This weekend I went down to Gainesville for a heavy dose of collegiate nostalgia and a visit to Swamp Head Brewery. I packed up my husband, two dogs and my buddy Greg for the short jaunt down for the day. I got there right when the taproom (The Wetlands) opened and was greeted by Mariana who was incredibly friendly and informative about the brewery and the beers on tap. The aesthetic of the taproom lends well to the “Inherently Florida” tagline of the brewery with plenty of natural wood elements and super cool pub tables made from the base of a cypress. The taproom is pet friendly, and I saw no less than four dogs and even a cat stroll through during my visit.
I also participated in the brewery tour with Mariana as the host. Not only does that girl know the science behind every step of the process, but she is endearingly excited about beer and it is very apparent in her presentation. The tour was informative and would satisfy the science geek in any beer fan. Patrons of Swamp Head can pop back in the brewery area where they can be entertained by giant Jenga, cornhole and mega-sized Connect Four. Though the brewery area was a bit warm, a cold beer would certainly keep me cool.
After making the incredibly difficult decision on my first beer of the day, I settled in to my beer and of course tried the other beers at the table. I started my day with the Funky Cottonmouth, which is a tart take on the Cottonmouth Belgian Witbier. Swamp Head was able to achieve a tart flavor from the Cottonmouth by introducing a different strain of yeast. When I smelled the beer, I got the fragrance of a classic Belgian Witbier but the flavor was fully transformed into a tart almost sour flavor that I really enjoyed.
I snuck a sip of Catherine’s Passion, which is Russian Imperial Stout. The color is gorgeous and the smell was thick and syrupy with a wonderful aroma of coffee. The flavor was more powerful than the fragrance with a great combination of malty, chocolatey and coffee flavors with a slight caramel/vanilla finish in the aftertaste. Swamp Head does a series of the Catherine beers and I am excited to come back down and try more from the series.
Next, I tried the Darkwater “Floridian Dark Ale”. This dark IPA has a wonderful roasty aroma that blends beautifully with the hoppiness of an IPA. I got a bit of a burnt taste in the finish but it tasted intentional and I enjoyed it. The color of this beer is rich and dark and reminded me of the swamp waters of Florida in a good way. This beer also is an award winner of the Best Beer in Florida from the 2014 Best Florida Beer Championship.
The final beer that I tried was the Smore white stout. This beer is sweet. It smells delicious and reminded me of the campfire treat which inspired the beer. Drinking the beer was enjoyable. I tasted marshmallow, graham cracker and chocolate and got a very strong finish of caramel in the aftertaste. Though I enjoyed this beer, a full pour was too much sweetness for me to handle. I would definitely suggest trying this one while it’s available.
I really wish that Swamp Head was here when I went to college in Gainesville, but I am thrilled that it is here now! Gainesville is obviously known for the Gators, but it also has a beautiful botanical garden, a whole lot of nature trails, and now… some kickass craft beer. I highly recommend stopping in for a pint or a growler fill. The staff is awesome and incredibly passionate about beer. Stop on in and don’t forget to bring your furry friend.