Though it may sound a bit grandiose, the Florida craft beer scene has taken a huge step toward joining the ranks of states such as Colorado, Oregon, California and North Carolina in the pantheon of beer tourism destinations.
Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater, aka the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, the tourism arm for Pinellas County, has debuted its official St. Pete/Clearwater Craft Beer Trail on its website. The information on the site covers all of the county’s breweries from Saint Somewhere Brewing Company in Tarpon Springs to The R Bar’s nano system down south in Treasure Island.
An interactive map accompanies the list, which also points out a few of the other breweries around the region.
Local beer writer Tom Scherberger, former editor and reporter at the Tampa Bay Times, compiled and wrote the information. He said the bureau contacted him about it after hearing him in an interview on WUSF radio where he talked about the local beer scene.
As far as I know, this is the first “official” craft beer trail in the Sunshine State, but why is it important?
Tourism organizations in other states have jumped on the beer traveler bandwagon, and their efforts bring in visitors who not only travel primarily to tour and taste at local breweries, but those who just seek a vacation spot where they can also drink and buy local. And I’ve chatted with a number of folks in town for business who sit down at the hotel bar and ask the bartender, “Do you have anything local?”
Though Florida beer geeks might be a tight community, other than a few standouts such as Saint Somewhere, Cigar City Brewing in Tampa and perhaps the Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park, few people outside the state know much about the high-quality beer being produced here.
The convention and visitors bureaus are the ones who go to travel expos and industry gatherings to spread the word around the world about the many great reasons to visit the area.
Now local craft beer will be part of their pitch, at least in Pinellas County.
Tampa? Jacksonville? Southeast Florida? Central Florida? Time to step up.
UPDATE: There’s a video that goes along with it.