Miami Homebrewers to Compete In First-Ever Berliner Bash On the Bay in Tampa Tomorrow

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Looking to travel abroad in the name of American Craft Beer Week? How about this? Go check out Miami homebrewers Jonathan Wakefield, Diego Ganoza and Robert Tejon who will be competing in the first ever Berliner Bash on the Bay to be held at Peg's Cantina in Gulfport, Florida, near Tampa tomorrow.

The Berliner Weisse, a wheat style of beer originally from Northern Germany particularly Berlin, is known for its sourness, low-alcohol content, and refreshing character. It is a typically brewed with fruit or fruit-flavored syrup to balance the sourness.

The event is a competition as well as a tasting, but is meant to showcase the rising popularity in Berliner Weisse beers in Florida.  "It's becoming known more as a 'Floriner Weisse,'" says Ganoza. "It's a style that kind of died out for a long time, but recently a lot of aficionados know about it."

Doug Dozark is the event planner. He recognized the special relationship between Berliners and Florida organized an event with brewers across the state who specialize in this type of brew.

"It's something that's unique to Florida and it's growing around the nation a little bit," Dozark says. "I wanted to get an event together that really showcases that and solidifies the Florida style."

The refreshing qualities of the Berliner make it an ideal beer for the hot climate here in Florida, says Wakefield.

"They are probably one of the best summer beers you can have in the heat, that's why they are so popular down here," says Wakefield. "Basically, Florida is so hot nine months out of the year you can't go outside and sit on your porch or mow your lawn and drink a double IPA because heat and alcohol don't mix well."

Wakefield, who currently has a brewery in the works, has made beers in collaboration with Cigar City Brewing Company in Tampa. One of them, a pilot series passion fruit and dragon fruit Berliner Weisse, is currently ranked 16th out of the top 50 beers in the world on RateBeer.com.

Berliners are harder to make than most beers because of their susceptibility to spoiling due to the lack of alcohol to act as a preservative. To make a Berliner, you start with a base beer, then rapidly sour it with lactobacillus, a type of bacteria used to make yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut and pickles. Heat is needed for the lactobacillus to grow and Florida offers ideal conditions.

Because of the low-alcohol content to act as a preservative, the brewing equipment must be extra clean too. Wakefield spends an extra hour sanitizing his Berliner brewing system over other brewing equipment.

Wakefield will be bringing several kegs of Berliners. In addition to his top-rated passion fruit, dragon fruit Berliner, Wakefield is bringing six more Berliners: Miami madness, Fly Pelican Fly piña colada, Moral Imperative Watermelon, Kuato's Revenge kumquat and starfruit, Annexation of Puerto Rico brewed with locally-sourced Mysore raspberries from Bee Heaven in Homestead, and Ain't Yo Mama's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.

Ganoza and Tejon from Gravity Brewbar, a new brewpub that will be opening in Miami, are bringing their Berliners: El Polaco Guanabana, Boomhilde Gewurztraminer barrel-aged, Pinot Noir wine barrel-treated Berliner, Sour Cherry Dunkel, Citra dry hopped Berliner, Trophy Wife Sour Blonde and Kobra Kai tamarind and Thai chile Berliner.

Other Florida brewers making a taplist are Cigar City, 7vent Sun from Dunedin, Funky Buddha Lounge from Boca Raton, and Peg's Cantina. Dozark will be tapping a keg of his Double Rainbow Jelly Donut Berliner.

The tickets go on sale at 8 a.m. tomorrow for $4 each at Peg's, cash only and are limited to 10 per person. One ticket will be worth one 8-ounce pour of each Berliner weisse and pouring commences at noon. There will likely be over 2,000 tickets.

The event is not held in the bar, but outside instead. Food from Peg's will be available for the event, as well as their full menu and bar for dining on the inside.

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