Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Beer Week: Craft beer mingles with Bud at Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens' Bands, Brew and BBQ series would seem, on its face, to be the living antithesis of Tampa Bay Beer Week.

Here, in the home of Cigar City and Cold Storage and Saint Somewhere, is a multinational beer conglomerate hocking myriad iterations of Anheuser-Busch owner InBev in a theme park, with a series of chart-topping rock bands as a soundtrack. There's very little craft or boutique about it.

Still, a large crowd braved Oktoberfest-like weather to see Sunday's band, the Goo Goo Dolls. By mid-afternoon, some of the most popular offerings, including Sweetwater Dank Tank and Widmer Brothers Columbia Common, were tapped out.

But there were pockets of craft brilliance if you knew where to look. It wasn't on the menu, but Sweetwater did have a few bottles of its Happy Ending Imperial Stout behind the booth.

And Tampa Bay breweries were represented – perhaps overly so. In addition to booths for Cold Storage, Big Storm and Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Busch Gardens offered a blond ale from a "Tampa, FL" brewery called Froghair. Turns out it's actually brewed by Pensacola Bay Brewery. Still good, though.

Still, you couldn't avoid reminders that this was InBev territory. Near the entrance to the Bands, Brew & BBQ area was an Anheuser-Busch booth, begging the question: Who comes to a craft beer festival, shells out $30 for a tasting wristband … and orders a Budweiser?

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