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Tampa Bay Beer Week

Tampa Bay Beer Week

TBBW describes themselves the best:

Tampa Bay Beer Week started in 2012 and hosted over 400 events throughout the Bay Area. Events included large scale festivals, beer dinners/brunches, beer tastings, food truck events, special bottle releases, limited tap releases, educational events and meet the brewer gatherings. The week is kicked off with Mayor Bob Buckhorn tapping the first firkin at the Florida Brewers Guild Festival in Tampa and “ends” with Cigar City Brewing’s Hunahpu’s Day festival. The week features hundreds of events on both sides of the bay and officially ends on Sunday of the first full week of March.

  • Who: most open, some closed events.
  • When: the first full week in March. Held annually since 2012.
  • Where: across the bay! Lots of events all over the place.
  • How much: many free, some expensive.

Event links:

Halfway There

A massive event put on by the Tampa Bay Beer Week group. The event marks the “halfway-mark” between beer weeks. Notable for its high quality brewery list and festive atmosphere, this one is not to be missed. Started in 2012.

Watch out though: typically there is very limited seating and food options are sparse.

  • Who: open to the public
  • When: typically the first Saturday in September
  • Where: probably Saint Pete – previously was held in Tampa but 2014 marked the first year in a Saint Pete venue.
  • Cost: typically about $50 a ticket; generally includes a tasting glass, unlimited samples, and memories. Lots of memories.

Looking for a Way to Get Involved at Beer Week?

I heard from one of the volunteer coordinators for Tampa Bay Beer Week that she’s looking for some additional volunteers to help out at upcoming TBBW events. If you’re looking for a way to go to some events “on the cheap” or just want to meet some awesome beer people, check out these volunteer events. Contact Carol Dekkers directly to volunteer.

Saturday March 1, 2014 – Tampa – Florida Brewers Guild Beerfest 2014

Florida Brewers Guild would like a few more volunteers to assist with miscellaneous tasks (emptying dump buckets, ice delivery, etc.) for the SATURDAY FBG event which runs from 2pm – 5pm in downtown Tampa. (I wrote about this event earlier this month. — john)

In exchange for you working 1.5 hours (either 2-3:30 pm or 3:30 -5pm) you get free entrance to the event.  If interested please let me know which shift you can work.  At least 10 more volunteers are needed.

Friday March 7, 2014 – St Petersburg – Event at Green Bench Brewing

Volunteers are needed to sell T-Shirts and TBBW passports for Tampa Bay Beer Week at their table at Green Bench Brewing’s Friday night March 7 event. Times are yet to be determined but it will be in the evening. At least 6 more volunteers are needed.


2014: A Year in Preview

More Thoughts on Volume and Predictions for 2014

There’s talk – always talk – about a bubble in the “craft beer” industry. Heck, even Greg Koch calls this a time of “irrational exuberance”.

The Stone founder, always quick with a metaphor, compares the craft industry to a young San Diego tree, one that came of age during one of those rare years when the usually fierce Santa Ana winds fail to materialize. “There’s no headwind at all,” he says. “In order for a tree to grow strong, there has to be wind. Otherwise, when we have a season of severe Santa Anas, there will be toppled trees all over the place. A lot of small brewers right now are growing up with no headwind. Chain stores are asking them before they open if they can get in line to buy some of their beer. This is an unusual thing that they think is normal. This won’t continue.”

But really is there a bubble? Are our breweries operating in an environment devoid of any headwind?

I’ve already written my thoughts on the addition of  3 Daughters Brewing capacity to our fair local market. One of the things I missed was the impact of tourism – the transient population will drive up the volume of beer consumed here. Here’s a few more thoughts in the form of predictions for Tampa’s local beer economy, triggered by Koch’s doomsday premonitions. In my opinion – we’re gonna be just fine, but there may be some growing pains.

We will lose some local breweries

The growth in craft beer is not coming because people stopped drinking wine or other spirits, or because there are a lot of new beer drinkers in the marketplace – it’s coming at the expense of other breweries – you know, the big three.

There will be a point at which the market of early adopters and people who like beer but not “that beer” has been “tapped”, and without significant growth in the overall market of beer drinkers or Joe Sixpack upping his beer budget by 50%, one doesn’t have to wonder long to know what the result will be: a bunch of small businesses which are highly leveraged and/or under capitalized will likely get tapped out.

Established breweries with better financial footing will likely survive this culling – think Cigar City with its debt-averse owner Joey Redner, big new heavily capitalized breweries like Motorworks or Coppertail, or little guys with tiny capital footprints that are still bootstrapping but are beer purists and dedicated to the craft – call them artisinal breweries, like Three Palms.

Mind you, at last count there are about 30 breweries open or planned making beer for sale either on or off-premises. That’s a lot of breweries and a lot of beer. Among these 30 there are some unique concepts serving sub-markets of the beer industry – and they will likely be just fine – like Saint Somewhere and their unique blend of beers (not to mention that most of their distribution is outside of the state!). But the breweries that are focusing on just plain old ales with nothing special about them – they’ll likely find an untimely end. I’m not naming names, but I suspect there are at least a dozen that won’t make it in their current format. Maybe they’ll be merged into brewpubs. Maybe they’ll be consolidated and their equipment merged into other small breweries or brew pubs, or gasp! it may go to a brewery in another part of the state or country.

We will grow to be a Mecca on the East coast for beer

We continue to surface brave, creative, and intelligent people into this industry. We have a fantastic local home brew club circuit, numbering at least 8 counting only Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. We’re getting a world-class contract brewing facility in Polk County. Our local breweries are getting national and international attention for their creativity and style. And, we have two father-figures in Cigar City and Yuengling. We may not be Asheville, but what they have in volume we make up in charm. We have a theme park that was built on beer for crying out loud.

Look for groups like Tampa Bay Beer Week, Alan C. Shaw, Florida Beer Guy, Tom Scherberger, and yours truly to keep pushing the local angle and upping the tourism ante. One way to grow that demand for Tampa Bay Brews is to get people here drinking it and having a good time doing so. We already have a signature non-brewery event – Tampa Bay Beer Week – and one more that is brewery specific – Hunahpu’s Day. Other parts of the state will look to us for distribution and representation we build up the critical mass of eyeballs and visitors required to become a beer destination. Heck, San Diego did it.

Furthermore, there are talks among the local beer geeks that we need to do a better job of publicizing what we’re all doing around here: making great beer and building a great community. Look for some action on this side – a new organization representing local breweries and doing their charitable good deeds. I suspect at least one more of these will open in 2014 in addition to the great work that Tampa Bay Beer Week is doing.

Big beer will fight hard

The efforts of those representing the current three-tier system will come to light this legislative session and the next. Something has to be done – everyone is looking for resolution to the tasting room loophole and whole the #growlergate thing just makes us look dumb. Big Breweries will continue to use the tools at their disposal – no silly, not their research labs and incredibly bright brewmeisters, I’m talking about their lobbyists and deep pocketbooks – to maintain their dominant position on grocery store shelves. Without access to shelf space, growth beyond beer geeks for little guys will be hard to come by. (Did you ever wonder why we have dozens different varieties of watery lager, but only a handful of ales on the shelves, even with such incredible local variety?) This is where I believe the battle will be fought and won. Retailers can’t carry beer except that which has traversed the distributor networks. Distribution contracts are opaque, one-sided, and not always in the brewery’s favor.

With local breweries like Intuition Ale Works stepping up to the lobbying plate and additional pressure coming from the likes of the Florida Brewers Guild, I suspect that we’ll see some forward motion but not a resolution in 2014.

Its all about the gemutlicheit

We’ll soon realize that there are a lot of really great breweries around here, and taking the time to drive to one and sufficiently enjoy their offerings makes for a long unwinding time before you can actually drive home. Getting people into your tasting room for more than an occasional pint will require something more than the latest imperial sour double-dry-hopped goodness – it will require mug clubs, cornhole, dart boards, board games, shuffleboard, pinball machines, good food, and … dare I say it … a sense of community and warmth. You’re not just selling beer here folks, you’re selling a state of being. Breweries that focus on this – on being a destination – will succeed, in this guy’s opinion.

But it really doesn’t matter

… because these kinds of predictions are only worth the bits they’re written in, and these days that’s worth less than a cup of coffee. These predictions are my own – your mileage may vary. I hope that you at least have a good chuckle at them and that you convince your officemate, roommate, mother-in-law, or postal worker to drop by your local brewery for a pint and a growler to take to that New Year’s Eve party you’re hosting.

Happy Holidays from TBBN.

Gary Kost: Beer Rater Extraordinaire

Image ruthlessly borrowed from CCB's Facebook Page

Gary enjoying his 500th rated beer from CCB.

I know a few people. I’ll just say it: I’m kind of a big deal. But I’m really nothing compared to Gary Kost, a man to whom I’ve given the official TBBN monicker “Beer Rater Extraordinaire.” But it’s not like I even know much about him: I just know that he’s consumed enough Cigar City beer to have rated more than 500 distinct beers from that one brewery alone. Armed with this little tidbit and my official TBBN press credentials, I sought an interview with the elusive yet kind and gentle Mr. Kost.

What follows is a mildly edited transcript of a conversation we had over email.

John (me): so, I got your email address from CCB after I learned that you rated your 500th beer from their brewery. I get it, you like beer. Let me buy you one, then you can tell me your life story and the intricate details of each beer you’ve ever consumed.

Gary (beer rater, extraordinare): uhm, I don’t know you from Adam, so lets do this over email.

John: OK, here goes: Tell me about yourself. Where do you work? What do you do?

Gary: I work as an Art Director at an advertising agency in Tampa. I’m also Executive Director for Tampa Bay Beer Week. (n.b. TBBW is kind of a big deal in these parts. . Check out their upcoming event “Halfway There: A Rare Beer Festival” — ed.) I moved here from NJ in 2004 and met up with the local beer tasting group (out of sheer boredom and lack of friends) organized through Ratebeer.com. Great group of guys. A lot have moved away, had kids, lost interest etc … so the “Old Guard” isn’t really around anymore, but the group, combo of old and new, still meets once a week to share beer that they picked up or traded for. Might be THE most generous group of beer geeks on the planet. I dove into the ADDICTIVE trading scene, but the idea of packing up boxes made that short lived. These days I find myself meeting up with friends at the local spots and drinking a nice Florida Weisse or a pale ale.

John: Nice. I have to say, the beer community in Tampa is really warm and welcoming. A great group of people. OK – next question: When did you start reviewing CCB beers? Which was your first one?

Gary: Cigar City Humidor Series Imperial Stout on 3/29/09! I’m glad you asked this. I had no idea what my first one was. In fact I still have an original bottle of this. They were filling 750s like growlers and crowning them on the spot in the old warehouse tasting room. I gave it a 4.5/5. Still love this beer.

John: From your profile on ratebeer.com, I can see you’re a big fan of imperial stouts; we’re lucky to have a world class stout-factory here in our back yards. 🙂 OK, third question: Which is your favorite CCB beer, and why?

Gary: The One Percentor!!!!! Kidding. CCB let me brew a beer with Ben Romano (former CCB pilot brewer, now Angry Chair head brewer) on the pilot system when I hit 300 rates. We brewed a super low gravity (1% ABV) Florida Weisse aged on peaches and mango. It was served at the Berliner Bash at PEGs. My TRUE favorite CCB beer is Invasion. I love IPAs and Pale Ales. Invasion is so drinkable. My days of Imperial Stout and massive Barley Wines are over, but I still like to taste them.

John: Yeah, I like those heavy beers too, but they ultimately catch up with you. So when you’re not drinking Invasion, who’s beer are you drinking? Which one?

Gary: 7venth Sun. They make some killer IPAs and solid Belgians. My favorite beer from them is a no-brainer … Intergalactic Pale Ale. I LOVE Galaxy hops and Intergalactic is all Galaxy. Big fan of FYA and Mangrove as well. 7venth Sun is not afraid of hops and it shows.

John: Thoughts on a craft-beer bubble? Does Tampa have one?

Gary: It’s WAY too soon to call anything around here a bubble. We have less than 20 breweries in this area. San Diego will have near 100 by years end. Portland has around 70 give or take. With our number of breweries and breweries in planning, we are far from a “bubble.” Let’s forget the bubble and call it a “boom.” Craft beer was nearly non-existent around here a few years ago. Now we have all these great local breweries, beer bars, brewpubs and bottle shops. Breweries outside of Tampa see our growth. There’s a reason our out of state distribution has grown. Founders, New Belgium, Green Flash, Sweetwater … they are here because the Bay Area is savvy enough and can sustain them.

John: Wow, that’s the enthusiasm man. Bottle that stuff up and you could sell it (pun intended.) And seriously though, that’s the vibe right now. Tasting rooms are opening up everywhere, breweries are popping out of the woodwork, and great things are happening locally. That being said, what’s next for the Tampa Bay Craft Beer scene?

Gary: I’m not sure. More breweries for sure. It’s becoming a destination. Tampa Bay Beer Week is growing. Hunahpu’s Day is getting bigger and bigger. The beer is getting better and better. I’m excited to say the least.

John: Thanks Gary, I enjoyed that.

Gary: Cheers man. This was fun!

Do you do something extraordinary with beer in the local beer scene? Drop me a line: john@tampabaybrewnews.com. Let’s talk.

Halfway There: A Rare Beer Festival

Tampa Bay Beer Week announced today that they will be selling general admission tickets to their upcoming “Halfway There: A Rare Beer Festival” online.

VIP tickets are not available online – you still have to show up in person at your local watering hole at pre-determined times.

For more information, check the event’s Facebook page, or to buy general admission tickets visit the EventBrite page: https://tampabaybeerweek.eventbrite.com/

TBBN will be there – come say hi!