Tampa Bay Beer Week celebrates more each year

Tampa Bay Beer Week logo

In its fourth incarnation, Tampa Bay Beer Week celebrates even more.

More than 40 breweries in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, plus another 10 or so in adjoining counties.

More beer and more beer styles being produced by those breweries.

More bottles and cans from local breweries making their way onto store shelves.

More jobs being created at locally owned small businesses.

And more recognition from the rest of the world of the growing and thriving craft beer community, not just in the region, but also across the entire state.

At the annual Florida Brewers Guild Craft Beer Festival, which officially kicks off the week on Saturday, March 7, 60-plus breweries from the Sunshine State will be pouring samples of their beer. This would have been impossible just a few years ago – there weren’t nearly that number of breweries in the state. And the ones at the festival are not even half the number of Florida breweries that are making beer today.

It’s a great time to be a beer lover in Florida, and Tampa Bay Beer Week will be a great time – period.

But there are so many high-quality events planned, many at the same time, what’s a beer geek to do? For this year, my list of the must-attend events takes the form of a mental exercise: If I could go to two events each day (some days I would need a cloning device), which ones would I be sure to attend? And in some cases, I’ll throw in a bonus event because, well, there are just so darn many!


Though it doesn’t start until Saturday, Tampa Bay Beer Week kickoff parties are taking place on both sides of Tampa Bay: The Flying Pig Taphouse in downtown St. Petersburg starting at 7 p.m., and Pour House in downtown Tampa at 8 p.m.

BONUS: Coppertail Brewing Co. in Tampa opens the doors on its permanent tasting room at the grand opening starting at 6 p.m.


The above-mentioned Florida Brewers Guild Craft Beer Festival runs from 2 to 5 p.m. at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park in downtown Tampa. VIP ticket holders get in an hour early.

A Farm to Table Dinner at Sweetwater Farm with Six Ten and Whole Foods runs from 6 to 8 p.m. at the farm, 6942 W. Comanche Ave., Tampa. (No need for cloning, but you might want to pack a spare liver if you’re attending after the FBG fest beforehand).


Eggs & Kegs Tour de Tandem starts at 11 p.m. in the Cigar City Brewing Tasting Room. The now-monthly brunch from LOKO Cuisine started at TBBW offers a good chance to fill your stomach with delicious dishes prepared with beers from Cigar City and New Belgium to prepare for the next event.

The Best Florida Beer Championship Brewers Ball offers only the award-winning beers from the 2015 BFB Championship for tasting. Winners already know they won, but they’ll find out here if they landed gold, silver or bronze medals. An after-party starts at 6 p.m. at Tampa’s Independent Bar & Café.


Gose Bottle Release starts at 3 p.m. at Rapp Brewing in Seminole. The salty and sour German beer style is one of the most popular on tap at Rapp, and a limited number will be available in 750 ml bottles.

“Blogs & Brews”: Inside the Beer Writer’s Mind will be from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Ale & The Witch in downtown St. Petersburg. Meet and greet some of the chroniclers of Florida’s craft beer community (including yours truly) and enjoy some local brews and barbecue specials from the nearby Witch’s Den restaurant. There will be giveaways and other specials.

BONUS: Show off your shuffling skills and help raise money for a good cause starting at 6 p.m. at the St. Pete Shuffleboard Club. Shufflin for Legg is a fundraiser to help pay medical bills for Aaron Legg, a local beer geek who recently suffered a series of seizures and was hospitalized for 12 days. Entry fee is $100 per four-person team, and that includes beer from local breweries Cycle, Cigar City, Darwin and St. Pete Brewing. More details here.


The annual Tampa Bay Brewing Company Beer Dinner (a personal favorite) features six courses prepared by the Ybor City brewpub’s Chef John Boyle, each paired with a beer from Brewmaster David Doble.

Another beer dinner at The Salt Rock Tavern in Oldsmar features three courses prepared by Head Chef Tyson Williams, and five beers from Largo’s Barley Mow Brewing.

BONUS: Hungry for a beer-and-food pairing but can’t make it to either of the above? Burgers & Brushfire at the Tampa Taproom will offer Chef Brian’s incredible burgers and Big Storm Brewing beers all day.


Still hungry? Swing by Pair O’ Dice Brewing in Clearwater for Biers & Brats starting at 5 p.m. Quench your thirst with three traditional German lagers and ales specially brewed for the occasion will be on tap and satisfy your hunger with authentic German bratwursts grilled up by Brats Sensation.

The homebrewing community gets a chance to shine as the South Tampa homebrewing club Special Hoperations deploys for a Take Over of Coppertail’s New Tasting Room from 6 to 9 p.m.

BONUS: Funky Buddha Prelaunch Kickoff at Cigar City Cider and Mead at 7 p.m. will feature 14 beers on tap from the lauded South Florida brewery, which recently announced that its distribution footprint is spreading to cover the Tampa Bay area.


The Tampa Bay Brewing Company Night of Wood offers pours of eight special beers that were all aged with wood or in barrels. The brewers who created them will be on hand to discuss the process from 5 to 11 p.m.

“Blood, Sweat & Beer,” a new film that explores the explosive growth of the craft beer industry and the dramatic journeys of two start-up breweries, will screen at Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company in Madeira Beach at 7 p.m. The movie also features interviews with notables from other breweries, including Florida’s Cigar City and 7venth Sun.


The Foeder for Thought block party at Green Bench Brewing in St. Pete kicks off at 4 p.m. The festival highlights beers fermented in foeders (picture giant oak wine barrels) from Green Bench and other local and national breweries.

BREW CIRCUS At The Pour House sounds … interesting. Here’s the description: “There will be $5 tickets on hand to have your favorite brewery sing, dance and basically embarrass themselves for your amusement! Stageworks Theatre has created a wild list of different activities for each brewery to perform! There will be giveaways, mayhem and more!” It is not known if any more exclamation points are available, but it is presented by Barley Mow Brewing and will feature Coppertail Brewing, Cigar City Brewing and Tampa Bay Brewing Co. Proceeds benefit Stageworks. Starts at 7 p.m.


Even at $200 per ticket, the legendary Hunahpu’s Day, which was pronounced dead last year but brought back to life, sold out in a matter of minutes. The beer festival and bottle release once again will fill the parking lot of Cigar City Brewing on the second Saturday of March. Those fortunate to have scored tickets can expect some pleasant surprises.

If you weren’t able to get tickets for Hunahpu’s Day, the brewery is sponsoring a fest of a different tone: The Cigar City Brewgrass Festival will start at 5 p.m. in the wonderfully funky environs of Tampa’s Skipper’s Smokehouse. (A second edition takes place Sunday at Ferg’s Sports Bar & Grill in downtown St. Pete). Nearly a dozen artists are scheduled to perform, and at $20 advance, $25 day of show, admission takes less of a hit on the wallet than does H-Day.


End of TBBW Brunch at Six Ten Brewing is pretty much what it says. A beery meal with munchables from The Twisted Iron food truck. The menu has not been posted, but the description says to think “Horchata Stout Waffles.”

The third annual Hunahpu’s Hangover Day will highlight 7venth Sun collaborations with seven other breweries starting at noon. Though it ostensibly takes place at 7venth Sun, it’s essentially a massive street party within the Dunedin craft beer pyramid that also includes Dunedin Brewery and Dunedin House of Beer.

Of course there are a LOT more events taking place during the eight-day celebration of the Tampa Bay area craft beer community, so check here for the complete calendar (which will have items added to it, so return to it before finalizing your intinerary).

Follow my #TBBW adventures on the Beer in Florida Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram.


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Florida Beer People: John LoScalzo of LOKO Cuisine

John LoScalzo of LOKO Cuisine.

John LoScalzo of LOKO Cuisine.

Photos courtesy of LOKO Cuisine

I first met John LoScalzo during his inaugural Eggs & Kegs brunch at Cigar City Brewing during the 2013 Tampa Bay Beer Week. The delicious beer-infused feasts soon became a monthly event, drawing sold-out crowds of hungry craft-beer fans to the Tampa brewery’s tasting room on the third Sunday of the month (the schedule shifts during TBBW).

LoScalzo kindly took the time to answer a few questions about Eggs & Kegs – which marks the start of its third year on March 8 during this year’s Tampa Bay Beer Week – how his company, LOKO Cuisine, has integrated itself in the local craft-beer community, and what’s ahead.

Beer in Florida: How did LOKO Cuisine start?

John LoScalzo: LOKO Cuisine started out of my love for food, cooking, and supporting local businesses.  As a full-time special education teacher, I knew it was nearly impossible to add a full-time cooking gig to my plate.  Then I had an idea to create dinners and events at unique local businesses featuring their products and my cooking.

BiF: At what point did you decide to make craft beer part of the equation?

JL: In 2009, after having a few beers at Cigar City Brewing I was like “HOLY SHIT!”

Watermelon Ginger Cider Cooler.

Watermelon Ginger Cider Cooler.

These beers were so bold and flavorful that I had to cook with them.  The same day, I approached Cigar City Brewing’s owner and founder Joey Redner and pitched him my business idea.  He was immediately receptive and interested in my concept and has been 100 percent supportive ever since.  I truly owe a massive part of my success to Joey’s constant support and tremendous generosity.   Working with CCB has opened so many doors and allowed LOKO Cuisine to find its niche in the craft beer world.

BiF: What are some examples of the craft breweries and local craft beer venues and events with which LOKO has worked?  

JL: Of course LOKO Cuisine’s most popular event is the once a month Eggs & Kegs brunch hosted at Cigar City Brewing.

Cucumber Saison Pickled Shrimp.

Cucumber Saison Pickled Shrimp.

LOKO Cuisine also hosts public dinners every three to four months and some private events with craft breweries and venues that support craft beer such as Cigar City Cider & Mead, Angry Chair Brewing, Green Bench, Late Start Brewing, The Wild Rover Brewery, Brewer’s Tasting Room, Croxbone Brewing, J. Wakefield Brewing, Highland Brewery, Bells Brewery, New Belgium Brewing, Yuengling Brewing, WOB, Motorworks Brewing, Florida Avenue Brewing, Rock Brothers Brewing, Inkwood Books, Hideaway Cafe, Felicitous Tea & Coffee Shop, and Buddy Brew Coffee.

BiF: How did Eggs & Kegs at Cigar City Brewing come about?

JL: It started when Cigar City Brewing wanted to plan a collaboration brunch during the 2013 Tampa Bay Beer Week.  We threw around some names and Eggs & Kegs stuck.  The first Eggs & Kegs was such a hit that it became a once-a-month event.

BiF: What can people expect at the Eggs & Kegs on March 8 during the year’s Tampa Bay Beer Week?

JL: The first thing they can expect is for it to sell out!  This third installment of Eggs & Kegs during TBBW is a collaboration with Cigar City Brewing, New Belgium Brewing, and LOKO Cuisine.  PosterIt features a hearty French- and Belgian-inspired four-course menu and includes your first pour of beer or cider in a kickass New Belgium tulip glass that’s yours to keep.  Plus there will be some solid CCB and NB beers on tap including the Lips of Faith series Cigar City and New Belgium collaborative ale brewed with Anaheim and Marash peppers and New Belgium’s Oscar Worthy wood-aged sour brown ale with coffee.

BiF: What can we expect from LOKO Cuisine in the upcoming year, and beyond?  

JL: LOKO Cuisine plans to continue the monthly Eggs & Kegs at Cigar City every third Sunday (except during TBBW) and quarterly dinners.  Who knows, we may even throw in a few smaller unique pop-ups dinners.   As always you can expect laid-back events where people can enjoy local craft beer, creative and bold craft-beer infused food, and good company!

Thanks to John LoScalzo for taking the time to discuss his company and his contributions to the local craft-beer community. For more information or to purchase admission to the March 8 Eggs & Kegs brunch, click here.


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Celebrate the February Florida brewery boom (UPDATED)

Beer in Florida logoFlorida breweries seem to experience a birth boom in February. It likely is only coincidence, but a plethora of grand openings and anniversary celebrations fills the craft beer geek’s calendar during the rest of the month.

Granted, some of the “grand openings” are official in name only because brewery taprooms usually hold a soft opening a few weeks in advance to work out kinks for their debut into beer society circles. At least one soft opening two soft openings have already taken place this month: Silverking Brewing Company in Tarpon Springs and Lake Tribe Brewing Company in Tallahassee. At least one taproom grand opening, Coppertail Brewing, is scheduled in early March during Tampa Bay Beer Week , and Cigar City Brewing has its sixth anniversary coming up around that time. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, here are a few of the others scheduled in February, starting today. If I missed any, leave a comment below or email gerard@beerinflorida.com and I’ll add them.

Friday, Feb. 20

Bowigens Beer Company in Casselberry just received word that its final bit of licensing came through. Its Facebook page hints at a soft opening at some point today. More info.

Saturday, Feb. 21

JDub’s Brewing Company & Tap Room in Sarasota celebrates its first anniversary. More info.

Swamphead Brewery in Gainesville has been around a few years, but it is marking the opening of its brand-new brewery. More info.

Six Ten Brewing in Tampa is throwing a party for its first year. More info.

MIA Brewing Company officially joins Miami’s brewery boom. More info.

Friday, Feb. 27

Not a commercial brewery, but the west coast of Florida’s first brew-on-premise outfit HiFi Homebrew & Barbecue Supply opens its doors in Clearwater. More info.

Saturday, Feb. 28

Fort Myers Brewing Company plans a big bash to note its second year of brewing in Southwest Florida. More info.

The long-awaited opening of Miami’s J. Wakefield Brewing features a nice guest tap list. More info.

The brewery is not yet finished, but the taproom for GrassLands Brewing Company in Tallahassee will fling its doors open to the public to serve mostly Florida-brewed beer and a collaboration or two, at first. More info.

(UPDATED) Florida Keys Brewing Company has been serving a few weeks in Islamorada, but will hold a soft opening of its tasting room. More info.

Florida Breweries Map and List

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Tampa Bay area brewers discuss beer and politics

Panelists, from left, Justin Clark, Mike Doble, Kent Bailey, Joey Redner, and moderator Christine Mendonca. (Photo by BeerInFlorida.com)

Panelists, from left, Justin Clark, Mike Doble, Kent Bailey, Joey Redner, and moderator Christine Mendonca. (Photo by BeerInFlorida.com)

Four Tampa Bay area brewery superstars shared the stage at Cigar City Cider and Mead in Ybor City on Tuesday night. From Cigar City Brewing was Vice President Justin Clark and founder/CEO Joey Redner; representing Tampa Bay Brewing Company was Mike Doble; and rounding out the panel was Kent Bailey, founder and president of Coppertail Brewing Company.

The occasion was a panel discussion, dubbed a “Fireside Chat,” on the subject of Beer and Politics in Florida, part of the entrepreneurial-focused Tampa Bay Startup Week.

Prompted by moderator Christine Mendonca, Clark – also vice president of the Florida Brewers Guild – began the discussion by explaining to the crowd about the growler issue, and how the unlawfulness of the industry standard 64-oz. refillable beer container lies at the center of the convoluted legal and legislative battles during the past few years in the state.

“If I had known a career in beer would have gotten me so much into politics and legislation, I would have paid more attention in school,” Clark told the audience, eliciting the first of several rounds of laughter from the mixed audience of beer geeks and those interested in learning about the subject as it affects small business in general.

Doble then took on explaining the three-tier system of beer distribution, and the complex business relationships among suppliers (breweries), distributors and retailers.

But, he said, “even for a person in the industry, it’s hard to understand.”

The discussion turned to the subject of brewery tasting rooms and recent legal action by retailer groups seeking to “clarify” what’s commonly called the “tourism exception,” a line in state law enacted in the early 1960s to allow Busch Gardens, then owned by Anheuser-Busch, to sell beer on the same premises on which it was manufactured. Craft brewery tasting rooms have been allowed to serve and sell beer under this rule.

Things got feisty as the brewery executives defended their status as tourist destinations and stressed the importance of the tasting-room model as a way for a brewery to earn the money to grow.

Talking about the “tourism exception,” Redner said, “If I meet these same criteria (as did Busch Gardens), why can’t I operate under those criteria?”

Redner pointed out that the majority of states have similar exceptions for small brewers, to help them grow as a business. Doble countered that calling it an “exception” isn’t even accurate.

“There are no exceptions to the law,” he said. “There’s just the law.”

The discussion continued, covering topics such as beer samplings, currently not allowed in most retail establishments, and restrictive franchise agreements between brewers and distributors, which essentially amounts to a lifetime contract that requires extraordinary circumstances to exit for a brewer, no matter what the business practices of the distributor.

“Distributors like to say it’s like a marriage,” Redner said. “I say it’s not a marriage – you can get out of a marriage.”

The tone of the discussion remained mostly positive toward the distributor relationships, though. All speakers agreed that they had excellent relationships with their wholesalers, and they wanted solutions that would benefit all.

When asked during the Q-and-A to define who “the bad guy” was in this conflict, the consensus was “nobody.” The people involved on all sides wanted the best outcome; they just had different ideas of how that could be achieved.

The group emphasized how much help feedback from consumers and supporters was during the battles of the 2014 legislative session in Tallahassee, saying that lawmakers were astounded at the level of support.

Doble summed up the subtext of the discussion, which Mendonca defined as, what can consumers and other small-business owners do to help the breweries now?

“Follow the Florida Brewers Guild” on Facebook and Twitter, Doble said. “Listen to them. When it’s time to sit back, sit back. When it’s time to call your legislators, call them.”

UPDATE: Tampa Bay Startup Week has posted the video of the discussion.


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