When the New Tampa Noon Rotary went looking for an idea to create a signature event that would raise thousands of dollars for the club’s favorite causes, it wanted something hip, trendy and successful.

Now, heading into its second year, the club members have high hopes for their New Tampa Brew Fest, which will be held tomorrow — Saturday, November 16 — at the Venetian Center at St. Mark The Evangelist Catholic Church on Cross Creek Blvd. in New Tampa

“We actually stole the idea from the Temple Terrace Rotary Club,” says Jeff Ulbrich, the event’s co-chair.

According to Ulbrich, his fellow Rotarians in Temple Terrace have been holding a craft Brew Fest in the spring for five years, and it has been wildly successful, drawing more than 2,000 attendees from more than 70 zip codes to sample the wares from roughly 35 different breweries.

The Temple Terrace event has made the kind of impact that the New Tampa Noon Rotary is hoping for with its Brew Fest. Despite some nervous moments leading up to the event, last year’s inaugural New Tampa Brew Fest was deemed a success, drawing 28 breweries and about 500 attendees.

The event raised enough money to cover expenses and contribute thousands of dollars to U.S. military troops and the second Fisher House at the James Haley VA Hospital on BBD, which is a “comfort” home where active U.S. military and veteran families can stay while their loved ones are being treated in the hospital.

“The purpose behind the Brew Fest was for our Rotary Club to create an event that the whole New Tampa, and greater Tampa Bay area, can take part in,” says co-chair Chris Stennett. “The dollars go back into civic projects, so we wanted something that had the biggest value. We aren’t a big club, so for us to make a big impact, we had to dream big.”

The New Tampa Brew Fest is by far the biggest fund raiser put on by the Noon Rotary, and the plan is to continue building it until it rivals the one held in Temple Terrace.

The numbers have been encouraging. Last year’s event had 28 breweries, but dipping further into Tampa and St. Petersburg’s deep bench of craft breweries, close to 35 of them will be represented this year, serving more than 100 different kinds of beers. “I was stunned by how many craft breweries there are,” Ulbrich says.

The craft beers available for tasting come from such noted craft breweries as Cigar City, Big Storm Brewing, Coppertail, Florida Avenue (which is opening a new brewery on S.R. 56; see pg. 39) and 3 Daughters, as well as smaller brewers like Krazy Eddie’s Garage (KEG) Brewing, which is made in garage in Odessa, the new Double Branch Artisanal Ales (which is opening next month at The Grove in Wesley Chapel)l, and Wiregrass Brewing, another independent brew which attended last year’s event (see pg. 38).

Ulbrich says the bigger craft breweries use big distributors like Pepin and JJ Taylor, which also will provide beers for the event from 24 breweries, with the rest coming from smaller independent brewers. “We are trying to find a balance,” Ulbrich says. 

The mega-popular White Claw hard seltzer, which is fighting a nationwide shortage of its product, will again have a booth at the event as well.

This year’s Brew Fest also will have three new food trucks on hand – Bacon Boss, BBQ Time and Mr. C’s Grilled Cheese.

“Last year was our first year, and we had no idea how many people would show up,” says Stennett. But, we knew it could work, and we knew the event could be a lot of fun and engage the community. We want to be able to do more (with our donations), and we feel we’re on to something here.”  

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