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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