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WaZoo beer festival to benefit Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa

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Dr. Doolittle only talked with the animals; friends of Lowry Park Zoo can drink with them at the 13th annual WaZoo celebration Saturday night.

Well, not quite.

Zookeepers will bring out an armadillo and a few show animals on leashes, but the rest of the park's residents will be kept to their regular bedtimes in their sleeping cages.

"The only animals out that night are wearing flip-flops,'' says Jimmy Mela of Tampa's Vintage Wine Cellars, who has rounded up beer for WaZoo from the beginning.

At first, the event featured only 40 beers and 400 people, but the revolution in craft brewing since then will put 220 on the table in this rain-or-shine festival. Look for a big selection of summery witbiers and India pale ales, commonly called IPAs, from both microbreweries and new niche brands of major brewers.

Plus, Woodchuck will have hard cider at the gate and the Melas have a corral of Wines on the Wild Side, light summer wines from Barefoot Cellars and critter labels like Black Sheep, Porcupine Ridge and Four Emus.

WaZoo organizers expect more than 4,000 beer fans this year for one of the zoo's biggest fundraisers. Mela advises guests to come dressed for the weather — shorts and T-shirts — and not to worry if there are any predictions of rain.

"It does rain," he says, "and, you know what, every year it stops raining too. It lasts 30 minutes and the beer's still cold."

Chris Sherman, who writes about food and wine for the St. Petersburg Times, can be reached at (727) 893-8585 or csherman@sptimes.com.

Wide world of beer

To appreciate beer at its best, enjoy the foam and the aroma — from coffee to pears, you'll be surprised — and give your mouth a chance to taste more than chill and buzz.

In the alchemy of beer, brewmasters transform malted grain (barley, wheat, rice and more) and hops into hundreds of styles. Depending on the yeast used in fermentation, beers are either crisp, clean lagers or stronger, more flavorful ales.

Here are the most common kinds:

Lagers: The beer most Americans knew and loved for 100 years, the best pilsners are perfectly balanced.

Stout and porter: This dark, rich beer made with roasted malts is big-hearted and big in flavor. The biggest are Imperial Russian stouts; porters are sometimes light.

Pale ale: Brisk, aromatic and hoppy, they range from an English bitter to India pale ale, with high alcohol to survive shipping to South Asia. Brown ales are nutty, more malty and rather sweet.

Wheat beer and white beer: These strong, refreshing summer ales are often unfiltered and cloudy. Some are made with malted wheat; Belgian witbiers use coriander and orange peel.

IF YOU GO

WaZoo

The beer festival is 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday at Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W Sligh Ave., west of Exit 48 on Interstate 275, in Tampa. Advance tickets are $65 online at lowryparkzoo.com until noon Friday or $70 by phone until 5 p.m., (813) 935-8552, ext. 276. Same-day tickets are $75 and are available beginning at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the zoo's main gate. Tickets for designated drivers are $20 in advance or at the gate.

WaZoo beer festival to benefit Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa 07/30/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 2, 2008 11:25pm]

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