BROOKSVILLE — Several years ago, when the popularity of craft beer making and festivals began to grow, Patricia Crowley had the idea to bring such an event to Hernando County. As president of the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, she knew it could be a great fundraiser.
Three years ago, the inaugural Hernando Untapped took place. And not only has it become a signature fundraiser for the chamber, but also a popular community event.
"This is an event for the community and businesses to socialize, network and just have a great time while sipping samples of craft beer and wine," Crowley said. "It really is a great experience."
The third annual Hernando Untapped, which will be Oct. 6 at American Aviation at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport, promises to be bigger than ever, with about 30 craft beer, wine and spirits vendors; two bands; a variety of food vendors and merchants; games, and other festivities. There will be a VIP section inside American Aviation's hangar, which opens up to the rest of the festival on the tarmac, where there will be planes and cars on display. New this year will be a home brew competition.
Guests — adults only — will each receive a small glass for unlimited samplings of the numerous beer and wine varieties. The breweries and wineries participating come from all over, including the Florida Cracker Tap Room in Brooksville, the Pasco Brewers Guild, Land O'Lakes Winery, Island Groves Winery in Hawthorne, Big Storm Brewery in Tampa, Fish Hawk Spirits of Gainesville and Copperheads Southern Distillery, a moonshine company in Brooksville.
There also will be a special discounted ticket price for those who don't drink or will be designated drivers; those tickets include unlimited soft drinks and water. And for those without designated drivers, there will be car services on hand, if needed.
"We definitely encourage safety," Crowley said.
In addition to the unlimited samples, VIP ticket holders will have several perks, including early admission, a special VIP area with private rest rooms, tables and seating, and VIP-only samplings provided by Carrabba's, Gator's Dockside, Beer Frog and Wild Buck Whiskey.
"(VIP) is definitely the way to go," Crowley said. "It's affordable, there is food and whiskey, and it is a relaxed atmosphere."
This year's event will feature two bands. LostNFound will perform classic rock music, and headliner Soul Circus Cowboys will perform country and Southern rock.
While there are numerous craft beer and wine festivals in Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, Hernando Untapped remains the only one in Hernando. And to keep it an enjoyable experience, Crowley said, the number of tickets are limited. Advance purchase is recommended.
"We are very fortunate to be the only craft beer festival in Hernando County," she said. "We have people from Pasco, Citrus and beyond coming to taste beers of this region."