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The only winter draft here is craft beer

This winter, escape the cold for a taste of all things sunny and crafty. Tampa Bay was ranked in the top three U.S. beer cities by USA Today’s 10Best reader’s survey — and we’re the best beer city in the Southeast.

With 26 craft breweries and four to five more on the way, Tampa Bay has plenty to explore. Where should you start? One essential stop is nightlife hub Ybor City’s Coppertail Brewing, which uses old-world techniques to concoct creative new tastes.

Another must-visit spot is Angry Chair Brewing in bustling Seminole Heights, where you’ll find staples and adventurous options alike. And the biggest local favorite of all is Cigar City Brewing, which brews classic styles with a Floridian twist. But, for a truly diverse taste of Tampa Bay, go to one of the many beer fests.

Sip everything under the sun

Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival February 2017

Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park

Put on your cowboy boots to try 60 craft beers and 40 bourbons, join the Drink Like a Lady or Tampa’s Best Beer Belly contests and more. Then top it all off with barbeque and a fine cigar.

Florida Brewer’s Guild Annual Festival March 2017

Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park

Head downtown with a few thousand other craft beer aficionados to kick off Tampa Bay Beer Week. Taste samples from more than 50 breweries and raise funds for the Florida Brewers Guild, a nonprofit association for craft brewers.

 

Tampa Bay Beer Week March 2017

This craft beer mega-celebration has hosted more than 750 events since 2012. Throughout Tampa Bay, you’ll find large-scale festivals, special tastings, dinners to learn about pairing the perfect beer with your meal and plenty more.

 

Hunaphu’s Day March 2017

Named after a Mayan legend, this festival is pretty legendary in its own right, too. Admission includes tapas, a tasting glass and unlimited samples of 400 beers. Plus, it’s the only place to get bottles of Cigar City Brewing’s award-winning Hunahphu’s® Imperial Stout.

 

Bad A** III Beerfest April 2017

Tampa Bay Brewing Company

Every local brewery and homebrewing club is invited to this event to give you a true taste of Tampa Bay’s craft beer scene. Along with a boatload of samples, you get sneak peek tastings of soon-to-be released brews.

 

Meet the man behind the brew.

Award-winning brewmaster Wayne Wambles from Cigar City Brewing tells us how he started and what’s up next.

 

How has the craft brewing scene in Tampa Bay changed since Cigar City Brewing appeared on the map?

As far as craft beer shelf space in Tampa Bay, there weren’t a lot of options locally. Since we approached it fearlessly and were responded to well, that helped to

 

comfort people who were interested in opening their own breweries. We made it pretty apparent that this was a working business model; it wasn’t just a pipe dream.

 

Which gastropubs in Tampa Bay really elevate pub grub?

Anything that Chad Johnson from Haven touches is phenomenal. I’d say it’s the best dinner I’ve had in my life, and that was the first beer dinner he’d ever made. He’s a very impressive chef.

 

What is the future of craft brewing in Tampa Bay?

It will get to the point that the bar for quality — and it’s already set pretty high, in my opinion — is going to be set even higher, to the extent that it’s going to be hard to be a brewery and make mediocre beer and survive. There’s so much good beer to be had in the area.

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