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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cocoa Beach Uncorked Launches Food and Beverage Festival on the Beach

Catching some sunshine, along with colorful food and a craft beer ...
on the beach at Cocoa Beach Uncorked
Setup for the inaugural Cocoa Beach Uncorked food and beverage fest began under dark skies last Saturday morning. By noon, and almost as if by cue, Mother Nature turned the gray skies into blue, and the rain clouds gave way to sunshine, just as the Grand Tasting Village on the beach prepared to open. 

Held June 3-4 at Alan Shepard Park, the fest featured a 20,000-square-foot tent packed with chef-prepared gastronomic delights and liquid libations against a beautiful background courtesy of the Atlantic Ocean. Pre-fest info sounded pretty sweet -- picture it: culinary dishes along with an assortment of beverages on the beach -- what's not to like? And, yes, it was also apparent that the weekend would require some exercise.




Seeking to offset some of the anticipated caloric intake, this writer took to a 5k on the beach early Saturday morning, where the Grand Tasting Village loomed. 





Under the tent, event and vendor crews were already preparing tables and stocking up for the afternoon. A few hours later, as the skies cleared, guests began to make their way through the registration area at the park and over the beach walkway to the festivities. A separate VIP tent provided additional shade and a seating area next to an open-air breezeway. 




The fest included around 30 food vendors, 13 beer and cider tables, 6 spirits tables, and 25 wine vendors. The Publix cooking demonstration stage covered one corner and featured several live events hosted by celebrity chefs. 









Even before entering the fest area, there were indications of what was inside: 



Those with VIP tickets were greeted with shrimp and deviled eggs at the Coasters Tap House table inside the VIP tent, along with early entry into the main tasting village.





And, yes, this was a beach event! If you wanted to let your toes experience the sand, shoes were optional.





The tasting tent offered varieties of colorful food prepared on site that were pleasing to the eye, as well as the palate. The photo at the top features pork tostadas from Tequila Azul, a strawberry margarita cheesecake by Homemade Happiness, and a Crane Creek Cerveza from local brewery Hell 'n Blazes Brewing. And, that's how to get a fest started! Check out that elegant fest tasting glass, too!

As guests began to enter at the 1pm entry, the party began to really rock, and the tent was humming. 

video


Beer, wine and spirits flowed in between sampling the food. Let's start with some beer! Tampa Bay Brewing Company made the trip to pour several beers. 



Islamorada Brewing Company brought the appropriately-named Sandbar Sunday Wheat Ale, along with its Channel Marker IPA and Islamorada Citrus Ale. 



Saltwater Brewery offered samples of its Sea Cow Milk Stout, Screamin Reels IPA, and LocAle ale (and, yes, there are articles about Saltwater Brewery on this site). ("nice cans").



Uinta Brewing, a nationally-distributed brewery from Utah, debuted a brand new West Coast IPA. 



Of course, I caught up with Andy Pinkerton, General Manager of Hell 'n Blazes Brewing in Melbourne, more than once during the afternoon. Hell 'n Blazes served up its light cerveza, along with a Dunkelweizen. Always great seeing the guys from this brewery! (see prior stories on this site). It was great meeting Andy's wife Joie, who happily helped out at the table. Does it look like we're having a good time?



In addition, local brewery Florida Beer Co. poured its Pilsner, Amber Lager and Double IPA for eager crowds all afternoon long (see that cool beer vehicle above).  Those were just a few of the breweries on site. 

Spirits and cocktails were a crowd favorite, from all observations. Several tequila and vodka vendors kept people happy, and there was even rum from Hawaii.  It didn't take too much persuasion to have a rum punch or two from Koloa Rum!






Speaking of tequila (we were speaking of tequila, right?), there must have been something really good in that Don Ramon Tequila punch,because it was a wildly popular tent all afternoon!


video


Taking tequila to another level -- and as a segue to the food at the fest -- Homemade Happiness offered several margarita cheesecakes, including the strawberry version in the top photo -- just as visually amazing as it tasted! Walking by all of the food tables was enough to make your mouth water. The fest vendors offered food of all sorts, from various seafood dishes to meats to chips to soups to snacks to spreads and dips to ice cream. Wonderful!


Shrimp Ceviche from Ohana J's


Crab cakes and cookies from DIG Bistro

The fest brought delectable food and drink together all in one place in a beautiful setting on the beach. A casual-elegant theme made for a pleasant experience. From an attendee aspect, the fest was well-organized, and tasting selections covered a wide variety of styles to satisfy even those discerning palates. With the cooperation from Mother Nature, much of the tented areas enjoyed ocean breezes. From the looks of things, this initial event was a success! Vendors are likely to see new faces in their establishments, after guests enjoyed tastings at this beach fest. 

As the clock ticked to 4pm, and the announcer made the 3:45 last call for drinks, the fest concluded. This is the way to end a food and beverage fest: 



And, although it wasn't part of the festivities, it just so happened that a launch of another sort -- the kind that happens at Kennedy Space Center just up the road -- was ready to takeoff about an hour after the fest ended. As spectators lined the beach for a look at the rocket, the Grand Tasting Village provided yet another backdrop (see rocket in upper left corner): 



That's how to launch an event!


Presenting sponsors of Cocoa Beach Uncorked included Space Coast Florida (visitspacecoast.com), Publix, Hilton Cocoa Beach, and City of Cocoa Beach, together with brand and beverage sponsors, restaurant sponsors, community partners and media partners. A portion of the proceeds benefited the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Brevard Humane Society.

A related event, Clearwater Beach Uncorked, returns for its sixth year on the west side of the state on December 2-3. 

What a weekend in Cocoa Beach! Although I only attended the fest on Saturday, it looked like the Sunday attendees would have a similarly great day for a food and beverage fest. And, yes, there was another 5k on the beach for me on Sunday morning, too. 

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you around Florida Somewhere this summer with a Florida beer! 

Cheers!

Til next time,




Linda




Linda Johnson,
Certified Cicerone®

(all photos by Linda Johnson)


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