Crafty Local Beers Now Preside

The word ‘beer’ is actually becoming more complex with its many definitions lately. Here in SW Florida, you’re more likely to hear the term ‘craft brew.’ There have been an overwhelming number of craft breweries popping up in the last 2-3 years in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples, Tampa and Sarasota, so much so that a festival like “Taps N’ Tunes” had no choice but to highlight many of them. It was a wonderful one-day event, showcasing over 80 craft beers from award-winning breweries to a backdrop of three local bands playing rock n’ roll favorites. Many rose to the challenge of trying to taste each and every brew while dancing the jig! 

The thought of light pale ales, caramel colored hoppy brews and darker, creamier stouts made for a decedent day of drinking. The quality of beers did differ greatly from one to another and taste alone is always a great measure of the commitment from the brewer behind those beers. Some of my favorite beers came from Coppertail Brewing Co. out of Tampa. I found their beers to have depth of character and noteworthy essence of flavor. Unholy and Free Dive were top hops! Unholy mastered the Trippel style originally brewed by monks in Belgium, featuring fruity and funky notes from the traditional Belgian yeast paired with a sacrilegious American hop character. I’m on the fast train to Tampa for a tour of their facility, which is totally open to the public, where they offer numerous samples of beer from their 20 tap bar.

So, what’s in a name? People often confuse craft brews with micro-brews. There is a difference. First off, a craft brewery is individually owned and there are set limitations on the techniques of their beer production. A craft brewery’s beer must contain at least 50 percent traditional malt, rather than adjuncts such as oats, barley and wheat, and there lies one distinction. These ingredients add flavor to the beer. A micro-brewery is classified by the number of beer barrels it produces in a year, which is a limit of 15,000 beer barrels a year and at least 75 percent of that beer must be sold outside of the brewery. There are no strict guidelines set on the techniques or ingredients that micro-breweries use to produce their beer.

Some great definitions also describe craft brewers as very involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations, volunteerism and sponsorship of events. This was very apparent for Taps N’ Tunes since the proceeds were going to The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center in Downtown Fort Myers. Many beloved brewers came out to connect with their customers and show their full support for arts education.  The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center utilizes outreach, classes, workshops, and educational events designed to inspire a rich and cultured community in Southwest Florida. They are currently expanding their Eclectic Education offerings to the community, including many exciting arts education opportunities like the author lecture series, children’s art classes, Suzuki violin lessons, and music production classes plus networking events for the business-minded. Visit www.sbdac.com for more information.

Another plethora of beers I thoroughly enjoyed at Taps N’ Tunes were stationed at Bury Me Brewing (to no surprise) with clever names like Hell Bound, 6 Ft. Under and Bag O’ Bones. Much buzz has been surrounding this micro-brewery in Fort Myers and I was here to find out the cause of it. Rightfully so, these beers were exceptional, adding a crisp malt taste to their bunch of barrels and each sample of beer was awe-inspiring.

Aside from sampling over 80+ craft beers, there was an option to purchase delicious foods from popular local food trucks. Inside the VIP tent there were chefs dolling out tasty bites of food. Sautéed shrimp in garlic sauce with a drop of what looked to be Manischewitz’s sweet red wine. The Sweet Potato discs topped with guacamole was unique and went nice with 3 Daughters beer. 3 Daughters Brewing is a family-owned brewery in St. Petersburg with a sizable tasting room offering craft brews, games and offers live music. So many beers, so little time. Other tasty buds were Big Storm Brewing Co with plenty of pilsners and oatmeal stouts that brought home lots of medals in competitions.  Organic Orlando Brewing with winning red ales and dry porters and Kona Brewing Company offering up the best Hawaii has to offer in Island lagers.