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.
The 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.”
Though 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.
- The Masters Brewers Association of the Americas annual conference will be October 8-10, 2015, in Jacksonville.
- The Festival 2015, an “international celebration of craft beer and cider,” presented by beer importers Shelton Brothers, is scheduled for Oct 16-17, 2015, at The Coliseum in downtown St. Petersburg.
- And though considerably more low-key and private, the Brewers Association fourth-quarter board of directors meeting will be November 18, 2015, in Tampa.
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
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 SWilliams@VisitTampaBay.com. Any business or group outside of the area should get in touch with Reno Walsh of Zephyr Adventures at firstname.lastname@example.org.