The first organized event since Tampa Bay Beer Week (TBBW) formally incorporated as a not-for-profit was held September 7, 2013 at the Cuban Club in Ybor City: Halfway There – A Rare Beer Festival. Over 500 attendees tasted and over 40 breweries, homebrew clubs, distributors and others poured tastings of truly rare beer: beers that were “one-off” kegs (specially brewed for the event), brews unavailable in Florida, and award-winning home-brew club offerings. Taps turned on for VIPs promptly at 5pm, with wind down/last pour at 9pm. In between the beer and conversations flowed, and new friendships were formed over what I call “liquid art.”
And… if the initial feedback and social media postings are any indication, we (the TBBW board) hit the ball out of the park. With brews and brewer tents spread throughout the indoor cantina area and the outdoor patio, festival goers could easily mingle and mix with the brewers themselves and heartily sampled brews that will never come together in the same place again, including specialty collaboration beers between brewers at the event. From stouts to porters to Berliner Weiss’s to IPAs to strong ales – the Halfway There (halfway to Tampa Bay Beer week in March 2014!) – catered to every palate and a myriad of beer styles.
With an upswing of 15+ production breweries in the Tampa Bay area alone with several poised to come on stream in the coming weeks, Tampa Bay is quickly becoming a craft beer destination to be reckoned with, and the variety of offerings is impressive. When you take a look at the awards amassed by the veterans (Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Dunedin Brewing, and others) along with the newcomers (Rapp Brewing, Barley Mow Brewing Co., St. Somewhere and others) – it is not hard to see why Tampa Bay is emerging as a craft brewing leader in Florida.
With this inaugural event, Halfway There proved that the TBBW board can bring great festivals and new events to the Tampa Bay area, and if you listen to festival attendees, they are ready to drink up more of the same. If you missed this one, stick around and watch for more of TBBW offerings in the months ahead, culminating in the week long Tampa Bay Beer Week March 1-9, 2014.
p.s., After posting this original post, the Halfway There Rare Beer Festival was voted the Best Inaugural Beer Fest by Tampa Bay’s Creative Loafing press and Tampa Bay Beer Week 2013 was voted the Best Beer Geek Invasion.
p.p.s. Carol Dekkers is a director on the Tampa Bay Beer Week board of Directors and the Chapter Chair of the new Barley’s Angels chapter: Tampa Bay Growler Girls (see Facebook.) Imbibe safely!