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A field guide to beer sampling at Busch Gardens' Bands, Brew & BBQ

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.

Bands, Brew & BBQ

Busch Gardens' beer, food and music festival runs from noon to 5:30 p.m. every Sunday through March 3 in Gwazi Park and along the Bands, Brew & BBQ pathway. More than 100 imported, domestic and craft beers will be available for sampling, as well as food from restaurants like Outback and Smokey Bones and Busch Gardens' own restaurants. Wristbands are $30 per person or two for $50 (park admission not included); VIP tickets are $24.99. For more info, see buschgardens.com. Concerts begin at 5 p.m. in Gwazi Park. Here's the lineup:

Sunday: John Kay and Steppenwolf

Feb. 17: Barenaked Ladies

Feb. 24: The Doobie Brothers

March 3: Goo Goo Dolls

A field guide to beer sampling at Busch Gardens' Bands, Brew & BBQ 02/07/13 [Last modified: Thursday, February 7, 2013 3:48pm]

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