Bad A** Beer Fest celebrates a Florida brewery pioneer, and Florida breweries

unnamedFriday’s full moon will rise over a festival celebrating a craft beer community far removed from that of July 31, 1995, when Tampa Bay Brewing Company first established itself as a business.

The nation’s beer lovers found themselves in a brewery renaissance of sorts that year. According to the Brewers Association trade group, there were 858 operating across the country at the end of that year, up from 601 the year before.

Twenty years before that, there were only 110 breweries across the entire United States, and that number was declining.

Today, according to Brewers Association midyear statistics released Monday, an astounding 3,739 breweries are operating across the country, with another 1,755 in planning. Florida’s operating brewery count hovers around 150; an exact number is hard to pin down because the rate of new brewery openings is increasing.

How many were in Florida in 1995 is harder to determine because state-by-state numbers are difficult to find. Five still-operating brewpubs in my book “Florida Breweries” list opening dates of 1995 or earlier. The Anheuser-Busch brewery in Jacksonville opened in 1969; the current Yuengling brewery in Tampa was still putting out Stroh’s. Others have faded into history, many shuttered because they just didn’t make very good beer.

Brewmaster David Doble of Tampa Bay Brewing Company. (Photo by Gerard Walen)

Brewmaster David Doble of Tampa Bay Brewing Company. (Photos by Gerard Walen)

Even Tampa Bay Brewing Company, spawned from the Brew Shack homebrewing supply shop on Waters Avenue, run by John G. Doble III and his mother, Vicki Doble (current Brewmaster David Doble said he served as “unpaid help.”) didn’t sell its first pint to the public until February 1997, out of what was once a horse stable on North 15th Street in Ybor City. That space currently is occupied by Cigar City Cider and Mead, which opened late last year.

In 2006, TBBC moved to a larger location in Centro Ybor, but Friday’s Bad A** Beer Festival is celebrating that day 20 years ago when members of the Doble family decided they would bring well-crafted and tasty beer to the thirsty masses of the Tampa Bay area. (Dunedin Brewery is technically the region’s oldest operating craft brewery because it opened and served its first pint in 1996).

The festival will be more than an anniversary celebration. It will mark the official grand opening of the brewery’s brand-new production facility and restaurant in a built-from-the-dirt-up space in the Westchase community, 13933 Monroes Business Park, across from the Oldsmar Flea Market. The festival debuted roughly a year ago at the location, marking the groundbreaking for the new buildings that have since arisen on the empty acreage.

Nearly 60 breweries, a handful not yet open, and local homebrew clubs will pour samples this year. And those breweries are all located in West Central Florida, from Copp Brewery in Crystal River to the north, to Big Top Brewery in Sarasota to the south, with the majority in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Among the special treats for festivalgoers:

– Tampa Bay Brewing Company brewed collaboration beers with five other craft breweries in Tampa’s Ybor City and Seminole Heights neighborhoods.

Full Moon Madness Subtropical Porter.

Full Moon Madness Subtropical Porter.

– Each attendee upon entering will be handed a 16 oz. can of Full Moon Madness Subtropical Porter, a beer specially brewed for the festival, and it will be wrapped in a custom Bad A** Beer Fest coozie. The beer pays tribute not only to the moon phase that will illuminate the festival grounds, but also the first beer served from the original brewpub: Jack the Quaffer Porter.

– Local rockers Stormbringer will be the featured band, but a special “supergroup” of musicians who work at local breweries will open. The lineup has not been made public, but it should be a lot of fun. UPDATE: As posted on the event page: “The Fermenters is a group of your local friendly brewers who are setting up to rock your face off! From 6:30-7:30 our very own Tim Ogden and brewers from Cigar City, Barley Mow, Coppertail, and B. Nektar will be on stage to get the fest going!”

ADDED: At 8 p.m., David Doble said, 10 gallons of the very first beer brewed at TBBC Westchase will be tapped. He describes it as a “a basic IPA with a colossal hop profile.” The wort was produced there, and two barrels of it was fermented at Southern Brewing & Winemaking so festival-goers could get a taste of it.

Tickets are $35 in advance and $50 at the door for general admission; $50 advance, $65 at the door for VIP admission (word is there are very few of those left) EDIT: VIP tickets sold out, but another block of 100 were made available Tuesday night.

Designated drivers get in for $15.

VIP admission is from starts at 6 p.m., and general admission starts at 7 p.m. The festival will run until 11 p.m. The VIP option includes access to the air-conditioning, free snack food, and access to exclusive beers. Total ticket sales are limited to 3,500.

Proceeds from the festival will benefit the nonprofit Doble Family Foundation which supports education, conservation and local veteran causes. Specific donations will be announced during the festival by the Doble Family.

Click here to purchase tickets.


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Beer bloggers and writers coming to Tampa

The 2016 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference is coming to Tampa!

The announcement was made just minutes ago at the conclusion of this year’s conference in Asheville, North Carolina.

BEERBLOGGERS&WRITERS.2016.TampaOnly.DateThe Tampa conference will be July 8-10, 2016, at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina.

“We look at dozens of potential locations when we analyze where to hold the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference,” said Allan Wright of conference organizer Zephyr Adventures. “Tampa Bay has a surging beer scene we think our attendees will love, we are able to plan some excellent events at an overall reasonable cost to attendees, and the local community has been extremely receptive to the conference.”

What does this mean for the craft beer industry in the Tampa Bay area and the state? Simply, as many as 200 beer writers and beer industry people from across the country and around the world descending on the area for three days of presentations, beer samplings and interaction with the people who are driving the local growth of craft beer, as well as their fans.

“This is super exciting news,” said Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association trade group. “I went to college there at USF in Tampa, so I know the beer market before the laws evolved. I think that things are finally starting to gain traction, not just in the state of Florida, but specifically in Tampa.”

BBC15 posterThough the number of participants is relatively small, the impact is compounded because of the influence and reach of many of the writers and bloggers, and it will give local craft beer luminaries the opportunity to promote the area’s breweries, craft beer bars and related businesses.

The destination marketing organization Visit Tampa Bay spearheaded the effort to land this conference in the Sunshine State. It recently launched a “BayCrafted” campaign to attract beer tourists and promote the breweries of Hillsborough County.

“Landing the BBC16 conference is an important step in establishing Tampa Bay as a first-tier craft beer destination,” said Patrick Harrison, Visit Tampa Bay vice president marketing and communications. “We don’t yet have the same reputation as some other areas, including (Asheville), but we are confident in our beer community and know that once the BBC16 attendees experience our beers, they will spread the word.”

The world is noticing

This is not the first national or international beer industry event recently scheduled for Florida.

What could be next?

What many in the industry consider the Holy Grail of beer industry events, the annual Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America will be in Philadelphia in May 2016, bringing more than 10,000 brewing industry professionals to the City of Brotherly Love, and in 2017 it goes to Washington, D.C.

After that … there are many people in the Florida beer industry who would love to see it come to Florida.

A personal note

The Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference took place this year in Asheville, North Carolina.

The Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference took place this year in Asheville, North Carolina.

After I attended 2010’s inaugural Beer Bloggers Conference (“& Writers” was added this year) in Boulder, Colorado, I knew that Florida’s beer scene was not strong enough at the time to support hosting the event. But between that conference and the one next year in Portland, Oregon, a few things happened.

  • Locally brewed Florida beers began to attract national attention, and more breweries either opened or were announced.
  • I started this website to focus on the growing scene in the state.
  • And I was asked to become a member of the newly formed Beer Bloggers Conference advisory board, a position I still hold. This gave me an inside track on how the conference came together each year.

Returning from Portland in 2011, I knew that Florida still wasn’t ready, but I felt confident that if the growth curve continued, it would be just a few years until it was. I became determined to bring the Beer Bloggers Conference to Florida.

However, determination only goes so far, and I eventually had to set my campaign aside.

Fortunately, Visit Tampa Bay and its partners decided to pursue bringing the conference here, negotiated with Zephyr Adventures, and succeeded.

That brewery growth curve indeed continued, and grew steeper than many of us could have imagined back in 2010, when there were only a few dozen breweries – at most – across the entire state. Currently, nearly 150 breweries and brewpubs are making beer on premises in Florida.

Next year, local breweries and beer geeks need to be prepared to showcase the best of what we have to offer to the attendees of the 2016 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference.

“Attendees can expect to sample and tour some of our most renowned and newest breweries, including Cigar City, Coppertail, Two Henrys and Tampa Bay Brewing Company,” Harrison said.  “From porters to IPAs and some award-winning and original flavors, Tampa Bay beers and the Tampa Bay community will make this a (conference) to remember.”

Florida long ago shed the moniker of “craft beer wasteland.”

We are no longer “catching up” with the rest of the country.

We are there.

If you are in the Tampa Bay area and interested in becoming a sponsor of the 2016 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference, contact Susan Williams, Visit Tampa Bay director of services and special events, at Any business or group outside of the area should get in touch with Reno Walsh of Zephyr Adventures at

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Florida craft beer heads to Asheville for the 2015 Beer Bloggers Conference

BBC15badgeFlorida – especially the Tampa Bay area – will show a strong presence at this weekend’s Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, the closest the annual gathering has been held since the first one in 2010 in Boulder, Colorado.

From July 17-19, seminars, presentations, tastings and tours will showcase the North Carolina craft beer community to bloggers and writers from across the country, but the Sunshine State will not be left out.

Besides yours truly, Sunshine State bloggers and writers registered to attend are Carol Dekkers of Microbrews USA, Terry Ryan of Pensacola Beer, and Mark DeNote of Florida Beer News.

In addition, representatives from Tampa-based J.J. Taylor Distributing Co. – Florida will attend, and the tourism marketing organization Visit Tampa Bay will be there to promote its recently launched BAY CRAFTED campaign that seeks to attract beer tourists to the breweries of Hillsborough County. The group is one of the official sponsors.

“We are very proud of our craft beer scene,” said Patrick Harrison, Visit Tampa Bay vice president of marketing and communications. “It has exploded over the last few years and is a great example of the experiential destination Tampa Bay has become.”

The Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference is organized by Montana-based Zephyr Adventures, which has been running active tours around the world for the past 17 years. The conference has landed in various beer-centric cities across the country in subsequent years after its 2010 debut in Boulder – Portland, Oregon; Indianapolis; Boston, San Diego, and this year, Asheville.

This year’s conference will welcome 160 attendees, of which 27 are beer industry bloggers, and 85 “citizen bloggers” – writers without a beer industry affiliation. The others are speakers, sponsors, or industry attendees. Spots sold out three months ago.

The conference itself comprises three days of presentations during the day, with tours of local breweries, beer-pairing dinners, and social networking events filling the evenings.

Some of Florida’s contingent will be part of the presentations.

  • Matt Abdoney of JJ Taylor will be part of a panel for “Building Craft Beer Brands: A Talk With Award-Winning Distributors.” JJ Taylor’s Florida division, by the way, was named the 2014 Craft Beer Distributor of the Year by the National Beer Wholesalers Association.
  • DeNote will be part of the “From Blog to X” discussion, featuring beer bloggers who went on to turn their blogging “into even more.” DeNote is the author of “The Great Florida Craft Beer Guide” (Seaside Publishing, October 2014). By the way, I recommend his book as an excellent companion to my “Florida Breweries” (Stackpole Books, April 2014). With both of them in your hands, you’ve got the state’s craft brewery scene covered.
  • I’ll be presenting an “Improving Your Beer Writing” session, along with Jonathan Ingram, managing editor of Beer Connoisseur Magazine (EDIT: I have been informed that Ingram will not make it. I might be solo.)
  • And Visit Tampa Bay’s digital engagement manager Ciarra Luster will be pouring tastes of local beer, giving away swag, and promoting Tampa’s beer scene Friday night during the Beer Social Expo, where sponsor and attendees will interact in a casual atmosphere.

You can find the complete conference agenda here.

Beer in Florida photo by Gerard Walen

Beer in Florida founding editor Gerard Walen presenting at the 2011 Beer Bloggers Conference in Portland, Oregon.

The Florida presence here is important because, as I wrote after the last conference I attended, in Boston, the state needs to get the word out about its outstanding craft beer community, and the conference provides an ideal opportunity. It’s still a relative unknown beyond the state line. Not only does a wider awareness help draw beer tourists and their dollars to the state and its breweries, but it also makes Florida more attractive for industry gatherings or even out-of-state craft breweries looking to expand.

“Everyone that visits for our craft beer or even our independent culinary scene returns home and spreads positive impressions,” Harrison said.  “That’s what we want the BBC15 attendees to understand, that they will come to Tampa Bay and enjoy every minute of their trip, and our awesome beer.”


My attendance at this conference is made possible by Tampa Bay Brewing Company, which graciously offered to cover most of my expenses. Attendees can expect to have some tastes of the brewery’s canned core beers, Old Elephant Foot IPA and Reef Donkey American Pale Ale, and hopefully some other treats. Reef Donkey, a relatively new product, won a bronze medal in that style category at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival, and the brewery won multiple medals and was named Brewpub of the Year at this year’s Best Florida Beer Championship.

TBBCO small logoTBBCo will be taking a big step toward its future when it officially opens its brand-new production facility and brewpub in the Westchase area. A soft opening is scheduled for July 27, and the grand opening will be celebrated with the epic BadA** Beer Festival on July 31, which will feature 40-plus breweries from Florida’s west coast, from Sarasota north to Crystal River. The festival will also mark the 20th anniversary of the brewpub’s incorporation in Tampa, making its founders, the Doble family, true pioneers in the state’s thriving craft beer community.

If you want to help spread the word, follow Beer in Florida on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – and the other folks mentioned above – and share the posts from the conference. Look for the hashtags #BBC15, #BayCrafted and/or #FlaBrew.

Zephyr is also the organizer of the Wine Bloggers ConferenceInternational Food Blogger Conference, and Wine Tourism Conference, as well as the European Beer Bloggers Conference, which started in 2011 and will be Aug. 23-29 this year in Brussels, Belgium.

In addition, the group has spun off Taste Vacations, which specializes in tour focused on beer, wine, spirits and/or food.


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Cigar City Brewing partners in homebrewing competition

Pilot This Logo

If you’ve ever wanted to brew a batch of beer with Wayne Wambles, Cigar City Brewing brewmaster, now’s your chance – kind of.

Wambles has partnered with VetterBrew HomeBrew Supply in Clearwater for the inaugural Pilot This! homebrew kit and competition. The winner of the contest will have his or her recipe brewed on the Tampa brewery’s 15-barrel system and have it served in the tasting room.

Michael Vetter initially approached Wambles about having his shop create and distribute kits for homebrewers based on recipes created by local breweries, but the brewmaster said he wanted to take it a step further.

Wayne Wambles (Images courtesy of VetterBrew HomeBrew Supply).

Wayne Wambles (Images courtesy of VetterBrew HomeBrew Supply).

“I wanted to create something that was more challenging instead of just giving away one of our recipes,” Wambles said. “I thought about it for several weeks, and ended up coming up with the Pilot This! concept.”

The concept works like this: The beer must be hop-centric and must use only the ingredients in the kit, which is designed for all-grain brewing. The brewer is required to use a hop extract included in the kit, and one of three specified yeast strains. Otherwise, the brewer has free rein to us as much or as little of the other ingredients in the kit, which includes seven ounces of various hops and 15 pounds of various grains. No additional ingredients are allowed, other than fining agents.

“The flexibility part was, in my opinion, necessary in order to create more overall possibilities for a final product because I wanted people to learn something from the kit,” Wambles said. “If we continue to do it, which will be based on the success of this first round, I want each kit to have a different challenge, to challenge people in different ways. That way I think it benefits the brewery, it benefits Michael and his homebrew shop, and it benefits the homebrewers.”

Entries are due no later than October 2, 2015, and must be shipped or dropped off at VetterBrew. Judging will take place at Cigar City Brewing, and the winner will be announced by October 16. NOTE: The contest is not limited to Floridians. The kit will be shipped to you, and you just need to find a way to get the bottles back to VetterBrew before the deadline.

The winning recipe will be brewed and served at the brewery, and the winner is welcome to help, but he or she must cover all travel, lodging and other associated expenses.

Vetter said only about half of the original 300 kits, which will ship or be available for in-store pick up the week of August 3, are still available. Each costs $49.99, which includes the contest entry. Purchasers are not required to enter the contest.

For full details and official rules, visit
Brew Tees - Craft Apparel

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