The Origins Of Tampa Brewing

by Lana Bray

There is clear evidence that brewing of ale dates back 7,000 years in ancient Egypt, China, Mesopotamia and Sumeria. In Neolithic Europe, most of the beer production was done in the home. By 700 AD, European monks got a piece of the action. Today, beer is produced on an industrial scale, with more than 130 billion liters being sold to contribute approximately 300 billion to the global economy. The Tampa brewing industry has joined the beer fraternity, making its own contribution to the local economy. The St Petersburg/Tampa area has a lively trade in brewpubs, breweries, shops, festivals and other special events.

It wasn't that long ago that American beers were uniformly bland, distinguishable only by their advertising campaigns. The past ten or twenty years has seen a phenomenal explosion in the craft ale industry. This has been partly inspired by the British, who have a long-standing tradition of producing cask ale.

There are two fundamentally different approaches to the brewing of beer. One is cask conditioning, in which the beer continues to ferment in the container from which it is served because of the presence of yeast. The end product is dispensed from nine- or eighteen-gallon casks known as firkins or kildekins, respectively.

Fermentation in the cask gives the beer a natural bubbling quality. However, since it cannot be pasteurized on account of the necessity to keep the yeast alive, cask conditioned ale is vulnerable to attack by beer pathogens like bacteria or fungi. It is also highly temperature-sensitive and needs to be maintained at cellar temperature, between 54 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the 1960s, trouble began brewing for the British beer drinker. Having cottoned on to the fact that by killing the yeast (pasteurization) and stuffing the beer artificially with carbon dioxide, they could produce something that at least looked like beer. It was cheap and easy to produce and required a lot less commitment and attention from the cellar staff of a pub. Keg beer was fast phasing cask ale, the British national drink, out of the pub.

Beer drinkers rebelled and by 1972, the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) was formed by four intrepid and angry young men gathered around, of all places, a table in a pub. The campaign now boasts nearly 150,000 members and is widely regarded as the largest and most influential consumer organizations in Europe.

By the beginning of the 21st Century, the numbers of brewers and types of different ale recipes was growing and growing. The number of breweries in London alone has been growing at an exponential rate. Like so many great British imports, Americans have taken craft brewing to heart and now practically every state in the union has its own brew pubs and breweries churning out an increasing array of unique tastes.

Tampa brewing is a fine example of the growth of craft beer. One of the oldest breweries in the country is stationed here. There are plenty of tours and tasting rooms to keep the discerning beer-lover happy any day of the week.

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