TAMPA — The email went out last month, a call to arms of sorts to the Tampa Bay craft beer community.
It began with a simple question: Any interest in starting a regional beer event modeled after Philly Beer Week? If so, let's talk.
And they did, gathering for a series of meetings at a conference room at Cigar City Brewing in Tampa. The result: the first ever Tampa Bay Beer Week, March 3-10.
A loosely knit group is organizing the event, representing virtually all the major players in the Tampa Bay craft beer scene — brewers, distributors, tavern and home brewers. And it's being run with the same sort of collaborative spirit that has characterized the development of the local brewing industry.
"We said, let's collaborate and see what we can make happen,'' said Ben Mills, a spokesman for the event. "Everybody was on board.'' About 50 events are planned so far, with more expected to be added.
Organizers hope the week will spotlight the already thriving Tampa Bay craft beer scene — and become an annual draw for tourists.
"It is such a huge, positive step in order to make this a craft beer town,'' said David Doble, head brewer at Tampa Bay Brewing Company in Ybor City. "I've always said Tampa has everything it takes to become the next major point of growth ... the next Portland.''
The week was chosen because March is the height of tourist season and to take advantage of two established beer events.
The week kicks off March 3 with the annual Florida Brewers Guild Beer Fest at Centro Ybor — it has sold out in advance the past three years — and ends March 10 with Cigar City's third annual Hunahpu's Day, a mini-beerfest expected to draw about 2,000 people eager to buy the first bottles of the brewery's most highly regarded beer, Hunahupu's Imperial Stout, while sampling beers made specially for the event.
In between will be smaller events at locations around the Tampa Bay area — breweries, taverns, brew pubs and restaurants — from beer pairings to special-release beers to brewery nights at taverns to home brewing demonstrations.
Philly Beer Week began in 2008 and has grown into the largest event of its kind in the United States, with more than 1,000 events spread over 10 days in June.
About 70,000 people attend and spend about $11 million on beer-related events.
More than 50 similar events have popped up across the country.
Doble said Tampa Bay Brewing has 10 events planned that week, including a beer dinner at its Ybor City brewery and pub and another at The Pub at International Plaza, and three brewery nights at local taverns that specialize in craft beer.
Willard's Tap House in Largo plans to have all locally brewed beers on its 40 taps that week. Peg's Cantina in Gulfport will tap five barrel-aged beers specially made for the week.