The Origins Of Tampa Brewing

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.

Britain distinguishes two fundamentally different approaches to brewing. One is cask-conditioning and the other is brewery-conditioned or keg beer. Cask ale is a living product, with the yeast continuing to ferment sugars derived from the main ingredient, malted barley, into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This gives the beer a natural, gentle fizziness. Cask ale is served from either firkins, which hold nine gallons of liquid, or kildekins, which hold 18 gallons.

Cask conditioning gives the beer a natural effervescence. Because the cask is not pasteurized, it is vulnerable to contamination by competing fungi or bacteria. It is also sensitive to temperature, being best kept at a range between 12-15 degrees C (53.6 to 59 degrees F). Most cask-conditioned beers also have a limited shelf life.

By the mid 1970s, brewers had discovered that by pasteurizing the beer and artificially infusing carbon dioxide, the conditioning effect of the cask fermentation could be mimicked. This made it much easier to mass produce and easier for the publican to maintain. Because suppliers the middleman, pubs and restaurants, found these features more attractive than having to go to the trouble to keeping a decent pint of cask-conditioned ale, the non-living, fizzy keg beers began to dominate the market.

This enraged Britain’s beer drinkers because it was dumbing down the British national drink. By the 1970s, drinkers were so disgusted with what was on offer, four particularly angry young men met in a pub in Ireland formed what was to become the Campaign for Real Ale, CAMRA for short. From four original beer activists, the campaign has grown to a membership of nearly 150,000 and is recognized as the biggest, most successful consumer organization 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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