When you go cycling in Europe, especially in a country like the Czech Republic or Germany, it’s easy to stop off for a beer in a nice town when your legs need a break. That kind of culture and convenience isn’t so common in the car-happy USA, but you won’t have any trouble ordering a craft beer made on site when you’re on the Fred Marquis Pinellas Bike Trail in Tampa Bay, Florida.
The Pinellas Trail is one of the best rail trails in Florida, with most of it paved over top of a train route that was no longer used. So you actually pass the old train stations (now museums) in Tarpon Springs and Dunedin. You also go by houses and warehouses, through wetlands and over water. It does diverge a bit from the original route in some areas thanks to overpasses and one particularly scenic stretch passes over Boca Ciega Bay.
The stretch from Tarpon Springs in the north to downtown St. Petersburg is the main part that people think of for this trail and it’s what cyclists wanting to get in a full ride tend to do. That’s where all the brewpubs are. There are places to stay on each end, so you could go one way, spend the night, and then head back the next day. It’s roughly 35 miles if you don’t take any of the spurs heading off of that: there’s one going out to Honeymoon Island and then a couple spurs north of Tarpon Springs that keep expanding.
If you want a more leisurely day of it, the part between Tarpon Springs and Dunedin is short enough for the average rider, especially since it’s all flat except for one overpass. It’s 11 miles, so you could do a round trip from Dunedin, stopping in Palm Harbor one way or the other.
For the sake of organization, I’m starting at the top of the map, in Tarpon Springs, and then making my way down to the bottom where you’ll find the biggest beer concentration: the downtown St. Pete breweries. Consult the map for a rough sense of distances. There’s a long stretch there between Clearwater Brewing and the Pesky Pelican where you’ll be pedaling and hydrating, with no Tampa Bay breweries nearby.
Pinellas Trail Breweries – Tarpon Springs
Tarpon Springs is a town that was popular with Greek immigrants during the heyday of sponge diving in Florida and there are still a lot of Greek restaurants down by the old docks. (Along with loads of tourist shops.) The newest brewery is right in that area: 5 Branches.
Otherwise, also opened in the past year and right on the Pinellas Trail is Brighter Days–an appropriate name for a brewery that was going up just as Covid hit and shut down the bars for a while. They usually only have four to six beers on tap but they’re good ones, including a well-done Czech pilsner that’s a nice change of pace.
In the town of Tarpon Springs itself you’ve got Two Frogs and Unrefined a few blocks from each other, Silverking a couple blocks from that, and sometimes open, sometimes not St. Somewhere‘s tasting room if you like farmhouse funky beers. So you can do a proper pub crawl if you’ve been riding a bike all day and this is your last stop.
Palm Harbor Florida Breweries Near the Bike Trail
Palm Harbor is mostly a residential community of Tampa Bay and it’s quite a sprawling one, so some of the breweries you’ll find listed for that town can only be reached by car. Three of them are right by the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail though and they’re pleasant places for a stop. On weekends especially, you’ll find lots of other patrons that arrived by bike who are sharing a pint.
Coming from the north, deBine Brewing is the first one you’ll come to and the front of the building faces the trail. This is one of my favorite breweries in the region because they do a lot of styles very well and I’ve yet to order something that wasn’t good. It’s an open, airy place with a good bar to belly up to as well as seating where the tanks are. If you’re a European beer styles lover, they do one of the best Marzen Oktoberfest beers in the city. There’s a permanent barbecue food truck adjacent if you need some food.
Walk or bike across the street from there to get to much smaller Palm Harbor Brewing, looking like a pretty house with colorful seating outside. They only have a few beers on tap here, but it’s a nice alternative.
Stilt House Brewery is a bit further along the trail, in a wooded, shady section of Palm Harbor. You have to keep an eye out because it’s the back of the building that’s facing the bike trail. That’s where all the outdoor seating is though, so you’ll probably see some parked bikes and picnic tables. The head brewer here likes to experiment, so you’ll always find something surprising on the menu. Maybe a dark lager, a German Helles, or a cream ale. Hey, how many breweries list a Honey Jalapeno Cornbread Lager as one of their flagship beers?
Dunedin Breweries, All Near the Bike Trail
When I lived in Tampa Bay for years while my daughter was in school, I lived in Tampa proper, including downtown the last jaunt, so I would bike on Bayshore Boulevard. Now when I go back there I stay with a relative in Dunedin though, sometimes for weeks, so I’ve done plenty of, um, “research” into the breweries in that town while biking on the Pinellas Trail.
The great thing about Dunedin, Florida is that it has a lot of terrific breweries all within a few blocks of the Pinellas bike trail and each other. The only one that sits apart from the others is Beach Island, but it’s literally right across the street from the trail, so it’s easy to get to also if you’re on two wheels. It’s a bit hidden though, closer to the golf driving range than downtown, so use your map app.
Despite this being a town of around 10,000 people, and with only three sizable hotels, Dunedin supports eight hopping brewpubs. This includes the oldest surviving craft brewery in Florida: Dunedin Brewery. The footage on the videos in this post is pre-Covid, before they converted their parking lot to outdoor seating. It’s a nicer place to hang out now than ever, especially in the glorious Florida winter. They’re also a proper restaurant if you’re refueling here.
Each place has its own personality and some do a bit of specialization in the types of beer they serve. Woodwright has the fewest of their own (they serve others on tap), while Caledonia and 7venth Sun probably have the most—and theirs are consistently good across the board. Those are the ones to check out if you’re a serious beer nerd.
Cueni serves more Belgian-style beers than anyone, with a few hoppier things to serve local tastes, and they have some nice outdoor seating areas. They’re right on the trail.
If you’re just a casual beer drinker, it’s fine to stop in at one of the two House of Beer locations next to each other on the trail. Their beers never seem to stand out and the plastic cups they’re still serving with at the big trailside taproom don’t help either. But they’re popular because of the ample outdoor seating in one location, pool tables and pinball games at the other.
Soggy Bottom Brewing requires going a few more blocks out of the way, but they’re worth a stop and they have a good barbecue place adjoining.
Clearwater Brewing and…That’s It
Clearwater is best known for its beautiful white-sand beach on a barrier island, with water warm enough to swim in practically all year. It has some terrific resort hotels and some fun bars.
Downtown Clearwater on the mainland, however, is the headquarters of the Scientology cult, with a giant building in the center that’s shrouded in secrecy behind guards. They also seem to own half the land and buildings in the city of Clearwater. That’s not very conducive to a hopping small business scene or condo living, so the only Clearwater brewpub is removed from downtown, a couple blocks off the Pinellas Trail.
That would be Clearwater Brewing, housed in a cool old gas station building. It’s not very far from Dunedin, which is more of a brewery destination, so this place is mostly a locals’ affair. You can’t see it from the bike path, so plug it into your phone to find it.
Breweries in St. Petersburg, Florida Near the Bike Trail
The city of St. Petersburg, FL is a huge one if you go by the physical boundaries on a map, but much of that area is residential or industrial. So there’s a long stretch of riding through St. Pete on the Pinellas bike trail where you’re not by the beautiful beach and you’re also not yet to the hopping downtown. The ride is mostly by the backs of houses and warehouses, with the odd RV park or actual park.
You could find a place to get some food if you pull out your phone, but if it’s around mealtime, you can combine craft beer with some food at The Pesky Pelican. It’s a welcome sight after the long ride with no stops coming from Dunedin or Clearwater. They have a full menu and some craft beers produced by the owner. It’s a fun place.
Then you pedal a few miles more, coming down the last overpass to see the hulking Tropicana Field stadium looming in the distance. It’s the indoor, air-conditioned baseball stadium for the champion Tampa Bay Rays. “Good team, lousy stadium,” seems to be the usual consensus from baseball fans but it keeps hanging on.
The St. Pete Breweries scene makes up for it though, with the kind of brewpub concentration you’d expect to find in Portland or Denver. There are a dozen breweries at last count within a couple blocks of the trail, mostly along the Central Avenue corridor. Despite the heavy competition, one of the biggest ones, Grand Central, opened during the pandemic. It has a great beer garden, a roof deck, and a nice variety of beers.
With the bar being so high to lure in customers, it’s a similar scene to Dunedin here, with the brewers having to stay on their A-game to keep people coming in. One of the best is one of the originals, St. Pete Brewing, with beer nerds also singing high praises for Green Bench and Cage Brewing. Both put out beers that win competitions and get high ratings.
The biggest operation, and one of the most fun to visit, is 3 Daughters Brewing, where their super-popular local selections like Beach Blonde Ale and Bimini Twist IPA are joined by more experimental rotating options. When times permit, they have live music amidst the brewing tanks. If you’re with someone who doesn’t like beer, they also brew some flavored hard seltzers.
Head to Right Around the Corner if you want to get in a few games of pinball or play some retro arcade games, while Pinellas Ale Works (P.A.W.) is the place for dog lovers. They even have doggy treats on the tables in the beer garden outside. They go all the way with the theme, serving up Piddle Pils, Milk Bone Sweet Stout, and Off the Leash American IPA–along with about 27 others most of the time.
There are a few other breweries you can bike to from the Pinellas Trail here that I haven’t made it to yet, despite my attempts to put a big dent in my Pub Pass, so pop into Bayboro, Overflow, or Avid Brew if they look interesting to you.
Since you could get legless here while only hitting a fraction of the craft breweries in St. Pete, you might want to spend the night. Check this map below for hotels and apartment rentals.
Where to Stay Near the Pinellas Bike Trail
If you’re going to end up in downtown St. Petersburg, use that map above to figure out where to stay. Otherwise, the next-biggest selection would be on Clearwater Beach, though be advised you’ll have to ride a couple miles over a bridge to get to that barrier island from the Pinellas Trail. It’s priced for people on a vacation budget too, with most of the beachfront places going for a few hundred a night counting the tacked-on resort fee for basic services other hotels include in the rates.
I mentioned before that Dunedin is a nice town to stroll around and they’ve got more breweries than you can try in one day, so it’s a good place to spend the night. Apart from vacation home rentals, you’ve got a few little motels and then three chain hotels that are all worthwhile. There’s a Holiday Inn Express right on the bike trail, a Best Western Plus right on the water pictured above, and the gorgeous Fenway Hotel you can see more about if you follow that link. It’s part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection if you’ve got points to cash in or you want to earn some toward a free hotel night.
There are several bike shops in downtown St. Pete and Dunedin where you can rent a bike if you don’t have your own. If you’re really out of shape you can rent an e-bike, but remember that this trail is completely flat except when you hit an overpass. The Fenway Hotel has bikes that guests can borrow for free and if you’re renting a house from someone, ask if they’ve got one(s) you can use before booking.
There are a few stations on the trail where you can find bike repair equipment and a pump, but I’d advise carrying a spare tube and maybe your own multi-tool just in case. There are some stretches where you’re at least five miles from a bike shop or a repair hub. Also carry a water bottle you can refill, especially if you’re out in the hot summer months.
If you’re going to be in Tampa Bay for more than a few days and you love good craft beer, pick up a Pub Pass and it’ll easily pay for itself quickly.