Annual Florida Tap Invitational returns bigger than ever | Around the Brew Bend
Well, it's here. The big one. The one we've waited all year for.
Proof Brewing Company's 6th Annual Florida Tap Invitational — a Florida craft beer showcase unlike any other — goes down Friday and Saturday in Tallahassee.
And if you miss it? Well, you better not log onto social media all weekend long.
Over 45 of the best and brightest breweries are coming — all hailing from the Sunshine State — and they're all bringing rare, specialty beers you may never see again.
Or they may become hits, the way Proof's Blue Raspberry Evil Kiss Berliner Weiss did when it wowed the FTI crowd a year ago, then went on to win "Best Beer 2018" at Cigar City's annual renowned festival, Hunahpu Day in Tampa, earlier this year.
The goal of FTI, once again, is simple, says Proof's events and sales director, Bryan Smith: Spotlight Florida craft beer at the highest levels.
"Each year we add to the stellar line-up of breweries from around the state of Florida and we are continually amazed with the level of quality that Florida beer continues to put out," Smith said. "Each year the breweries improve and mature, and the beer they showcase at the festival reflects that."
Of course, after Hurricane Michael, whether there would even be a festival this year was in doubt.
Ultimately, Proof owners Bryon and Angela Burroughs decided to move forward — but not before making those affected by the storm this weekend's benefactors.
"Hurricane Michael hit the panhandle hard — some more than others. We felt we could use our yearly event as a channel and voice for our neighbors in need and are proud to partner with Volunteer Florida," Smith said. "Proceeds from ticket sales will go directly to organizations that will serve individuals within their communities with disaster response and recovery. We have also asked brewery partners coming to the event to load up their cars/vans and bring relief supplies with them."
So there you have it: Drink beer. Do good.
And there is going to be a lot of good beer at FTI 2018.
Some first-timers include Southern Swells (Jacksonville), Garagiste Meadery (Tampa) and Magnanimous (Tampa). And of course, the regular whales are back again: Cigar City (Tampa), First Magnitude Brewing (Gainesville), Aardwolf (Jacksonville), J. Wakefield (Miami), Calusa (Sarasota), Green Bench (St. Pete) and Idyll Hounds (Santa Rosa).
And who can forget our local all-star breweries pouring this year? Not us. Tallahassee's own GrassLands, Deep and Lake Tribe are coming, as is Oyster City from just down the road in Apalachicola.
And Proof will, of course, be there with the largest selection of any brewery on hand.
This year's festival will, however, be everyone's final trip to Tap Invitational at Proof's current location in Railroad Square. Tallahassee's O.G. brewery is moving just down the road to 1320 S. Monroe St. in January.
That makes Florida Tap Invitational 2018 a little bittersweet for the Burroughs and their staff. But the good news is this: FTI's going to keep thriving at the new locale.
"There’s a lot of planning and logistics needed to pull off this festival at the Railroad Square location," said Byron, who started the event in 2012. "As we were building the layout for our new location, we kept that in mind."
General admission tickets get you into the festival itself on Saturday from 1-4 p.m., while those who purchase VIP tickets get into the event an hour early on Saturday, plus food, an exclusive bottle of Proof's “Royal Blood Line” Imperial Stout and an extra day of fun in Collegetown.
Proof teamed with the For The Table Hospitality event for the third year in a row to give its VIP guests a private food and beer pairing between For The Table's three restaurants — Madison Social, Township and Centrale — on Friday night.
And you have to give a shout out to Visit Tallahassee, which gets behind Tap Invitational 100 percent every year.
"Visit Tallahassee has been a tremendous supporter of Proof Brewing and the Florida Tap Invitational," Byron said. "This event has continued to help make Tallahassee a craft beer destination, drawing in many visitors from out of town."
The Tallahassee Beer Society is a group of avid craft beer lovers that was co-founded by Danny Aller. To keep up on all the haps on the Big Bend craft beer scene, follow the TLH Beer Society at Facebook.com/TLHBeerSociety or on Instagram and Twitter at @TLHBeerSociety. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO
What: 6th Annual Florida Tap Invitational, featuring more than 45 of Florida's top craft breweries
When: Festival: 1-4 p.m. Saturday; VIP kickoff party: 6-10 p.m. Friday
Where: Festival: Proof Brewing Co., 644 McConnell Drive, Railroad Square; VIP party: Collegetown
Cost: $55; $100 for VIP tickets