Times beer correspondent Justin Grant spent Saturday checking out several events for the first day of Tampa Bay Beer Week. Here's a glimpse of his day:
At noon Saturday, I headed over to Booth's Brewing & Bar Supply in Tampa to check out the Beer Rally. When I arrived, there were a few people sitting around eating bratwurst and drinking homebrew from two portable 5-gallon kegs. I had missed the morning brewing class, which is held every Saturday at 10 a.m., but I was just in time to watch a new brew-in-progress by owner Francis Booth and brewing partner Bobby Every. The brew was a 20-gallon all-grain chocolate cherry stout, giving me a great opportunity to ask a bunch of questions about some of the finer points of homebrewing. Booth's will be the site of an upcoming brewery and taproom called ESB Brewing, which will be neighbored by another upcoming nano-brewery, Zeke's Brewing, located right next door.
Later on, I gathered a small group and headed to The Pub at International Plaza to attend the Flights & Pints with Abita Brewing on Saturday evening. The place was jam-packed, but no one seemed to know much about the Abita event, which was to feature a brewery rep handing out samples and chatting about Abita beer. Instead, it was a simple keep-the-pint night, featuring pints of Abita Turbodog and Purple Haze on draft, served with a take-home Abita Restoration ale frosted pint glass. No problem there, as I enjoyed Turbodog, my girlfriend enjoyed Purple Haze, and now we have two glasses to match the two Turbodog glasses that we have at home.
After leaving The Pub, we headed downtown to Taps Restaurant Bar & Lounge for its Radeberger Brewery Night. A rep was passing out samples of the classic German Pilsner, along with raffle tickets for a Radeberger snowboard. We didn't win, but we did order a few Radebergers, which came with very nice glassware to take home. We didn't stick around long, as we wanted to head over to Safety Harbor to Copperheads Taphouse for the TBBW Kickoff Party. It featured ska band The New Rulers and a promising tap list, including "one of the last known Pinellas County kegs of Hopslam," as well as Southern Tier's Uceta Steam Ale, a beer brewed by the New York-based brewery specifically for Tampa Bay Beer Week.
As was the case with The Pub and Taps, this place was packed. The band was great (they even did a nice cover of The Specials' Ghost Town), and the tap list was even better. I tried the Southern Tier brew and Cain's Dark Mild, a 3.2 percent alcohol beer served on nitro. First time I've seen this stuff on draft anywhere. Whether the dozens of craft beer-guzzling bar patrons were excited for Beer Week, the New Rulers, or simply a Saturday night out in Safety Harbor is hard to say, but I left feeling like the week was off to a strong start.