Saturday, January 20, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Beer Week: Newbies, homebrews and best IPA in the world

Times beer correspondent Justin Grant spent Sunday checking out several more events for Tampa Bay Beer Week. Here's a glimpse of his day:

I headed to Whole Foods Market in Tampa for lunch and the Sierra Nevada Tasting on Sunday. The beers up for sampling were the flagship Pale Ale, Kellerweis, Ruthless Rye and Bigfoot Barleywine. Quite a few shoppers stopped by, and for some, this was their introduction to craft beer. When one woman was asked by the brewery rep what kind of beer she usually liked, she joked, "wine." She ended up favoring the classic Pale Ale and even went back for seconds.

Next, I headed over to the Cuban Club in Ybor to catch the second half of the 14th Annual Best Florida Beer Championships Brewers Ball, an awards ceremony for, well, the best Florida beer. And there were plenty. Among the brews on tap were several excellent homebrews entered into their own competition and voted on by the attendees. The winner — Dos Pistolas, an Old Ale aged with tequila-soaked oak chips — will have a batch brewed on-site at Rapp Brewing, with the finished beer featured in its taproom. Though the weather was less than optimal, the Brewers Ball had a true Ybor feel, the Cuban Club's large courtyard filled with hundreds of cigar-smoking craft beer aficionados. The format was also unique, in that everyone poured their own beer rather than waiting in line and ordering it from a festival volunteer.

After the ball, I checked out the Unofficial Brewers Ball After Party at The Independent, where I was lucky enough to sample some of a friend's freshly canned stock of The Alchemist's Heady Topper that he acquired during a trip to Vermont a week ago. This beer is hailed by many to be the best IPA in existence, and it has recently moved into the No. 1 spot in BeerAdvocate.com's database, ousting Westvleteren 12 and Pliny the Younger for the title of Best Beer in the World. I closed out the night here with the rest of the Brewers Ball spillover, along with a couple dozen other folks just enjoying a cool Sunday night at the Independent.

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