Grovetoberfest, the celebration of all things beer, returns to Peacock Park for a third year, bringing tents filled with over 200 different brews to the historic village of Coconut Grove on Saturday, October 19, from 4 to 7 p.m. (Beer socialites get entry in the festival at 3 p.m.; VIP's enter at 2:30 p.m.)
It seems like ages ago that festival director Tony Albelo, the self-proclaimed "chief sample taster" started the festival with the belief that the Miami beer scene was about to take off. Now, many of the groups and individuals who started out in Grovetoberfest's home brew area are opening up brick and mortar establishments right here in Miami.
If for nothing else, Grovetoberfest is an exciting place to experience the next crop of independent, local brewers before they become big.
This year sees a larger event with about 50 more beers than last year, according to Albelo. "Last year, Brown Distributing brought 45 beers. This year they're doubling their footprint and showcasing 25 breweries and about 80 beers. This year will also see new breweries like New Belgium, Founders, and Sweetwater at the festival for the first time. None of those companies distributed in Florida in 2012."
This year's kitchen lab, where chefs demonstrate their culinary skills (using beer, of course), will be bigger than ever, with Giorgio Rapicavoli, Michael Jacobs, Jacob Anaya, and Michael Pirolo on hand to provide tips and tricks. And, if you're a newbie to the whole beer scene, FIU's Beer Academy will host Beer Tasting 101.
Beer geeks will want to check out the special limited release tappings held throughout the festival. Eight to 12 limited-release beers will be tapped during the course of the festival on a limited first-come-first-served basis. The final roster is still being planned, but look for Pere Jaques, a limited release from Goose Island that's produced once a year; Ommegang Rare Vos; and Founders' Oatmeal Breakfast Stout.
And, of course, there's the chance to sample small batch beers from boutique and home brewers. We asked Albelo what beers to look out for. "We were with the guys from LauderAle yesterday. They produced a Thrillist Porter for Thrillist.com with vanilla bean that gives a wonderful, sweet finish. Also, I think the next hit will be Gravity Brewlab. They make great beers and they've got the branding in place."
Albelo says he loves that Miami's beer community has grown and matured and is looking forward to the future. "I travel in the summer to different beer towns and one of the things I notice in a beer culture town like Boston is that there are so many breweries and brew pubs that everyone's into it. In Miami, home brew clubs like Most Wanted, Gravity, MIA, have filled the void of where an actual craft beer town would have breweries. I call them 'breweries on paper.' These guys have brands, identity, and unique recipes. They have filled that void because of their popularity. That is very cool."
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It's also important to note that the festival promotes responsible beer drinking. If you find yourself "enjoying" your beer a little too much,Grovetoberfest will provide a complimentary "safe ride home" service. Just ask!
Tickets for Grovetoberfest range from $45 for general admission to $90 for VIP. each level has its own perks and all include unlimited beer sampling. To purchase tickets in advance, visit grovetoberfest.com/tickets.