Beerfest 2011:Best beer event in the land

There simply isn’t a better name for a beer tasting than Beerfest! Each year, Tampa Bay beer lovers flock to Tampa’s Ybor City in early March to sample well over 100 beers, many of them from Florida. Hopefully no one samples all of them. The annual event is held by the Florida Brewers Guild, a non-profit group of Florida breweries formed in 1996 to promote the state’s growing craft beer movement.

This year’s Beerfest was held on Saturday, March 5th in Centro Ybor and ran from 2-6 pm — plenty of time to sample and indulge in quality brew. The cost was $30 in advance, on par with most beer tastings of this size. Centro Ybor is an ideal place for this event — it’s centralized, restaurants are abundant, it’s a large area, and there’s plenty of parking available. Bluegrass music and food vendors added to the experience, but most importantly: An adequate number of portable toilets waited nearby.

There were many fantastic brews to sample, sip, or chug. Cigar City Brewing’s acclaimed Hunaphu’s Imperial Stout was the highlight, but their Papaya IPA was delicious too. Florida Beer Company’s Swamp Ape IPA was a big hit. And the Funky Buddha Lounge & Brewery, a hip brewery out Boca Raton, Florida may have stole the show though with their heavenly Maple Bacon Coffee Porter. They released it towards the end of the tasting to drunken, festive chants of “Bacon, Bacon, Bacon…..”. It was beer geek heaven.

Beerfest is the cat’s pajamas of local beer tastings for a few reasons. First and foremost they limit the number of tickets sold, forsaking profit for short lines. They also include a commemorative tasting glass so attendees can reminisce about a day they might not remember much of. The lines are also pleasantly manageable (no one likes to stand in line) — to initially get in to the event, for the beer, and for the restrooms. For those who enjoy quality craft beer, the Florida Brewers Guild’s beerfest is an event not to be missed.

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