Tropical Extra Fine Ale

Tropical brand beer and ale was the flagship of Florida’s first brewery until 1949 when it became the exclusive brand until the brewery’s closure in 1961.

In the late 1880s Florida was gaining popularity as a winter destination for wealthy northerners. As a result, population in the city of Tampa tripled in a ten year period. Around this time, the tobacco industry also migrated to Tampa and was led by a cigar manufacturer from Cuba (Mr. Ybor). It wasn’t long before Ybor City (now a suburb of Tampa) became one of the leading cigar manufacturing cities in the world.

In 1896 Mr. Ybor and several other cigar entrepreneurs incorporated the Florida Brewing Company and began construction on a two acre site adjacent to a pure spring water source, which contributed to the excellent taste of the beer. Proximity to the railroad and the ports in Tampa also naturally helped with distribution of the products.

Construction of the brewery was difficult due to the extreme heat, so several then state-of-the-art technologies like refrigeration and climate control were utilized. The plant also contained a bottling works and an ice factory.

In 1898, the war with Spain over Cuba’s independence brought 30,000 troops to the Tampa area, and beer production skyrocketed to supply the demand. Tropical Brewing became the top exporter of beer to Cuba in 1900 and throughout the following years.

After the repeal of Prohibition, the brewery changed hands several times from 1934-1961 when the Tropical trademark was sold to International Breweries who had purchased all of the brewery’s assets. However, nothing ever came of the acquisition. Remains of the plant still stand today, and the old bottling and ice plants remain owned by International. Ironically, the cypress storage tanks were dismantled and used to panel the VIP room at the Anheuser-Busch plant in Tampa.

The opening of Anheuser-Busch, combined with Castro’s rise to power in Cuba in 1959 (and the resulting closure of all US businesses in Cuba) led to the permanent closure of Florida’s first brewery.