Busch Gardens' Bands, Brew & BBQ festival series returns for a sixth year on Sunday, featuring live music from artists such as the Doobie Brothers and Barenaked Ladies, barbecue from local restaurants and a plethora of beers from around the world. With more than 100 beers making an appearance, it's tough to know where to start sampling. Here are a few that stand out in this year's lineup.
Budweiser Black Crown: Anheuser-Busch's latest stab at the craft market is the winner of the Project 12 competition, challenging AB brewmasters across the country to create a new recipe using Budweiser's proprietary yeast strain. Black Crown, a crisp, amber lager, emerged as a clear favorite from an original field of 12, voted into regular production by a panel of 25,000 tasters nationwide.
Becks Sapphire: This new Pilsner from Becks is brewed with the German Saphir hop, a slightly milder variety than traditional Saaz hops used in the original Becks lager. The result is supposed to be "smoother" than standard Becks, though it's much more interesting as a vehicle to showcase the relatively uncommon Saphir hop.
Big Storm Brewing Co.: One of the Bay area's newest breweries will have three new releases — Palm Bender Pale Ale, Arcus IPA, and Frog Hair Pale Wheat Ale — along with its flagship Wavemaker Amber Ale on tap. Unless you've been to the Big Storm taproom recently, this will be a first taste of the Odessa brewery's latest output.
Sweetwater LowRyder and Dank Tank "The Gimp": Although Sweetwater started distribution in Central Florida last year, it was limited to the brewery's three most popular beers. Here you can sample Sweetwater's award-winning LowRyder Rye IPA, alongside "The Gimp," a Tarantino-inspired Old Ale brewed as part of the brewery's popular Dank Tank series of limited-release beers.
Omission Pale Ale and Lager: Brewed by Widmer, these gluten-free beers are as close to traditional-tasting brews as they come. The floral, hoppy pale ale and crisp, clean lager are made using a process that removes gluten from the malted barley used to brew the beer, resulting in beers that celiacs can enjoy without worry, other than a potential hangover.
Redhook Audible Ale: Redhook brewed this new release in partnership with sports broadcaster Dan Patrick in an attempt to create a craft beer brewed specifically for drinking while watching sports. What exactly constitutes such a beer is unclear, but sampling it is probably a good way to find out.
Steven's Point Brewery: Steven's Point is the fifth-oldest privately owned brewery in the nation, but it's brand new to the bay area. Here's a chance to try the Cascade Pale Ale, Belgian White Wheat Ale, Oktoberfest and St. Benedict's Winter Ale from a company that once provided beer to troops during the Civil War.