What did you notice from Tampa Bay Beer Week 2024?

The chapter has closed on another Tampa Bay Beer Week, and after attending some classic events and some new events, there are a few common threads that seemed to ring true for all time and some that are changing rapidly.
Drinkers are rediscovering the flavorful potential of lagers.

Lager is having a worldwide rediscovery and Florida is no exception. While Tampa has always had a taste for lager, 2024 has some very visible signs of lager love.

The Florida Brewer’s Guild Fest has never seen so many breweries pouring lagers – from California Commons to rice lagers to pilsners of all sorts. Festivalgoers used to stumble from tent to tent asking for the highest ABV beer, that does not seem to be the case anymore. In fact, there only seemed to be two barleywines at the festival with almost the same number of imperial stouts. Never was this more apparent than at Brewer’s Ball when the barrel-aged beers were left unattended and lasted for the entire event. Five years ago, the barrel-aged beers would be served to people to prevent overindulgence. in 2024, the lagers were well represented and the barleywine category was so small it was combined with others for judging.

What did you notice about Tampa Bay Beer Week 2024The Best Florida Beer Competition, which awards medals at Brewers Ball after a judging, saw American-Style Lager as the most entered category in the competition with 31 entries, beating out powerhouse category American-Style IPA which had 30 entries and Hazy/Juicy IPA which had 29 entries.

The diversity of lagers also grows during this lagerenaissance. Many breweries are now adding Czech dark lagers to their draft and canned offerings and differentiating them from schwarzbiers, stouts, and porters. Brewery and bar staff are committed to answering questions about differences between the styles including hop-forward Tampa Bay Brewing Company, stout-loving Angry Chair Brewing, and lager heavy Green Bench Brewing. All these and more had Czech dark lagers for Beer Week and all were very enjoyable.

When it comes to TBBW, it’s better to make goals than plans. 

On a personal note, the same thing happens to me each beer week. I make a plan and then life happens. During such an exciting week, sometimes FOMO kicks in and it’s easy to forget that life still goes on. I ended up missing several events because I had things come up and wasn’t able to avoid or didn’t plan ahead. Next year, I have learned and will instead make my plans a bit looser.

The second thing I have noticed about making softer plans is that many breweries still have leftover beers that didn’t pour through during beer week or cans/ bottles that weren’t all bought during the week. Buying these later just means no crowds – the beer is just as good. And if one or two limited releases are missed – that just gives something to seek out next year.

Great beer makers continue to win accolades and make the state proud and new brewers continue to hone their craft

Brewer’s Ball illustrated this again. Tampa Bay Brewing Company won so many medals that another brewery commented to TBBC owner Dave Doble to “leave some medals for the rest of us.” Tampa Bay Bay Brewing Company went on to win 4 Gold Medals, 3 Silver Medals, and 2 Bronze Medals which also won them runner-up for Best Large Brewery and 1st place for Best Brewpub.

Fort Myers Brewing won Best Large Brewery and a slew of medals while relative newcomers Magnanimous Brewing, Suncreek Brewing, and Gatlin Hall Brewing also won awards for their beers. St. Petersburg’s Sesh Brewing won Best Beer in Florida for their Sesh Light, a rice lager brewed with pilsner malt, jasmine rice and Sorachi Ace hops.

And that is only the breweries that entered the competition! Remember that Florida has several hundred breweries who could not come to Best Florida Beer and the Florida Brewers’ Guild Fest!

Beer enthusiasts share bottles at Cycle's Barrel-aged Day

Beer enthusiasts share bottles at Cycle’s Barrel-aged Day

Tampa’s beer community is as rich as it has ever been and the community is where the best events start.

Zooming out to the 10,000-foot view, Tampa’s beer scene is as rich now as it has ever been. One of the signs of a mature beer scene is room for riches in niches and niche beer styles. While each brewery is focused on making great beer, there is room for all manner of people and beer styles in the community. Big boozy imperial stouts and barley wines have their days and their champions. Lagers have a lager festival in the middle of the week. Fruit beer has a focus with some beer-makers bringing sour beer and some sampling clean beer. IPAs are showcased throughout the week, but the Hop King Invitational closes out beer week.

Many larger-scale events have embraced the community aspect of craft beer without line-standing and camping out. These events strive to fill the void left after COVID hit and the large anchor event changed dramatically. The gigantic bottle release festivals of days-gone-by are still around, they are just much smaller. Between Cycle Brewing Barrel-Aged Day, Cycle/ Angry Chair/ Ology The Dark Embrace Invitational, and others, there are plenty of places to share bottles, drink some of the best (and most limited) beers in the world, and talk to friends and strangers about it.

Just like all the people that make up the mosaic that is Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Beer Week has been as diverse for both people and beer styles – and that is where its true strength lies – helping people find connection and community in their shared love of craft beer.