TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A non-profit organization is looking to advance beer culture in Tampa Bay, and it’s culminating with another event-packed week.
The folks at Tampa Bay Beer Week have been working hard to present these weeks since 2012.
“Beer week is about local beer, it’s about international beer, it’s about regional beer, it’s really about beer culture in Tampa Bay,” Tampa Bay Beer Week Executive Director Chris Fairchild said. “It’s always the first Saturday of March and goes into that following Sunday every single year.”
This year’s event will span from March 6 to March 15.
Travis Kruger, co-owner of Crooked Thumb Brewery and internal chair for Tampa Bay Beer Week, said the week is based on two main functions – the events they promote through beer week sponsors and larger, highlight events that anchor the week. Those events include the Florida Brewers Guild Beer Festival and Cigar City’s Hnahpu Day.
He told us more about the event that kicks off the week, put on by Crooked Thumb. It’s called The Ultimate Brewer.
“That is an event where the brewers have been given ingredients, almost like an “Iron Chef,” and the ingredients, some go together very well and some not so well. And we have a little bit of fun making these beers and then all gather for an evening to share them with ourselves and with all of our victims, or ticket holders,” Kruger explained.
Fairchild said one of the easiest events to get to is the Florida Brewer’s Guild, held on March 7 at Perry Harvey Sr. Park in Tampa.
“That’s open to everybody. It’s a festival of just Florida beers from around the state and all the proceeds for that event go toward the Florida Brewers Guild,” he said.
To find out more about the plethora of events, beer drinkers can visit Tampa Bay Beer Week’s website, where you’ll find a calendar.
“There’s hundreds of events, every day there’s something. At the top you’ll find featured events, those are the ones that for our sponsors, have kicked us a little extra attention, say ‘hey, come check this out, we’re really focusing on this one,’” Cory Sturdivant, chair of Tampa Bay Beer Week, explained. “But then every day you’ll find a bunch of things. The best event is probably the one closest to your house.”
The Tampa Bay Beer Week board begins working in April. Sturdivant said they’re trying to make it a year-round organization that culminates in Tampa Bay Beer Week every year.
They do have events throughout the year, outside of beer week.
“Our biggest event outside of the week itself is in August, it’s the Halfway There to Tampa Bay Beer Week. And that’s a festival with over 1,000 people. I think we do something close to 50 or 60 breweries every time,” Fairchild explained. “And that’s just a way to celebrate the mid-time. It’s always an indoor festival since it’s the hottest time of the year around here.”
For craft beer lovers who want to explore Tampa Bay’s breweries, Tampa Bay Beer Week offers something called the Ale Trail. It’s a booklet with information about 70 breweries across the area inside it.
“And every time you go to one of the participating brewers, you stop by the brewery, you buy a beer, you get a stamp. And for every 10 stamps you collect, you get different prizes along the way at the monthly meetups that we do,” Fairchild said.
The organization has been reaching out to other beer weeks here in Florida and across the country to collaborate and mix up the culture.
Tampa Bay’s craft beer scene has come into its own in past years.
8 On Your Side reported this week that multiple Tampa Bay breweries made a list of the top 100 brewers in the world.
“There’s definitely been an explosion after about 2010 or 11. That there was a lot more rapid growth in the beer industry overall,’ said Kruger. “And in Tampa Bay, that translated to quite a few more breweries opening and there are still quite a few that are on track to open today.”
Craft beer lovers looking to get prepared and plan events for Tampa Bay Beer Week can click here for the calendar.