Last month, we were lucky enough to receive an invite to the 6th Annual Florida Tap Invitational at Proof Brewing Co. (Tallahassee, Florida) and we have returned – after a bit of a delay – to provide you with a recap and photographic account of our experience at this truly special beer festival.
Taking place each year at Proof Brewing Co. in Tallahassee, the Florida Tap Invitational is an exclusive beer festival that aims to collect the finest and most interesting/innovative beers being produced in Florida so that craft beer fans can experience them all in one spot. Beyond just being a celebration of the state’s craft beer community, this year’s event went an extra mile by serving as a fundraiser for Proof Brewing Co.’s neighbors in the Florida Panhandle that were affected by Hurricane Michael.
The description of the event that we received was very similar to the paragraph above, but we had no idea how intimate this beer festival would be until we turned the corner to the parking lot to get in line. The entirety of the Florida Tap Invitational takes place in Proof Brewing Co.’s parking lot, beer garden and tasting room – none of which are incredibly large. Despite that fact, someone who undoubtedly was a savant at Tetris found ample space to set up pour stations – most of them housed under tents – for 45 or so breweries and still had room for food vendors, a stage for musical entertainment and areas for attendees to congregate.
We entered with the VIP ticket holders, and the ID check/ticket redemption process was speedy and efficient. As soon as we received our glass and got through the gate, our worries of over-crowding – a very real occurrence at many beer festivals – were quickly put at ease. The amount of tickets allotted for this event was nearly perfect, and the layout basically kept the crowd moving at a slowly churning pace. Even after General Admission was let in and attendance was at its peak, we never felt rushed or crowded and always had somewhere to go to hang out and have a conversation. At times, many pour stations were wide open and allowed guests plenty of time to chat with representatives from their favorite breweries.
As far as the beer goes, the level of quality at the Florida Tap Invitational was as advertised. Nearly every brewery came with the intention to show you their absolute best, and the event was utterly awash with countless one-off, rare, and limited release beers. To give you an idea of the insane brews that graced our glasses during this event, here are our “Top 5 Most Memorable Beers of the 6th Annual Florida Tap Invitational” (list is in no particular order):
- Magnanimous Brewing | Flourish – New England-style Wheat. A new brewery coming to Tampa, Magnanimous made quite the first impression with a Wheat Ale that was bright, hoppy, luscious and refreshing.
- Deep Brewing Co. | Bourbon Barrel CYNNICAL – Imperial Stout with cinnamon, ancho chile, cacao & vanilla. CYNNICAL blew us away with big notes of brownie batter, dark chocolate, bourbon and just the right pop of heat.
- Aardwolf Brewing Company | Bearer of the Cup of the Blood of the Ancients – Barrel-aged Raspberry Sour. The name immediately captured our attention, and the beer itself delivered a wonderfully complex experience filled with tart raspberry goodness.
- Invasive Species Brewing | Malkovich Malkovich – Hazy IPA double dry-hopped with Mosaic, Citra & Cashmere hops. This IPA was ridiculously juicy and had just the right amount of delightful dankness. Oh, and the label artwork on the can is just stunning.
- Proof Brewing Co. | Coffee Vanilla Hazelnut Bourbon Barrel-aged Glass Emperor – Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Stout. The home team stood up and showed out with a tap list comprised of over 30 beers, but this one set itself apart by nailing every descriptor in its name. Pronounced and impactful but not overly cloying, this was THE dessert stout of the festival for us.
In addition to all the amazing beer, the Florida Tap Invitational also featured an incredibly solid lineup of food trucks/vendors and an unforgettable musical performance from Tallahassee’s Catfish Alliance and their majestic hype man “Sex Manatee”. Once all the pieces of this event – from the beer to the food to the band – started functioning as a whole, the Florida Tap Invitational was then able to go next level and become a true celebration filled with nothing but good times and vibes.
Absolutely everything mentioned above was truly fantastic, but the coolest and most interesting part of the Florida Tap Invitational was how the brewers/brewery representatives behaved while at the event. It was very clear that they were all there to talk to fans and properly showcase what makes their breweries special, but throughout the event we noticed that almost every single one of them found a moment to disappear into the crowd in search of a beer they were excited about. Sure, the “I need a beer, I’ll be right back” kind of moment happens at all beer festivals, but this was something different. We ran into countless of them at other breweries’ tables and they were just as giddy as the ticket-holders surrounding them for the chance to try these beers. They were talking shop, catching a laugh with old friends, and just genuinely stoked to be there. At times it had the air of a company holiday party and showed that a very real camaraderie exists in Florida’s brewing community.
This speaks volumes for the Florida Tap Invitational because if the brewers and brewery reps – people who are at beer fests/events constantly all year long – are clearly having a great time and genuinely want to be there, that means you, the beer lover, need to be there. There is no better endorsement for a beer festival than that, so check out the photos below and go ahead and make a note that you will need to be in Tallahassee in 2019 for the 7th Annual Florida Tap Invitational. Prost!