The inaugural craft-beer festival will highlight Florida breweries and feature local chefs and live music.
Next month, the inaugural Sip the Sunshine Craft Beer Festival will roll into Nathan Benderson Park, bringing with it more than 100 beers from 50 Florida craft breweries, food from seven local chefs and live music — headlined by Grammy Award-winning band Blues Traveler.
The festival, presented by Suncoast Festivals, takes place from noon to 9 p.m. Oct. 29, at Nathan Benderson Park, and proceeds will benefit the USF Sarasota-Manatee College of Hospitality and Tourism's Beer Science program.
According to organizer Mark Tuchman, he and fellow organizers Dean Lambert and Nikki Logan-Curran wanted to create a craft-beer event that featured exclusively Florida beers and had a more elevated feel.
"Five years ago, there were fewer than 40 breweries in the state of Florida," he says. "Today, there more than 200, and they're making some of the best beer in the country. There's a huge market, and the scene is continuing to explode. We wanted to honor that."
General admission will include catering by Mattison's, Fete Catering and Nancy Krohngold. VIP attendees will enjoy a five-course food-and-beer pairing by Steve Phelps with Calusa Brewing Co.; Darwin Santa Maria with Chela Brewing Co.; Christian Hershman with Darwin Brewing Co.; Jay Norris with Big Top Brewing Co.; and Paul Mattison with Coppertail Brewing Co.
Entertainment will include live music by bands Jah Movement, from Sarasota, Have Gun Will Travel, from Bradenton, Heavy Pets from Ft. Lauderdale and Blues Traveler.
Dean Lambert says the food and entertainment were carefully selected to provide a unique experience for attendees.
"A lot of times, at events like these, the music and food come across almost as afterthoughts," he says. "We approached this from the perspective of the attendees. We wanted the food and music to be the best that's offered in town. And Blues Traveler was a perfect fit: they have a broad appeal; everybody knows them; they're Grammy Award-winning, and they fit perfectly with the vibe of the event."