When the craft beer craze swept the country  in a tsunami of hoppy golden fizz, certain stereotypes came to be widely accepted as truth. As with many crazes, craft beer heads adopted the notion that true adherents must accept a certain amount of suffering to prove their dedication. IPAs embody that suffering. Often bitter, hoppy and malty, IPAs might have poetic license in places where overcast skies and snow force bearded, flannel-clad beer snobs indoors, but Floridians need something light and refreshing that won’t make them pass out in a beach chair. The sunshine that keeps coastlines crowded calls for an entirely different approach to beer.

Calusa’s Allison Sour series.


“The bitterness of IPAs can be an acquired taste,” says José Martinez of Big Top Brewing Company. Martinez’s first experience with craft beer came when he was stationed at Naval Base San Diego. “I saw a tap handle with a gargoyle on it,” he says, “and the hops smacked me right in the mouth. I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but I wanted another one.”

That beer? IPA. As bitter and confusing as the experience was, that beer managed to lure him into his current profession. Today, Martinez oversees the production of Big Top’s broad array of brews, including the variety native to the state: Florida Weisse. It is based on the Berliner Weisse of Germany, a light, low-ABV beer that makes use of lactobacillus—the same bacteria that turns cream into yogurt—to give it its signature sour notes. In Germany, fruit-based syrups are added at the end of the fermentation process to sweeten the finish.

A handful of  hops begins the fermentation process at Calusa Brewing


Florida breweries like Big Top took the concept further by integrating fruit into the entire process, yielding greater complexity and balance in its finish. The Ringmaster Raspberry Berliner Weisse is Martinez’s version of this more comprehensive fruit-infused style and uses 500 pounds of raspberry puree per batch to attain its candied finish. “[Berliner-style beers] have been a staple throughout Florida for a couple years,” says James Herrholz of Corporate Ladder Brewing Company, “but they’re starting to gain some traction.” Herrholz believes the beer works especially well to beat the heat. One of Corporate Ladder’s more recent entries into the Florida Weisse category takes the sweet, refreshing nature of the style 

and adds nostalgia with its Blackberry Lemon Pushup Pop. Named after the frozen treat, the beer evokes happy summertime memories in many a millennial. And if its purplish color makes it look more like a glass of fizzy juice than a complex craft beer, that’s precisely the point. As with most Florida breweries, Calusa Brewing boasts an outdoor beer garden (now shaded!), where thirst quenching becomes as much of a priority as that perceived-to-be pretentious word “complexity.” With a pink color that raises awareness for breast cancer, its Aliison Sour series pays homage to a late friend of the brand’s founders.

“Generally, we load up each edition of the series with strawberries and/or raspberries to give it that reddish hue,” says Calusa Co-founder Vic Falck, “but it’s an awesome summertime beer, really approachable and drinkable.” Like the Blackberry Lemon Pushup Pop, the Allison looks like a smoothie but tastes bright and sugary like Sour Patch candy in liquid form. But the brewery with arguably the most comprehensive lineup of recurring Florida Weisse brews comes courtesy of Motorworks Brewing.

The rotating iterations of the style explore all manner of fruits, yeast strains and colors, with new combinations released several times a year under the Bizarre Gardening Accident label. Kumquat, peach and apricot, cucumber and rose hips, prickly pear and lychee—the list of possible infusions runs the gamut thanks to the ample availability of fruit almost year-round in the Sunshine State. This month, the brewery releases a Florida Weisse infused with mango, passion fruit and dragon fruit. SRQ