This is just some of the wide selection of craft beers at Florida Avenue Brewing. (Photo: Charmaine George)

The demand for craft beer in Wesley Chapel was already high and now the supply is pouring in.

In the span of a couple of months, not just one, but TWO craft breweries have opened in the ever-changing landscape of Wesley Chapel, one of the fastest-growing communities in the country.

First was Double Branch Artisanal Ales (DBAA), which was all set to open to the public as the pandemic hit, but Covid-19 restrictions had the craft brewery as to-go only until beer enthusiasts were allowed to be inside in late August. Double Branch finally held its official North Tampa Bay Chamber ribbon cutting ceremony Nov. 10, and is now a permanent fixture in the revitalized Grove at Wesley Chapel’s The Village shopping district.

“We do get a lot of people who say they’ve come out this way to try it — those beer seekers,” said Double Branch general manager Sam Guyer, who, along with her husband, Cody, is one of the four owners.

Although it hasn’t even been open for a year yet, at the U.S. Open Beer Championship — one of the top three beer competitions in the country, according to its website — recently awarded DBAA’s Purple Floors & Dinosaurs IPA a gold medal in the New England/Juicy DIPA category. The name also was picked as the No. 2 overall favorite beer name, behind Menace To Sobriety, a New York craft beer.

Meanwhile, Florida Avenue Brewing Co. opened its doors on Oct. 5 (also after some pandemic-related delays), and is just a mere 15 minutes (about five miles) away from DBAA in the former space of Sports + Field on S.R. 56.

After an impressive renovation of that fitness facility, Florida Ave. is now a trendy date night locale that, in just two months time, has already seen more than 17,000 customers walk through its doors.

“What we hear a lot from guests is that they’re so happy there’s some (place to dine and drink) on this side of the (S.R. 56 overpass) and a little away from (Tampa Premium Outlets) because they don’t want to get in their car and wait 30 minutes to go half a mile,” says Florida Avenue co-owner and operator Anthony Derby. “But I also think they’re excited for something new and fun with craft beer.”

DBAA will have a kitchen soon to go with it’s funky variety of IPAs. (Photo: Mike Camunas)

Indeed, there has been a real boom of craft beer breweries throughout the Tampa Bay area, which now boasts more than 70 of them. They have helped make places like Dunedin, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Seminole Heights in Tampa trendy places to grab a bite and a beer.

In Pasco County, there are now 11 craft breweries, with more on the way.

The influx of malls, stores, businesses and, of course, more residents in Wesley Chapel has raised the demand for more cool drinking destinations. 

Both Guyer and Derby, who is part of the ownership group that also owns Brew Bus in Seminole Heights, say they are only building on the demand for craft beer that has been present in Wesley Chapel for a while.

The original Brass Tap opened in 2008 at The Shops of Wiregrass mall, whetting the appetites of local beer enthusiasts looking for more than just a cold Budweiser in a smoky bar.

Florida Avenue Brewing. (Photo: Charmaine George)

Derby said he has had a number of conversations with Brass Tap owner Jeff Martin, who is as familiar with the local beer scene as anyone.

“I talked to him numerous times when we were planning on picking our location, so I knew there were definitely pockets of craft beer enthusiasts up here in Wesley Chapel,” Derby says.

The growth in Wesley Chapel may lead to more breweries in the future, perhaps mirroring what Seminole Heights has experienced. In that trendy, older neighborhood, many young people began moving in, so new restaurants and bars, especially more craft beer breweries, emerged as places for them to spend their evenings.

When Derby and his partners wanted to create a second location, but with a different brand than their Brew Bus, they took polls from distributors about where the highest concentration of craft beer sales were.

One of the most popular answers? Wesley Chapel.

“My mother-in-law lives across (S.R 56) in the neighborhood, so I was always up here, say, for a Sunday dinner, making me very familiar with the area and, given how the area bloomed, it was a no-brainer,” Derby says. “We’re very excited to be here and even have Double Branch up the road, because what they’re doing there is awesome and why we have collaborated with them already.”

Florida Avenue and DBAA have created a special brew with a nod towards Wesley Chapel locals, or “Chappies.” (Photo: Mike Camunas)

That’s right. Florida Avenue and Double Branch have already put their hoppy heads together and created a special beer just for Wesley Chapel — “Chappie’s Life,” an American-style light lager that’s available at both locations, and honors the growing area that was once a trucker stop down at the end of Bruce B. Downs Blvd. or, as longtime locals called it, “The Road to Nowhere.”

Now, it’s the road to some innovative and tasty craft beers.

“This area does seem to have its charm, right?,” Guyer asked. “I mean, I have obviously heard that it used to just be cows grazing, and now we have all this stuff and — believe it or not — a real-life craft beer scene.”

The 2020 Neighborhood News Reader’s Survey chose The Brass Tap as the best local bar — Florida Avenue opened after the contest began — with DBAA coming in second. Here’s the top 5 vote getters:

(Photo: Charmaine George)

1 — The Brass Tap is more than just this year’s winner of our readers’ Favorite Bar in New Tampa or Wesley Chapel — because it had to stay closed (as all non-restaurant bars in Florida did) much longer than restaurant/bar combos, owner Jeff Martin and his crew have not only survived, but have come back strong after having to endure this year’s Covid-extended bar closure.

Therefore, it’s a true tribute to Jeff and his crew to be named this year’s Favorite Bar in our distribution areas.

2 — Double Branch Artisanal Ales is like a beer laboratory with how often they churn out new flavors and styles, and it’s a fun spot for a cold brew. Try the new Chappie’s Life light lager! When the kitchen opens, look out!

3 — Joe Whiskey’s is no longer a smoking bar and that may have something to do with this year’s best-ever finish in our Reader Survey. Smokers still have an outdoor patio and non-smokers can now enjoy karaoke four nights a week.

4 — The Basement on Wesley Chapel Blvd. in Lutz also had its best-ever finish in this year’s survey, but the last we heard was that it is not going to re-open. We agree with the readers who voted for it about its cool vibe, so it’s a sad loss.

5 — Linksters isn’t trendy or hip, and that’s not a bad thing, it’s a great thing. It’s a small bar with friendly staff, a pool table, jukebox and cold beer while you catch a game on TV. Perfect!

The Next 8, in order of votes: The Bar, Chapel Cigars, Fat Rabbit, Glory Days, O’Briens, Peabody’s, Mulligans, Stonewood Grill.

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