Who has the best beer in Florida? It's a question that gets harder and harder to answer as the quality and quantities of breweries in this state continue to go ever higher. But there is one organization that has, since 2002, set about finding the answer to this question.
The Best Florida Beer Championships is an annual judging of submitted beers from both home brewed and commercial beer producers that takes place every spring.
Brewers submit their entries during early January for analysis, wherein professional judges swirl, swish, and sample the numerous beers and beer styles present.
Founded in 2002 by two Tampa-area homebrew clubs, Tampa BEERS and Dunedin Brewers Guild, the BFBC has become one of the premiere competitions in the state. The people behind the BFBC include Jeff Gladish (a 24 year brewing veteran who is a Master in the Beer Judge Certification Program and won the 2013 Pro Am competition at the Great American Beer Festival with Cigar City) and Mark Stober (who is also a Master in the BJCP and headed a grass roots organization that helped to overturn the Florida bottle size law in 2001).
The culmination of this competition is the Brewers Ball, held on March 2nd at Cotanchobee Fort Brook Park in Tampa and described by the BFB as "a celebration of brewing with the intent of gathering brewers from across the state for the presentation of the Best Florida Beer Championships' Best of Show winners." The ball will feature pours of the Gold Medal and Category winning beers.
This year, Boynton Beach's Due South Brewing Company is the only brewery to place in a medal winning spot. In fact, they have five different beers placed in contention for either 'Best in Show' running or 'Best in Category'. Though these beers have been placed in the shortlist for winning something, the exact placement is a mystery until March 2nd.
Those beers are:
- Apple Brandy Barrel Aged Pico Duarte -- Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Stout
- Cafe Ole Espresso Porter -- Coffee Beer
- Asylum Harbor -- Irish-Style Red Ale
- Category 5 IPA -- Imperial India Pale Ale
- Mariana Trench Imperial Stout -- American-Style Imperial Stout
Other winners across the state include "craft darlings" Cigar City Brewing with their Guava Grove, Florida Cracker, and Django Friday among others, as well as Proof Brewing Company with their Warpath Imperial IPA, Chocolate Stout, and Guru IPA.
Cigar City Brewing won Best in Show in 2013 with a Vienna Lager brewed by Matt Tucker.
We'll keep our ears to the ground to find out the winners this year, and who gets to denote themselves as brewers of the best beer in Florida.
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.