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All Florida Beer and Sunshine at Florida Brewers Guild FBG Fest, Tampa

March 8, 2018:  
The Sunshine State was just that on Saturday, March 3, as the Florida Brewers Guild hosted its annual celebration of Florida breweries and beer at its Craft Beer Festival ("FBG Fest") at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park along the river in downtown Tampa. It was all sun and smiles on the first official day of Tampa Bay Beer Week

The Park is no stranger to beer fests, and the FBG Fest has been held here year after year. It was a beautiful day along the river to drink Florida beer and meet Florida brewers!

All proceeds from the fest go back to the FBG, a nonprofit trade association dedicated to preserving the rights and interests of the state's craft brewers. The funds are used for lobbying efforts, educational outreach and programs, member events, and additional public events. With over 70 Florida breweries behind the tables pouring between 3-5 beers (or more) each, attendees had the opportunity to taste a number of beers from all across the state - and, yes, that can translate into a beertrip down the road! 


New this year was the fest booklet (above), which outlined the schedule and listed the sponsors, vendors, food trucks, and of course, breweries and beer! The venue itself is beerfest-friendly for a fest this size, as it allows beer enthusiasts to walk up and down lines of tents on either side, without extreme crowding or long lines. Even though there were a few tents in the middle of the park this year (that's what happens when there are more breweries!), it was easy to move around, order beer and talk to the brewers and reps. And, if that doesn't have you already marking this fest on your calendar for the first Saturday of March in 2019, the following photos will! So, here we go ... 

Volunteers happily distributed fest glasses and booklets at the fest entry. 



Beer and food trucks to the right, beer to the left. No matter which way you turned, there was something to make your taste buds happy. As the VIP ticketholders entered at 1pm, beer sampling was a breeze. After a quick look around the layout, a Cruiser Kolsch from Motorworks Brewing made a great photo and a refreshing way to start things off (see above). 



Following the obligatory opening fest picture, it was time to meet and greet. Southern Lights Brewing, a new Clearwater brewery that opened in August, was among my first stops. There, co-owners Bill and Benton served four beers, including Campfire Brown Smoked Brown Ale, which found its way into my glass. Thumbs up on the beer, by the way! 



The fest includes many different styles (and colors) of beer, so no matter which your palate prefers or whether you're into trying a little bit of everything, it's here! For example, Tampa Bay Brewing Co. offered at least five beers, including a tart purple Blueberry Berliner: a new beer to go with its new logo.




FBG Executive Director Sean Nordquist brought back the ceremonial tapping of the firkin, and just after the general admission at 2pm, the festivities on the stage began. Along with Tampa Bay Beer Week members, Mayor Bob Buckhorn addressed the crowd, and, taking from an Oktoberfest tradition, "it is tapped." 


Mayor getting ready to tap it; With members of TBBW, and
Executive Director Sean Nordquist (right)

 Here's how it looked in real time: 



WooHoo! A pour of Namesake Porter from the firkin! (and, that'll teach you not to put your full glass too close to the cask; the first one didn't make it to the photo). Cheers to FBG Fest and Tampa Bay Beer Week!



On the stage an hour later, the annual John G. Doble III Memorial Scholarship was presented to Charles Frizzell of Broken Strings Brewery, Orlando. The scholarship is named after the co-founder of Tampa Bay Brewing Co. and U.S. soldier. His passion and enthusiasm for beer prevails through the award, which will now allow Charles to attend the famed Siebel Institute in Chicago to further enhance his skills and knowledge as a brewer. I met Charles before his brewery opened, and then again shortly after opening day. Congrats! 

Time always seems to fly at a beerfest, and it's impossible to try all of the beers. And, there are always "beer people" from the community to stop and chat with! I found that Tampa-area character, Gerard Walen, author of Florida Breweries and Beer in Florida, whom I had first met years ago. Always fun!


Not sure what his shirt was all about, though
More new breweries, too, like Flying Boat Brewing from St. Pete, serving Booker Lake Vienna Lager, what turned out to be a Silver medal-winning beer the next day at Best Florida Beer. (I knew it was good! You don't see too many Vienna Lagers, one of my favorite styles, with its bready and toasty maltiness.)




There's never a dull moment at the Hell 'n Blazes Brewing tent at a beerfest. Although this brewery only opened in 2016, I've gotten to know these guys pretty well over the past couple of years. Their awesome beers are served in their impressive tap room in downtown Melbourne


Fun with beachballs with Todd and Jimmy of Hell 'n Blazes Brewing.
The Smores Stout (in Todd's hand) was delectable!
Somewhere along the way, the park filled with more attendees, but moving around was still easy:



One of the more interesting beers had to be Aardwolf Brewing's (Jax) MechaRoboWhale, a smoked pineapple and coffee imperial stout with orange peel and toasted coconut. Ok, sure, say that again? Not surprisingly, however, it was a tastebud treat with a burst of flavors. 


Check out that official Aardwolf glass, too!
With the increase in Florida breweries comes additional first-timers to FBG Fest. Nice seeing Hyperion Brewing (Jax; opened in May 2017) here!


Had to get the photo of the cop in the background;
they were visiting with the brewery guys ahead of time!
Mathews Brewing (Lake Worth) made the trip to Tampa, after just having opened in December. Here's another one that served up a couple of medal-winning beers, which were announced the next day at Best Florida Beer! (oh, yes, that Sweet Emotion Cream Ale!)



Next month, First Magnitude Brewing (Gainesville) will see Hogtown Craft Beer Fest in its backyard, so to speak, and I always love stopping there! Had another great visit with John at the First Mag table:




I tried to get my paws on the award-winning 1888 Russian Imperial Stout from Pinellas Ale Works, but had to settle for a glass! 



Getting a double photo is always fun, especially when you get the chance to #GetAPair with "Beer is Your Friend" at the same time - that can only mean Ken from Pair O'Dice Brewing (Clearwater) and David from TBBC (Tampa). Yeah, that was as fun as it looked! 


More medals for these guys on Sunday at Best Florida Beer, too!
Another medal-winning beer could be found at the Six Ten Brewing (Tampa) tent with the Mischievous Black Lager - again, not surprised. 



There were a number of beers at FBG Fest that were awarded medals the next day at Best Florida Beer -- although we didn't know it at the time. Sometimes when you taste them, you just get a hunch. It was fun to see those beers at the awards ceremony on Sunday. 

With the sunshine and blue skies, comfortable temperatures, and all of this Florida beer, it was an amazing day! Even the drinking buddies had a good time: 



As the clock struck 5, it may have been "five o'clock somewhere," and even though "you don't have to go home, "you couldn't stay here" any longer. As tents came down, another FBG Fest came to a close. 



The guys from Proof Brewing took a breather:



Shout-out to Sean Nordquist for putting together an awesome FBG Fest - his first as Executive Director. There's something special about an all-Florida beerfest, and especially this one, which supports the Florida Brewers Guild. 

After the fest, it was back on the trolley to Ybor, and a stop at Tampa Bay Brewing Co. for a sit-down dinner at the brewpub. By the way, taking the trolley is convenient and fun, and it's free on Saturdays. There were a number of Tampa Bay Lightning fans heading to and from Amalie Arena, and with the way the season is going and a win on Saturday, they had a lot to be happy about (that from a Blackhawks fan; see Stanley Cup series article from 2015)! 







What a weekend in Tampa! FBG Fest has been a favorite of mine since I started attending around five years ago. Saturday's fest came after a fun event at Tampa Bay Beer Week's Ultimate Brewer at Brew Bus Brewing on Friday night, which saw 25 beers using unusual ingredient combinations, ultimately won by Hidden Springs Ale Works, with a Hazelnut Pineapple Berliner. Then, on Sunday, it was my first time attending Best Florida Beer at Water Works Park. 

With many more TBBW events happening around town all week, I wonder if anyone is getting any rest in Tampa!. TBBW heads into the final weekend with Foeder for Thought at Green Bench Brewing (St. Pete) Friday night, and that mega beerfest Hunahpu's Day on Saturday at the Raymond James Stadium grounds. 

Cheers to Florida beer!

Til next time,


Linda 





Linda Johnson,
Certified Cicerone®
www.brewnymph.com

(all photos by Linda Johnson)



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