Ah shit, Best of the Bay is on the horizon and with that comes a new brew for the occasion. CL teamed up with TBBC (formerly known as Tampa Bay Brewing Company) to craft something special up for our BOTB Awards on Wednesday, September 25.
We suspect you’ve voted your ass off when it came to your Best of the Bay picks (or at least voted for your best friends who’ll never let you off the hook if they don’t win). While you’ve been clicking, which you can do until September 4, we’ve been brewing — well, TBBC has.
It all started in early July when TBBC lead brewer Doug Clark swung by the Creative Loafing space to talk flavors. After scrapping some ideas that the brewery already sniffed out for its own menu and upcoming competitions, CL Publisher James Howard had an aha moment.
That day I just so happened to be wearing a shirt that read “Honey,” and Howard floated the idea as the base for the beer. From there we spitballed pairings, but thankfully, Clark suggested keeping it simple. And we obliged because when a seasoned brewer gives you advice, you take it. Clark then scratched his beard and landed on a honey cream ale, with the hopes of getting locally-sourced honey for the batch.
Fast-forward to mid-July. I headed to TBBC’s Westchase facility, located at 13937 Monroe Business Park, for the “mash-in” which is a brewer’s term for the steeping process. With my closed-toed shoes, I entered the massive warehouse garage connected to the TBBC restaurant which, like the Ybor City location, pours brews and has a fully loaded menu. Clark and his crew gave me a tour of the joint; from brewing to canning that place is a one-stop-shop. We passed towers of Reef Donkey, and Clark allowed me the thrill of pulling a cold one off the line and cracking it open. Being that we (and I use that term loosely) were brewing in a giant warehouse in the middle of summer, I needed it.
The team of beards I was working with rattled off the scientific details of the brewing process, in between allowing me to smell the grains, and pressing various buttons which started the boiling process.
I was even tasked with pouring in the honey sourced from Lakeland’s Bee Haven. In between steps too intense for extreme beginners to handle, I was hanging out at the TBBC restaurant next door letting the professionals do their thing.
Weeks have passed, and now we have a balanced, easy-drinking beer with a touch of honey. We’re calling it “Buzz of the Bay.”
Hope you’re ready to raise a freshly canned brew to the winners of this year’s Best of the Bay — after we release the massive issue, it's safe to say that we’ll be a little bit more than buzzed.
Best of the Bay 2019. Wed. Sept. 25, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Mahaffey Theater, 400 1st. Ave. S., St. Petersburg. $45-$120. botbtampabay.com.
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