With Tampa Bay Beer Week mere days away, Florida’s beer culture will be on display for all to see. It would be impossible to talk about the history of beer in Tampa Bay, or the growth in the beer culture, without talking about the Dunedin Brewery, Florida’s oldest craft brewery. Officially opened in 1996 (it moved to the current location in 2001), Dunedin Brewery has become a hub for all things beer in the beautiful small town in northern Pinellas County from which it takes its name.
The city of Dunedin reflects the roots of its American and Scottish founders, with yearly Highland Games, many Celtic-themed businesses, and even a pipe-and-drum band at the local high school. Dunedin Brewery incorporates the Scottish claymore sword into its logo as a tribute to the history. Celtic-rock stars Seven Nations (who happen to be friends of mine) play there from time to time.
Dunedin Brewing is a family owned and operated business. Owners Michael and Kandi Bryant and their children Michael, Talia, and Traci all work (and play) there and participate in the day-to-day operations. I have gotten to know Michael Jr. over the past few years, and we have had many a beer together. He’s always inviting and ready to talk, generous with his time (and beer), and instrumental in driving the craft beer community forward. I asked him recently about the history of the brewery as well as his role in it, inspirations for beers, etc.
“For many years, we painted our 16-ounce bottles one at a time,” he said. “This was also my first job when I started working there and we filled them three at a time. Our brews were dedicated to the heritage and culture of our little town. Eventually, our inspirations for brewing also came from local and regional music acts, like Leonard Croon’s Old Mean Stout and Dropkick Murphys’ Erin Red.”
Dunedin Brewery used to offer their beers in bottles, contract brewed by Thomas Creek in North Carolina. But in 2010 they put the bottling on hiatus until they could find a way to properly distribute while maintaining quality. As of this writing, and other than special bottle releases from the brewery, Dunedin Brewery beers are only available on draft.
With the refocusing on their beer lineup and a move toward hop utilization for aroma and flavor, I will say that their hard work and dedication have really paid off. While I was always a fan of Dunedin Brewery’s beers, they were simply good — not something I would go out of my way for. That all changed when I attended my first Stogies and Stout event in 2010, and had the special release called Cookies & Croon. On a whim, the brewers decided to add a few sleeves of Oreos to the Leonard Croon, and the result was fantastic. I knew then that the new direction they were going was going to be a good one.
At another event — the Hoppy Ending IPA Festival — I had a beer called “Three Copper Coins,” which was a highly-hopped, very light, but extremely delicious lager. I was very impressed, and have enjoyed pretty much every other beer I have had from them since.
Music is a big part of the life of Dunedin Brewery. Every weekend you can find an eclectic mix of performers from reggae to blues to jazz to rock. The acts are always top-notch and energetic. Live music in an intimate space among the brewing tanks; it doesn’t get much better than that.
The future is bright for Dunedin Brewing, in my estimation. Their beers just keep getting better, and they are becoming more available and easier to find at some of the better craft beer establishments around town. They will be actively involved in Tampa Bay Beer Week, including a special “Joint Beer Dinner” with 7venth Sun Brewery and Cigar City Brewery at The Dunedin Smokehouse.
Dunedin Brewery is a great place to visit any time, even when there are no special events. Good food, great beer, and a friendly atmosphere make this a perfect destination for anyone visiting Dunedin.