Tampa Bay Beer Week kicks into high gear Friday and runs through March 9, when Rapp Brewing Co. in Seminole will hold a Cigars and OMG night at 7 p.m. that night.
Although beer weeks have been common for years in other parts of the country, this is only third year for the event. Still, it has been amazing to watch the number of events jump dramatically since the first year as the craft beer scene has exploded in the number of breweries both in Tampa and St. Petersburg and the rest of Florida.
If you've never participated in any of the dozens of events, this is a great year to tap into the energy of the area's great breweries. You can find a full calendar online at TampaBayBeerWeek.com to match your relative level of interest, but for those who are looking to dip a toe in the brew, there are plenty of entry-level events to slowly introduce you to the scene:
From now until March 9, Pizza Fusion at the Skypoint condo tower in downtown Tampa will pair its pizzas with a variety of beers made by Florida Beer Company. Pizza Fusion is at 777 N. Ashley Dr., in Tampa.
If you like beer and you like ice cream, you can enjoy both with syrups made with Sea Dog and Shipyard beers which will be served on ice cream sundaes at 2 p.m. Sunday at The Flying Pig Taphouse, 1584 Central Ave., St. Petersburg.
Don't know much about craft beer? A Beer 101 class will be taught at 5:30 Monday at Tampa Bay Brewing Company, 1600 E. Eighth Ave. in Tampa. For $25, attendees learn a short history of beer, get info on beer styles and tasting techniques and learn to understand their personal flavor preferences. For tickets, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Beer 101.” Provide the name of attendees and contact phone number for payment.
Celebrate Fat Tuesday in style with a free crawfish boil at 6 p.m. Tuesday at 3 Daughters Brewing, 222 22nd Street S., in St. Petersburg. There will be live music and food trucks as well. A limited number of wrist bands for admission available before the event. For info: email email@example.com.
Pair O' Dice Brewing in Clearwater pairs its beers with 100 pounds of its Texas slow-smoked beef at its Brisket & Beer Brew N Que from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday at its facility, 4400 118th Ave. N, Suite 208 in Clearwater. Info: (727) 755-3423.
REDNER GETS BEARD NOD
Cigar City Brewing in Tampa reaps loads of awards. On Feb. 19, the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards named founder Joey Redner Jr. a national semifinalist for Outstanding Wine, Spirits and Beer Professional.
For those unaware, the Beards are the Academy Awards for food. Their namesake, James Beard, is considered one of the founding fathers of modern American cuisine. Each year, the foundation in his name honors restaurants, chefs, authors, journalists and broadcasters, as well as those in the beverage side of hospitality.
Redner was unaware he was a candidate to be a semifinalist.
“I certainly know how prestigious the James Beard Foundation is,” he told me. “But an award never even occurred to me.”
Other brewers among the semifinalists include: Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Del.; Mike Floyd, Nick Floyd, and Simon Floyd of Three Floyds Brewing, Munster, Ind.; Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Rob Tod, Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, Maine.
“Being among those guys makes it much more humbling,” Redner said. “Those are the craft beer legends and pace-setters.”
DRINKING IN GASPARILLA MUSIC
The food and drink was a great sideshow to last year's Gasparilla Music Festival, which comes back this year on March 8 and 9 at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown Tampa.
The Refinery, Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe, Anise Global Gastrobar and the Seabreeze Trolley Cafe are among the 18 vendors signed up to serve food.
On the beverage side, Sweetwater Brewing, Tito's Handmade Vodka, Cigar City Brewing, St. Somewhere Brewing, Yuengling Brewery and Dickel Tennessee Whiskey will all be pouring.
Be on the lookout for the tent by Ulele, the restaurant slated to open later in spring in Tampa Heights. Not only will they be serving Florida avocado puree with Gulf shrimp and blue crab cocktail, brewmaster Tim Shackton says he will pour a preview of the house-made beers he will serve at the restaurant when it opens along the Hillsborough River north of Interstate 275.