What’s Brewing in Gainesville?

Beer has been an essential part of human life for thousands of years, primarily in places where grains were being cultivated, and is frequently credited with mankind’s ability to build civilizations. When you realize that medical science had not yet discovered bacteria, and the fermentation process eliminated harmful bacteria from unfiltered water, it’s no surprise that beer was considered a healthful beverage and a staple of life.
Jumping forward a few thousand years, Florida has seen its fair share of breweries operating throughout the state. The oldest, Florida Brewing Company, opened its doors in Ybor City in 1896. Since the early 1980s, in response to demand for higher quality, better tasting, and undeniably artisanal brews, craft breweries have been gaining recognition and satisfying ever-increasing consumer demand. While states including California, Oregon, Colorado, New York and Michigan originally led this movement, Florida has seen microbreweries set up shop across the state, including Sarasota Brewing (1989), Lagerhaus (2006), Cigar City (2007), Bold City (2008) and Intuition (2010).
Over the last decade, a handful of intrepid, entrepreneurial and thirsty pioneers have opened their own craft breweries in Gainesville. While rumors indicate others may be on the way, the breweries currently in operation can be counted on one hand – Swamp Head Brewery (est. 2009), First Magnitude Brewing Company (est. 2014), Blackadder Brewing Company (est. 2016), Cypress & Grove Brewing Company (est. 2017), and Big Top (est. 2018).
No matter which you visit, they all share a remarkable ability to produce a broad range of flavorful, high quality, enjoyable, and occasionally provocative brews that magically transform pure water, barley, hops, yeast and a few other inspired ingredients into some remarkably delicious beers.
It seems that a handful of beers are available on a year-round basis at each of the breweries – most commonly described as Blonde, Pale Ale, IPA (India Pale Ale), and Stout. Of course, depending upon seasonal influences or creative whim, the number of intriguing formulations released as “pilot batches” appears to be endless. When you consider that an average taproom offers about twenty different beers at any given time, constantly in rotation, there’s always a thirst-quenching adventure on tap.
For Luke Kemper, owner/operator of Swamp Head, starting up a brewery was a labor of love. While the city and state were not exactly sure what to make of his ambitions, and there were all sorts of legal and operational challenges to overcome, Swamp Head emerged as the first craft brewery in Gainesville. In the ten years that followed, and with optimism, dedication, and perseverance, Swamp Head has become a cherished local brand and highly sought after craft beer throughout the state.
First Magnitude has also achieved tremendous acclaim. While their beers are not distributed as widely as Swamp Head, they have acquired a loyal following from beer enthusiasts throughout the community.
When visiting First Magnitude, and speaking with Co-Founders Christine and John Denny, it is apparent that, along with their profound dedication to making beers of consistent quality and integrity, they are undeniably committed to supporting the community and making sure everything they do is environmentally responsible. In fact, rather than talking primarily about their beers, a significant amount of time was spent learning about their unwavering efforts to preserve Florida’s aquifers and spring waters, care for indigenous wildlife, minimize pollution, and maintain a healthy ecosystem.
Similarly, the folks at Cypress & Grove have gone to great lengths to minimize waste and reduce their carbon footprint. The brewery itself, originally an ice house built in 1903, has been lovingly restored, finding creative ways to reuse materials that would otherwise have been discarded. One of the most interesting attributes is the artesian well inside the building that, at the turn of the century, supplied the water for making ice. Today, this very same well serves a much different purpose – supplying the water that is one of the key ingredients behind every beverage that Cypress & Grove produces.

Read MoreBy Jeffrey Spear
Photos by laird

Author: Arbus

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