Tampa Bay Beer Week kicked off over the weekend, bringing in brewers and aficionados from across the country.
The festival began in 2013 with some smaller events for promoting local beers. It has since morphed into an eight-day gathering of Florida brewers with more than 100 events. At the Brewers Ball on Sunday, the best craft beers in Florida were crowned.
Sean Nordquist is with the Florida Brewers Guild and was one of the founders of Tampa Bay Beer Week. He said the growth of the festival has mirrored the explosion of craft beer in Tampa Bay.
"If you look at Florida, in the last 10 years [the number of breweries] has quadrupled in size," he said. "Tampa Bay is what really kicked off Florida being on the map."
Nordquist said nationally known brands like Cigar City Brewing in Tampa created a model for how breweries in the rest of the state could start up and expand. Cigar City was recently sold to the Colorado craft brewery, Oscar Blues.
Of the more than 200 breweries in the state of Florida, nearly half are in Tampa Bay. And the Florida Brewers Guild says thirty to forty new breweries are expected to open in Florida in the next year.
Floating Boat Brewing Company opened near downtown St. Petersburg last April.
Head brewer Tyler Singletary said in addition to it's huge tourism industry and citrus-infused beers, Tampa Bay's openness to new breweries sets it apart form other up-and-coming craft beer scenes such Asheville, North Carolina or Portland, Oregon.
"When we see new breweries we try to support people as much as we can," he said. "There's a lot of space in Tampa Bay and a lot of different ways to make beer."
The Tampa Bay Beer festival will feature brewery crossovers, special releases and competitions. Tampa Bay's culinary scene will be on display at a number of food pairings.
Tampa Bay Brewing Company brewer John Rankin said the event also helps acquaint people with all of the new breweries popping up throughout the state, many of which don't distribute to grocery stores.
Rankin said the festival is ultimately just a time for craft beer lovers to have fun.
"Beer is one of those things that bring people together," he said. "It's a celebration of beer, and all we're trying to do is share that with everybody."
Tampa Bay Beer Week will have events running through March 11. Full event information can be found here.