A socially distanced beer festival is just what South Florida needs right now, and luckily there's one on the way.
The final 2020 Craft Carousel Beer Festival will take place on Saturday, October 24, at Gulf Stream Brewery.
The event, which has been running since its inception in January 2015, is one of more than 300-plus events organized by SFLHops, a local group that works with the community to support South Florida's craft breweries.
To date, the group has organized several festival-style events, including its annual Craft Beer Carousel, named for the series of events that rotate locations between Dade and Broward counties. The festival-themed meetups support local breweries by expanding their audience via food and beer pairings, tastings, happy hours, tailgate parties, bottle shares, and — when it's not being disrupted by global pandemics — a monthly bar crawl.
Founded by Stuart Skopit, SFLHops has its roots as a group on Meetup.com for craft beer enthusiasts. Its goal is to support local breweries with events and a rewards card. For $20, the card allows users to receive deals and discounts to more than 60 South Florida breweries and bars.
On October 24, the Oktoberfest-themed Craft Beer Carousel will feature unlimited samples from eight local breweries including Caribbean Craft Legacy, Chahauhau Cervesa, and Gulf Stream Brewery. In addition to beer, the event will also feature wines from Primo Liquors, PRP Wine International, and Wandering Wines and an alcoholic malt-based hard coffee sample from Newground that includes its cafe latte and chai latte.
In addition to beers poured by local breweries, attendees will also have the chance to sample beers made by six local homebrewers specifically for the Craft Beer Carousel home-brew competition. Guests will be asked to select their favorite offering prepared by Craft Lyfe, Vice City, the Beer Sniffer, Brews Brothers, Barrel Head, and the Shed. The winner will receive a SFLHops Craft Carousel trophy.
To minimize crowding and allow for proper social distancing, the event will offer guests the choice of two different three-hour sessions taking place at Gulf Stream Brewery in Fort Lauderdale. Rather than purchase individual tickets, those interested in attending will be able to reserve a seat at a private tent that can accommodate four to six people.
"Gulf Stream Brewery co-owner McKay Ferrell was instrumental in collaborating with me to come up with this revised setup that complies with COVID-19 safety precautions," Skopit says. "We implemented it a few weeks ago with a similar format at Tarpon River Brewery and it was a huge success."
Unlike your typical beer festival, there won't be any roaming around. During the event, people will stay seated, and the drink vendors and volunteers will come out to pour their beverage. The day's festivities will include no-touch check-ins and a virtual promotion guide that lists all the brewery, homebrewer, and shopping vendors in attendance.
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"In a nutshell, it's a VIP experience for 100 percent of the people attending," Skopit says. "They'll all have their own reserved tent and table to sit and be served everything the event has to offer."
Included in the price will be three slices of pizza for each attendee. Prepared by Pizzeria Magaddino, each offering will feature an Oktoberfest theme. One slice will be topped with soft pretzel bites and beer cheese, a second with roast pork and onions sautéed in dark beer and topped with spicy mustard, and a dessert strudel slice infused with Broski cider.
"I am most proud that we have come up with a plan in which we can be one of the only people to put on a successful, safe event in 2020," Skopit adds. "I never imagined doing a seated, curated event, but the circumstances forced it, and the result seemed to be an entirely different, but equally awesome event."
Craft Carousel Beer Festival. Saturday, October 24 at Gulf Stream Brewery, 1105 NE 13th St., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $150 for a tented table that hosts up to six guests via eventbrite.com.