Tampa Bay's Brewery Guide

Great Local Craft Beer Selections at Bad A** Beer Fest

This past Saturday was Tampa Bay Brewing Company‘s Bad A** Beer Fest. This festival honored all the great local craft beer – with a multitude of them offering their thirst-quenching brews. This was also a ‘groundbreaking’ event, in the sense that they literally broke ground on their brand new facility on the very grounds that the festival was held in Westchase, right off of Race Track Road.

I am really looking forward to this new facility, as it’s right in my own backyard – a mere 2 miles from my house. It certainly helped that I immediately jumped at the chance to attend a beer fest, as I go to so few throughout the year. And this one was a great bargain – at only $35 a glass, you get unlimited beer and access to live music throughout the duration of the event.

This time around, I particularly was prepared to hit this event – with two major goals in mind:

  • To seriously just enjoy myself, hanging out with whatever friends I could find at the event (and boy, did I find a lot of them!) and
  • try some of the breweries that I haven’t gotten around to seeing yet (Tangent Brewing among them)

I was so focused and having a blast chatting with the local brewers, hanging out with friends and trying different beers – that I didn’t even get around to trying the food. At $5 a plate, it was a great price for a variety of TBBC food and barbeque – I just wish the line wasn’t so long.

As I’ve said earlier, a wide variety of brewies were represented, from all over the Tampa Bay area, not excluding Sarasota/Bradenton. These included:

  • Motorworks,
  • Darwin,
  • Cigar City,
  • Big Storm,
  • Pinellas Ale Works*,
  • Six Ten,
  • ESB Brewing,
  • Saint Somewhere,
  • Coppertail*,
  • St Pete Brewing,
  • Tangent*,
  • Sea Dog,
  • Rapp,
  • Three Palms,
  • Lagerhaus,
  • Pair O Dice,
  • Green Bench

*Breweries which were not open at the time of the event – so for me, these were “have to check” booths, to see what they will be offering when they open.

I’m quite positive there were a few others, but I am not certain enough to list them here. I heard Dunedin Brewery cancelled last minute, which was unfortunate – though I’m sure they had their reasons.

Also represented was the Special Hoperations Home Brew Club. Of note, Robert Hilferding was there, with a variety of beers, as well as some other club members. If you didn’t know, Robert recently won Homebrewer of the Year. His beer won BEST IN SHOW, at the National Homebrew Competition in Michigan – that’s nuts! I swung by to talk to him and try a Rye ale he had to offer. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any more of the beer that won him Homebrewer of the Year.

My plan for Saturday was to stick with the breweries that I either haven’t visited, aren’t open yet, or if I knew they were featuring some special brews. Heck, if they had a beer I was fanatical about, I’d make an effort to go to them as well.

For instance, I regularly visit Tampa Bay Brewing Company (and I’m going again this Thursday)… but I jumped at the chance to drink their Moosekiller, which was as phenomenal as always. Certainly not a beer for everyone, though. It’s a Barleywine, typically clocking in around 12% ABV. They even had a booth set up dedicated to collaborations they’ve made with other breweries.

I also checked out the Cigar City Brewing booth, mostly because I knew a guy working the booth, but also because they had one of their “Five for Five” brews available.

A brewery I definitely had eyes on (not so much for me, but for my fiancée) was Tangent Brewing. This brewery is opening soon in Safety Harbor, and will be focusing on sours, her favorite style. I checked out their Sour/Flemish Red Ale, and it was definitely tasty, albeit too tart for my full enjoyment. I also swung by both Darwin and Pinellas Ale Works, as one is too far away in Sarasota, and the other hasn’t opened yet. Both had a decent selection available.

I found myself going for the Saison, Kölsch, and other light styles of beer – moreso than usual. This likely had to do with it being 90º out, and humid, and I also rode my bike to the venue.

Overall, the event was a total blast. My only suggestion for TBBC for “next year” would be to have more than one booth for food – which was the longest line at the event. Having more than one food booth would help spread out the lines for food (ensuring the beer drinkers keep some food in their stomachs) and would make it easier for me by letting me get right back to the beers.

Looking forward to the next beer event!