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Tampa Bay Beer Week is Marchin' In, March 3-11

March 2, 2018: Four words pretty much sum up this next week: Tampa Bay Beer Week. 

In what just might be a MOAB of its own, Tampa Bay Beer Week brings its mother of all beerweeks to the Tampa area March 3-11. Established in 2012, the ginormous week of events dedicated to growing the local craft beer community includes nine official days of virtually nonstop beer-centric events, including three epic beerfests! Looking for a beertrip? You found it.


Of course, what's a beer week without kickoff events even before the week gets started? 

Whether you're local or heading into town for a beertrip of epic proportions, an early arrival on Friday, March 2, will get you and your tastebuds in the celebratory spirit with at least eight early events, including the official kickoff: The Ultimate Brewer at Brew Bus Brewing in Seminole Heights. What's that all about? The third chapter of this unusual beer competition features 25 area breweries drawing from a list of ingredients and then brewing beer using pairs of those ingredients. Sounds benign enough, right? No way.
Think of almost any spice, fruit, food, flower, or flavoring and pair a couple of those together -- in a beer. The list has been kept secret, and event ticketholders will get the honor of taste-testing and voting for a favorite. A panel of judges will also score the competition. Winner takes the trophy. Brew Bus Brewing has prevailed the past two years. As of this writing, tickets ($25) are still available. 

That's for starters. While there are new tappings, tap takeovers, beer dinners, presentations, and almost anything that involves beer happening daily, TBBW will also see three major beerfest events and a unique fest dedicated to the wild side. Read on:



FLORIDA BREWERS GUILD FBG FEST 
Saturday, March 3



On Saturday afternoon, the Florida Brewers Guild hosts its annual all-Florida beerfest with over 70 Florida breweries assembled on the grounds of Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, along the river in downtown Tampa. As of this writing, tickets are still available (VIP and General Admission). 

With each brewery pouring anywhere from 3-5 beers, there's no shortage of beers to sample! A copy of the tap list can be found here (subject to change). This year's beer list shows some surprises, in addition to those perennial favorites. I've attended this fest for a number of years (see last year's recap), and although it's grown each time, the venue provides easy navigation with room to move. With at least six food trucks on site, munchies can be satisfied, too. 

While the feel of this year's fest should be similar to last year's, FBG Executive Director Sean Nordquist has added a couple of new (or returning) features this time, which are two of his favorites: the ceremonial tapping of the firkin by Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and the awarding of the John G. Doble III Memorial Scholarship at 3pm. 


Photo: 2017 FBG Fest, Linda Johnson
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 (such as the Barrel-Aged, Sour & Cider Fest, held in Jacksonville in the fall/winter).  As for Sean, who is overseeing his first FBG Fest as Executive Director and has attended the event for over a decade, the fest is still one of his favorites, with some of the best beer and people in the state. Cheers to that!

BEST FLORIDA BEER CHAMPIONSHIPS BREWERS' BALL 
Sunday, March 4



On Sunday afternoon, the top beers in Florida, as decided by a panel of qualified judges, will be announced at the Best Florida Beer Brewers' Ball, at Water Works Park.   

Judging in the AHA and BJCP-sanctioned professional competition took place February 10-11, and the medalists were notified. The Brewers' Ball is a beerfest like no other - it features only the medal-winning beers from the competition. Judges narrowed down the field of over 800 entries submitted in a variety of categories, and those in attendance on Sunday will have the chance to taste the best. 

General Admission access begins at noon, followed by a Winners' toast and first raffle at 1pm. The Best of Show presentation begins at 3:30pm, with announcements of the beer category winners and awarding of the Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals. In addition, prestigious titles such as Best Beer in Florida, Best Large and Small Brewery, and Best Brewpub will be announced for the first time. See the recap of the 2017 Best Florida Beer Championships winners.

FOEDER FOR THOUGHT, at Green Bench Brewing, St. Pete
Friday, March 9


Dedicated to wild, sour and funky, Foeder for Thought is an in-depth look at the foeder style, including presentations in addition to a beerfest. 

Attendees will get their funk on with sampling beers from around the world that may not otherwise be available. Listen to panel discussions and interviews all evening, including: 

S.W.A.G (Sour and Wild Ale Guild) founders Jeffrey Stuffings of Jester King, and Erin Jones of Burial Beer Co.; 

State of Sour/Wild Beer In Florida, with Bob Sylvester of Saint Somewhere Brewing Co., Khris Johnson of Green Bench Brewing, and Matt Manthe of Odd Breed Wild Ales;

Sour Beer At Retail, featuring Blake Tyers of Creature Comforts Brewing Co., Veronica Daniko of The Independent, Greg Engert of Churchkey/The Sovereign/Blue Jacket, and Christian Gregory of Shelton Brothers; and


Interviews with Chase Haeley of American Solera  and Troy Casey of Casey Blending and Brewing.

Tickets are available in the above link. 

HUNAHPU'S DAY, hosted by Cigar City Brewing, 
at Raymond James Stadium Grounds, Saturday, March 10


Likely the best-known beerfest in Florida (if not beyond), Cigar City Brewing hosts its 9th Annual HUNAHPU'S DAY on Saturday afternoon at a new venue this year: Raymond James Stadium grounds, at Lots 5 and 7. Named after the mythical Hunahpu brothers and originally started as a small intimate gathering, the annual fest has morphed into a spectacle featuring not only the yearly release of CCB's Hunahpu's Imperial Stout, but a full-blown beerfest with just under 200 breweries and thousands in attendance. 


To fully prepare for the epic fest, be sure to consult the 2018 Hunahpu's Day app, available on Guidebook. There, all of the breweries and beers are listed. At last count, over 170 breweries from Florida, across the US, and from around the world will be pouring at the fest. Generally, each brewery serves two beers, with several exceptions. Of course, Cigar City Brewing will have a major presence on the scene, with three separate pouring stations. Last year, huge water stations were provided, which was an awesome feature! 

[Ed. Note, 3/2/2018: Hunahpu's Day Tickets are now SOLD OUT!]  Tickets are available by online purchase only, in three tiers. Each ticket level includes designated bottles (4, 8 or 12) of the prized 2018 Hunahpu's Imperial Stout, brewed with cacao nibs, ancho and pasilla chiles, cinnamon, and vanilla beans. Entry to the fest is by pre-purchased, and pre-registered, wristbands, which are also used to claim bottles at Cigar City Brewing from March 2-12. Tickets to the event also include tapas foods and a free entry to the Gasparilla Music Festival on Sunday March 11 in Tampa. 


Photo at 2017 Hunahpu's Day, Linda Johnson

Check out the recap of the 2017 fest to see why it was a great time! And, one last thing, be sure to spell it correctly! 

WRAP-UP

With over 70 breweries and more in planning in the greater Tampa/St. Pete/Sarasota/Bradenton area, it's a microcosm of microbrews, and the epicenter of craft beer in the state. Recently, the USA Today 10 Best Readers' Choice craft beer poll included Tampa as a nominee for best beer scene, along with best beerfest nominee Hunahpu's Day, and best brewpub nominee Tampa Bay Brewing Co. Voting in the polls closes March 19. 

With no shortage of breweries and beer in the Tampa area, it's a beertrip destination. 

Happy Tampa Bay Beer Week! 

Yeah, you might need a vacation after TBBW! If you're heading to Tampa for the week of beer, be sure to check the Tampa Bay Beer Week calendar of daily events - the list keeps growing! 

Cheers!

Til next time, 





 Linda



Linda Johnson,
Certified Cicerone®
www.brewnymph.com


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