Wazoo, Lowry Park Zoo's beer festival, is returning Saturday to let the party animals take over while the zoo denizens are tucked away for the night. They will be pouring more than 275 types of beer from 70 breweries worldwide, so here's some strategies to keep in mind before you go on your brew safari:
It will rain: If you go by the 18 years of this event's history, just accept that it's quite likely that a typical afternoon thunderstorm will sweep through just before or during the event, so dress accordingly.
They are just samples: While it sounds dazzling to hear 275 beers will be pouring, know that all of those pourings are truly tastings, so you have to wait in a lot of lines and work the concourse to get the equivalent of a full beer. To this, most of the revelers we saw last year declared, "Challenge accepted!" and proceeded to race around the place on a mission to collect as many mouthfuls of beer as humanly possible in a three-hour time span.
Have a driver: There will be cabs aplenty waiting outside the gates. Though in years past they have been free, this year there will be multiple cab companies available on site with each offering a discount or flat rate. Designated drivers get in cheaper, and there will be non-alcoholic beverages (water, soft drinks) in stations that volunteers continually fill and chill throughout the night. Last year, these were harder to see because more than half the event lost power in the first hour due to a downed neighborhood power line. (Remember those thunderstorms we warned you about?)
Eat up: Among the food stations dishing out small bites: Tijuana Flats, BJ's Brewhouse, Kona Grill, Papa John's Pizza, James Joyce Irish Pub, Reilly's Westshore Taphouse, Whole Foods Market. While the food isn't gourmet, there is plenty to keep bellies full.
Beer to watch for: Tampa's own Cigar City Brewing is crafting a custom small batch brew for Wazoo that is described by the brewers as "a refreshing German lager that has fresh strawberry aroma and acidity with big notes of vanilla and fresh whipped cream, and finishes with hints of sponge cake. It's a great treat on a hot summer day." Samples will accompany several of Cigar City's beers at the fest fundraiser.
If you go: The event runs from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W Sligh Ave. Tickets are $70 ($80 day of event), $25 for the designated driver. VIP tickets, which almost always sell out in advance, include early admission, access to an air-conditioned lounge and animal encounters and are $100, or $50 for designated drivers. Tickets are available online at www.lowryparkzoo.com or by phone at (813) 935-8552, ext. 276, in advance, or at the door the night of the event.