Craft beer adventures and experiences… one pint at a time

Archive for March, 2014

An Open Letter to FL Senate President Don Gaetz about the Florida Craft Brewing Industry: “I’m Confused”

Here’s what I’d like to send to Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, but… we’re not friends

Dear FL Senate President Don Gaetz and the Florida Senate:

I’ve read and re-read the recent Miami Herald article posted Sunday March 16, 2014:  Beer distributors, brewers fight over growlers where you are stated as saying you are a “free-market, pro-business legislator,” and I cannot seem to reconcile what definition of free market you are using.  I looked up the definition of free-market and every source emphasizes freedom from government regulations:

Merriam-Webster definition: free market:  noun    an economic market or system in which prices are based on competition among private businesses and not controlled by a government

www.investorwords.com/2086/free_market.html  Definition of free market: Business governed by the laws of supply and demand, not restrained by government

dictionary.reference.com/browse/free+market      free market —n: a. an economic system that allows supply and demand to regulate prices, wages, etc, rather than government policy : b. (as modifier): a free-market …

Yet Mr. Gaetz, you are quoted as saying:

“I’m with the beer distributors in my district. That’s a very important issue because one of my very best friends is an Anheuser-Busch distributor and he never talks to me about his business. It’s always about what are we going to do for disabled children, what are we going to do for the arts, what are we going to do for economic development. But this time he’s talking about growlers.”

How does the law of supply and demand fit in with your position, and why is it that Florida consumers can purchase 64-oz growlers legally in 47 other states, but cannot when they are at home?

I am also struggling to understand why Anheuser-Busch, which is now under Belgium InBev ownership, can garner Senate support for proposed craft brewery restrictions that would limit collaboration brewing and sales of brews from Florida-based and owned craft brewery locations.

Why is it that Florida continues to break ranks with the rest of the union by restricting growler size?  Do Floridians really support allowing big business interests to trump and curtail the growth of an industry that other states fully support?

Do Floridians really know about The House Bill 1329, “Big Beer Bill”, AKA the “Craft Beer Killer Bill” to further curtail and restrict craft breweries statewide? Why would we want to turn our backs on an emerging market that is providing employment, income, tourist opportunities and vibrancy in our state?

Is there a new set of definitions for your free-market, pro-business stance that includes government regulation to protect a best friend’s business interests over and above those of small craft brewers, and of Florida consumers who freely choose to buy craft beer instead of your friend’s products?

As a Florida taxpayer, consumer, and confused voter, I’m hoping that there is a reasonable explanation that doesn’t include reference to political contributions or lobbyist influences.

Respectfully and truly yours…

——————-

As I consider whether to forward this on, I’m betting that the rest of the nation reads about us and remarks “Only in Florida…”

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TBBW 2014 – part Deux – Highlights of Events (that I attended…)

2014-03-08 11.06.41To continue along the lines of the Olympic references of my last post about Tampa Bay Beer Week 2014 (Mar 1-9, 2014), we had essentially two opening ceremony events spread across the first weekend with the Florida Brewers Guild (FBG) festival on Saturday March 1, and the Brewers Ball festival on March 2, two separate events providing patrons with samples of award-winning brews from Florida and beyond.

From March 1-9, both sides of the Bay and north and south played host to over 300 craft beer related events, culminating in the final weekend with Hunahpu Day on March 8, and the Hunahpu Hangover/Dunedin final days on March 9.

When all was said and done, thousands of kegs were emptied, thousands of happy patrons made it home safely, hundreds of events ended profitably, and no one died (of alcohol poisoning or violence or any other TBBW related calamity!)

Given that parts of the world can barely make it through a full day without calamities, I’d say we live in luxury when we can celebrate the wonders of craft beer in friendships and sunshine with only a few minor mishaps along the way.

Olympic Style Medals…

I’d love to do a Gold, Silver and Bronze award across all  TBBW events, but gosh, But, gosh, I only made it to a dozen events out of the hundreds scheduled during Tampa Bay Beer Week and they ranged from the huge anchor events on both weekends to small gatherings.

However, the week featured a myriad of different craft beer related experiences – and I invite you to comment on your favorites from both sides of the bay, with a challenge…

How about we (you and I) each rate the events we attended during TBBW Mar 1-9, 2014 and award those of merit with an Olympic medal (or not?) Here’s the options:

  • Gold (stellar – I would definitely go back – something happening and not just beer tasting);
  • Silver (not quite gold medal worthy but still worth attending and fun/good value/other – tastings without entertainment);
  • Bronze (worth mentioning but not too much more than a tasting or release);
  • or None (not deserving of any Olympic standing and would need to be overhauled for me to go again.)

I’ll go first.

DSC_0407Carol’s Olympic Medal Round for #TBBW Events (that I attended) – lots of GOLD and SILVER to award…

I attended a variety of events throughout the week (see the Photos, Photos and more Photos page for picture galleries) and I can truly say that none were a disappointment:

(For a full listing of the TBBW 2014 events, visit www.tampabaybeerweek.com)

Pre- TBBW:

  • Thurs Feb 27, 2014- St Petersburg – St Petersburg Preservation presents “From Cafeterias to Craft Beer” at Green Bench Brewing Company – GOLD medal winner – More than 100 members and prospective members sampled barbecue from The Witches’ Barbeque Den and Green Bench, St Pete Brewing Company, 3 Daughters Brewing and Cycle Brewing beers, then listened to an informative lecture and panel featuring brewers from each brewery.  The official event page (Facebook) features photos (see also the photos page on this blog);

TBBW officially (Mar 1-9):

  • Fri Feb 28, 2014 – Tampa – Pour House pre-TBBW party featuring over 10 taps from 7venth Sun Brewing   and other local breweries (see the photos page for pics) – SILVER medal winner – a great place with great atmosphere.  Only missed out on gold because there was really no EVENT aside from all of us meeting each other.
  • Sat Mar 1, 2014 – Tampa – Florida Brewers Guild Festival – Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, Tampa – GOLD medal winner – Highlights included the reading of the Tampa Proclamation and tapping of a commemorative firkin by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and a veritable gourmet assortment of delicious Florida-only brewers (see the photos page for pics) – sizable crowd but not too crowded.  Having the mayor present and so many FL brewers who came from Miami to Pensacola to Jacksonville was a plus.
  • Sun Mar 2, 2014 – Tampa – Best Florida Beer Brewer’s Ball – Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, TampaGOLD medal winner — Highlights included free pour taps of 81 award winning brews from the Best Florida beer competition featuring both pro-brewers and home brewers judged by the BJCP rules (see the photos page for pics);
  • Mon Mar 3, 2014 – Tampa – Pour House – Beer Bloggers Summit – SILVER medal winner – purely based on the size of the turnout.  Quality of presentation (myself, Sean Nordquist, Gerard Walen, Thomas Barris) and Thomas Barris’ organization of the event were top-notch.  Small gathering but great discussion!
  • Tues Mar 4, 2014 – St Petersburg – 3 Daughters Brewing Fat Tuesday Crawfish Boil -GOLD medal winner – for a mere $30. attendees could dine on all-you-can-eat boiled fresh crawfish, potatoes, sausage, corn and free pours of two 3 Daughters Brews (Summer Blond and the IPA) with a live New Orleans style band.20140304_190156
  • Wed Mar 5, 2014 – Clearwater – Brewers Tasting Room – Florida Beer and All About Beer magazine presents Beer 201 – SILVER medal winner – the styles of beer presented and the educational aspect (beyond basic) was appreciated and BTR always has a great assortment of beers you can’t find anywhere else;
  • Wed Mar 5 2014 – Clearwater – Pair O’ Dice Brewing – Brisket and Brews- GOLD medal winner- while I arrived at Pair O’ Dice after the last morsel of brisket was already devoured, all I heard from participants was how incredibly good the food and the pairing was (and it was free!)  I had a great beer, but I had to take the enthusiastic response from everyone I talked to that this was a winning event.
  • Wed Mar 5 2014 – Seminole – Rapp Brewing – Rare Beer Night – GOLD medal winner  – Greg Rapp pulled out the stops to feature not only his wide variety of local brews, but also a few absolutely rare beers for this specialty night. Again, like the Pair O’ Dice event, the tasting room was packed until late.
  • Thurs Mar 6 2014 – Palm Harbor – Lagerhaus – Bacon, Bacon, Bacon GOLD medal winner – along with tapping a special barrel aged brew and the multiple bacon dishes (bacon cheddar soup, bacon pretzels, bacon wrapped dates and figs to name a few) , the tasting room was packed from mid-afternoon until late.  What can be better than Bacon and Beer?
  • Thurs Mar 6 2014 – Tampa – Southern Brewing and Winemaking – Release of the Moonrakers – SILVER medal winner – special Moonrakers releases and a good gathering
  • Thurs Mar 6 2014 – Tampa – Florida Avenue Brewing – Special Hoperations – SILVER medal winner – homebrewed  samples and special tastings (randall)
  • Fri Mar 7 2014 – St Petersburg – Foeder for Thought – Green Bench Brewing CompanyGOLD medal winner-  essentially a neighborhood street market plus releases on tap and special pourings inside the brewery, the place was packed until closing;
  • Fri Mar 7 2014 – Tampa –Southern Brewing and Winemaking – Best Florida Beer Leftovers Party and the Future of Craft Beer in Florida panel GOLD medal winner – featured entertainment, the craft beer futures panel plus a wide array of the pro-brewers and the homebrewed submissions to the Best Florida Beer competition
  • Sat Mar 8 2014 – Tampa – Cigar City Brewing Hunahpu Day – SILVER medal winner -this would be a hands-down GOLD medal winner if the crowds had been manageable, this was a 3 in one event:  Hunahpu release + bottle sharing (complete with a makeshift attendee organized campground) + beer tasting.  Just one event of the three (any one) would be GOLDEN.
  • Sun Mar 9 2014 – St Petersburg – Flying Pig Taphouse Beer Brunch featuring Lagunitas, New Belgium and Cigar City Brewing – GOLD medal winner – 
  • Sun Mar 9 2014 – Dunedin – Hunahpu Hangover Day – featuring 7venth Sun and Dunedin Brewery GOLD medal winner – special releases in the side garden area of 7venth Sun (it was packed) and in Dunedin Brewery – the sun shone, the brews were innovative, and the air was celebratory.  Grand cooperation!

Your turn – what were your medal events?

I can’t wait for the events in planning for the rest of this year (at a minimum our TBBW Halfway There – Rare Beer Fest scheduled for September 6, 2014) – Tampa Bay Beer Week continues to thrive, grow and spillover into multiple weeks of the year.

It is a great community of vibrant, positive, optimistic Floridians.  Long live Tampa Bay Beer Week!

Happy St Patrick’s Day – be safe!

Carol

Tampa Bay Beer Week (#TBBW) 2014 — A week of Craft Beer Memories, Friendships, and Bittersweet Moments

As the last bottle caps and tasting glasses are picked up from the hundreds of venues throughout Tampa Bay, I’m reflective (and ecstatic for the most part) about the success of the third annual Tampa Bay Beer Week (TBBW.)

I confess that I am on the TBBW Board of Directors and have been part of the overall planning and volunteer coordination for TBBW 2014.  I also confess that I am a craft beer aficionado. (Sidenote: someone overheard me say this in a bar and asked what is a “craft beer Fish Animal?”  LOL…)

Now that the week is over, I feel like I do when the Olympics are over (except with a craft beer slant):

I feel happy that our newest breweries and tasting rooms were filled to capacity during their first ever Tampa Bay Beer Week.

I feel gratified to hear so many happy stories from volunteers, festival attendees and Tampa Bay citizens whose first or thousandth craft beer happened during TBBW.

I feel excited about the energy and collaboration in and around our growing brewing economy.

I feel refreshed (and a bit tired) after visiting so many events and meeting so many great people.

And, I feel sad to know that our community has grown to the point where we now have a criminal element and greed trumping some of the good intentions and planning from within our own ranks.

I’m also a bit embarrassed at the ongoing rhetoric and behaviors of our fellow craft beer citizens that will allow outsiders to malign the good we do in our community.  There are always those who will criticize the brewing industry as being a haven for drunkenness and debauchery, and I’m sad that through the short-sightedness of a minority, our industry has tarnished itself.  We can regain our reputation as an innovative, cooperative, fun-loving, honest, and inspiring community, but it’s going to take some work.

On this last point, perhaps I was naive to believe that our craft beer community was better than society and we were unique today in espousing the values of our forefathers – supporting local business, giving neighbors the benefit of the doubt,  paying an honest dollar for a days work, celebrating great successes within our ranks, and being grateful for the wonders of a free life.  Reminiscent of Olympics past, this Tampa Bay Beer Week was a mix of highs, lows, winners and losers, and sadly, the emergence of both a criminal element and an alcohol-infused “entitlement attitude” that I’ve not seen before.

The great people and great ideas that inspired the growth and vibrancy of the first two Tampa Bay Beer Weeks (2012 and 2013) are still a big part of the week, however, it may be time to accept the fact that with grand success comes those who don’t want to play by the rules, those who feel entitled to lie, cheat, steal and malign to get ahead.

Yes, I was naive to believe that everyone in craft beer is noble (wouldn’t that be nice?) while the rest of the world deals with such everyday chaos.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss, but once exposed you can’t be ignorant anymore.

Let’s start by talking about the elephant in the room that has dominated the social media airwaves for the past 48 hours:

The “Disaster/Failure/Chaos/Disappointment” (call it what you like) of Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day on March 8, 2014.

The day started out like the perfect day in Tampa Bay – not too hot, rain free, a northerner’s dream… perfect for an outdoor beer fest.  Cigar City posted pics on Facebook showing the pre-festival grounds; the mood was optimistic that ticketed attendees (capped at 3500 invitees) would be calm, semi-sober and at last, manageable – nothing like the overcrowded chaos of the past.

In fact,  March 8 was intended to be a fun-filled, stellar day of tastings and celebration to mark Cigar City Brewing’s 5 year anniversary and it seemed, from the outside at least, that even the Mayan gods were smiling.

But, as history repeatedly shows, when things look too good to be true, they probably are.  By the end of the day, the army of employees, volunteers and a few policemen were barely enough to control the mob of drunken and disturbed ‘alcohol personalities’ that emerged.  Mob behavior is curious enough, but when you mix in high gravity brews, sun-baked drinkers, lines snaking around the block, supplies dedicated to ticketed attendees, and a sudden doubling or tripling of attendees through duplicate/counterfeit tickets, it results in behaviors unacceptable in civilized society.

The scene was one out of Woodstock – raised fists, angry words, pushing and shoving – in fact, I’m surprised that no one was hurt or trampled in the chaos – and I, for one was embarrassed by my fellow craft beer lovers.

Certainly, in retrospect, a larger security force, a professional event planning company, trained volunteers, 8 foot fences, strict processes, and a no-nonsense business attitude would have handled the duplicate tickets (sorry, you bought counterfeit tickets – you lose, goodbye!), the fence jumpers (you are under arrest, sir!), the bottle pickups (Disney style lines with strict adherence to roped off areas), and the adhoc campground (sorry, no folding chairs or umbrellas) – but get real, this is not Budweiser (thank goodness) or Walmart!

Hunahpu’s day was never intended to be a pro-sport – and that was it’s beauty!

Hunahpu’s Day celebrated small town America — honesty, values, neighborly love and great beers all mixed together – and that’s what we all loved.  Things could have been better planned (as outlined) – but give me a break, there was no sinister, conspiratorial mal intent on the part of Cigar City Brewing in the first place.

(Sidenote to some of the comments floating around about conspiratorial intent:  I can say that having been a part of both the planning and executing of the Halfway There TBBW Rare Beer Fest in September, we stocked triple the glassware and triple the wristband supplies that we needed, because it’s cheaper to buy bulk and have way too much on hand than to run out…. things happen that are unanticipated!) 

I am appalled at the ongoing vitriolic rhetoric on the part of disgruntled attendees, who owner Joey Redner tried to appease through refunds, free beer, and special batch brewing – it is simply cruel and vindictive.

Just because one of our own community makes it big doesn’t mean that everyone else is entitled to display their bad alcohol-personalities (what I call people who are angry drunks) or feel entitled to inventory.  Think about it, when Walgreen’s or Target has a sale and they run out – you get a rain check (optimistically) or you just walk away.  No mob scene, no angry demands, no “xxx SUCKS!” chants.

What has happened to us that we feel entitled that every promise (for beer no less) should be fulfilled?  What gives us the right to disparage volunteers who gave up their day so that we could enjoy a tropical beer fest and bottle exchange just because everything didn’t turn out the way we planned?  No wonder Hunahpu’s Day is no more… and I, for one, am sad that TBBW will never be the same.

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

TBBW 2014 – a Year of Firsts

TBBW 2014 culminated 12 months of planning, thousands of volunteer hours, and featured many firsts:20140228_183535

  • Both St Peterburg City Council and Tampa City Council issued proclamations officially recognizing Tampa Bay Beer Week;
  • We piloted the TBBW “Passport” – a 50+ page passport featuring coupons good for free beer, growlers, and other deals at the beginning of TBBW. Even now, after beer week is officially over, there are over half the offers still valid through to December 31, 2014 (there are still some available for purchase for only $10.);
  • TBBW formally became a not-for-profit incorporated entity;
  • We hosted our first ever event as an organization – Halfway There – A Rare Beer Festival, in September 2013 and received Creative Loafing’s best inaugural beerfest award;
  • The number of new breweries in the Tampa Bay area nearly doubled since TBBW 2013;
  • Once an oddity, the upscale beer-paired dinners became a regular featured event during the week;
  • Collaboration events (involving multiple breweries) were commonplace;
  • Criminal activity (duplicate/counterfeit tickets) coupled with unexpected outcomes (double the ticketed attendance) and some poor advance planning resulted in a mob mentality, scarcity of resources and supplies, and ultimately resulted in financial losses for a mainstay brewery in our industry.

Overall, there were grand victories, learning experiences, disappointments and crowds.  After herculean efforts on the part of hundreds of people:  brewers, restauranteurs, bar owners, volunteers and thousands of craft beer drinkers throughout the area, the week ended with mixture of emotions and promises, no deaths, few injuries, and we can all look towards an even better TBBW 2015.

My next Post will Cover the Highlights of TBBW 2014 (from Carol’s Perspective)… stay tuned

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p.s., Don’t forget to vote for my beer blog entry (I’m the only one from Florida) at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5J9SPP7 – Please and thankyou!

Have a great week!

Carol

Related posts from others:

– All about Beer.com – The Death of Hunahpu Day by Gerard Walen

The Beer Apostle -Hunahpu Day: The Proper Response

Beer for the Daddy -An Ugly End to A Great Week by Sean Nordquist

Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day a Mess, but so was angry mob’s response by Justin Grant

Joey Redner on Hunahpu’s Day: “I just don’t want to deal with it” by Tom Scherberger

New PHOTOS, PHOTOS and more PHOTOS page – find yourself and your friends at Tampa Bay Events

For anyone who is not on Facebook, you might not have seen the photos I’ve uploaded from various #TBBW Tampa Bay Beer Week (TBBW) events around town.  Visit our new page by clicking on the pages link (top right hand side of this blog) or HERE!!!

More to come!

p.s., If you’d like me to post photos for you on this new page, please send them to me with the subject line Photos – and the Date and Place of the event, and I’d be happy to post them.

p.p.s. Please vote for me/this blog in the beer bloggers finalist contest – click the link to the survey here (and thank you!)

Have a great week! Carol

 

MicrobrewsUsa is a finalist in the Beer Bloggers Finals! Please vote for me…

Beer Blogger Finalist – Please vote for me! (Click on this link)

What a great start to Tampa Bay Beer Week (I’m on the Board of Directors) – to find out that my blog post “From God’s Waiting Room to God’s Tasting Room – the Brewformation of St Petersburg – is one of only five beer blogs up for a big prize of a trip to New Orleans for the National Beer Wholesalers Conference!

You can vote for me here (I’d be grateful!) – and please tell your friends to vote for me too!

Humble and thankful!

Carol (an unOfficial beer goddess from Tampa Bay, FL)

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