It's good to be a South Florida brewer if you're heading to the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). From October 6 through 8, three breweries from Broward and Palm Beach Counties will be pouring at the 2016 GABF in Denver.
In two weeks, Boca Raton's Barrel of Monks Brewing, Boynton Beach's Due South Brewing , and Oakland Park's Funky Buddha Brewery will be pouring the brews that make South Florida a craft beer destination.
The three attended last year's GABF and are among seven breweries at the event that also include four from Miami-Dade County and 21 breweries from Florida as a whole.
At least 750 breweries (a new record) poured 3,800 beers to 60,000 attendees at last year's festival held at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. The Brewers Association, which organizes the festival, expects more attendees, more beers poured, and more than 800 breweries for the 35th anniversary of the GABF. Unfortunately, tickets for the public are all gone: They sold out almost immediately.
If you were lucky enough to score a pass, three days and four sessions of marathon tasting are ahead for you. Pours are approximately one ounce. Assuming your goal is to get only one tasting from each booth, each session, that's the equivalent of at least 62 cans of beer. Good luck.
But if you just want to stick to what South Florida breweries are pouring, that should be much easier.
Barrel of Monks Brewing, which made a name for itself making Belgian-style suds, is bringing five beers: White Wizard Wit, Three Fates Tripel, Quadraphonic Quad, and Singel in Havana (a guava Belgian singel ale).
Due South Brewing is bringing four beers: Oktoberfest, Isle of MaGourdo, Category 5 IPA, and Java Mariana Trench Imperial Stout (brewed with Argyle Coffee Roasters coffee).
Funky Buddha is also bringing five beers: Last Snow American Porter, No Crusts (peanut butter and jelly brown ale), Floridian hefeweizen, Nikolai Vorlauf imperial stout (aged two years in cabernet wine barrels), and their famed Maple Bacon Coffee Porter.
How exactly do South Florida breweries get multiple heavy kegs of beer to the GABF? It's simple: The Brewers Association takes care of that. All the breweries have to worry about is getting their beers to a drop-off location in the Tampa area.
This year, Funky Buddha will also be pouring for the invitation-only Rare Beer Festival on Friday, October 7. It's one of the more exclusive events surrounding GABF. Oakland Park's brewery will be among the more than 50 well-known breweries, such as Dogfish Head and Brooklyn breweries, that'll be pouring some of the hardest-to-find beers in the U.S. Profits from the ticket sales will be donated to the charity Pints for Prostates.
At this festival, Funky Buddha will be pouring a Chocwork Orange Imperial Milk Porter, which is brewed with cocoa nibs and orange peel and aged in bourbon barrels. Funky Buddha brand director John Linn described it as tasting like a chocolate-covered orange. Participation in this festival, as well as the GABF, is like a token of success for Florida breweries.
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"There's really no cooler thing to me than what this industry has become," Linn says.
Even though there are not as many South Florida breweries that will be attending this year (nine last year vs. seven this year), Florida breweries will be representing the Sunshine State. They'll be well represented at Saturday's awards ceremony, where brewers await the ultimate — a gold medal in any one of 92 style categories.
Last year, no Florida brewery received a gold medal, which goes to show that the competition is real. Winning peer recognition is nice, but the real gold is in the brewery taproom.
"We're stoked to be attending this year, and beyond the beers, we're looking to share with our South Florida fans a bit of the GABF experience," says Doug Fairall from Due South, which participates in their fourth GABF this year. "We'll have the same beers we are pouring on draft and are hoping to get people excited about the festival in our taproom."