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Brewing 101 Sip The Sunshine

By Megan Greenberg / Photography By Jenny Acheson | October 11, 2016
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For years and years, “wine snob” has been a coveted classification while “beer drinker” practically became an insult. A wine connoisseur was pictured as upper crust, probably perched in a leather chair somewhere discussing Vivaldi and the economic climate of Hong Kong, while a beer lover was reduced to Barney Gumble, “The Simpsons” bar fly with a beer gut, bad hygiene, and an IQ on par with a shoelace.

It’s easy to see why beer got a bad rep. While winemakers measured every nuance of production from grape to glass bottle, beer was reduced to cold cans for football fans. But, as admitted beer lover Bob Dylan noted, the times they are a-changin’, and I’m pretty sure he was referring to beer’s rise to the top.

Unique craft brews and creative brewmasters have been forging a new image for beer for years now, but suddenly the industry has picked up enough steam to snowball and Florida has become a front contender. Even better beer news? You can be a part of the process at Suncoast Festival’s Sip the Sunshine, an all-Florida craft beer festival, on October 29 at Nathan Benderson Park.

We’re not talking about a fair and a Ferris wheel, folks. This isn’t a sudsy sweatfest. This is a thoughtful (and well-shaded) opportunity to understand all the craftsmanship and care that goes into custom brews, while chowing down on some killer eats from a few of Sarasota’s best-known culinary names, and listening to live music from the main stage, all in an effort to bring awareness to a USF program centered around the craft beer industry.

Clearly, the day is meant to be fun, but there’s an educational component as well. USF aims to create an entirely new program focused on the craft beer industry, which would combine elements of math, science, hospitality, and tourism.

Currently, USF offers an Intro to Brewing class led by a chemist, Ken Caswell, and a chef, Joe Askren. Together, Ken and Joe connect students with the inner workings of the industry by introducing them to every facet of brews and breweries, from science to flavor to business.

“This program gets students out of the traditional classroom,” says Joe. “It’s important to get them touching, feeling, smelling, and making beer as well as shaking hands with the brewmasters and understanding how everything works.”

Since it’s the only course currently offered on the topic, thus Joe and Ken cram as much information as they can into one semester. Funds from Sip the Sunshine could help expand the program, allowing second- and third-level courses that will be the foundation for a potential food science program at the university.

So, how can you help? By drinking beer, of course. Over 50 Florida breweries will be represented, each showcasing a couple of their best beers, including the granddaddy of Florida breweries, Cigar City. The event, which runs from noon to 8 p.m., will be held in two parts: The Beer Fest starts with VIP admittance from noon to 1 p.m. and includes a five-course luncheon with beer pairings and courses prepared by Steve Phelps, Darwin Santa Maria, Paul Mattison, Christian Hershman, and Yann Chupin. General admittance is open from 1 to 4 p.m., allowing patrons to enjoy a full-sized lunch from one of the well-known vendors while sipping a selection from over 100 available brews. Attendance is expected to reach around 2,500 people, so plan accordingly for parking and patience.

Quantity is all well and good, but quality is the real star. Florida has finally earned its title at the top. Take a rest, Asheville, San Diego, and Denver. The Sunshine State is just getting started, helping beer drinkers from the Panhandle to the Keys proudly raise their pint glasses.

USF Culinary Innovation Lab: 101 Main St, Lakewood Ranch:
Sip the Sunshine:

Instructors Kenneth Caswell and Joe Askren.
Article from Edible Sarasota at
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