By Matt Wiley

Florida summers are unpredictable, and the animals at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo know it. On any given day, our weather can go from a sunny afternoon to an all-out monsoon in a matter of minutes. For one night this summer, the animals again had the night off, as Tampa Bay’s beer connoisseurs battled the elements and a power outage to sample more than 280 beers from around the world during the 17th annual WaZoo Beer Fest, named one of the top ten beer festivals in the country by USA Today.

The weather on August 4 looked promising throughout the day for the herd of eager beer drinkers waiting in line to purchase tickets to sample unlimited suds and food at the zoo, which is located off Sligh Ave.

But, Mother Nature had other plans, as a thunderstorm moved in just before the event opened its gates at 7:30 p.m., knocking out power to the entire zoo for about two hours and leaving the more than 4,000 in attendance moving through the event a lot like animals in the wild, engulfed in darkness once the sun went down.

Luckily, there was beer.

Among the myriad of booths were local favorites World of Beer, which has a location in Tampa Palms, and The Brass Tap, located in the Shops at Wiregrass mall, each of which served numerous different types of beer from around the globe on draft.

More than 80 breweries were represented, including Tampa’s own Cigar City Brewery, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Cold Storage Craft Brewery and Odessa’s Big Storm Brewery, as well as Gainesville’s Swamp Head Brewery. Other notable tasting booths included Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Anchor Brewing Co., Brooklyn Brewery and Bell’s Brewery, to name a few.

“Despite the rain, which caused some chaos, WaZoo was a great time!” says Melissa Wroble, a bartender at Ciccio’s Lodge in Tampa Palms. “You can’t go wrong with so many different beers, delicious food, music and your best friends!”

Proceeds from the event went to benefit the zoo, which is a nonprofit organization. Thanks to support for WaZoo, the organization raised more than $150,000, exceeding its goal and budget expectations, despite the inclement weather.

Cheers to the Lowry Park Zoo, all of the sponsors and, most importantly, everyone who came out to support a great event for an even better cause!

The zoo’s next big food and beverage event is the always-amazing 26th annual Zoofari, “one of the biggest, tastiest and ‘wildest’ all-inclusive food festivals in Tampa Bay area.” Like WaZoo, Zoofari, which will be held Saturday, November 11, features unlimited sampling of food from some of the area’s top restaurants, as well as open bars along the way. There will also be art and live music to enjoy. Tickets go on sale in September.

For additional information about Lowry Park Zoo, located at 1101 W. Sligh Ave in Tampa, please visit or call 935-8552.


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