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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Beer (and Wings) to the East; Wings (and Beer) to the West: Time Flew By at Florida Craft Brew and Wing Fest

February 17 ... 2018. That's the date for the 7th Annual Florida Craft Brew and Wing Fest, and it will be here before you know it. But, wait a minute ....  let's take a look at THIS year's fest first:



The 6th Annual Florida Craft Brew and Wing Fest, presented by Sunrise Rotary, again took place at the Royal Palm Pointe Park in Vero Beach, Saturday, February 18. As in years past, being a family-friendly event, this fest had something for everyone, from barbecue wing vendors to craft beer tents to two stages of continuous foot-stomping-sing-along live music. Check out this site's preview story from last week. 





Attendance at this fest, which has steadily increased by thousands each year, may be just as newsworthy as the winners of the wing and homebrew competitions. According to Fest Spokesperson Debbie Avery, this year's Fest attracted an estimated 14,000 attendees. Admission to the fest grounds is free of charge. 


A few of the attendees at Florida Craft Brew & Wing Fest 2016

The Fest experience actually began off-site. A shout-out to Sunrise Rotary for providing a complimentary shuttle bus from the nearby parking garage direct to the check-in tent!




Although the Fest venue consisted of one long stretch, it was divided into East and West Ends. Wings? Beer? Music? Go East or Go West: food and beer everywhere!


You could go East.... or you could go West...

...Or you could go both ways ....

About 17 wing vendors filled the air with tantalizing barbecue aromas. In addition, pizza and seafood vendors were cookin' to the delight of the crowd. Beer tents from local Florida breweries, home brew clubs, and a number of regional and national breweries lined both sides of the park. Banquet tables and seats were set up along the middle, and most tables were equipped with water rinsing stations for fest beer glasses. Beer was available by separate pay-per-cup pour at several stations, or through the unlimited wristband sampling option. Each end of the park featured a music stage, with continuous live music all afternoon, and tall tables for enjoying the food, beer and music. 

I caught up with the Judges of the Wing competition after the judging, and they were a happy bunch. The judging panel consisted of various city officials. 


The Judges' table after the judging...
And, yes, it was serious stuff before that:


Judging table at work.
(photo provided by Florida Craft Brew & Wing Fest)

The Wings Competition was divided into two groups of anonymous tastings: Chef's Division (local groups) and Restaurant Division (professional). After digging into the wings (and using those paper towels in the photos), the judges' tasting scores were tallied by a separate group. The results in the Chef's Division: 3rd, Dyer Chevrolet; 2nd, Creative Pest Control; and 1st Place to Rick's Chicks. And, for the Restaurant Division: 3rd, So Flo Bistro; 2nd, Nick's Family Restaurant; and 1st Place to Hurricane's Grill & Wings. The winner of the Spirit Award was Hodge Podge. The People's Choice Award went to the Creative Pest Control Team. Congratulations!


The Creative Pest Control Winning Wings Team
(photo provided by Florida Craft Brew & Wing Fest)
And, while all of that was going on, the music played:




And, then, there's the beer! I made a stop at Brevard Ale Works, a brewery-in-planning looking to open in Rockledge later this year. It's always a fun time hanging out with this group, and I was able to sample four of the five beers they brought to the fest: Coffee IPA (made with Kenyan coffee), Sweet Stout (made with Jamaican coffee), Baltic Porter, and Doppelbock. Another solid round of beers from these guys!  Continue to look for them at upcoming local events around the Melbourne area.


Another fun visit with the guys from Brevard Ale Works!
With so many people attending this fest, the fest venue was generally pretty easy to navigate and move around. Beer tends to be a good conversation piece, and, among others, I enjoyed talking with a fellow Midwesterner:


... this dude in the Three Floyds shirt!
Yeah, I had to move to Florida and go back to Indiana
before I got to Three Floyds... we know the story...

Local area Vero Beach breweries Walking Tree Brewery and Orchid Island Brewery had a steady stream of traffic at their tents all afternoon. 


Walking Tree Brewery tent. The Sandy Feet Wheat Ale
is a refreshing lighter beer great for a Florida day.
And, that's the subject of another story....

Neighboring breweries Sailfish Brewing (Fort Pierce) and Side Door Brewing (Port St. Lucie) also were popular places. 


Tag and Release Amber Ale from Sailfish Brewing:
easy-drinking ale with caramel notes.
The afternoon really flew by: that happens when sampling beers and talking beer! It was cool chatting with Kym, Director of Sales at Big Storm Brewing (Tampa), and getting a taste of the Tropic Pressure Florida Ale (hibiscus, floral, a bit sweet, and oh, so tasty). 


With Kym, and a very flavorful ale!

Sampling beers at beerfests is a great way to try new beers or beer styles. And, sometimes breweries bring beers that are only available in their local area or in their tap rooms or that haven't made their way into statewide distribution. That was the case with the "Decklin's Indulgence" from Big Top Brewing (Sarasota). I haven't visited Big Top Brewing yet, but it's another one on that infamous "list!"


Yeah, this was a good one: Chocolate Peanut Butter Brown Ale.
Brewed once a year. Name inspired by a customer's kid.
And, while we're at it, let's get a behind-the-jockey-box-photo with the guy behind the brewery....


Thanks, Seth!
In addition to the commercial brewers, Florida Craft Brew & Wing Fest also provides local homebrewers with the opportunity to share their beers and earn awards in the homebrew competition. Judging took place a week earlier at the VIP Party at Walking Tree Brewery. (Although I was a judge in the homebrew contest at last year's fest, I wasn't able to attend the pre-fest party and judging last week.) Here's a shout-out and Congratulations to this year's homebrew contest winners (drum roll, please): 3rd place: Chris Ellison (Red Buoy Brewers) for "Shore lb." IPA; 2nd place: George Bailey (Boil Over Boys) for "Winter Spiceamon"; and 1st place: Eric Carson (Red Buoy Brewers) for "Sea Glass Helles." And, you can catch these homebrew guys at Shrimpfest on Saturday, February 25. 


The banner of the homebrew contest winners.
(photo from Red Buoy Brewers Facebook page)

What an afternoon! From what I observed, everyone from young and small to young-at-heart and everywhere in between (even including a few friendly pets who had their owners on leashes) had another fun day at Florida Craft Brew & Wing Fest 2016. 


Awesome afternoon with a few thousand friendly folks. 

And, what was that about February 17, 2018?  See you there!




Another great time at Florida Craft Brew & Wing Fest! Thanks to the Rotary Club for the hospitality!

And, Florida Beerfest Season is still truckin' along, y'know! Check out the events pages on this site and check out some beer! See you in Florida Somewhere!

Til next time,
Cheers!





Linda







Linda Johnson, Certified Cicerone®   

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