Tampa Bay's majestic beaches and gulf waters have long been known to attract vacationers.
But now a push is under way to make the area known for some different water — plus a few extra ingredients.
How does a beercation sound?
Visit Tampa Bay recently kicked off a marketing campaign predicated on Hillsborough County's burgeoning craft brewing scene. The idea is to bring travelers who love barley, hops and sunshine to a place that has an abundance of all three.
"We are always looking for new and creative ways to introduce this area to visitors, and with such a great craft brewing scene going on around here, it made sense to showcase that," said Liana Lopez, director of communications for Visit Tampa Bay. "Plus this gorgeous weather we have down here doesn't hurt either."
Craft beer lovers know how the brewing scene has bubbled up in Tampa Bay. Lopez and company have noticed the trend and are trying to spread the word.
"There are so many (breweries) unique to this area," she said. "What we try to do is find ways to connect with people and the things they are interested in and right now, craft brewing is something trending upward."
More breweries mean more events. This weekend, Curtis Hixon Park hosts its version of Oktoberfest, and the Florida Aquarium will hold its annual Brews by the Bay.
"People are traveling to places all over the country for beer festivals and events," Lopez said. "So why not travel here, with all the great places to choose from, even when there's not a festival?"
The area's crown jewel is Cigar City Brewing, rated the fourth best brewery in the world this year by ratebeer.com, one of the pre-eminent websites devoted to ale and lager enthusiasts.
"We are very fortunate and pleased to have been recognized like that," Cigar City vice president Justin Clark said. "It's a prestigious list and we are honored."
Cigar City tailors many of its beers to Tampa's culture. Take the Café Con Leche Stout, the Bolita Double Nut Brown Ale. And the brewer gives a nod to Ybor's historic district by aging beers on planks made from actual cigar boxes.
"Our founder, Joey Redner, is quite the Tampa history buff," Clark said. "We try to make a product that speaks to Tampa or Florida in general. And we get the opportunity on every bottle or can to tell a story about the area."
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There are plenty of others carving a niche in the local brewing scene.
Tampa Bay Brewing Company in Ybor City, Cold Storage Craft Brewery and Southern Brewing & Winemaking in Seminole Heights, and recently opened Three Palms Brewing and Zeke's Brewing in Brandon are all pouring unique, handcrafted selections. Yuengling, America's oldest brewery, opened a plant in the USF area in 1999.
Pinellas County has been adding breweries at an even faster rate than Hillsborough. Over the summer, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater touted eight brew pubs from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg as a "beer trail" and noted that the area is becoming a mecca for aficionados.
"All of this is still new to the Tampa Bay area, and we are very supportive of all the new breweries, as long as their beer is good," Clark said.
"One thing we like to do in our tasting room is offer guests beers from these other local breweries. This area is still growing."
Visitors will find more than beer here. The bay area is peppered with bars and restaurants that cater to the craft beer crowd. Then there are bus, bicycle, boat and even limo beer tours.
"Our goal is to provide fun things to do and offer interesting options for visitors," Lopez said.
"I think we're tapping into great things with this."
Brandon Wright can be reached at [email protected]