Florida’s Sports Coast Ale Trail: Learning About Pasco County’s Beer Scene
It’s crazy to see how much growth Pasco County has had in the last few years. When I was in undergrad, the only thing I knew about that area was Wesley Chapel and that was a cow town back in 2009 when I had a car. At that time, I’d drive 25-30 minutes tops to go to the mall or Target when I felt like it. Now, Wesley Chapel has Tampa Premium Outlet and it’s insane how much it grew once the outlet opened.
When Florida’s Sports Coast, Pasco County’s tourism bureau reached out for a trip on their Ale Trail, I immediately said yes. Not only were we trying beer at several popular breweries in the county, I looked at it as a way of expanding my palate. I’m not a huge beer drinker but I figured it would be fun to do some exploring and figuring out what types of beer I enjoy.
The first day of our trip was pretty chill. I arrived at the hotel around 4:30 pm and was the first of the group to check-in. I chilled out for a bit and did a bit of work before getting myself together for our dinner at Florida Ave. Brewing in Wesley Chapel. Usually breweries have regular bar food: wings, burgers, etc. but the menu at Florida Ave. Brewing is more elevated and “fancy”. I enjoyed every single dish but my favorite of the night was the snapper and risotto. I think everyone else was probably just sampling each meal but I ate this plate CLEAN clean. The snapper was so fresh and the risotto was the perfect amount of soft. I went back to my room that night feeling very good and full.
The next day was jam-packed. We went on a full tour to 4 breweries around Pasco County. A smidge of panic set in wondering how I was going to drink beer for 8 whole hours and hoping I wasn’t going to be sloppy drunk…clearly I’m a beer novice y’all. Riding around Pasco County exposed me to parts I would never find myself in otherwise. It’s obvious serious growth is happening; look around and you’ll see apartments and subdivisions line the streets, restaurants (both local and chain), and hella shopping plazas.
I really enjoyed myself on the brewery tour. It’s clear the owners have a real passion for beer making. They told us the stories behind them experimenting, finding inspiration, and figuring out new beers to create. I realized my beer sensibilities leaned towards the sweeter, fruitier flavored beers. Out of all the beers I tasted this day, the flavor I enjoyed the most from the tour was Escape Brewing‘s Blackberry, Guava, and Lemon Sour. If I wasn’t on a tour, I would’ve drank a couple more glasses and purchased a bottle of it (looking back, I should’ve). Overall, it was cool going on the tour and being on the bus with everyone else because we got to know each other and just have fun together.
The final day ended with a boat tour on the Cotee River riding a Lucky Booty Cycle Boat while sampling a few more breweries. Again, I leaned towards the sweeter beers. One flavor I loved on the trip was the “Hot Date” from Craft Life Brewing. Overly spicy flavors aren’t in my wheelhouse but the spiciness from the jalapeños mixed with the subtle sweetness from the dates worked perfectly. The biggest thing to me was seeing dolphins swimming in the river. I squealed loudly because it’s not like I see dolphins everyday…and it was 2 of them! I wish they got closer to the boat for us to get a better look at them but seeing their fins coming in and out the water was enough for me.
All in all, exploring Florida’s Sports Coast Ale Trail was a fun way to experience the new and improved Pasco County. Definitely not what I remember a decade ago but it’s for sure a more fun place for me to go.