The annual festival began in 2007, and has since become the most indispensable beer event in South Florida, putting a finger on the pulse of the craft brew scene and showcasing all the new, intriguing things going on in it. Plus, it's also just a damn good time. Taking place from 1 to 5:30 p.m. inside the stadium itself, the fest plays out like a bohemian day at the park -- only studded with great beers and a few thousand of your closest friends in tow.
What makes the JCBF so special? For starters, its the mentality. This isn't some big, corporate brew fest where you're forced to wait in 200 person lines to get a thimble full of bong water. It's a locally-driven event where brewers from all over Florida can showcase their beers in a chillaxed setting.
The fest's creator, Brewzzi
head brewmaster Fran Andrewlevich, has made enjoyment a maximum priority, even at the expense of profits. The main event on Saturday is capped at 3200 people -- half of those tickets
are available online, the other half at the door. And to ensure those folks will have room to spread their wings, Andrewlevich and company just added another 4000-square-feet of space inside the stadium to set up tents and distribute the brews. Oh, and those two-ounce beer thimbles? Here, you get a nice, branded, four-ounce mini pub glass that you get to keep (it adds up quick, believe me). Add in three dozen brewers, a hundred or so craft beers, custom-made food, multiple events, and live music, and this year's fest is sure to be good times.
Big Bear's Matt Cox is brewing up a bock for the fest.
Sure, Dogfish Head, Lefthand Brewing, and Stone will all be at the fest. But so will Big Bear Brewing Company, Corner Cafe, Funky Buddha
, and plenty of other innovative local brew outlets.
We spoke to Big Bear
's brew master Matt Cox, who told us he'll be bringing at least three beers to the event, including his smooth, 10% alcohol imperial stout, and an all new wintertime bock brewed in December.
AJ's Beer City, a homebrew supply shop and craft beer outlet in Jupiter, will have five homebrews on tap to sample. Of course, BX Beer Depot and the Palm Beach Draughtsman will also showcase the joys of homebrew at their own tents.
Orange Blossom Pilsner
, which is preparing to open a brand new brewery in Orlando, will bring its top-selling honey lager down for a second round (it exhibited at last year's festival out of the back of a branded PT Cruiser replete with custom beer taps). Saint Somewhere, hailing from Tarpon Springs, will again showcase its award-winning, unfiltered Belgian ales.
All told, over two dozen Florida beer organizations are coming out, including heavyweights like the aforementioned Cigar City and Fresh Beer, Inc (distributors of craft beer in South Florida). Check out the full list of exhibitors here
Multiple Events in One
The beer festival itself is taking place on Saturday at 1 p.m., but the whole shebang actually kicks off on Friday night at 6 p.m. with a beer pairing event called The Field of Beers. A more intimate companion to the festival's beer-guzzling fun, the Field of Beers takes a handful of unique Florida brews and pairs them with custom made food from Chef John Carlino, a CIA grad and regular contributor of Slow Food Glades to Coast
The Slow Food connection, in particular, is pretty appropriate this year. Carlino has some great ingredients to work with thanks to the combined efforts of local beer makers and farmers. Expect to sup on suds from the likes of Big Bear Brewing Company and Tequesta Brewing Company and food such as 100% beer malt-fed beef and vegetables grown using malt compost. The event caps off at 350 people, and tickets are available exclusively
This year will also mark the start of a new entry into the festival called Craftoberfest
. Meant as a family-centric companion to the beer fest itself, Craftoberfest will take over nearby Abacoa Amphitheater from 2 to 7 p.m. on Saturday. Expect live German music, plenty of tangy German food, and a micro brew tent with about 10 beers on tap, available at by-the-glass prices. Best of all, the wide open Amphitheater is dog friendly and has plenty of space to move around and lounge.
Tune back into Charlie for more on the JCBF's most unique beers and what goes into making malt-fed beef throughout the week.