Big Bend Brewfest gears up for third year
We're seeing it more and more these days: Rural towns and cities across the South that are searching for creative ways to fundraise are turning to one thing.
Wakulla County's Brews By The Bay, which has now raised a staggering $40,000 for the Florida Wild Mammal Association in two years, is a perfect example. Many, including Brews By The Bay's own organizers, weren't sure if a small, country town like Crawfordville was ready to support an event where the beer offerings went beyond Bud Light and Mich Ultra.
But as it turns out, they most certainly were as over 1,000 turned out to support a great cause and taste some equally great beer just last month for their 2nd annual event.
Another perfect example of this trend is taking place is Taylor County, which sits just 50 miles to the East of Wakulla and Leon counties. And the news is even better in the city of Perry because they're already a year ahead of the curve.
The 3rd Annual Big Bend Brewfest is going down Saturday, March 21, at Perry's picturesque Rosehead Park from 5-8 p.m., and the benefactor is once again the Rotary Club of Perry. The festival has raised nearly $10,000 for the local Rotary Club over the last two years, with all the money being donated to the Perry Police Department’s "Shop With a Cop Program," the Rotary Club Foundation, Rotary Scholarships, the Special Olympics and other Rotary Civic projects throughout the county.
Like Wakulla's Brews By The Bay event, Big Bend Brewfest's organizers had no idea if their rural county was ready to support a craft beer festival when it was launched in 2017. But Taylor County Chamber of Commerce President Dawn Taylor quickly found out the answer to that question.
"Honestly, I wasn't sure if we were ready," Taylor said with a laugh. "However, our community embraced this new event and gave it a chance. Now, all I hear are questions on when it is, or what breweries do we have attending. And people are constantly thanking us for adding an event such as this to the many other we oversee. What amazes me the most, though, is the strong support of craft brew enthusiasts all over North Florida. It's amazing how much all of us craft beer events work together throughout the year to promote each other."
Last year, severe weather forced the postponement of the event by a few weeks — and it was STILL a success with over a dozen breweries attending and lots of local food and live music to entertain the guests.
This year, more breweries are being featured as the event continues to grow, including many of our awesome locals like Proof Brewing, Lake Tribe Brewing, Fools Fire Brewing, Oyster City Brewing, Halpatter Brewing and Salty Oak Brewing. One of the biggest gets, however, was the inclusion this year of Cycle Brewing out of St. Pete — an award-winning brewery known for its IPAs and big, tasty stouts. Other notables whose beer will be featured at this year's festival include First Magnitude Brewing out of Gainesville, Bold City of Jacksonville, and Florida craft beer king Cigar City Brewing out of Tampa.
The price point on tickets for the Big Bend Brewfest is, in our humble opinion, dynamite for an event that features unlimited sampling. General admission is $25, while VIP only goes up $10 to $35 — and the VIP ticket gets you in an hour early (from 4-8 p.m., instead of 5-8 p.m.), plus a goodie bag with small gifts, pretzel necklaces and access to a food sampling tent. There will also be live music once again, and various food local food vendors serving up made-to-order goodness.
"I am a Rotarian and I've always wanted to start this type of event, so it was a perfect marriage," Taylor said. "I am so thrilled that I can assist our local club and the charities we support by holding this event."
Taylor added that one of the subsequent effects of hosting a craft beer event in Perry is that craft beer has now become more and more popular around the city's bars and restaurants. And that means growth for Florida craft beer in general, as well as the Big Bend Brewfest.
"My goals for the Big Bend Brewfest include to continue to grow this event to be one of the best brewfest events in North Florida. I want this event to be something that when people think of it — they remember how much fun they had, the great park, awesome breweries and a friendly environment," she said. "One thing I remember most is those that attended from out of town saying to us is that they were treated so well, our volunteers were friendly and they had a great time. This will be a must go event every year in North Florida, that is a promise!
Aller is the co-founder of the TLH Beer Society, a group of avid craft beer lovers. Reach the Beer Society on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.