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Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival offers tasty enticements

PLANT CITY

Sure, the little blue beauties in Keel & Curley Winery's fields are the main attraction at this weekend's Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival. But guests also should take the time to sample Keel and Curley's newest offerings.

For the first time, Keel & Curley Winery will serve its own beer. Two Henrys Brewing Co., the brand the winery launched in October 2013, has been quite successful throughout the Plant City area and promises to be a large attraction.

Perhaps it's something in the brews. Some of the mainstays on the menu, including the lager and the stout, have been popular since their inceptions, even leading to high sales in local restaurants.

"With some of the Budweiser products, some restaurants go through a keg a month," director of farming operations Ryan Keel said. "But, with our lager, they sometimes go through a keg in a week."

And there are other craft beers that are occasionally on the menu, whether they were intentional or not. The winery briefly featured a double India pale ale, which wasn't originally supposed to be a double. But, because IPAs are extremely popular right now, the winery featured it anyway and quickly sold out.

"We have a lot of people interested in the organization, with the new brewery," said Clay Keel, vice president of production and head brewer of Two Henrys Brewing. "We have a new group of customers we've never had before — that, plus selling our wine in Walmart gives us new shoppers."

To go with the festival, Clay Keel has been working on a new product specifically for the festival: a blueberry lager, which will be the first that Two Henrys has featured on the menu.

Fans of the limited Strawberry Shortcake Wine also will be happy to know that it's coming back, and that experience is going to be a little different, too.

"It's made with the sauce from St. Clement's strawberry shortcakes," Clay Keel said. "They're going to help us serve it this year — the first time they've done that."

In addition to the beer, it's also going to be perfect timing for those interested in picking their own fresh blueberries. Because of the recent weather, blueberry season will peak early, and just in time for the festival.

"We'll have a ton of blueberries this year," Clay Keel said. "This weather pushed everything later, which is good for the U-pick. We're estimating to have about 30,000 pounds in the fields."

The winery is hoping to exceed last year's attendance total of about 12,000.

"The most appealing thing about the festival — if I were a guest — is that there's so much going on, and you're not going to spend a fortune," Clay Keel said. "It's $5 to park, free to get in, and you can pick 3 pounds of blueberries for $12. There's wine, beer and live music. It's just a good family day — that's what it's really all about."

. IF YOU GO

Blueberry Festival

The Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival, featuring live music, Keel & Curley Wines, Two Henrys Craft Beer and a kids zone, begins Friday and runs through Sunday at Keel & Curley Winery, 5202 W Thonotosassa Road in Plant City. Gates open for U-pick blueberries at 7 a.m. each day. Festival hours: noon to 8 p.m. today; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. For more: tampabayblueberry

festival.com; keelandcurleywinery.com; twohenrysbrewing.com.

Tampa Bay Blueberry Festival offers tasty enticements 04/23/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 3:15pm]
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