While Tampa Bay Beer Week is arguably the Sunshine State’s largest celebration of craft beer, it can seem a bit intimidating for those new to craft beer. How does the neophyte craft beer enthusiast navigate the amber waves of grain flowing forth from Tampa Bay during beer week? Here are a few down-and-dirty tips for surfing through the many many events during this week of weeks for the beer thirsty:
1. Try something new: If India Pale Ale is the first beer at any party, then try a stout. If stouts are beer of choice, then try something light but dark: maybe a doppelbock or a Baltic porter. These are still dark in color, yet they are made with a different yeast, so are a different type of beer. Tampa Bay Beer Week is all about branching out and celebrating the diversity of beer that makes Tampa a great beer city at this time in history.
2. Pick a style of beer and seek it out: If trying something new did not work out, and IPAs are the bees’ knees, then search out every new hop you can find. Something unique happened in beer last year: brewers brought in varieties of hops that were completely different than years past. Hops like Motueka, Nelson Sauvin, and Pacifica come from New Zealand and areas in the Pacific and present fruity notes that the normal American hops don’t offer. Try 7venth Sun’s Intergalactic Pale Ale; one sip and the difference will be clear. Try several of these new varieties of hops, try several new beers in an old style to see what spin a specific brewery puts on an old style of beer.
3. Expand the neighborhood: Tampa Bay has come a long way because its citizens seek out a local brewery and support the heck out of it. If Cigar City is an everyday hang out, try going to Saint Somewhere’s open house. If Lagerhaus is a Thursday haunt, then try Tampa Bay Brewing Company for Friday’s dinner. Then try a different place on Sunday. Every may make an IPA, stout, or barleywine, but no two breweries make the beer the same way.
4. Find the closest brewery to the house: Use the Google and find a new brewery, better yet, one within walking distance. A local watering hole like Dunedin House of Beer has two within walking distance. This is the same at Willard’s Tap House in Largo. Best yet, Willard’s has local beer only on tap in 40 taps all week. After Willard’s, Rapp Brewing and Barley Mow Brewing are only a few minutes away and both places are in the recent class of 2012’s new Tampa breweries.
5. Try a beer that sounds strange: Ever tried a sour beer? A beer made with salt, called a gose? What about a beer called Arrogant Bastard? All of them are available and some are even made in Florida. As a bartender at a craft beer bar about a different style of beer that is similar to a favorite style. If this is appealing, tell the bartender why and ask for similar tastes; if it’s not tell the bartender what the undesirable flavor is and try to avoid it. Branching out is good for the soul.
6. Go to Hunahpu Day: This is the godfather of all craft beer events in the American South. The next best beer release event like it is in the Carolinas or in Indiana. This is a unique event attended by thousands of people and the tap list was just released. All manner of incredible beers and incredible people will be there.
Here’s to an incredible start to Tampa Bay Beer Week 2013!