Why Education Matters – Part I

•July 12, 2016 • Leave a Comment

A frequent reply when I mention that I put together beer related classes is (with a laugh) “I’d love to take a class on drinkin’ beer! I’d git an A!” Sometimes it is more of a puffed up “I know how to drink beer already…” Yes, I get it. Ha ha. But let’s take a look at it as professionals, shall we?

We’ll start at the front of the house. When you go in to a restaurant, you have an expectation that the people serving you know the menu, are ready to make suggestions, and are willing to answer your questions.

Server: “Our special tonight is the grilled snapper Vera Cruz with Spanish yellow rice.”
Patron: “Is the snapper locally caught?”
Server: “Yes, sir.”
Patron: “What wine would you recommend?”
Server: “We have a nice Cakebread Chardonnay or if you prefer a red, we have the Shoofly Pinot Noir from Australia.”

This kind of conversation raises no eyebrows in most restaurants and if the server is well trained, they can answer these questions without hesitation. It is not only their job to know the menu and the specials, as well as being ready to make recommendations, but it means a better customer experience which (should) translates to better tips.


A good bartender is the same way. It is not enough to know how to pour shots and knock out the usual cocktails; she knows her top shelf liquors, she knows what her bar specializes in, and when someone asks for something she does not have, she is ready with a recommendation.

Customer: “Can I have a Glenmorangie 10 year, please? Neat?”
Bartender: “I’m afraid we don’t carry the Glenmorangie, but have you tried the Macallan 12? It has some of that same vanilla note with similar fruit and sweetness…”

So why do we not see more of this in the beer world? Sure, most (but not all, sadly) tasting rooms and tap houses have pretty knowledgeable staff, well versed in the beers they carry, but the same cannot be said for most restaurants and bars that are new to the craft beer scene. When a server is asked “what’s on tap?”, simply replying “we have Cigar City, Coppertail, and Pair O’ Dice” isn’t very informative, nor is “we have an IPA and a stout”.

But product knowledge is only part of it. How a beer is served is nearly as important. It starts with regularly cleaned taplines, clean glassware, and fresh product. And some basic understanding of beer. I still cringe when I order a beer and it is delivered in a frozen mug. Snobbish? Perhaps, but I like to actually taste the beer I am drinking.  You do know that is why certain beers that shall remain nameless try to push the “serve ice cold” mantra, right? It numbs the taste buds and you do not taste anything. But I digress…

There are right and wrong ways to serve beer, just as there are for wine, cocktails, various food items, and so on. I am not quite as particular about glassware as some (yes, there is a whole ‘ban the shaker pint’ faction out there), but an establishment will get high marks from me for at least attempting.

Does this seem like a lot? Overkill? Much ado about nothing? It is just beer, after all…


And that is the attitude I am working to overcome. Quality matters, from the way something is made to the way it is delivered. It serves everyone better to be educated and informed about their job. As a bartender, you have the opportunity to make more money. As a business owner, you increase the perceived value of your establishment and your employees. As a customer, you appreciate a knowledgeable staff member, and will likely remember your experience in a more positive light.

When Worlds Collide…

•April 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment


There are times in one’s life where seemingly completely separate aspects come together. Professional and personal, work and hobby, and so on. These are the moments where amazing things can happen.

For some, the Bad-Ass Beer Fest at Tampa Bay Brewing Company in Westchase is just an awesome time to drink some of the best beers in Florida, listen to great music, and hang out with a whole lot of cool people. And it is, if you are in to that sort of thing.

For me, this year’s event marks a significant event where my passions come together as the amazing folks at TBBC have chosen the Ocean Media Institute as their charity to donate the proceeds of the fest to. if you only know me from the beer world, you may not know that ocean literacy, conservation, education, and outreach are what I do. My calling, if you will. Last year I joined the board of directors of OMI and have since been working to offer programs and events to raise awareness (and funds) for our initiatives. That has helped me launch the Brews for the Blue initiative (which you will be hearing more about soon) and start to bring my two loves together.

But this weekend is all about Bad-Ass Beer Fest III. Nearly fifty breweries represented, three different bands playing, food trucks, and of course all of the cool people that will be in attendance. All of the proceeds from this festival will be going to the Ocean Media Institute, and in addition there will be a raffle to raise some additional money.

2 winners fish and drink the day away as guests of TBBC head brewer dave Doble and I on the Reef Donkey APA Charter Fishing Boat docked at Old Bay Cafe in Dunedin. Tickets will be available during the festival, including the occasional wandering Viking…
$1 – 1 raffle ticket
$10 – 15 raffle tickets
$20 – 35 raffle tickets

So come join us! Celebrate great beer, the amazing ocean we all depend on, and have an amazing, Bad-Ass time!


P.S. You can check out the quick TV spot Dave and I did on Studio 10 Live yesterday!


How Do You Beer Week?

•March 8, 2016 • 1 Comment

We are in the thick of it, beer friends! The big weekend has flown by and we are rolling full steam into the rest of this amazing thing we call Tampa Bay Beer Week. So here is a little recap…

On Friday, we held the inaugural Ultimate Brewer challenge, and the participants did not disappoint. Thirteen breweries from around the area competed in a blind taste off, using their creativity and know how to brings these crazy flavors to life in beer form. The big winner of the night was Brew Bus Brewing with their Vanilla Jalapeno brew, taking the championship and having their name etched in the history books.


Brewer Kevin Butler of Brew Bus Brewing hoists the inaugural Ultimate Brewer cup.

Other beers in the lineup were:

Brew Bus Brewing – Vanilla Bean & Jalapeno (1st Place)
3 Daughters Brewing – White Chocolate & Pistachios (2nd Place)
Southern Brewing & Winemaking – Onions (Third Place)
Rapp Brewing – Orange & Old Bay
Mastry’s Brewing – Coffee & Curry
HOB (House of Beer) Brewing – Cinnamon & Lemon Peel
Cigar City Brewing – Horseradish
7venth Sun Brewing – Toffee & Bananas
Pinellas Ale Works – Thyme & Peaches
Green Bench Brewing – Bacon & Jalapenos
St. Pete Brewing Company – Oysters & Hot Sauce
Crooked Thumb Brewing – Maple Syrup & Pears
Stilt House Brewing – Dark Chocolate & Mango

A huge congrats to everyone who participated. I think it was a fun and interesting event and I can’t wait until the next one.


Fest goer Eric Hovland tasting the runner up brew from 3 Daughters Brewing: White Chocolate & Pistachio Pale Ale (look at that color!!!)

Saturday was the annual Florida Brewers Guild Festival, where Florida’s breweries get a chance to gather, drink some of the best beers in the state, reconnect with old friends, and meet new ones. It is amazing to me how every year there are more and more participants, and the quality of beers being made just gets better and better. I also enjoyed seeing new breweries that I had never heard of. The big question I am always asked is “so what was your favorite beer?”  Well, I am not going to fall in to that trap, but I will mention a few standouts for me. (Note: I am not mentioning the incredible beers that I have had before… that would take forever…)

Barrel of Monks – The Raspberry Quad was amazing. This was my first brew from the Boca Raton brewery, and I was blown away by the complexity and sheer awesomeness of it. Of course, it never hurts when you have the lovely Brother Phil Palmisano pouring for you…

Due South Brewing – I am a total fanboy for these guys out of Boynton Beach, I’ll admit, but they always bring it big time. The Silky Johnson Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout is everything you would want it to be and more.

Ulele Spring Brewery – Most of the beers I have had from Ulele (located in Tampa) are light in style and not really in my wheelhouse. But I got to try a barrel-aged dark lager on Saturday that was rich and complex and interesting. Now I am going to have to visit the restaurant as well!

Tampa Bay Beer Week – Guava Passionfruit Floridaweisse. Yeah, total homer move, but this beer that Coppertail Brewing did for us was outstanding. Perfect for the warm Florida day, light, tart, and delicious. And lots of other people said so, so it’s not just me!


Tres Beerigos: Brother Phil with #ThatDamnTomBarris and the Most Dangerous Man in Craft Beer

Sunday brought us to the Best Florida Beer Championship’s Brewer’s Ball. This is a special event that celebrates the best of the best in Florida breweries. Ninety-three beers selected from 558 entries, thirty-one styles. Each style awarded a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal. All the medal winners available to sample and savor while enjoying the company of the brewers themselves, the gorgeous riverfront at Water Works Park in Tampa. Definitely one of the best festivals each year. Big congratulations to all of the trophy winners, too. it is a huge honor, well deserved.

Best Small Batch Beer 2016 – Vultures from the Past, 7venth Sun Brewing Co.
Best Beer in Florida 2016 – Oktoberfest, Big Storm Brewing Co.


Big Storm Brewing Company wins Best Beer in Florida for their outstanding Oktoberfest Marzen Lager.

Runner-Up Best Small Batch Beer 2016 – Not Your Heidi Klum Blonde, Southern Brewing
Runner-Up Best Beer in Florida 2016 – KUMquat, Tampa Bay Brewing
Best Mead or Cider 2016 – The Strange, Cigar City Cider and Mead

2nd Runner-Up Best Small Batch Beer 2016 – Chocolate Stout, Fort Myers Brewing Co.
2nd Runner-Up Best Beer in Florida 2016 – Cruiser Kolsch, Motorworks Brewing

Best Small Brewery – 7Venth Sun Brewing Co.
Best Brewery – Fort Myers Brewing Co.
Best Brewpub – Tampa Bay Brewing Company


Vicki and John Doble of Tampa Bay Brewing Company holding the trophy for Best Brewpub

For a full list of all of the beers that won medals, you can check out the Best Florida Beer Championship Page.

So again, personal favorites? Among the new beers I got to try, there were a couple standouts:

Escape Brewing Company – I had always heard good things about this New Port Richey brewery, but have never had the opportunity to try any of their beers. The Other West Coast IPA was well deserving of it’s gold medal for sure.

Tomoka Brewing – I have known Jen and Peter from Tomoka since before they opened, and they have impressed in the past with some great offerings. Their Tangerine Florida Weisse was amazing and earned a Silver medal to bring back to Port Orange.

Grasslands Brewing – Pickle Tickle Dill Gose. Yeah, you read that right. And this gold medal winning beer was exactly what you would expect. It hit every note just right, from the garlic to the dill to the cucumber. it was definitely the talk of the fest, and people kept coming back for more.


Pickle Tickle Gose from Grasslands Brewing Company in Tallahassee

The weekend was amazing, an excellent beginning to Beer Week. And it is only Tuesday… what does the rest of the week hold for us?


Why Beer Week Matters

•March 3, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The first official event of Tampa Bay Beer Week will kick off in about 24 hours, and I have been making the rounds, talking it up and preaching the Beer Week Gospel. But why do we need to set aside a week for beer? It’s not like we don’t drink it the other 51 weeks of the year. Is it just an excuse to have parties? Gather with friends and try new offerings from our favorite breweries? Is it just a promotional event to increase sales of beer? And if so, is there really anything wrong with that? Not really…

Barris & Nordquist

But Beer Week is more than those things.

When Tampa Bay Beer Week was created in 2012, the idea was to raise awareness of beer culture in Tampa Bay. Not a specific brewery or beer, not a single event, but the entire community that has brought about a sea change in the way we approach and talk about beer. One of my very first articles that I ever wrote was titled “Florida: Beer Wasteland or Diamond in the Rough?”. That was 2009, and Cigar City Brewing had just opened. Tampa Bay Brewing Company had not begun packaging yet,  Dunedin Brewing was undergoing changes, and even though Saint Somewhere had been around a while, few knew who Bob Sylvester was (he has since been canonized and I am pretty sure is next in line for Pope).

Saint Bob

St. Bob of Tarpon

Fast forward to 2016. We are about to kick off the 5th Beer Week. We have around 60 breweries just in the Tampa Bay area. Where beer lovers used to have to search extensively to find a restaurant that served anything beyond the standard BMC fare, it is now rare that an establishment does not have at least a few good beers available, and local beers are becoming commonplace. There is a whole section now in the supermarket and even convenience stores for craft beer selections. But availability alone does not make a culture. The ability to buy Jai Alai and Reef Donkey at 7-11 is awesome, but it does not tell the larger story.


The beer culture than has been created here has woven itself through the community in ways few would have predicted. Breweries and restaurants and bars were just the beginning. But did you know that many of the breweries around Tampa Bay host charity events for a wide range of causes from pet rescue to conservation to supporting our veterans? Have you seen the entrepreneurs taking advantage of the opportunity to provide locally made goods for the discerning beer lover? The collaborations between brewers and local businesses, community organizations, and historical societies?


And then there is the camaraderie. Where else do you find doctors, soldiers, accountants, teachers, construction workers, and everyone else gathering together, greeting one another with smiles and hugs and high fives with no concern over their political views, religion, or anything else? What other industry do you know where one business openly advocates for and assists in the success of their direct competitor?

FL Brewers in Tally

Florida brewers in Tallahassee with Rep. Dana Young (pic courtesy of Justin Clark)

So why does Beer Week matter? Because it is the embodiment of all of this. It showcases the beer community of Tampa Bay.  It offers businesses new customers, and generates revenue in the local community.It shines a light on the culture that we have created here. It allows for education about what beer is – and what it isn’t. It encourages experimentation and adventure in tasting. It promotes local business, celebrates quality products from around the world, and introduces people to one another who might not otherwise have met.

We may be celebrating the beer, but ultimately it is about people.


Brace Yourselves… Beer Week is Coming

•March 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment


One does not simply drink beer during beer week.

We are mere days away from the 5th Annual Tampa Bay Beer Week, and as every year, this one looks to top the last. There has been a confluence of awesome in the Tampa Bay area in recent years, from the sheer number of breweries opening (over 60 now, by some counts), to the appearance of new brands from around the world on our shelves, to the inclusion of excellent craft brews in local restaurants, working in tandem with an explosion of foodie culture, a desire for quality products, and good old fashion entrepreneurship. There has never been a better time to be a beer lover in Tampa Bay.

TBBW glasses

So the question I get asked every year is: what events should I go to?

And every year, I tell people to search within themselves. Only they can answer that question. Either that or go look at the Events list on the Tampa Bay Beer Week web page. There really is something for everyone, from tap takeovers and full blown festivals, to lavish beer dinners, and even bizarre events like circus freaks and sumo wrestling!

First things first, however, some shameless plugs for Beer Week itself. Once again, there is an official TBBW beer! The 2016 Beer Week beer was brewed by Coppertail Brewing, and is a Guava Passionfruit Florida Weisse. It will be draught only, and available throughout the Bay Area. We will be pouring it at several festivals ourselves, so come have a taste and say hello!

It will also be very helpful to know where everything is! To help with that, our friends at Brewery Bay have created a very handy map of all of the breweries in the Tampa Bay Area. You can find it here.


I also encourage you to visit and say thank you to our sponsors. These are the front line of the beer culture in Tampa Bay, who make, distribute, and sell it to the “fourth tier”… the consumer. Tampa Bay Beer Week is about beer and beer culture. While we have some incredible beer being brewed here, there are also some amazing things being done in other parts of the country and the rest of the world. Expand your horizons. Try something new. You might just discover your new favorite!

For the full list of events submitted to us, check out the official Events Page. There is a good chance more will be added, so keep checking back! Here are just a few that I am excited about coming in the next few days. I’ll add more later. I really wish I could be at every single one!

Friday, March 4th

The Ultimate Brewer – Rapp Brewing, Seminole

The Ultimate Brewer Logo
I have already primed you for this, but now it is here. This is THE official kick off party for Tampa Bay Beer Week, organized and put on and sponsored by the TBBW Board of Directors. The Ultimate Brewer is going to be a party like no other. Get your tickets now!

Saturday, March 5th

Florida Brewer’s Guild Fest – Cotahowbee Park, Tampa

The Florida Brewer’s Guild is a nonprofit trade association committed to preserving the rights and interests of all craft brewers throughout the state. The guild encourages all sectors of the industry to come together under the common principles of advocacy, education and good old fashioned brewing. This year is the 20th year of their festival, showcasing brewers from all around the state. It is always a great time, and an opportunity to try some great beers from the Sunshine State. One of the hallmarks of this event is that the beers are poured by the brewers or representatives of the brewery, not volunteers. This allows you to talk with someone about the beer in depth. It is truly a special event.

Sunday, March 6th

Best Florida Beer Championship Brewer’s Ball – Water Works, Tampa

Want to know what the best beer in Florida is? Find the finest of your favorite style? Discover a new favorite beer? Or taste what the best homebrewers in Florida are doing? This is the event for you! The Ball features live music and samples of the Gold Medal winning beers from the Best Florida Beer Championships commercial competition. Best of Show Awards are announced for the Homebrew and Commercial competitions. There will also be a homebrew keg competition and Awesome Beer Raffle.

Monday, March 7th

There are several great choices for this evening’s enjoyment; a little something for everyone.

Beer vs. Bourbon Dinner – The Mill, St. Petersburg


You are invited as The Mill presents Beer vs. Bourbon Dinner, featuring Barley Mow Brewing Company and Angels Envy bourbon! Executive Chef Ted Dorsey will create a one-of-a-kind dinner menu, to be paired with amazing beers and special bourbon cocktails designed by mix master, Ryan Pines. Dorsey and Pines, along with representatives from Barley Mow and Angels Envy will be on-hand to engage with guests. This is a limited ticket event, so reserve your spot now!

Bourbon not your thing? What about cheese?

Beer & Cheese Pairing – Six Ten Brewing, Tampa


Join Six Ten Brewing for the 2nd annual TBBW Beer & Cheese Pairing. This year they are teaming up with Jug & Bottle Dept. who will host the curd size of the pairing while owner/brewer Chris Johnson guides you through the brews. There will be two seatings this year at 5:30pm and 8:00pm. Tickets may be purchased at the brewery or by phone. Seating is limited, and they sold out last year, so you’d better get in while you can!

Tuesday, March 8th

Tampa Bay Brewing Company Beer Dinner – Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Ybor


I say it every year, and I still mean it. No beer week is complete without a beer-pairing dinner, and Tampa Bay Brewing Company does it right. I have attended every one of these since the first Beer Week, and they just get better every year. This is a six-course meal, each course paired with a select beer from TBBC’s lineup. Attendees can expect the brewers and chef to be on hand to discuss food and beer pairing, and this year two lucky people will receive lifetime mug club memberships!

I will post again in a few days to cover the rest of the week! I hope to see you out and about, enjoying this amazing week.

And if you happen to be watching television tomorrow (Wednesday, March 2nd) in the morning, look for me on Studio 10 Live (channel 10 here in Tampa Bay) talking about Beer Week and sampling some great beer with Stephanie Webb and a special guest host!





TBBW Presents – The Ultimate Brewer!

•February 4, 2016 • 1 Comment

The Ultimate Brewer Logo

By now you have heard about the throw-down. You know who’s stepping up. You know you want the beers. But did you also know about what ELSE is going on at Rapp Brewing on March 4th? Do you even know what time to be there? No… because i have not told you yet. But fear not! All shall be revealed…

Along with the competition several breweries are participating and giving out samples of their delicious offerings! JDubs of Sarasota, Lost Coast Brewing of Eureka, California, Anderson Valley from Boonville, California, Weyerbacher from Easton, Pennsylvania, Lagunitas from Petaluma, California, and Smuttynose from Hampton, New Hampshire, just to name a few.

The event begins at 8:00pm, and tickets will be available for purchase online very soon, so keep checking the Event Page.

Also remember that this is the big kick-off event for Tampa Bay Beer Week. It is gonna be a party, for sure. Music by DJ Massiv, food trucks, and did I mention some really great beer?



‘Tis the Season…

•January 21, 2016 • 3 Comments

No, I am not confused. It really is the season… for Beer Events!

Now is the time of year when the weather is nice, the holidays are sufficiently celebrated (and recovered from), and the Bay Area begins to celebrate the culture of beer by holding a plethora of festivals and events. 2016 looks not only to continue the tradition, but to do it bigger and better than ever before. Remember, Tampa Bay Beer Week is only six weeks away.

Six. Weeks. Time to start training.

The last weekend in January is going to test your resolve, to be sure. You have some choices to make. The good news is, any of these would be the right choice!

Jan. 30 – Useppa Limited Edition Launch at Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Ybor City, 9amuseppa

Kick off the party early and grab a bottle of this special treat from one of the oldest breweries in Florida. As the story goes, Jose Gaspar took what his heart desired, but could not force a princess named Useppa to desire him. Driven by unrequited love and bitterness, Gasparilla killed her in a fit of rage. Out of remorse, he buried her body on an island we call Useppa to this day. Useppa Raging IPA embodies the myth mith delicate layers of floral notes, hints of the tropics, and a raging amount of hoppiness. Limit 2 bottles per person and only 350 bottles available. $10 each.

For more information, check the Event Page.

Jan. 30 – Local Fresh Beer Festival at The Ale & the Witch, St. Petersburg, 2pm-10pm

Celebrating their 5 year anniversary week, the Witch will be hosting a small beer festival inside the DEN. Broken up into 2 sessions (2-5pm) and (7-10pm) this event features 21 Florida breweries. Each session has only 100 tickets for sale, so it will be a fun, intimate beer gathering of friends celebrating the local fresh beer community. Each brewery will be featuring 2 rare selections and will be operating their own tables for conversation. This event is also a fundraiser for Tampa Bay Watch who works hard every day to protect and educate about local Tampa Bay waterways. Proceeds from ticket sales as well as a membership drive and a raffle will occur during each session.

For details and tickets, visit their Facebook Page.

Jan. 31 – Hops for Heroes Craft Beer Festival at St. Pete Shuffleboard Club, St. Petersburg, 2pm-5pm


This is the second year for the Hops for Heroes festival, and it is for a great cause. The Road Warrior Foundation works to providing adventures to improve the lives of veterans and empower them through challenges that honor their service. Come join over 25 breweries and honor our veterans who have served. There will be food trucks, music, a silent auction, and of course shuffleboard! Tickets are only $35 online, $40 at the door. All proceeds benefit the Road Warrior Foundation.

Tickets and additional information is available at www.RoadWarrior.org.

Feb. 6 – Cider & Mead Festival at Cajun Cafe on the Bayou, Pinellas Park, 2pm-6pm


If you have never attended a festival at the Cajun Cafe, you have missed out in a huge way. They know how to do it right. The beer festivals are the stuff of legends, and the Cider & Mead fest is no different. Come taste over 100 of the best ciders and meads from around the world, all on the banks of the bayou. Delicious food, live music, and a souvenir tasting glass will round it out for a great day among great people.

Get more details and a link to tickets on the Event Page.

Feb. 27 – 15th Annual Stogies and Stout at Dunedin Brewery, Dunedin, 7pm-11pm


This is one of my favorite festivals every year. If you love all things dark and roasty, you cannot miss this event. Florida’s oldest microbrewery brings an amazing lineup of stouts and porters each year from around the world, kicks some amazing jams with talented bands, and if you want to enjoy a good cigar, you will be in heaven. Even if cigars are not your thing, there is plenty of space inside away from the smoke, so don’t let that scare you away.

This event will sell out. There is no question. It does every year. So get your tickets well in advance and come celebrate the darkness. $50 includes commemorative tasting glass, choice of cigar, Oaxacan Street Food & Tasting of 30+ Local & National stouts on draft.

Taplist (ever evolving) and tickets are available on the Event Page.


Are you excited yet?



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,666 other followers

%d bloggers like this: