Florida Craft Brewery: Swamp Head Brewery
Established: The doors originally opened in January of 2008. Swamp Head began brewing out of a rented warehouse space in an industrial park. In February 2015 they opened ‘The Wetlands’ on seven acres of property. One of those acres has been set aside as a conservation area that will be left untouched.
Location: 3650 SW 42nd Ave, Gainesville, FL 32608
Known For: Swamp Head was the first brewery to take up residence in North Central Florida. Since then they have been joined by the Copp Brewery in Crystal River, Infinite Ale Works in Ocala, and the First Magnitude Brewing Co. in Gainesville. Swamp Head’s Big Nose IPA is their most popular beer in both the tasting room and through their distribution network. They pride themselves on being ‘Inherently Floridian’. Not only do they source as many ingredients locally as possible, such as honey, oranges, blackberries, lemongrass, blueberries, key limes, and sweet potatoes, but they also are highly conservation minded. The spent grains from the brewing process are given to local farmers to feed livestock. A portion of the sale of the Eternal Blonde Ale goes to the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, which helps to protect the natural springs of Florida. Together with Solar Impact, a solar-energy equipment supplier, Swamp Head sponsors and hosts an annual Tree Fest. For each beer sold five Longleaf Pine seedlings will be planted by the Alachua County Trust in the Little Orange Creek Longleaf Pine habitat. During the first year (2015) of Tree Fest money for 20,543 seedlings was raised. Tree Fest this year, which is hosted around Earth Day and Arbor Day, raised enough money for an estimated 40,000 seedlings. To top it off Swamp Head opened their new brewery with the distinction as Florida’s first solar-powered brewery.
Current Beer Menu: Swamp Head is another brewery that likes to show off their beers, which is always nice to see. They have 28 of their own beers on tap and one Kombucha from Wellspring in Gainesville. I started off with a flight of their core beers. The Wild Night Honey Cream Ale definitely leans towards a lager and I think would be a good gateway for those not familiar with craft beer. The Cottonmouth Belgian Style Witbier was refreshing and would be a great session brew for the steaming hot Florida summers. The Stump Knocker American Pale Ale is brewed with Columbus, Centennial, Amarillo hops and starts with bready and caramel malts upfront and finishes with bitter citrus hops. The Midnight Oil Coffee Oatmeal Stout was a nice surprise for me. When it comes to an oatmeal stout I can usually take it or leave it, but this may have been the best version of the style I’ve had to date. The coffee notes in this beer were delicious. The last beer of the flight was the Big Nose IPA, which is brewed with Centennial, Cascade, and Columbus hops and spring water from the Okefenokee Swamp. It is a tasty IPA with a resin hop finish. Up next was Catherine’s Passion, a Russian Imperial Stout, which exudes roasted malts and bitter cocoa and coffee through both smell and taste. Homebrew Grown is an English Brown Ale brewed with vanilla coffee that won the American Homebrewers Competition held at the brewery. It was sweet vanilla coffee goodness. My last beer of the day was Darkwater, a Black IPA, brewed with Northern Brewer, Columbus, Amarillo, Centennial, Cascade, and Simcoe hops. It was a roasted malt, citrus, and piney treat. An up to date tap and can/bottle to go list can be found here.
Price Range: A flight of five 5oz pours of their year-round beers can be had for $6.00. Depending on the beer a pint or snifter is available for between $5.00 and $6.00. If you’re looking for something ‘to go’ and you didn’t bring a growler you can purchase the 32oz and 64oz glass for $4.00 and $6.00. The cost to fill the 32oz growler depends on the beer and will run you between $7.00 and $15.00 while a 64oz growler fill is between $12.00 and $17.00. Six packs sell for either $10.00 or $11.00 depending on your choice. Bottles of the 750ml variety sell for either $10 or $15.
Wine Menu: Wine is not served.
Food Menu/Food Trucks: Food is not served at the brewery, but food trucks are available on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday starting between the hours of 4:00pm and 5:00pm. A list of the upcoming food trucks can be found here.
Ambiance: ‘The Wetlands’ is nestled up against a conservation area, which is a fitting location for the brewery and the old Florida feel that they seem to strive for. When you walk through the doors adorned with a cypress tree your first thought may be how bright and roomie the tasting room seems to be. Windows reaching from floor to ceiling overlook the pond and surrounding conservation area to your left. To the right, you find the bar which features reclaimed Cypress and Longleaf Pine wood as the bar top. A number of areas on the wall and the tables throughout the tasting room are also decorated with the aforementioned wood. It adds a certain rustic feel to an otherwise modern interior.
Bar Seating: A mixture of seating from the bar to the assortment of tables provides seating for at least 65 craft beer loving souls. There is also seating available outside for the days when you won’t absolutely melt due to the North Central Florida heat or for watching the sunset.
Staff: Dustin, the bar manager, and Shani, the relatively new hire, were my guides into the Swamp. Both were easy to talk to and sounded interested in talking about the brewery. After a bit, Dustin walked me through the production area showing off his knowledge of everything Swamp Head along the way. It’s always nice to talk to someone who obviously loves their job.
Brewing System: Swamp Head brews on a four vessel 30 barrel system that was manufactured in Oregon. They are accompanied by a 30 barrel, 60 barrel, and four 120 barrel fermentation tanks. Every piece of brewery equipment brought into the facility in the future will be American made. The brewery can produce 18,000 barrels of beer per year with room to expand to 50,000 barrels in the future.
Merch: T-shirts for $20.00, fishing shirts between $40.00 and $55.00, HydroFlask growlers for $35.00 and $60.00 for the 32oz and 64oz, a Tervis Tumblr for $24.00, a hat or beanie for $20.00, and a onesie for $15 are all available. You can also find key chains, stickers, car decals, koozies, signs, and a Frisbee as well. All of these items can be seen here.
Membership offered: Nothing is offered and there are no plans for one in the immediate future.
Best days or time of year to go: Early afternoon on Friday is a prime time to go if you want to escape the crowd. Brewery tours are available Tuesdays at 5:30, 6:30, and 7:30. They are also available on Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, and 5:00. The tour is $5.00, limited to 15 people, and you receive a souvenir glass plus one pour of a year round beer. Both children and dogs are allowed at the brewery.
Regular Hours: Tuesday – Thursday: 4:00pm – 10:00pm, Friday – Saturday: 1:00pm – 11:00pm, and Sunday: 1:00pm -8:00pm
Happy Hour: There in no happy hour.
-Distributes to all counties in Florida except Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade. Sorry, South Florida.
-The bar top, tables, and trim were made from reclaimed Cypress and Longleaf Pine logs. The logs were harvested from Florida rivers after being underwater for 125 years, which creates a rich patina due to the low oxygen environment.
-Swamp Head had a bat house placed on their property that can house between 300 – 400 Mexican free-tailed bats. One bat can eat up to 3000 insects per night. Think flying mosquito exterminators.
-The first night The Wetlands was opened for business a bad storm knocked out power, forcing employees to serve beer for two hours by candlelight.
Overall Rating (1-5): I’m rating Swamp Head a 4.5. The beers I tried were above average to very good. The bartenders were not only personable but very knowledgeable and the facility and grounds it sits on were beautiful. Definitely, a place I will visit again when in Gainesville.
What was missing: I don’t have a single complaint about Swamp Head. They had a stout on tap and the new facility was immaculate. My only real complaint is that their website moves at a snail’s pace.
In closing, if you’re in town on business or dropping your kid off at the University of Florida make sure to stop into Swamp Head for a pint. You’ll be happy you did.
Is there something else you would like to know about Swamp Head Brewery? Please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below.