Not to sound too hipsterish, but New Times has been a champion of showcasing good beer and the brewers behind it since before it was a thing -- since 1998, in fact. In recent years, the surge in interest in the market known as craft beer has brought more and more attendees to Beerfest, including new and interesting brewers, people just getting into the scene, and an onslaught of festival junkies just looking to have a good time.
The 2014 chapter of this 17-year-old celebration of all things sudsy will be held at Fort Lauderdale's Esplanade Park, in the heart of downtown, and the lineup for the fest is looking to be skewed in the craft-beer drinker's favor.
The event this year will feature some new and refreshing brewers, a few of which have come to our state in just the past few weeks. Boulevard Brewing, for example, will begin distribution in Florida at the beginning of October, bringing a range of Midwest favorites, such as the 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer, to our Southern realm. "This is the first big event for us to showcase what Boulevard has to offer," Duvel Moortgart USA's South Florida sales rep John Oteri told us. The company, which also owns Brewery Ommegang, acquired Boulevard Brewing this past year.
Close to home, local Miami brewer Jonathan Wakefield will attend, bringing some beers from his upcoming lineup of Wynwood-produced favorites. Perhaps there will be some of his famous Berliner weiss sour wheat beers on tap or even kegs of barrel-aged Nothing, an intensely flavorful imperial stout. Whatever the case, it'll be another time to sample from Wakefield's talents before the brewery opens.
In addition to these players are some standout rock-solid craft brewers from Florida in the form of Cigar City Brewing, Funky Buddha Brewing, Big Storm Brewing, and Brew Bus Brewing. These stalwarts of our state join other bigger players like Brewery Ommegang, Oskar Blues Brewery, Lagunitas Brewing, Goose Island, and Terrapin Beer in showing their love for South Florida. It would be careless not to mention the numerous brands from the "Big Three" producers, but, alas, they are too numerous. They'll be there, though, so don't worry.
Though the commercial brewers are the focus, homebrewers will have a chance to show off their skills and provide the opportunity for beer enthusiasts to mingle with local artisans. Groups like Opus Ales and Wild Oak Artisan Ales will pour samples of their brews, and this could be your chance to taste some brewers before they go pro. After all, notable industry stalwarts like Dogfish Head's Sam Calagione and Sierra Nevada Brewing's Ken Grossman started out brewing small batches of beer in their homes all those years ago. Imagine being able to sample the beginnings of a recipe that would eventually turn into the next Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA.
Expect a sizable crowd for this one, because it's one of the more affordable festivals in the area, meaning if there's ever been a beer festival to try to get your feet wet, this is the one. There's even an upgraded VIP section featuring a selection of food from local restaurants, liquor (if you're into that sort of thing), and a slightly broader selection of beer.
It's an opportunity to sample new flavors, get acquainted with old favorites, or just share an evening with friends in the warm embraces of Fort Lauderdale alfresco.
The 17th-Annual New Times "Original" Beerfest takes place 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, October 25, in Esplanade Park, 400 SW Second St. in Fort Lauderdale. General admission is $35 in advance and $40 at the door. VIP admission -- which gets you in at 6 p.m. and includes entry to the VIP area, with special craft-beer offerings as well as select liquors -- is $75. Visit microapp.browardpalmbeach.com/beerfest.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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