everyone, especially on Sundays. My wife and I were able to meet at Proof and enjoy their brunch menu, which offers cocktails and mimosas (for unique individuals like my wife who do not enjoy beer) as well as a robust food menu. We shared their breakfast wrap and one of the best pieces of avocado toast I have ever had. It’s a shame the only thing Proof doesn’t offer is overnight accommodations, because then you would have no reason to leave! Our Saturday lunch was spent at The Brass Tap, a Southern chain that originated in Florida. This was my first time visiting, and I found they had an expansive beer selection, which was more diverse than your average pub and had a menu you would come to expect from a craft beer bar. We had their tacos, which were massive and very filling.

Tallahassee is home to five breweries. I had the pleasure of imbibing at three of them—DEEP, Proof, and Ology. The weekend I visited, each brewery had a few unique offerings. DEEP was having DEEPFROST—an end-of-winter mini-fest held Friday-Sunday during which they released ten different stouts (yeah, I was as excited as you’d imagine). Proof and Ology both had booths set up in Tampa for one of craft beer’s biggest weekends, HunaDay 2019 at Cigar City Brewing. Proof took home “1st Place Best Beer” and “2nd Place Best Brewery,” while Ology achieved “2nd Place Best Beer” and “1st Place Best Brewery”—not bad, Tallahassee!

 

My first brewery stop was DEEP, since I couldn’t wait to drink some of those stouts and had already missed out on the ones they’d dropped on Friday (namely their Bourbon Barrel Brownie Batter Imperial Stout—YUM!). DEEP had a quaint outdoor seating section with a food truck onsite, perfect for those sunny Florida afternoons. When I walked inside, there was a small seating area that featured FSU sports on the TV in the center of the room. I walked straight to the counter and ordered a four-beer flight so that I could try all of Saturday’s DEEPFROST offerings (and one left over from Friday). Rather than go outside, I decided to take my flight and sit in the brewhouse so that I could focus on sampling while taking in all the beauty of their brewing equipment. My favorite beer was their Bourbon Barrel Aged Blueberry Russian Imperial Stout. On the nose, you aren’t just smelling the blueberries but rather bathing in their aroma—and the moment the first sip touches your lips, the sensation only grows stronger. The blueberry flavor was so strong (I wish I knew how many pounds of blueberries went into this batch) that it was almost like drinking bourbon barrel aged blueberry juice! At 12.3%, it hardly tasted like the boozy Russian Imperial Stout that you may be accustomed to. Overall, this was an incredibly creative beer, and I feel it truly showcased their talent.

My second stop, a place I visited both days, was Proof Brewing Company. This colossal brewery/brewpub is located in the heart of Tallahassee, and they easily have the best atmosphere in the city, offering a massive indoor seating area with a view of the brewhouse, large projector screens, ski-ball, foosball, air-hockey, and bar shuffleboard. Outside, they have a large covered porch leading into a fenced yard with turf, plenty of seating and shade, corn hole, and table tennis. As if this wasn’t good enough to make you want to visit, they’ve recently added a kitchen at this location (newly opened in 2018) that features some delicious pub fare. Proof took home “2nd Place Best Brewery” at HunaDay 2019 but stole “1st Place Best Beer” with their Evil Kiss Key Lime Pie Pastry Berliner Weisse (say that five times fast!). What can I say about this beer that isn’t already in the name (literally)? On the nose is that Key lime and graham cracker you would expect from Key lime pie, and it doesn’t dwindle as you take your first sip. At first, the Key lime dominates your palate, but then the graham cracker comes in and rescues your taste buds from the tartness of the lime. To finish, you experience your classic Berliner weisse tartness, but without any bitterness left in your mouth. This is easily the best pastry Berliner weisse I have had, though I can’t say I have had many.

Since I went to Proof both days, I did want to give an honorable mention to their Rum Barrel Aged Coconut Macadamia Royal Bloodline Imperial Stout. They actually didn’t have this beer listed on their menu as “rum barrel aged,” but I could taste the rum barrel when I took my first sip, so I went over and asked the manager, who confirmed that my taste buds had not deceived me. The coconut and macadamia tied this viscous stout together neatly. I was so impressed that the next time they release this in bottles, I will be sure to purchase the Royal Bloodline series for my cellar.

The final stop of my trip to Tallahassee was Ology. This brewery is very different from the others, as there is very little space to sit and enjoy their beer. But don’t let that deter you, because they offer some of the best sours in the Florida panhandle. I always make it a point to visit Ology, as they typically have a great carry-out beer selection. When I arrived, I ran into some beer enthusiasts that I know, and we promptly exchanged pleasantries and began sampling beer. My favorite beer was Trace Element: Peach and Apricot that we purchased in bottles from the “onsite consumption only” fridge. This sour ale poured with minimal head retention, and the smell of sour peaches will make your mouth water with anticipation. My first sip of a sour always seems the most sour, and I assume that is because my mind is prepping my mouth for what is about to enter (my mouth is watering as I’m describing this!). Once my mouth calmed down, I took my second sip to really experience the flavors individually. The peach and apricot harmonized and gave off a sweet fruitiness that lasted just briefly before that perfect sourness set in. There are differences between tart and sour, and this beer was very sour and perfectly so. After I slowly finished my beer, I promptly walked over to the cooler and purchased a four-pack of their Fruited Raspberry and Passion Fruit Gose and left.

Tallahassee has a lot to offer the great state of Florida. Our state capital is home to the best university in the country (okay, slight bias here, I’ll admit), our state government, and (now you know) some world-class beer. Next time you’re in Tallahassee, be sure to visit one of these venues to quench your thirst and find your next favorite craft beer.