New restaurants bank on success of Tampa craft beer scene

- Craft breweries continue popping up in and around Tampa. They've become so popular, Mayor Bob Buckhorn proclaimed February 15 "Craft Beer Day."

The breweries aren't just quenching thirsts. They are having a big impact on the local economy. Good local beer is attracting visitors and businesses, not only from around the country, but around the world.

From Cigar City to beer city, Tampa has become a heavy hitter in the craft brewing industry. In fact, 119 years ago to date, Florida Brewing Company, the state's first locally owned and operated brewery opened in Ybor City.

"Beer has done so much for the economy for the people who live and work here," said Donnie Gallahgher of Brewmasters.Club. "People say the bubble hasn't been hit. There is room to grow. We are all partnering together, we all work together so it is still very much growing."

That calls for a toast. Surrounded by local brewers at the old Florida Brewing Company building, Buckhorn proclaimed February 15, 2016 to be "Craft Beer Day" in Tampa.

"Our success has paralleled the growth of the craft beer industry in Tampa, Florida," Buckhorn told the crowd.

At 7 p.m., those gathered raised their cups of Big Storm Beer to the beer industry, which, according to the National Beer Wholesalers Association, pours $14 billion dollars into the state's economy. That's a number that's growing.

"Tampa is becoming known as a place where some of the best craft brewers in America live," Buckhorn said. "You combine that with the food truck surge and you combine that with the restaurant surge and amazing chefs that are calling this home."

Drama Burger is one of the most recent to follow the trend.

Just days after its soft opening, the grill at the gourmet burger restaurant on West Kennedy Boulevard is sizzling.

Drama Burger unique to Tampa, and actually the entire United States. The only other place you'll find it is 5,000  miles away in Lithuania.

"We set our sights on the biggest challenge of them all: America. The burger motherland," said owner Manfredas Bajelis.

Owners said the warm weather and a growing gourmet scene are top on their list of reasons to come to Tampa, but there's also the beer.

"Because the craft beer scene is just incredible here," Bajelis said. "It's such a variety of beers. Good burger goes with a good beer."

With names like Cigar City, Angry Chair and Cycle on the menu, along with their specialty of pastrami, they're happy to combine European flavors with Tampa's taps.

"We are more than excited to be in Tampa at this moment when it's so exciting with the local beers here," Bajelis said.

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