Founded in 2008 Swamp Head Brewing brought its “Inherently Floridian” mantra to Gainesville, Florida. Being the first craft brewery to open in the city, Swamp Head was welcome news to craft beer enthusiasts across the North Central Florida area. Swamp Head quickly gained a reputation for producing high quality local craft beer with a Floridian feel.
Swamp Head’s original location in an industrial park West of the Butler Plaza shopping center was soon operating beyond what the space was capable of, both for the brewery itself and the throngs of fans who wanted to visit and enjoy their favorite local beer from the source.
In late 2013 Swamp Head announced plans to create a new brewery and tasting room. Swamp Head wanted to increase capacity for making beer as well as providing plenty of space for visitors. Rather than just moving to a different location Swamp Head chose to start with a clean slate.
The clean slate approach gave Swamp Head the ability to create a brewery that exactly met their needs, and give them a focus on the core values of the company with a heavy focus on sustainability. Care was taken to be sure the space would be the best it could possibly be and ground was broken on the new brewery location in mid 2014.
In early 2015 Swamp Head officially opened in it’s new location. A new 30 barrel brewing system was set in place tripling brewing capacity. The new brewery can now produce 18,000 barrels a year with the ability to expand to 50,000 barrels a year. The new brewery houses the 30 and 60 barrel fermentation tanks from the old brewery as well as 4 new 120 barrel fermentation tanks.
The new brewing system is modern and efficient, it was built in America for Swamp Head by JVNW of Canby, Oregon. The brewery features a centrifuge filtering system which clarifies the beer without stripping out any of the beer’s flavor.
Solar impact installed an array of solar panels on the roof (the first brewery in Florida to do so) to harvest the massive amounts of sun we get here. The brewery also reclaims some of the water used in the brewing process adding to its sustainability, and the spent grains from the brewing process are fed to local cattle, and a local bakery even makes a specialty bread with some of the spent grains.
This week I made an unannounced trip over to Swamp Head Brewing to tour the new brewery and enjoy some of my favorite beer from the source in “The Wetlands” tasting room. The new “Wetlands” is more accessible and inviting to visitors.
A large parking lot leads to the beautiful new brewery and tasting room which heavily features reclaimed local lumber, and natural cypress. The room is open, bright, and inherently Floridian in its feel. In many ways it reminds me of my grandparents old home on the Santa Fe river. Large windows open on the man made pond which is part of the brewery’s sustainability. Beyond that is a protected wildlife area the brewery borders. The Wetlands also has outside seating for busier days or when the weather is pleasant. Dogs are allowed.
All of Swamp Head’s year round beer’s are on tap, as well as a regularly rotating lineup of one off’s, seasonal, and other Florida breweries beers. Growler fills are available to take home as well as a selection of bottled and canned Swamp Head beers. Shirts and other Swamp Head merchandise is for sale as well. Food is not served at the brewery but there is a schedule of food trucks on site most Friday and Saturday evenings.
I started off the afternoon with Day Trippin’, an Session IPA weighing in at 4.5% ABV and 34 IBU’s. Hopped with Columbus, Cascade, Mosaic, and Simcoe, Day Trippin’ is an ale for hop lovers, loaded with citrus, tropical, and pine flavors. Oats are added to the malt bill to give Day Trippin’ a surprisingly nice body. So often session IPA’s turn into a hops & water ordeal, but Swamp head has done it right here, giving you full flavor and full body without less alcohol so you can enjoy this one all afternoon!
Next I had my favorite year round offering from Swamp Head poured into my tour glass, Midnight Oil. An Oatmeal Stout flavored with locally roasted coffee. Weighing in at 5% ABV and 34 IBU’s this stout is perfect for any time of year, bold enough for a cold winter night yet not so heavy it can’t be enjoyed on a summer evening.
I also had a sample of Big Nose right from the bright tank at the end of the tour. Big nose is available in cans throughout North Florida as well as on tap at many restaurants and bars, Big Nose is a beer I drink often. People sometimes ask what my go-to beers are, this is one of them. Unfortunately you have to be in North Florida to get it for the most part. Fresh out of the tank it is awesome of course but being a locally focused brewery you can be assured that your Big Nose or any other Swamp Head beer is fresh wherever you get it!
Currently brewery tours are given on Tuesdays as well as Saturday and Sunday, though be sure to check the website for up to date tour information. The tour cost $5 and include this really neat Swamp Head glass and comes filled with one of their core beers at no extra charge. Tours are limited to 15 people so arrive early and enjoy some beer while you wait for the tour to begin. If you are lucky and manage to empty your glass before the tour ends you may even get a taste of a beer fresh from one of the bright tanks.
As a craft beer lover I am proud to call Swamp Head Brewing my local craft brewery. Swamp Head produces great beer with strong core values of sustainability, through preserving the natural Florida environment in every step of the brewing process. A focus on being the best local beer and working with local suppliers and providing local jobs to Alachua county.
Swamp Head Brewery and The Wetlands tasting room are located at: 3650 SW 42nd Ave, Gainesville, FL