Florida Brewers Guild Craft Beer Festival

20150307_131222_resizedJust 6 short years ago, I had never tried craft beer. In fact, I didn’t really even like “beer.” Then, I went to my first craft beer festival and my eyes were opened. Up to then, I preferred sweet wines, like Rieslings and Moscatos, and ciders.  My taste in beer, like wine, was immature and limited.  That first beer festival was filled with plenty of IPAs, which I poured out, ciders, lagers, and stouts, which blew me away.  I never knew that beer could taste like coffee and chocolate.  To say that beer festival changed my life would be an understatement.

Since then, we’ve visited more breweries and attended more craft beer festivals than I can name.  We’ve toured breweries in nearly every city we visit and even planned vacations around festivals.  We’ve made friends in the industry and tried some of the most innovative brews ever imagined.  We’ve sampled private stock, as well as one time brews.  We’ve expanded our tastes and enjoyed every sip.
In Florida, spring is craft beer festival season, which makes sense.  Summer is brutal…sweltering heat and unpredictable thunderstorms don’t make for great outdoor festivals. Fall is windy…no one wants their beer tents blowing away.  Winter is full of “visitors”…traffic would be a nightmare and no one would get to the festival.  So, every spring, we make our beer pretzel necklaces, grab our sunglasses, air up the bike tires, and grab our VIP tickets.
Of all the beer events in Florida, the biggest is Tampa Bay Beer Week.  For a week every March, the craft beer brewers of Florida ALL converge on Tampa to share their brews, compete for awards, invade local restaurants & tap rooms, and party around the bay.  The week begins with a Brewers Guild Fest in Cotanchobee Park in downtown Tampa with 58 breweries pouring 250+ beers.  Then, continues with a week of special events, pub tours, bike rides, tastings, concerts, and even a brewers ball. There isn’t a day in that week that isn’t filled with stuff to do on both sides of the bay.
For us, we happened upon the FBG Beerfest, and the first year, we stood in line for over an hour just trying to get in the park. Since then, we learned a thing or two and only buy VIP tickets that get us in an hour before the insane crowds, ride our bikes and take public transportation instead of battling for parking, and ask for half pours so that we can taste more beer without getting tanked. With 250+ beers to try and more people than a political convention, that extra hour is a must!
This year’s FBG Beerfest is just 2 days away, and we couldn’t be more excited.  Last year, we were in the first dozen people admitted to the park.  This year, we will be first…guaranteed!

Image Attribution: from FBG Fest Beer List (floridabrewersguild.org/events/fbg-fest-beer-list/)

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