Big Bend craft breweries win five medals at Best Florida Beer competition

Another year, another huge haul of medals for the Big Bend's craft breweries at the Best Florida Beer Brewers Ball competition in Tampa.

Four area breweries — Deep Brewing, Ology Brewing, Proof Brewing and Oyster City Brewing — brought home statewide honors Sunday at the BFB awards ceremony at Water Works Park in Downtown Tampa for their beers, including three golds, one silver and one bronze.

Deep Brewing snagged two medals — a gold in the Imperial Red Ale category for its REEFraction Double IPA, marking the second year in a row that beer has won gold. And Deep also won silver for the second year in a row for its Jack Browne Brown Ale in the English Brown Ale category. Deep assistant brewers Jon Meyers and Clayton Henderson, along with Deep owner and head brewer Ryan LaPete, were there to accept the medals on stage.

"The depth of this competition increases every year and with the number of breweries that have arrived in the Florida scene since we opened 3 and a half years ago, we continue to be humbled and reinvigorated by the recognition," said LaPete, whose brewery has now won nine BFB medals since it opened in 2016. "We tend to send down what we have on tap, rather than brewing for the competition. So we only catch a small glimpse of the breadth of our catalog each year. So awesome!"

The second gold medal that's coming back to Tallahassee belongs to the area's youngest brewery, Ology, which will celebrate its third anniversary this summer. Ology, which entered BFB for the first time ever this year, won gold right off the bat in the Double Hazy/Juicy IPA category for its Heliocentric Distortion New England IPA. Ology co-owner Paul Woodward and assistant brewer Jake Thurmond were on hand to accept the medal, and co-owner Nick Walker was elated to earn such esteemed recognition.

"It's exciting to win in a category that is so popular right now," said Walker of the NEIPA category, which is one of the most competitive BFB divisions in the state. "We love Heliocentric Distortion and have been proud of the beer since we first brewed it. We had high hopes when entering it in our first Best Florida Beer Competition and are thrilled to have won gold."

Tallahassee's first craft brewery, Proof Brewing, took home yet another BFB medal this year, winning bronze this time for its Proof Pilsner in the International Pilsner division. The medal marked Proof's staggering 18th BFB award covering over 10 different styles since they first began submitting beers in 2013. The bronze for their pilsner, however, was their first pilsner-style win.

"It’s always a great feeling to start the year off by bringing another medal back to Tallahassee," Proof co-owner Byron Burroughs said. "I’m proud of the award-winning beer that our head brewer Arin (Brown) and lead brewer David (Kant-Rauch) continue to put out."

And last — but certainly not least — is the Big Bend's very own Oyster City Brewing Company, which won a BFB medal for the second year in a row. Last year, Oyster City won bronze for its Red Right Return Amber Ale, and this year OCBC took home the gold for its flagship beer — Hooter Brown — in the Honey Beer category. The recognition meant a lot to Oyster City head brewer Clayton Mathis and his entire team.

"We are thrilled to receive an award alongside many other local craft breweries two years in a row," Mathis said. "We work hard on making consistently great beer all year long, and it is great to be rewarded for it. We have a dedicated team between myself, Jamie Ray, Robby Fenstermaker, Taylor Brooke and Rainey McKnight, who truly love what we are doing. Florida beer is doing great things, and we are proud to be a part of it."

Founded in 2000, the purpose of Best Florida Beer is to aid in the development and promotion of both home and commercial Florida brewers, their craft beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts.

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