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All's Fair at Hogtown Craft Beer Fest 2018, Gainesville

April 26, 2018:  It had: over 100 breweries, six homebrew clubs, 47 special tappings, nine pods, food trucks, music under the pavilion, plenty of on-site parking ... even rain and sunshine. The 7th Annual Hogtown Craft Beer Fest presented by the Hogtown Brewers on April 21 pretty much had it all at the Alachua County Fairgrounds, a new fest venue this year. 

This was my sixth trek to Hogtown, and the beertrip once again included more than a beerfest -- it's a Gainesville weekend! 


(lots of photos ahead ...)

Get the pre-party started ... 



No trip to Gainesville is complete without a visit to Swamp Head Brewery. If you haven't visited "The Wetlands," you have likely seen the photos of the bright yellow grain silos standing at attention at the front of the brewery. If not, here's another one. Yes, you're in the right place (can't miss 'em!). 

There are lots of cool things about Swamp Head in addition to the always on-point beer. The tap room ("The Wetlands") is a beautiful display of wood and natural scenes. Outside, a pond provides a serene setting to enjoy while sipping those suds. You might even see a gator or birds of prey. Yes, that's a bat house next to the pond. 



Swamp Head certainly appreciates the environment, nature and wildlife. One of its newest beers, Schoolie Lager, benefits Florida marine conservation (cool cans, too, not to mention it tasted great). 




Not surprisingly, this Friday night found the place hummin'. 



Earlier this month, Swamp Head celebrated its 10th  Anniversary. New release beers for the occasion included a series of "Ten Years of Gainesville Beers" collaborations with neighboring Gainesville breweries. A few of those were on tap, including a collaboration with First Magnitude Brewing, a West Coast Style Amarillo IPA (hoppy, dank beer with a lingering bitterness; it worked): 



And, how about that -- segue to the next visit!

With a pre-beerfest brewers' party in full swing, First Magnitude Brewing Co. was already rockin'. This is another must-visit brewery for a Gainesville beertrip itinerary (not my first time, y'know). Just follow the directions to the tap room: 



First Magnitude Brewing offers a spacious indoor tap room, a brewery-warehouse area with games and plenty of seating, and a large outdoor beer garden with a music stage. On Friday night, brewers filled the brewhouse for the pre-fest party: 



Of course, there were jockey boxes of beers, and more than a few bottles being shared along with the camaraderie. 

Always cool catching up with Florida brewers! 


With John from First Magnitude, and David from Proof Brewing
(yeah, it kinda was as fun as it looks)

We've all heard about how the craft beer industry is "collaborative," and here's a Florida example. First Magnitude owner John Denny presented Swamp Head's Nick Dunn with a signed banner commemorating its 10 Years of Gainesville Beers:



Smiles all around ... and a group photo. Congratulations to Swamp Head!




Time for the Hogtown 5k ...

At some point, Friday evening drew to a close, and it was an early call on Saturday for the 6th Annual Hogtown 5k, presented by Swamp Head Brewery, to benefit Climb for Cancer Foundation



This is always a fun event, and I felt somewhat ready with new running shoes, and less-than-stellar training. The 5k not only winds through the beautiful grounds of Haile Plantation, but this year, there were TWO (yes, two) Swamp Head beers awaiting at the finish! Motivation, for sure!



As Swamp Head crew set up its beer tent, opening activities were underway. The Florida Drum Line from UF never needs any motivation to get the rhythm going and things moving between 8-9am: 



And, we're off! See ya in three miles ... 




Did someone say beer? And pizza?  Post-run replenishment!



Hey, two Wild Nights before noon? That'll work! Thanks, Swamp Head!



The Hogtown 5k raised over $30,000 for Climb for Cancer. Great cause on a great weekend. 

Hogtown Craft Beer Festival ...

After a stop back at the hotel to refresh and convince my feet that everything was fine, it was time to head to Hogtown Craft Beer Fest! It's one of the major beerfests in Florida, so, at the outset .... mark it on your calendar for next April. This year's fest saw a change in venue at the Alachua County Fairgrounds. For the past several years, the fest had been held under the trees at Tioga Town Center. 



The first thing that stood out was the easy on-site parking. Drive in, park the car, walk to the fest entry. 


Some things stay constant, however, and the Hogtown Brewers' affinity to signs is one of them!  Signs dotted the entry to the fest. Then, get your passport and get some beer!


As in years past, the fest is organized into "pods," generally grouped by brewery geographic location. Breweries included a large Florida contingent, together with regional and national breweries. Local beer bars and restaurants also provided pouring stations. The fest website and app provided all the details, maps, brewery and beer lists. Although guests could enter the fest grounds early and wander around, beer started flowing at the 1pm start time. 

Skies were just a bit ominous at the start, and by 1:20pm, there was a full deluge. You could either walk around in the rain, or huddle under a brewery tent til the rain stopped. Seemed like the tent was the better option, and, I just so happened to already be at the Aardwolf Brewing tent (Jax), as convenience would have it. 


While Aardwolf poured, so did the rain. Temperatures remained moderate, but apparently lips and tongues were turning blue -- thanks to Aardwolf's Hawaii Lact-O, a tropical put-me-on-a-beach pineapple coconut Berliner, which had to be one of the most talked-about beers of the day. There may (?) have been a couple of refills during the tropical rain, and if you're wondering if it's really blue:


The rain moved out fairly quickly, and the cloudy skies gave way to sunshine. The fest had the feel of a county fair, right down to the aroma of roasted corn and funnel cakes being served near the entry. 

A look from above from the top of the pavilion
There are always new breweries and/or breweries-in-planning at beerfests, and I have met many new ones right here at Hogtown. This fest was no different, with several newcomers under the tents. One of those is BarrieHaus Beer Co., led by Jim Barrie, formerly of First Magnitude Brewing. Although this new brewery is currently looking for a place to call home, he's on the right track, with beers like the "Big Pluckin Pils," which was a crisp, honest-to-goodness beer, which also tasted great as the sun came out.


The fairgrounds venue was open, and provided plenty of space to move and walk around. Generally, two main walkways took you from pod-to-pod, food trucks, and back again.


Lines typically were short, although there are always a few breweries that gather a crowd, depending on timed tappings or rare beers. Or, just local favorites, like the never-ending crowd at the First Magnitude tent.


Not only did First Magnitude have its usual awesome array of beers, but it also had what might have been the ultimate photo op. If you've ever been there, you've seen the beer flights that are served in license plates. Put your face in the plate! How cool is this: That's John and Christine Denny, First Mag owners, being tagged in the photo, too! Thanks, guys!



The Jacksonville area was well-represented in Pod 2, with a couple of breweries making their first trips to Hogtown. Southern Swells Brewing in Jax Beach drew a steady crowd all day with Karate in the Garage NE IPA and the new collaboration beer with Intuition Ale Works, Interstate Kung Fu Battle DIPA. Co-owner Jay Varney was having a fun first appearance experience: 

  
From St. Augustine, Old Coast Ales also was a first-timer at Hogtown. It's always fun stopping to chat with co-owner Matt Hooker, and my empty glass didn't stay that way very long: 



Intuition Ale Works brought the van and an assortment of beers, including Fruit Salsa, a pineapple, mango, peach and habanero Kolsch, that would have made a great pairing with that roasted corn. Group Jax photo with Jessica of Intuition, and craft beer geek John, who makes it to an event or two or.... around the Jax area on a regular basis, attending his first Hogtown fest:


With more walking around, there's just no way to pass by the Cigar City Brewing tent without a pour of Guayabera Pale Ale! Thanks, Kyle (CCB North Florida rep), but I think I'll help myself.


Three Tallahassee breweries were in the mix in Pod 3, and since I didn't grab a photo with Gabe Grass of GrassLands Brewing at the pre-party, we snapped one here. The growler was not harmed.


You never know who you'll run into at a beerfest, and there even were men in kilts and pirate garb, with beer. Aye!


The Hogtown Brewers urged everyone to "stay hydrated," and they took that to heart with the free water stations around the fest grounds. Nice touch, guys! 


As clouds began to form again, winds whipped up around the fest grounds. Hold onto that tent!


The guys at Hell 'n Blazes (Melbourne) did just that, although you could have been blown away by the Night's Watch Black IPA or the Honey Wheat, too. Never a dull moment with these guys!



It might be five o'clock somewhere, and it always seems to come around pretty fast at a beerfest; I'm not sure if it's the beer or all the talking. Caught up with Ed from Tomoka Brewing (Port Orange).


And, things started to wind down. Proof Brewing went half-mast, as it had already closed up shop for the day: 


Cheers to another great weekend in Gainesville!

Toast with John of First Magnitude Brewing.

And, it looked a bit different from the top row of the pavilion this time around, as ice and tents were emptied: 


Goodbyes, and "see ya next time" ensued. Here at the end of the day with Regina and Whit from Bold City Brewery.  That's a Bold City Killer Whale Cream Ale in the cover photo, by the way.  


The 7th Annual Hogtown Craft Beer Fest once again offered a large number of breweries, pouring stations and a variety of food options. Having ample on-site parking at the venue this year was definitely a plus. Although the fest may not have had the tree-covered charm of years past, the fairgrounds provided exceptional functionality. Covered and shaded areas with bleachers and tables, including the large fairgrounds pavilion, gave shelter from the elements, with respite for tired feet. Bathrooms? Nothing remarkable there; no outrageous long lines, and it's kinda nice when you can forget about those! 

Contrary to the shirts, it was quite organized:



Hey, Hogtown Brewers, another awesome Hogtown Craft Beer Fest! 


The Hogtown Craft Beer Fest sold out again this year, and tickets are not available at the entry gate. Avoid that "I told you so" thing in 2019, and get tickets early for the Eighth Annual Hogtown Craft Beer Fest! 

WooHoo! What a weekend that was! And, by the way, there are articles already on brewnymph.com about a bunch of these breweries, so take a look!

See you in Florida Somewhere with a beer! As always, thanks for reading, please refer a friend, and....

Cheers!

Til next time, 

Linda

Linda Johnson, 
Certified Cicerone®

(All photos by Linda Johnson)


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