Best Beer Finds at the Florida Brewers Guild Craft Beer Fest 2017

Four years ago, we attended our first Florida Brewers Guild Beerfest. We knew it was the kick off event for Tampa Bay Beer Week, and we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. We had general admission tickets, and when we arrived, we still stood in line for over an hour. Once in the Beerfest, we vowed to never stand in that line again; VIP would be the ONLY way to go.

Fast forward four years, and the only way we attend beerfests is as VIPs. This year, like the last three, we entered the Tampa Bay Beer Week kick off fest an hour before the general population and had an hour of unhindered, uncrowded craft beer tasting. As usual, that one extra hour of beer tasting was 60 minutes of chatting with brewers, comparing brews, and picking the beers that I desperately hope will be bottled (or canned) and available for my Summer 2017 drinking and World Food Championships recipe creations.

From this year’s Beerfest, my favs & recommendations in no particular order…

Concrete Beach Brewery‘s Tropic of Passion
*a lighter abv (4.8%) wheat ale with copious amounts of passion fruit juice to make it reminiscent of a gose (without the salt)
Up until last summer, I never paid much attention to sour style beer.  Now, I look for sours with personality, and this one has plenty of personality.
Availability: Distributed through JJ Taylor, I’m hoping to get this in our local ABC store.

Crooked Thumb Brewery‘s Florida Grapefruit Gose
*another light abv (4.2%) true gose with Florida grapefruit juice
I actually tried this one last summer and liked it.  In fact, it was one of the goses that changed my mind about sour styles.  I can see this gose going into a beer cocktail this summer. Gose + tequila + salted rim = beach cocktail!!
Availability: Distributed by JJ Taylor, I wish this was canned, but it may only be available on draft.  Time to get a growler!!

Due South Brewing Company‘s Caramel Cream Ale
*an average abv (5%) amber ale with loads of vanilla
I may not eat sweets, but I love caramel and this one delivers.  To see that this beer is canned and available in central Florida, thrills me.
Availability: Distributed by Brown, Due South seems to only be sold in South East Florida (Miami and surrounding counties). However, they may reach central Florida in coming months.

Ft. Meyers Brewing Company‘s Salted Caramel Strong Ale
*a bit heavier (9.3%)  strong ale with a true salted caramel finish
Yes, I have two caramel beers on my best of list, but I love caramel, and this one is completely different from Due South’s.  I’ve always loved European style beer, and a strong ales fit the bill.
Availability: Distributed by JJ Taylor and only on draft, so I need to find someone who’s serving it and take a growler!

Walking Tree Brewery‘s Duke Snider’s Imperial Stout
*an impressive (10%) abv rich imperial stout with none of the bittersweet-ness that can sometimes be overpowering
I usually only drink stouts during the colder seasons, and while March is typically a colder month, it was nearly 80 degrees today.  Normally, I don’t even consider a stout on a warm (hot) day, but Walking Tree is new, so why not!?  To make a long story short, it was a fabulous decision.  Their stout has a huge coffee profile and very little bittersweet-ness.  It was black as “motor oil,” as my 13 yr old would say, coated every inch of the tasting cup, and was perfectly smooth.
Availability: Distributed by JJ Taylor and only on draft, but Walking Tree in Vero Beach, so a road trip with a growler is in order!!

Miami Brewing Company‘s Flamingo Ale
*a light (5.3%) abv blended beer combining their Big Rod Coconut Blonde Ale and their Shark Bait Mango Wheat Ale
We’ve been drinking this combo for a couple of years.  I’m glad that they’ve finally given it a name and decided to serve it to the masses.
Availability: Unless you’re at the brewery or a beerfest, you’ll need to buy Big Rod and Shark Bait and blend it yourself. However, both are readily available at ABC stores and Total Wines.

Mad Beach Brewing Company‘s Coco Sidra Cider
*a 5% abv cider
I realize that this is neither beer nor new (they served it last year too!).  However, this was the perfect palate-cleansing, refreshing, crisp cider for a warm afternoon of unlimited beer samples.
Availability: Mad Beach Sangria is distributed, but not sure that the cider is. #TimeToGoHunting

Pensacola Bay Brewery‘s Treasure Grove  & Church Street Wit Blend
* a 50/50 blend of an American Pale Ale and a Belgian Wit
On the recommendation of brewery reps, I gave it a shot. According to the reps, the brewery workers drink this blend. The workers know a thing or two about beer, and they definitely know how to blend beer.
Availability: Pensacola Bay is distributed through Pepin, but not sure that either of these beers are sold outside of the brewery. #SoSad

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