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Sun, Suds & Charity: Rocky Water Brew Fest, Melbourne 2018

High above Eau Gallie Blvd.
October 24, 2018: Under sunshine and blue skies, the 5th Annual Rocky Water Brew Fest brought together 37 small Florida craft breweries and homebrewers for an afternoon of sipping suds for the benefit of the Eau Gallie Rotary Club charities on Saturday, October 20, 2018. 

Once again, Highland Avenue at the intersection of Eau Gallie Blvd. in the Eau Gallie Arts District of Melbourne traded vehicles for beer tents. With only 1600 allotted tickets, Fest Chair Tom Richards confirmed that there was "method to the madness," so that the ratio of guests to brewers results in a great experience for attendees.  Last year, tickets sold out at the gate on fest day, and this year, online tickets sold out a day ahead, as announced on social media (what's that about "I told you so?").  The beerfest, originally conceived around six years ago by organizers, took on a vision by Intracoastal Brewing Company head brewer Donald Atwell as an event designed to showcase the state's smaller breweries. 


Partner brewery Intracoastal Brewing, itself located in the Eau Gallie Arts District about a block away from the Eau Gallie Square fest venue, kicked things off with a brewers' party on Friday night, which was open to the public. For those anywhere within a few blocks, there was no mistaking where this party was! The event featured food trucks, music, special beer releases, and a bunch of brewers roaming around Intra's new brewhouse, the beer garden, and original tap room. "Those guys at Intra are wonderful," said Fest Chair Richards. With Intra committing its staff to the fest and pre-party every year, Richards included a special shout-out to Maggie Williams, one of Intra's managers, who was instrumental in making things run seamlessly. 


With perfect weather, Intra's beer garden shined brightly under the lights (video):



Last year at the fest, Mash Monkeys Brewing was a brewery-in-planning. This year, the the guys have an operating brewery in Sebastian. So, what happens when you're talking to co-founders Derek and Patrick? Photobomb by Arkane Ale Works, of course!



And, there's never enough Space Coast fun when Bugnutty Brewing, Merritt Island, is around:



It's always tough to catch up with John Curtis, co-owner of Intra, because of the many hats he wears at Rocky Water Brew Fest (literally, his safari hat on fest day is probably a legend by now). He's also the guy responsible for setting up the layout at the fest. 


It's tough to get John to stand still, it seems, so I was glad to get this one!
Under the lights in the beer garden at Intra.
And, hey, the beer garden is a pretty amazing set up, too!
Speaking of the fest setup, one of the first things return attendees may have noticed was the change in arrangement of the brewery booths this year, due to city requirements. The layout featured a number of breweries back-to-back along Highland Avenue, which, as the day went on, made it easier to walk around to each. Nice work, John! 


A walkaround view of the fest setup, before the gate opened.
A well-organized fest entry consisted of two parts: first, show your ticket and get your wristband and tasting glass, and, second, walk through the gates without having to stop. Very smooth entry!


Ready, set, .... go .... 

Eager fans were lined up at the gate almost an hour early, and the anticipation grew as the clock ticked closer to the 1pm opening. Pre-entry looked like this along Highland Ave. where the food trucks were stationed (video): 




Then, they may have been just a little excited to get that first beer in their hands, as the gate swung open -- hey, show those wristbands (video):




As mentioned above, Rocky Water Brew Fest features only Florida breweries (and cider/kombucha). Most of the breweries are located in the central part of the state, but several traveled from South Florida and points further north and west. Generally, each brewery served anywhere between three to five beers, with a few timed tappings. 


Ahhhhhh!
With the number of breweries growing throughout the state, there's always bound to be a few new ones to show up at a beerfest, and this was no exception. Local newcomers Quarters Brewing, an arcade and brewery, opened in downtown Melbourne on June 29. The brewery runs a 3.5 barrel brewhouse system and has eight house beers on tap:


Co-owners/brewers Tyler and Brock of Quarters Brewing,
with an IPA and a Lager
This year's new brewery-in-planning is Beachfly Brewing, located at the corner of A1A and Eau Gallie Blvd. at the beach. The brewery, with a 7-barrel system, expects to open in November. Look for all types of beer to be brewed here, including this Pina Colada Milk Shake IPA! 


New brewery Beachfly Brewing:
Brewer Will, Owners Lisa and Zach.


While it was a picture-perfect day at the beerfest, the sun made bodies glisten and hair a little curlier. More beer! 

The crew from Hell 'n Blazes Brewing, downtown Melbourne (see articles on this site), always seems to have a good time, so here we are again! By the way, HnB recently opened its kitchen. The menu offers a variety of eats, generally along the lines of pub and comfort food (sounds perfect with an HnB beer): appetizers, salads, pizza, wings, entrees, burgers and sandwiches. A post-beerfest stop at HnB resulted in candied bacon (yes, you read that right), thin crust pizza, and a burger and fries on the table. Great addition, and the food was definitely worth the trip! The pizza was reminiscent of Midwestern pizza (from this former Chicago-area girl).


Tell me to go to Hell 'n Blazes ...
Space Coast brewery Dirty Oar Beer Co., Cocoa, made its second appearance at Rocky Water. Last year's milkshake IPA was a hit (I missed it), so this time around, it was on the list -- Mango, this year. I think I had two. 


Dirty Oar Beer Co.
Moving around the fest venue was indeed easier this year with the layout change. With the Space Coast sun, fest-goers huddled in the shade at certain areas before heading out to grab that next beer. 




The afternoon was an opportunity to meet new breweries and re-visit others. The booths at this fest are staffed by the breweries, and it's always cool chatting beer with those who brew and/or sell it. (A number of these breweries can be found on this site.) 

One of those is New Smyrna Beach Brewing, in South Volusia County. In case you didn't know, the brewery moved from its original location around the corner to a larger space along Canal Street. 


With Chris, from New Smyrna Beach Brewing.
That Hoppy Beer is an IPA brewed with
different hops each batch. This one was brewed
with Citra and Mosaic, for a fruity/tropical taste.
The Orlando/Central Florida contingent was well-represented at Rocky Water. The Ceres Honeydew Cream Ale from Wop's Hops Brewing, Sanford, was perfect for the day, with its very pleasant and refreshing taste.



Also attending from the Orlando area was Bowigens Beer Co., Casselberry. This 407 Pils is a cross between a Helles Lager and a Pilsner.


Bowigens Beer Co.
Breweries brought the whole cadre of beers to the fest, including lagers, IPAs, DIPAs, red ales, brown ales, and porters and stouts. It was all here! There were even a number of flavored treatments. 


With Adam from Bangin Banjo Brewing, Pompano Beach,
and a Toasted Coconut Cream Ale -- ready for the beach!
Have you ever noticed that everyone just seems to have a good time at a beerfest? It could be the beer, it could be the people -- or both! These events are a great way to get to know new or unfamiliar breweries to mark for future visits (roadtrip, baby!). With beer cyber-communities and beer geeks befriending others before actually meeting face to face in person, one of the best things about a day like this is .. saying hello over a beer! And, thanks for the kind words! I finally caught up with some Space Coast guys ... 


Hey, Jerry! Damn glad to meet ya .. finally!  


And, this is Jay from BeerFirst Podcast. Awesome!
(photo by BeerFirst Podcast)
With the clock ticking towards the end of the beerfest, a few more stops had to be made! 


With Dustin from Saltwater Brewery, Delray Beach.
The guys behind the marine and environmentally-
friendly six pack holders. And, a new Vienna Lager!
It's always a crazy time with Tomoka Brewing Co., Port Orange.
Be on the lookout for a new Sour Bomb collaboration.
And, there was also this:

What? Ed with the photobomb. (He had that photo last year.)

From Jacksonville, Aardwolf Brewing proved to be a popular stop, as kegs had kicked -- no more Almond Joy White Russian Imperial Stout?


It's empty!
Just before 5pm, John Curtis made the rounds reminding everyone of the impending cut-off time. Or, does that mean scrambling for more beer in the final minutes? For these two, it meant sitting and sipping a beer! 


Greg from Wop's Hops and Jeana from Black Cauldron.
What a day! What's better than drinking for a worthy cause? The Eau Gallie Rotary Club supports mostly local charities within the immediate area, said Tom Richards, who has been with Rotary for about 25 years, was a past event Chair, and was one of the original event developers, before heading things up again this year. Preliminary estimates, according to Richards, show that a figure in the nature of at least $75,000, from tickets and sponsorships, were raised from the beerfest. Now, doesn't that make you feel good?

Rocky Water Brew Fest aims to keep the event on the smaller side, so that breweries and attendees alike have a welcoming and positive experience. If you're wondering whether to include this event on your beerfest itinerary, well, there's no reason to hesitate!

And, hey, the event sold out a day early this year. Heads up, for 2019 (just sayin')! 



As an attendee for four of the five years at Rocky Water Brew Fest, including the first, it's a fest that is on the annual calendar! (Matthew got me a couple of years ago). It also makes another great reason to visit Melbourne and Space Coast for breweries and sight-seeing. 

This year's Rocky Water Brew Fest may have resulted in a not-so-stellar hair day, but, hey, the beer was innovative and cold, the venue friendly, and the people awesome! Yeah, I'll take that! Special thanks to Tom Richards for contributing to this article.

 Cheers!

Til next time,














Linda

Linda Johnson,
Certified Cicerone®
www.brewnymph.com

All photos by BrewNymph (unless otherwise credited)


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