It's no secret that South Florida has always been a few steps behind the rest of the country when it comes to craft beer culture. But locals like Funky Buddha, Due South and the spanking new Saltwater Brewery have given beer drinkers something to be excited about. Finally Florida is on par with the big boys and we have a craft beer offering we are proud to call our own. Couple the South Florida breweries with top guns like Tampa's Cigar City and Dunedin's 7venth Sun and Florida is finally on the map. Parallel with the obvious growth of craft beer breweries and enthusiasts alike, the Jupiter Craft Brewer's Festival has developed into a full blown local beer lover's dream.
This is not your typical beer fest. The Jupiter Craft Brewer's Festival at Roger Dean Stadium is where the brewers meet the drinkers and the specialty brews meet the mouth's of their biggest fans. The event was started eight years ago by Fran Andrewlevich, Co-owner of Tequesta Brewing Company. Andrewlevich, along with his wife, still run every aspect of the fest including hand picking the breweries (there's a waiting list) and printing the commemorative t-shirts, and all of those efforts are visible to the lucky 3,000 who grab a ticket to the event.
The first ever Jupiter Craft Brewer's Festival had 26 breweries represented and just nine of those were Florida based. Now in its eighth year, there are will be 60 breweries pouring the good stuff and 34 of them call Florida home.
The 1,500 tickets available online are already sold out, but another 1,500 tickets will be available for cash at the door.
"We want to do a good festival." says Andrewlevich "We don't want to oversell it"
In preparation for this year's fest, he reviewed three hours of raw video footage from 2013's event, looking for ways to make the lines shorter and the festival smoother. He takes extra steps to make the vendors feel at home no matter how far they traveled and to make the 50 volunteers aware that they help make the event a success.
Along the way, Andrewlevich has had one goal in mind: to create a beer fest environment that he would want to go to.
"All it takes is one nasty person taking your ticket or filling your beer and you are like 'Jeez you just wrecked my whole day.'" says Andrewlevich. "So I guarantee that every volunteer at our festival is a friend, a good friend, and you aren't going to get any attitude. Just a good time. That's what it's all about."
Andrewlevich aso attributes the festival's success to the number of actual brewers on hand, pouring their own creations. This means homebrewers will have a chance to discover the inner workings of their favorite beers, further developing the community feel that comes along with craft beer.
But for Andrewlevich, it's not just about the beer, it's the people that really knock it out of the park. "You can't run into a jerk." Bring your friends or just make new ones, either way the good times will be flowing at this festival, and we don't just mean out of the taps.
Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival is Saturday, January 25th from 1 to 5 p.m. at Roger Dean Stadium located at 4751 Main Street in Jupiter. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $35, cash only. Price includes unlimited beer samples. For more information, visit jupitercraftbrewersfestival.com.