So it is official that America loves craft beer and distilled spirits. Small-shop and large breweries alike are making an impact on local economies and businesses by creating jobs and getting involved in communities.
The growing breadth of craft beer and distilled spirits producers is astounding, but in an era of discerning drinkers, it takes creative flair and a competitive edge to flourish. Florida is at the forefront of this beverage boom and the Heartland offers some of the most accessible, palate pleasing imbibing opportunities around!
Our local businesses are ready to serve, greeting you with a smile. Restaurateurs and business owners have worked tirelessly to change processes and physical spaces to operate safely. As we begin to move forward responsibly, plan an hour (or day) to get out of the house and enjoy our resilient culinary scene.
Located in Lake Placid, Sugar Sand Distillery is the only estate grown sugarcane farm distillery in all of North America and Hawaii. Nestled in the middle of a 10-acre Sugar Cane Farm, Sugar Sand Distillery is a true Farm-To-Bottle operation. Born of a desire to truly incorporate the love of farming with the love of producing a true handcrafted small batch spirit.
In 2017, Don Davies, founder of Sugar Sand Distillery, began experimenting with the processes of making mash and home distilling with sugarcane. When shared with friends and family, they all raved about his product and Don discovered a deepening love for the process as well as the finished products. Therefore, Don began researching craft distilleries and found that there was a growing market for his product and the dream of Sugar Sand Distillery was born.
All of their spirits are handmade from scratch on site. They offer 9 different liquors. White Rum, Aged Rum, Spiced Rum, Vodka, Lemon Crane Vodka, Gin, White Moonshine, Aged Moonshine, Appleshine, and their seasonal drink, Watermelon Shine, which is flavored with fresh watermelon, making it especially refreshing.
If you’re looking to learn more about their distillery, they offer tours of their facility on Saturdays for $7.50 per person. During this tour, you’ll get to experience a tasting of all handcrafted fine spirits, a complimentary cocktail, a full look around the distillery including the cane farm and fermentation process. At the end of the tour, you’ll receive a $5 off of $25 coupon for your next purchase.
For more information, visit their website at www.sugarsanddistillery.com or give them a call at 863-873-4725.
Wet Dogs Brewing
Michael Noel, owner of Wet Dogs Brewing in Lake Placid, tells us “We’ve always loved our Irish heritage, beer and wet dogs, so we decided to combine them into what would become Wet Dogs Brewing. Our ‘happy place’ is on a dock with a beer, a dog and a tennis ball. We wanted to bring this feel to a local gathering place.”
In the beginning of 2020, they were ready to open ahead of schedule and were looking forward to their St. Patrick’s Day Grand Opening but due to COVID-19 plans were changed. Michael tells us “we have been starting and stopping since then as the State restrictions allowed. We operated at times with take out only and again as a restaurant when we partnered with a food truck license.”
If you get a chance to visit, Michael tells us they use a unique 4 in 1 brewing system which allows them to operate with a very small carbon footprint. They have five 5-barrel systems (10 kegs), a 1⁄2 barrel system (1 keg) and a 5-gallon pilot system. Because of this, they are able to take any recipe they come up with and scale it to any production size.
Michael also tells us they currently produce ales and stouts, which use top fermenting yeasts that are active around 74 degrees, and generally ferment for 2 weeks. They also have the ability to produce lagers, which utilize bottom fermenting yeasts at lower temperatures, but are waiting to make sure the virus environment is stable as lagers take longer to ferment (4-8 weeks).
If you’re looking for a specialty brew, they have created seasonal and specialty beers for holidays and special events. Michael tells us that they recently produced a guava orange double IPA for a wedding, complete with a customized label for the occasion. In addition to their beers, they brew their own nitro cold brew coffee and kombucha. They also offer guest taps, wine, ciders and seltzers.
For more information visit Wetdogsbrewing.com. They can also be found on Facebook or Instagram @WetDogBrewing or at 863-410-2010.
Located in Lakeland, Brew Hub was founded in 2012 by a team of industry professionals led by Tim Schoen. The craft brewing industry was exploding and Brew Hub’s primary goal was to help craft brewers grow their brands. Unlike traditional contract brewers, Brew Hub was designed to offer more than just production. They also offer Partner Brewing, where they offer their partners multiple services beyond just production to include marketing, lab services, distribution expansion, and so much more. Because of this, their partners could achieve their maximum growth potential without the risks involved with capital expenditures or geographical constraints.
They opened their doors in 2014, and Jeni Overton, Digital Content Manager, tells us that during the past 6 years, “Well-known award-winning Partners have graduated from our services include Cigar City Brewing, Toppling Goliath, and Green Man Brewery. We have also expanded our capabilities beyond craft beer to include hard seltzers, kombucha, and canned cocktails.” They also have their own line of beers under the Brew Hub name that are distributed throughout Florida.
Each year they have a few specialty releases that are exclusive to the Tasting Room. Overton shares, “Our Tasting Room is amazing because it gives our visitors the chance to experience not just our own beers, but beers from all over the country that are produced in our Brewery on behalf of our Partners. Our beers and our Partner’s beers are all made with high-quality ingredients, at a scale much larger than your typical brewery, with consistent quality control. We help your favorite local breweries make it from their small taproom to your nearby Publix!”
They also produce some limited releases that you can find out in the market. Overton tells us, “Recently we had a special release of Barrel Aged Diver Down exclusively for the Tasting Room. In the past we’ve made small-batch holiday beers like Pumpkin Spice Dunkelweisse for fall, classic German lagers around Oktoberfest time, and more.”
High quality, professional expertise and scalable growth are the cornerstones of Brew Hub, and they’re great about letting their consumers know when they’re launching something special on their social media, so for anyone looking out for what’s next follow along with them there or give them a call at 863-698-7600.
Christian Lugo, Co-Founder and Vice President of Lugo’s Craft Spirits in Lakeland tells us, “We are a family-owned and operated business that began this year. We started distilling in July so we’re fairly new to the scene in Lakeland. Our Craft Rum Distillery specializes in bringing true craftsmanship to Rum that hasn’t been seen. We lived in Kentucky and grew inspiration from the Bourbon industry and wanted to bring that to the Rum industry. As a Puerto Rican family, we wanted to also bring our native Rum moonshine from Puerto Rico called Pitorro. It is traditionally aged with real fruits and enjoyed during celebrations. I have taken a family recipe and with quality ingredients and a pure distillation technique have made a purer Pitorro and it can now be enjoyed in cocktails and also be aged with fruits.”
They have 3 specific products that will be out in October. Their Original Pitorro, which is a sweeter, higher proof rum, is out now at a few liquor stores and restaurants. Their spiced rum, Libertalia, is aged with real fruits and spices which makes our rum unique because typically a spiced rum is flavored using natural or artificial flavors. They also have Rhiskey, which is a 4 times distilled rum aged in New Charred American White Oak barrels, the same used for Bourbon, which gives it a unique whiskey taste. Hence the name, Rhiskey!
Lugo also tells us that All of their products are distilled 4 times in a hybrid copper still that takes any impurities out of the rum and produces a pure product. The flavor and color all come from the aging process, so nothing is added to enhance the color nor flavor which makes these Rums unique.
According to Lugo, their Coconut Pitorro will be out this fall and they will have new and unique products coming out in the following months! So be sure to visit them and give it a try.
If you are interested in seeing where all the magic happens, distillery tours and tastings are available. Visit them at 2500 Drane Field Road Suite 208 Lakeland. For more information, they can be reached at 863-816-3330.
The Florida Brewery
The Florida Brewery (TFB) in Auburndale has been in operation since 1983 and is the 2nd oldest brewery still in operation in Florida. In the 80s there were many brands of beer produced at TFB. The brewery changed ownership multiple times and added non- alcoholic beverages along the way. Today TFB is owned by Empresas-Polar but is run locally by Julie Williams and Stacey Oakley alongside their amazing team of 46 others!
Their hand-crafted local beverages are designed for taste, smoothness, and quality. Fun Fact: Stacey Oakley tells us “All of our beers are made with the theme, A Taste of the Florida Lifestyle. We create our beverages to bring joy and create long lasting memories, similar to your favorite song.” Stacey also stated that “Our brew master, Daniela, was trained in Germany for a year so she is very traditional with her brewing style. We have added some awesome creative brewers to balance tradition with flavor, which makes for great beer!”
Today’s beer options include Gator Lager, Polar Pilsen, and Beach Me Up. Stacey tells us, “Beach me Up is our number 1 beer and has become wildly popular due to its high drink ability and perfect balance of beer and pomelo grapefruit.”
If you have any questions, feel free to contact them at 863-965-1825.
Grove Roots in Winter Haven, started in 2016 as a small microbrewery with a focus of being a community centric gathering place. They wanted to be all things Winter Haven with a place focused on crafting a delicious beer. Even their branding shows the Winter Haven spirit with a focus on the rich history of the citrus industry. Their open concept and outside space help customers feel as if they are sitting in a park when they visit. They are known for being dog friendly and family friendly.
Owner, Joseph Dunham, shares that during the course of the year they hold multiple community events including Oktoberfest, Halloween, night markets, Christmas parties, biking events, etc. Dunham says, “We are always focused on bringing people together.”
Dunham, tells us, “Our product line brings diversity in beers to Winter Haven. At any given time, we will have roughly 16 different beers on tap. We have a variety of flavors from hoppy, dark, citrus, sour, and light. We want people to have a flavor experience every time they step foot in the brewery. Those styles also will have local ingredients from Florida such as honey, citrus, and coffee.”
Their brewing starts with 4 ingredients: Water, Hops, Malted Barley, and Yeast. First, they mix malted barley with hot water. The hot water activates certain enzymes in the barley to start converting complex starches. After roughly an hour they drain this liquid into the boil kettle, while sparging hot water on top of the grains to rinse them and halt the enzymatic activity. Once all the liquid is collected, they bring it to a boil and add hops for bittering and profile. After an hour they cool the liquid and transfer it to the fermenter vessel. In this vessel, they pitch the yeast which will start feeding on the sugary liquid and produces alcohol. Dunham tells us, “This process takes anywhere between 10-21 days. After this process you move the beer into another vessel called the Brite Tank to carbonate.”
Grove Roots offers many specialty products with new releases every season. They currently offer Oktoberfest Lager and a Pumpkin Ale for the fall season.
For more information on their brewing process, hours of operation, or products on tap, give them a call at 863-291-0700.
La Belle Brewing
LaBelle Brewing Company is the first and only brewery in Hendry County and was founded by a local Southwest Florida citrus-growing family with a passion for the simple things in life, like great beer and great food. They’re a community-focused craft brewery and taproom in the heart of LaBelle, Florida. They were founded to create a space for their local community to enjoy delicious home-craft brews, and to hang out, relax, and have a good time with friends and family. The brewery houses a local farm-to-table restaurant, as well.
Susan Franz tells us, “Our beers are inspired by local ingredients from our farming community and made on-site. It’s part art, part science, and part unbridled obsession that makes our team devote their lives to beer making. Peak flavors always rule: our beers do not sit around for months in bottles or kegs. After years of brewing throughout Southwest Florida our Brew master brought an elite skill set to our brewhouse.”
When you’re in the area, check out their different beers based on what local ingredients are available. Brew master, Corey Purcell, tells us that they like to keep their inspiration local and since LaBelle is an Ag community, they have lots of good ingredients. Don’t forget to try their best seller, Belle of the Barn.
If you’re interested in getting to know more about their brewery, try taking a tour and getting a first-hand glimpse into their mastery of the brewing process. For any additional information, they can be contacted at 863-230-7991.
The hallmark of craft beer and distilled spirits is innovation, and successful brewers possess a passion for authenticity. Their brand reflects local culture. Different from bars that serve wine, beer and spirits, breweries and distilleries feature varying experimental versions and brands. Classified as an “attraction,” they still fit in with a town’s food and bar scene.
No matter the location, breweries and distilleries are on a mission to share their passion for quality craft beer and spirits to their community. So make a plan, get together with family or friends and discover the “spirited” flavors of the Heartland.