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Because it’s strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.

Meet Your New Favorite Holiday: Florida Craft Beer Day

two men holding beer glasses
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Beer lovers across Florida: This holiday is just for you.

THE ZEST PODCAST: Listen to the episode

There’s a holiday coming up, but it doesn’t involve flowers or candy. Feb. 15 is Florida Craft Beer Day.

The annual celebration is the brainchild of Donnie Gallagher. In 2015, the Clearwater resident convinced fellow craft beer lover and then-Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn to declare Feb. 15 Florida Craft Beer Day in Tampa—the city where Florida’s first legally recognized craft brewery opened in 1897.

“The beauty of craft beer,” Donnie says, is the ability to experiment in small batches. “You may never have had a black pepper strawberry basil lager, but let me tell you—it’s one of my favorite beers that I’ve ever tried,” he says. “Things like that, you’d never get from big beer.”

And Donnie would know. He spent about five years working in marketing for Anheuser-Busch. “The big-name beer… they brew a type of beer that everybody will drink,” Donnie says.

But craft brewers can push the boundaries, creating flavors that may appeal to only a sliver of the population. That’s especially true in Florida, whose diverse communities and thriving agriculture lead to an eclectic craft beer scene.

“We can make things like guava beer. It’s crazy, but you can do it,” Donnie says. “And you can do it here, because we have fresh guava and it’s fantastic, and people love guava here.”

Donnie’s love of craft beer extends beyond organizing in-person and virtual events for Florida Craft Beer Day. He co-hosts the podcast Craft Brews and Geek News and moderates a lively Facebook group for craft beer enthusiasts.

He’s also a home brewer, and he encourages other beer fans to try the hobby.

“The hardest part about home brewing is simply starting. The equipment is cheap enough. The knowledge is out there,” Donnie says. “It’s as simple as making a pot of pasta.”

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