Every March for the past decade or so, a volunteer group of beer industry professionals has assembled to build and plan Tampa Bay Beer Week (TBBW). As the industry has grown up around us, this week of events has swelled from a handful of small intimate gatherings anchored by a couple of larger events into an eight-day period of celebrating beer from all around the region. We have watched this blossom into the Tampa Bay Beer Week we know today: many larger events and experiences catering to all demographics; bottle releases; opportunities for education; and most importantly, the chance to enjoy the offerings from both the breweries who call the Tampa area home and those who are based elsewhere but help shape and influence the industry here.
Turning our efforts to 2021’s TBBW, we face a world that is still starkly different than it was prior to March 2020. We are still in the midst of a high rate of infection from COVID-19. Many of the larger events that have always anchored TBBW, attracted enthusiasts from near and far, and have defined our industry in the area, have been postponed or cancelled for 2021.
While some of these larger events will not take place in March, this has opened the door for many other ideas to flourish – more intimate samplings; bottle releases; rare beer tappings and tap takeovers; and various other well-planned, socially-distanced event concepts. This year, your support for these events is as much (if not more) important than it’s ever been.
TBBW looks to 2021’s events as an opportunity to get “back to basics”. This year will be reminiscent of the early, formative years of our Beer Week, with smaller events and a more intimate feel. This year will also provide an opportunity for our breweries to solidify their importance as a part of our neighborhoods, our cities, and as part of an industry that will need to continue to heal along with much of the rest of our nation’s hospitality industry that has been so irreparably damaged.
Breweries are often small, independent businesses without the financial stability to weather a storm such as COVID-19. Some of our fellow brewers have been forced to close up shop for good this year and there may yet be more to come. Many more still face concerns about how to keep themselves and their staff safe, balancing a supply line and a dwindling budget. But business is open, beer is being brewed and sold every day, and we still expect some small rise in tourism in our peak season. To our locals and out-of-town temporary residents: we are here and ready to serve!
We will begin our beer week as usual the first Saturday in March, and continue for eight days of events, education, and continued support for our local brewers and their staff. We encourage everyone to get involved in the way that’s right for them, whether that is participating in a socially distant event concept, grabbing a bottle or two at one of the many bottle releases, or even just picking up a locally-made six-pack or two at the grocery store and enjoying the truly excellent beer that is made here in the Tampa Bay area. TBBW 2021 won’t look the same as in years past, but it will be an important beacon of hope for our friends and colleagues who need our support.
Every little bit helps.
Travis Kruger, TBBW Chair 2021