Wakulla's only craft beer festival set for second year

Brews By The Bay is coming up on its 2nd Annual event Feb. 1 at Woolley Park in Panacea.

The beer festival scene in the Big Bend is gearing up for a huge stretch over the next few months — and we hope all you area craft beer lovers out there are ready!

Tallahassee once had three craft beer festivals — now there's just one huge one: The Tallahassee Beer Fest, which is entering its second year and is expecting upwards of 1,500 people on Jan. 25.

Franklin County, meanwhile, has the SGI Brewfest, which is coming up on its impressive fifth year April 18.

And even Taylor County got into the act two years ago when they started the Big Bend Brewfest, whose third year will coming up soon on March 21. 

As for Wakulla County, which is smack dab in the middle of it all? Well, they're now in the mix too with Brews By The Bay, which is coming up on its 2nd Annual event Feb. 1 at Woolley Park in Panacea.

And this year, Brews By The Bay is taking things up a notch — from the beer, to the brewers, to the food, and the overall experience.

The benefactor is once again the Florida Wild Mammal Association, which is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife in the North Florida region, while being equally committed to educating the public on wildlife issues. Last year, Brews By The Bay - which was Wakulla's first-ever attempt at a craft beer festival - raised $20,000 for FWMA thanks to over 800 tickets being sold.

And that figure was nearly double what Brews By The Bay organizer Kinsey Miller expected, which was only about 400 total attendees. Heck, Wakulla craft beer drinkers showed up in such force last year, the event almost ran out of beer!

Brews By The Bay is coming up on its 2nd Annual event Feb. 1 at Woolley Park in Panacea.

"The popularity of craft beer is on the rise in Wakulla," said Miller, who is planning for more than 20 breweries' beer to be featured this year, as well as a row of homebrewers. "Following our inaugural event, restaurants around the county began introducing craft beers from the festival to their menus. Oyster City is one of the most popular breweries in the county right now. And our goal this year is to have 1,000 attendees at Brews by the Bay."

Last year, Brews By The Bay only had one ticket option available — general admission for $25. And while that price for general admission is the same this year, they've also added a VIP option for $50. If you purchase a VIP ticket, you will receive early entrance to the event at 1 p.m. (general admission can enter at 2 p.m.), plus a special souvenir glass and access to the VIP beer tent, which will be pouring several beers you can't get in the main area and serving food. 

"VIP ticket holders will have the chance to experience Brews by the Bay an hour before anyone else, and this gives them a chance to spend more time discussing the beers with the brewery representatives one on one," Miller said. "During the VIP hour, Red Hills Band will play for the guests and VIP ticket holders also get a souvenir Pilsner glass for sampling. The best part of the VIP experience, however, is the VIP tent which will be open throughout the event. We will have delicious appetizers and exclusive brews in the tent just for VIP guests."

Another new addition this year will be an entire section of homebrewers from the North Florida Brewers League — 10 total in all. They will be situated in their own area and pouring beer that can only be found at this event. 

"After Brews by the Bay last year, we had a lot of requests for homebrewers to be featured at the festival," Miller said. "(Local homebrewer) Tim Rach reached out and offered to organize the homebrewing section of the festival. He has been amazing to work with and has lined up some awesome brewers."

Outlaw Oyster Company will be shucking and selling fresh, farm-raised oysters that were harvested in the very Bay waters that the festival overlooks at Woolley Park.

Some of the vendors of note include Posey's Seafood, which has been open in Wakulla for over 40 years, as well as Outlaw Oyster Company, which will be shucking and selling fresh, farm-raised oysters that were harvested in the very Bay waters that the festival overlooks at Woolley Park. There will also be live music throughout the event, including from the Red Hills Band, Tuesday Supper Club and Lunar Urge.

And some of the breweries of note who are attending include locals like Proof, Lake Tribe, Ology, Eastpoint Beer Company, Halpatter Brewing and Oyster City, which won the honor of "Best Brewery" last year following a vote by attendees. Two breweries that are opening soon — Southern Fields Brewing in Campbellton and Fools Fire in Tallahassee — will both be pouring and giving area craft beer fans a preview of what's to come soon.

"I can't wait to taste what they bring to Brews by the Bay," Miller said. 

We can't either. And if you're looking for a safe ride down there and back, you can also take the Tallahassee Brew Bus that day for $25 a person. And when you book your seat, you get a discount code to buy a general admission ticket to the festival for $20, instead of $25.

Hope you'll join us Feb. 1 for a great cause. Because these events are about two things and two things only: Drink beer and do good!

Danny 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 tlhbeersociety@gmail.com.

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