If Pensacola’s love of beer drinking wasn’t already evident, over the past few years the numbers of new beer-centric establishments and events that have popped up have likely cleared up any doubts that may have been out there. One such event, the Pensacola Craft Beer Festival, serves as additional proof that the area residents have an appreciation for beer that is deep and increasingly adventurous.
For two days, the Pensacola Bayfront Stadium and Community Maritime Park will host events related to the festival, including Saturday’s tasting event during which over 250 beers will be on hand.
In both beer variety and overall event size, year two of the Pensacola Craft Beer Festival promises to be larger than the successful inaugural event last November, which drew over 2,200 beer fans. “Last year we sold out and we knew we needed more room,” said Robby Mandel, owner of Dlux Printing, which organizes and serves as a sponsor of the festival. In 2012, the festival was held on the concourse inside the stadium, but it was obvious a little more space was required.
“We added food and art vendors this year, so we’re now using the amphitheater and area outside of the stadium,” Mandel stated of the festival’s expansion. Food will be provided by several area restaurants, including Sonny’s Barbeque, Helenback, Tijuana Flats and Peg Leg Pete’s, among others. “There will be no carnival food,” Mandel said of the lineup that guarantees good pairings for the multitude of beer varieties available.
Participating breweries range from familiar names for most beer lovers—Sam Adams, Leinenkugel, Anchor Steam, Unibroue—to smaller regional breweries, including Florida-based operations such as Fort Walton Beach’s Props Craft Brewery, Tampa’s Three Palms Brewing, and Fort Lauderdale’s Holy Mackerel Brewing.
In the spirit of home state pride, Brown Distributing of Florida is debuting its “Drink Like A Local” trailer, a rolling kegerator of sorts that pours craft beers brewed only in the Sunshine State. The refrigerated semi-trailer has 18 taps along each side and will provide several Florida-born beers that will be new to many attendees.
Beer isn’t the only reason to venture to the festival, however. “We have so much going on it’s almost hard to explain!” Mandel said with a laugh of this year’s packed schedule of events. Several bands will provide live entertainment on the amphitheater stage and the performances will be free and open to the public.
For general admission ticket holders the beer festival itself takes place on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. VIP ticket holders have access to the grounds (and beer) at a special event on Friday night, and will also be able to enter the festival at noon on Saturday, for an additional hour of beer tasting.
Coinciding with the last Gallery Night of the year, on Friday evening from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., the public is invited to free performances by the Modern Eldorados Band and Bella Orange, followed by fireworks over the bay. Tickets to Saturday’s festival will also be on sale at the stadium on Friday night.
On Saturday, Hill-Kelly kicks off the day’s activities with a public “Past Meets Present” Mopar Car Show beginning at 10 a.m. After the tasting ends at 4 p.m. on Saturday, rising country favorite Parmalee will perform along with Little Texas, a long-time Country radio staple.
Proceeds from the Pensacola Craft Beer Festival go to The First Tee of Northwest Florida, the local chapter of a national program that aims to develop and teach youth life skills through the game of golf. A charity golf tournament, also part of the festival’s official activities, will take place on Friday morning, kicking off the festival’s array of activities.
Mandel is optimistic for the festival’s continued success due in part to its setting. “We have a lot of breweries that won’t do a lot of festivals,” Mandel said, “but they will do this one because of the venue, being on the water.” Meaning that with support from a beer loving populous combined with the draw of scenic views from the Pensacola Bayfront Stadium, the Craft Beer Festival has a good chance at becoming one of Pensacola’s signature fall events.
PENSACOLA CRAFT BEER FESTIVAL
WHEN: 6 – 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15 (VIP only) and 1 – 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16 (General Admission and VIP). Musical performances are free and open to the public each night.
WHERE: Pensacola Bayfront Stadium
COST: $50 VIP Admission on Friday. $40 GA and $100 VIP on Saturday. $140 Weekend VIP Pass available. Designated Driver Tickets are $10 each day.
The following are but a few of the breweries participating in the Pensacola Craft Beer Festival. For a more extensive list, check out the festival’s website at pcbeer.com.
Back Forty Beer Company
Brew Bus Brewing
Florida Beer Company
Goose Island Beer Company
Grayton Beer Company
Humboldt Brewing Company
Innis and Gunn
McGuire’s Irish Pub
Mile Marker Brewing
Pensacola Bay Brewery
Red Brick Brewing
Saint Arnold Brewing Company
Sea Dog Brewing
Southern Tier Brewing Company
St. Johns Brewers
Straight to Ale