American craft beer began decades ago as a small-time countercultural hobby, a poke in the eye to a beer culture dominated by watered-down, indistinguishable macro-brews, but all that has changed. America is now home to 6,300 breweries, 13 percent of which are small, independent brands producing 25.4 million barrels of beer a year worth $26 billion.
And while nationwide growth in the craft beer world has slowed, Sarasota and Manatee counties are seeing an explosion of interest. The number of breweries here has swelled to 11 since the first full-production operation opened in 2013, and an entire ecosystem of enthusiasts, clubs and restaurant beer-and-food pairings has grown up around it. Want to check out the scene? Hop to it.