First off, let me apologize for not blogging in a while. It wasn’t that we haven’t been sampling any of the local Gainesville pubs, breweries and eateries… we have. 🙂
And it wasn’t that I have started several documents intending to post them here… I did.
But if you have ever done any writing then you know that there is a creative process to it. And this process can be mentally draining. If you’re already occupied with other matters then it can drain some of that energy out of the process, making it very difficult to finish a line of thought. Suffice it to say that there will be several postings in the near future that have been in the process for a while. Ok, apologies out of the way let’s use the lousy weather today to do some catching up.
I learned about the Bad A** Beer Fest about a month ago via Facebook. This was the 2nd Annual so I apparently missed last year’s. I began talking it up to my local craft beer crew, who were very reluctant to go to a beer fest. They seemed to have a bias against beer fests, where these biases came from I don’t know. But we have all wanted to do a road trip together to some different breweries so this seemed like a good opportunity to explore multiple breweries from around Tampa at one stop… which is one of the best advantages of any beer fest.
It was kind of back and forth for a while. Rowdy wanted to go but getting anyone else to go was iffy at best. The day before, I found out that the Maestro was coming and Rowdy told me that she and the Cooler were coming as well. I offered to drive because I was going to go whether anyone else went or not, and I have a vehicle that accommodates four people well for a road trip. Maestro suggested a different route that taking the interstate down to Tampa, which I was in favor of. If you have ever driven around Tampa in the last couple of years then you know that the I-75 traffic is terrible because of all the construction that is going on. We opted instead to head down along the west coast of Florida and come into the Beer Fest site from the north instead of trying to come into Tampa from the east. A choice which proved better as we went because the rain on the way down was much like the rain we’re having today. And trying to drive through down pours on the interstate is much more dangerous than on the less traveled highway.
General Admission for the fest started at 7 PM, and VIP entry started at 6. None of us opted for the VIP entry because the only advantages we could see were that you got a tour of the Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s new brewery in Westchase (where the event was held) and an hour head start on the beer sampling. Considering that the event was scheduled to last til 11 PM, the idea of paying for an additional hour of sampling seemed a little ridiculous. And while touring the brewery might be interesting if you haven’t toured a brewery before, it did not interest any of us. However, there were folks coming in for the VIP access even as late as 10 minutes before General Admission began.
TBBC’s entrance is on the Northeast corner of Race Track Road and the entrance to Monroe Business Park, which is located in the Westchase area of the greater Tampa area. The brewery is the only building on the site and is centrally located on the northern edge of the site. If you come into the entrance, which is on the south of the brewery, there is parking spots all along the west between the brewery and race Track road and along the south along Monroe Business Park entrance. On the east of the brewery is the loading dock area.
For the Beer Fest, all of the parking spots were occupied by brewery tents and merchandise vendors, except for the Southwest corner of the parking lot where a bandstand was erected. The loading dock area on the east side was where the food vendors and the port-a-potties were located (see map above).
Once we entered the fest, we turned to the immediate left and had samples from the host brewery. I had their Full Moon Madness (a Subtropical Porter) which was a special 20th Anniversary release by TBBC, which I thought was a pretty tasty porter. I don’t recall what the rest of the crew had but they all seemed to like their selection.
And so we began wandering around the fest, sampling the various beers, chatting with our fellow beer lovers and just generally enjoying ourselves. I couldn’t tell you the name of the band but they were doing a great job at covering various songs.
Most of the beer vendors were local Tampa breweries or at least near the Tampa area. And it was a good mix of different types of beer. Though I did notice there were a lot of fruit beers and a lot of spicy beers. I must have had at least three samples of sour beer and another three of beers brewed with peppers. All of them I liked but I do have to give a shout out to Three Palms Brewing with their “The Rooster Says”. This was a really tasty Gose, flavored with Tomato juice and Siracha. To me it tasted like a combination of a Bloody Mary and what we called a “Red Dog” when I was younger, which was tomato juice and beer, an old hangover cure. I just thought it was great.
There were also a great number of IPAs, Porters, Stouts, APAs, Hefeweizens, etc. Most of what I sampled tasted great. I want to mention two other beers that really stood out for me personally. Paw Paw Brewing had three beers to choose from and I selected their Schwarzhound, which is a Chocolate Orange Black Beer. It was really tasty and smelled great. I could smell the hints of orange in the foam and the combination or chocolate and orange had slight coffee undertones. It was just a really good stout.
The last one I want to mention was not a professional brewery, but a home brew club. Being a home brewer myself I like to taste someothers whenever possible. I asked for their Single Hopped APA which was named “Trekkie”. This was a really good Pale Ale, well balanced and smooth. I really liked it and thought about going back for another.
After a couple hours of beer sampling I had decided I had pretty much had enough beer, so I began drinking water while the others continued a little while longer. While we were walking around during the evening we also looked at some of the wares on display at various booths for sale. There were hats, t-shirts, glassware and the regular stickers and coasters available. I ended buying a really cool looking glass and a t-shirt that my friends suggested matched my style of beer drinking.
It seemed to be a really good turnout for the Beer Fest. Beer drinkers from all walks of life were in attendance. I believe I read they were expecting about 3500 people, which I can neither confirm nor deny… I just know there was a whole lotta people.
Which brings about a couple of critiques I have about the fest:
- Only 4 food vendors for that many people is no where near enough. There were lines with about a 20 minute wait just to order your food at most of the trucks. The good point about this was that the shortest line for food was at the Jersey Mike’s truck. So I got a really good Philly Cheesesteak. But anyone else who waited at the other trucks had a much longer wait.
- The number for port-a-potties for that size a crowd was also very inadequate. Again there was at least a twenty minute wait just to get up to be the next in line. I think the key point that the organizers missed here was this… IT’S A BEER FEST!! What did you not get about making sure there are enough facilities at an event where the featured product is a liquid that makes a large percentage of people have to use a bathroom?! And this leads to…
- Why would you have the port-a-potties located so close to the food vendors??!! Enuff said about that.
Overall, my friends and I enjoyed ourselves a lot. I think I have dispelled their concerns about beer fests and will be able to bring them along to future ones I attend. And I think the event organizers did a very good job and other than the three points I mentioned above I wouldn’t have changed anything else. I will definitely be going back again next year. I think my friends will too. Hopefully we can convince some more to join us.