The third annual Tampa Bay Beer Week kicks off this weekend, and it's going to be a big one. Tackling the official event list is a formidable task — and one that's recommended, with many worthwhile events taking place — but here's an overview of some highlights. All events listed are free unless otherwise noted, and tickets for some events are limited, so call for availability. For full details, see tampabaybeerweek.com.
Refine your palate
Find out what the fuss is about and take a beer tasting class, like the one that Tampa's Southern Brewing & Winemaking is holding at 7 p.m. Tuesday, covering the elements of tasting beer: appearance, aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and finishing characteristics ($10 per person). The breweries are involved, too — Ybor City's Tampa Bay Brewing Company (5:30 p.m., $25-$35) and Clearwater's Pair O' Dice Brewing (6 p.m., $20) are both holding tasting classes on Monday, while St. Pete's Brewers Tasting Room has one on Tuesday, following a collaboration brew day with Florida Beer Company and All About Beer magazine.
Focus on the breweries
Many events are held at breweries, but one in particular stands out: The grand opening of Tampa's newest brewery, ESB Brewing, on March 7, featuring live music, food and, of course, lots of beer. The event starts at noon in the tasting room, D-4973 at 333 Falkenburg Road, Tampa.
Big beers and bold flavors
Breweries are focusing on flavorful, barrel-aged beers during Beer Week. St. Pete's 3 Daughters Brewing will release its Black Tip barrel-aged porter at 6 p.m. Wednesday, while Plant City's Two Henrys Brewing, Largo's Barley Mow Brewing and Tampa Bay Brewing Company will all release barrel-aged beers on Thursday evening at their respective breweries (Barley Mow will debut its Old Crackler barrel-aged Robust Porter at noon at Dunedin's Leuken's Liquors).
St. Pete's Cycle Brewing's popular Barrel Aged Beer Day is at 10:30 a.m. March 7 at Peg's Cantina in Gulfport, while St. Pete's Green Bench Brewing will hold Foeder for Thought, with brews fermented in oak foeders, at 3 p.m. March 7. At 1 p.m. March 9, Dunedin's 7venth Sun Brewery will host Hunahpu's Hangover Day, featuring wood- and barrel-aged beers from 7venth Sun and others.
Some events focus on pairing bold beers with cigars, such as the Weyerbacher and Cigar Pairing at King Corona in Ybor at 7 p.m. Thursday, featuring Weyerbacher's Tango, a Belgian ale brewed with cherries; as well as the Blackout Party at The Independent in Tampa at 7 p.m. March 7, featuring strong stouts paired with cigars (free admission, $25 for a cigar and beer flight).
Many bars will have Florida beers on draft, such as The Brass Tap — all of its bay area locations will have Florida-brewed beer on all 60 taps starting Saturday — and Clearwater's Fat Cat Tavern, which will feature discounted local beers all week, as well as bottomless pints during its Local Craft Brewery Party at 6 p.m. March 7.
Other bars are showcasing beers from national breweries. Tampa's Bilmar Station will serve a range of beers from SweetWater Brewing during Beer Week, while Brandon's Stein & Vine will hold an Anderson Valley Brewery Night at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Lost Coast Brewery will be in the spotlight at Safety Harbor's Copperhead's Taphouse (7 p.m. March 6), and Tampa Tap Room will focus on beers from Twisted Pine, including a visit from the brewery's owner (7 p.m. March 7).
It never hurts to have food on your stomach, especially after a hard night out during Beer Week. A good brunch might do the trick, like the popular Eggs & Kegs series at Cigar City Brewing at 11 a.m. Sunday, featuring a four-course Latin brunch from Loko Cuisine, as well as beers made by breweries whose head brewers got their start at Cigar City. Also on Sunday, Tampa's Duckweed Urban Market will serve brunch featuring Steigl Radler grapefruit mimosas. Two more brunches come on March 9: The third annual Very Glorious Sour Beer Breakfast is at noon at Ybor's New World Brewery ($35), while Southern Brewing & Winemaking will serve mead- and cider-based mimosas alongside a waffle bar ($15).
There are also beer dinners, such as the C2Imports Belgian Beer Dinner ($40) at Kelly's Chic a Boom Room in Dunedin, and the Founders Beer Dinner ($115) at The Refinery in Tampa, both on Monday night. On Tuesday, The Epicurean Hotel in Tampa will host a beer dinner ($85) with Florida Beer Company that features a beer 101 tasting class before the meal.
And, of course, the festivals
No Beer Week would be complete without a slew of festivals. On Saturday, choose between the annual Florida Brewers Guild Beer Fest (2 to 6 p.m., $35-$45) at Tampa's Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, or 97x Beer in the Park (6 to 9 p.m., $25-$35), which will be held in Tampa's Hyde Park Village. On Sunday, the Best Florida Beer Championships Brewers Ball (noon to 5 p.m., $50) will also be at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, while its follow-up BFBC Leftover Party ($20) will be at 6 p.m. March 7 at Southern Brewing & Winemaking, featuring unlimited tastings of all the leftover beer from the BFBC competition, as well as food trucks and a discussion panel.
Finally, the biggest event every year: Cigar City Brewing Hunahpu's Day. This year's is the first ticketed Hunahpu's Day, and tickets are already sold out.