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Arts / Culture

Craft Beer Pours Into the Tampa Bay Area

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Larrykoestler.com

The Tampa Bay area is the state's epicenter for the craft brew scene -- but neighboring Lakeland is not being left out of the scene.  The city has plans for a new brewery cooperative, which would help local, small brewers reach bigger markets. And there's a lively craft brew scene popping up in Lakeland's restaurants.Further, while Tampa Bay may have Tampa Bay Beer Week (actually nine days of beery events), downtown Lakeland is now the home of the Brewz Crewz Craft Beer Festival. There's now a Lakeland Craft Beer Facebook page, and a twitter feed -- with tweets announcing craft beer venues springing up all over town.

WUSF's Robin Sussingham visited a local watering hole to do some in-depth research on the trend. At Patio 850 in Lakeland, server Greg Heatwole gave her a tour of the restaurant's craft beer selections, including Cigar City Brewing's Maduro Brown Ale. Much of the growth in the industry locally can be traced to the popularity of Tampa's Cigar City Brewing. It's grown from two employees to more than 60, and has gotten several national awards using local ingredients like Cuban espresso and guava.

In Lakeland, Brew Hub, a company led by former Anheuser-Busch executives, is building a facility in an office park just off Interstate 4. Through the Brew Hub, craft brewers should be able to package and distribute to drinkers that live at a distance.