The seventh annual Tampa Bay Beer Week kicks off Saturday, ushering in eight days — or nine, if you count the hangover brunches on March 11 — of more than 100 events celebrating all things beer, reminding locals and visitors alike just why Tampa Bay is one of the nation's most vibrant and exciting beer scenes.
There are more events in a week than one could hope to attend in a year — festivals, special releases, tap takeovers, collaborations, beer dinners, food pairings, bar crawls, education and even bar game tournaments — but, as always, there are a few that stand out.
Beginning Saturday: These are the high-profile events of each Beer Week. Festivities kick off on Saturday with a tremendous local brew showcase at the Florida Brewers Guild Craft Beer Festival at Tampa's Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park and end the following Saturday with Hunahpu's Day, Cigar City Brewing's epic annual festival, held this year at Raymond James Stadium.
Sunday: If you want to dig a little deeper, try the Brewers Ball at Tampa's Water Works Park, featuring a curated lineup of more than 100 Florida-brewed beers that won medals in their respective categories in this year's Best Florida Beer Championship.
Friday (March 9): Deeper still? Don't miss the fifth annual Foeder for Thought at St. Petersburg's Green Bench Brewing, which features a series of in-depth panels and Q&A sessions with brewers from across the country, all specializing in wild-fermented and foeder-fermented ales. The quality of the beer list alone is staggering, but the educational component makes this a can't-miss for serious beer lovers.
Monday, Wednesday: Takeovers are a great way to become familiar with local breweries, and they invariably feature a handful of special or rare releases that you'll have trouble finding otherwise. Two of the more promising takeovers this year are Monday's Total Eclipse of the (7venth) Sun at St. Petersburg's Independent Bar (featuring 14 rare taps from 7venth Sun), and an impressive Motorworks 22-tap Takeover at Brooksville's Florida Cracker Kitchen on Wednesday.
Friday (March 9): You can Wake Up With Wakefield at St. Petersburg's Hawthorne Bottle Shoppe, featuring a full tap takeover and additional special releases from Miami's J. Wakefield Brewing, along with a complimentary cereal bar. You'll also want to pop in for the Dunderbrau Tap Takeover at Tampa's Mr. Dunderbak's, which will feature 20 house-brewed German-style ales and barrel-aged sours rotating throughout the entire Beer Week.
Thursday (March 8): How about some friendly competition to go with your beer? Cigar City and Oskar Blues are hosting a variety of quirky game nights — including pog and Nerf sharpshooting contests — throughout beer week, including the Local Draught House Beer Olympics at that bar's North Tampa location on Thursday (March 8). Competitors will compete in bar games like table tennis, cornhole, basketball, beer pong and quarters for prizes, while enjoying a lineup of brews from Cigar City and Oskar Blues.
Wednesday: Then there's the Wood Car Race at Tampa's Coppertail Brewing. Buy a wood car-making kit in the tasting room and race it at 6 p.m. Only 30 cars can enter, so get there early. In addition to a variety of special Coppertail brews, the event will feature guest taps and brewer appearances from Hardywood Park Brewery of Richmond, Va.
Tuesday: The brewers themselves will get involved at the Battle Royale at Tampa's Lowry Parcade on Tuesday. Two special brews each from Hidden Springs, 7venth Sun, Six Ten, Angry Chair and Coppertail will be on tap, with each pour awarding the respective brewery a point. Brewers from each will also compete in a variety of arcade games, with the overall winner of the night taking the championship belt.
Sunday: Grindhaus Brew Lab in Clearwater hosts an Artisan Beer Pairing Experience on Sunday, featuring a guided six-course beer and food pairing, along with a discussion of the hows and whys of beer and food pairing.
Wednesday: Tampa's 81Bay will host the 81Bay + American Social Pairing, a four-course dinner featuring five 81Bay beers paired with food prepared by the chefs at Harbour Island's American Social, with chefs and brewers on hand to walk you through the process.
Sunday (March 11): Sometimes food pairings are more of a utility, to help soak up all the booze. Head to St. Petersburg's Flying Boat Brewing Company for a Lazy Sunday Brunch, featuring food prepared by Out of the Pot Catering and a new Mango-Habanero pale ale from Flying Boat. While there, peruse the goods at the Second Sunday Art Market, sample some beermosas and toast another jam-packed Tampa Bay Beer Week.
See tampabaybeerweek.com for the full Beer Week event schedule, along with event times and ticket details.