ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - The craft brewery scene in the Bay Area has exploded over the last five years, and with Tampa Bay Beer Week kicking into high gear, breweries and restaurants are packed as thousands help celebrate our suds.
Those in town for the festival call themselves beer-cationers. Visitors from northern states, and even Sweden and Norway, have filled hotels and Airbnbs to enjoy some brews and late winter sunshine.
It’s insane. Every year, it's grown exponentially. Every year, we see more and more people pop up. I know for us, this is our busiest week we've ever had,” said Charlie Meers of Cycle Brewing.
Each year, thousands come for Tampa Bay Beer Week. Some go straight from the airport, to the beer.
“We took a 5 am flight and our first stop had to be Cigar City,” beer-cationer Sam Cooper said.
That’s music to Tiffany Cox’s ears. She’s worked at Cigar City during Tampa Bay Beer Week before, and says the crowds keep growing.
“Every year, we have to a lot more, and more barrelage to accommodate all of these thirsty guests coming into the area,” Cox said.
we flew in early this morning and we're trying to hit as many breweries as we can today, we're going to hit the festival tomorrow and then more of the same on Sunday
From morning to midnight, the week is packed with special tasting events and rare beer releases.
“Decoherence; this is actually the last bottle they had here and it was pretty pricey, I think $70 or $75,” said beer-cationer Ryan Cochran.
Even for locals, there are plenty of opportunities to discover what’s new with the Bay Area brew scene.
“There's like 100 breweries that are going to have beers that we can't get anywhere else, so this is a huge draw for us beer geeks,” beer-cationer Scott Thompson said.
Tampa bay beer week runs through Sunday and there are dozens of tastings and celebrations going on this weekend. For more information, visit http://tampabaybeerweek.com/.