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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Florida Brewers Guild FBG Fest Was a Walk in the Park

On March 4, the Florida Brewers Guild ("FBG") hosted its annual signature event, simply known as "FBG Fest," at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park along the Garrison Channel and Tampa Riverwalk in downtown Tampa. Upon arrival at the venue, brewery tents could be seen lining each side of the waterside park (see last week's preview story). Tickets to the all-Florida beerfest went on sale around the first of the new year, as either VIP (one-hour early access) or General Admission. The VIP tickets sold out the week of the fest. 

When you see two of the FBG Board members scanning tickets at the Fest entry, you know that this is truly a "brewers" fest. Vice President Byron Burroughs (Proof Brewing) and Board Member Jay Dingman (Barley Mow Brewing) were kept pretty busy manning the scanners as the VIP gates opened at 1pm. 




The fest generally was set up like last year's event, with brewery tents along the perimeter of the park, and food trucks at one end. Speakers carried music from the DJ tent throughout the grounds. VIP entry was a breeze, and attendees moved around freely as they sampled beer and spoke to the brewery reps. The brewery count stood at 65 participating Florida breweries, up from last year's count of 58. While many of the breweries brought their tried-and-true brews, many also brought a few specialty beers. Even as the clock ticked through the afternoon and the size of the crowd grew, the venue allowed everyone easy access to beer. It was just a "walk in the park!"




FBG Fest coincides with the beginning weekend of the biggest week in Florida beer, Tampa Bay Beer Week ("TBBW"). On the heels of FBG Fest, and also part of TBBW, the Best Florida Beer Championships ("BFBC") was held on Sunday, March 5 (see recap story on this site). Although they weren't identified as such, many of the medal winners from the next day's BFBC event were on hand at FBG Fest (making a weekend of it in Tampa). 

The first stop I made was the Walking Tree Brewery (Vero Beach) tent. I had visited this new brewery for the first time following Florida Craft Brew & Wingfest (see recap story) a few weeks ago (yeah, there's a story on the way about that visit, too). Turns out that Walking Tree Brewery scored big at BFBC the next day, as it was named Best Small Brewery and took home the top "Best Beer in Florida" honor for its Barnacled Manatee barleywine, in addition to, oh, just a few extra medals (Nice haul, guys). Walking Tree's Sandy Feet American Wheat, a lightly-hopped, lightly-fruited beer, not only was a refreshing way to start things off, but it made for a nice opening photo in the souvenir tasting glass, too!

Next, it was on to visit the guys at Wicked Barley Brewing (Jacksonville). This writer is no stranger to Wicked Barley, having visited several times during the construction phase last year, and as attested by regular visits since the brewpub opened last summer (see stories on this site). And, what do you know, Wicked Barley also brought back some pretty hefty hardware from BFBC, as it was named Best Brewpub, earned a Gold for its "Best Small Batch" Dortmunder, and also picked up a couple of golds and a silver. They were even good sports putting up with my beerfest antics (but in all fairness, I warned them about that earlier in the week when I was over there):



They say that pictures are worth a thousand words, so this post will be all about the photos (and may replace a few thousand words). And, here we go:

Beer and conversations flowed all afternoon. I had a fun time at the Rock Brothers (Tampa) tent, and I love that microphone:



And, keep an eye out for brewery-in-planning Dirty Oar Beer Co., under construction in Cocoa on the Space Coast. It's always a fun time hanging out with Pat and Lindsey. Look for these guys to be under a brewery tent at next year's FBG Fest. 



One of the things I love about beerfests is that there are always new breweries to experience, and this is one of the ways that I learn about them. Not only did I really enjoy this "Chocaholics Anonymous" Oatmeal Stout (be still my heart: dark chocolate and vanilla) from 3 Keys Brewing (Bradenton), it was also educational chatting with brewer Scott. (This might not look so educational, though):



Sometimes at a beerfest, the glass does become empty, as strange as that may seem. Tom from Barley Mow Brewing (Largo) and I found that out, and it was time to get refills. By the way, Barley Mow was also a well-deserved medal winner at BFBC.



Eventually I found my way to the Barley Mow tent, where that Dark Track Imperial Milk Stout (10%) found its way into my glass. Loved the graham cracker, chocolate and vanilla flavors! And, a photo bomb:




Another cool thing about beerfests is that there's usually an opportunity to meet someone in person after bantering back and forth on social media. That's what happened when I finally met Sean (aka "Beer for the Daddy"), a notable personality of the Tampa beer community. It was like we had known each other for years!  Not sure why there was another empty glass, though: 



If you're wondering whether you should plan on attending FBG Fest next year, the answer is a resounding "yes." The beer selection is top of the line, and the venue handles the crowd very well. And, it's all-Florida! Take a look:


video




When in South Florida, be sure to stop at Due South Brewing (Boynton Beach). I can always count on these guys for a few laughs to go with some great beer. (Check out my stories about Trench Day earlier in the year). Speaking of Mariana Trench, they just happened to bring some of that deep, dark 9.8 % chocolate and vanilla goodness. And, they also scored a medal for their Oaked Category 5 Imperial IPA at BFBC. 



Another brewpub I like to visit is Tomoka Brewing Co. (Port Orange). Always a pleasure catching up with owner/brewer Peter! His namesake beer, Peter the Great Russian Imperial Stout, was also a medal winner at BFBC. And, no I didn't really take that six-pack!



And, it just wouldn't be cool not to get one of my favorite go-to beers, Wild Night from Swamp Head Brewery (Gainesville). Yeah, I've been there a time or few, and there's another visit in the works next month during Hogtown Craft Beer Fest. Another good visit with Kreis from Swamp Head!



I also caught up with the entire crew from Hell 'n Blazes Brewing (Melbourne), which also just opened last year in downtown Melbourne (see stories on this site from construction and grand opening). Another BFBC medal winner! And, Beer for the Daddy/Sean also joined on on this one:



Another fun crew to hang out with are the Proof Brewing (Tallahassee) guys. Owner Byron managed to sneak away from check-in duty. Alan was a bit beside himself; must've been those BFBC medals the next day! By the way, Proof's Railroad Square brewery is a must-visit if you're in the state capital. 



Last, but certainly not least, I was able to get my hands on Lucky Lucy Strawberry Blonde from Pair O'Dice Brewing (Clearwater) (check out the story from my first onsite visit). There's a pretty hilarious video spoof of an old "I Love Lucy" episode on the Pair O'Dice social media. The beer is made from strawberries from nearby Plant City, and it's a pleasant, warm weather beer that's not overly sweet. Another fun time chatting with owners Ken and Julia. And, congrats on the BFBC hardware. I'll be looking forward to sampling the medal-winning Pit Boss Triple IPA next time. 



The breweries at FBG Fest generally offered between 3 to 6 beers each (and some had a few more). The beers represented a wide range of styles and ABVs and IBUs, and there were beers to make all palates happy, while also allowing for exploration of new beers -- all from Florida! But, at some point (that being around 5pm), the kegs run dry, and the jockey boxes and coolers see the end of their day. 



That's a wrap on another FBG Fest, and I'm already looking forward to next year. In the meantime, I have a few more Florida breweries to visit! We can all look ahead to seeing even more breweries at next year's Fest, as the brewery count continues to rise. Another job well-done by Florida Brewers Guild and all the participating breweries. 

Oh, one last thing .... did anyone else see that huge banner hanging over the adjacent building before it was rolled up? Ah, well, that's the subject of the next story.... 

Another awesome afternoon at FBG Fest! Perfect weather to go with all of that amazing Florida beer! Mark this one on your calendars for next year .... and, if you can't keep up with all of these beerfests, don't worry, I have you covered: just check out the BeerSphere page right here on brewnymph.com!

Happy Tampa Bay Beer Week to everyone on the Tampa side of the state! And, it won't be long before I make my way back to Tampa for more .... 

Cheers!
Til next time,



Linda





Linda Johnson, Certified Cicerone®


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