South Florida’s Inaugural FemAle Brewfest took place at Fat Village Arts District in Fort Lauderdale over the Memorial Day weekend. The festival was the brainchild of Fem Collective CEO Frances Antonio-Martineau. The Fem Collective is a South Florida women’s advocacy group supporting the missions, issues, and ambitions of women. A portion of the proceeds went to the Pink Boots Society, which inspires and encourages women within the beer industry to advance their careers through education. It was the first beer festival of its kind focusing on women in the craft beer industry. More specifically on breweries owned or operated by a woman or employing a female brewer or quality control head. Along with the beer, cider, and meads the festival also featured female music acts, industry associated vendors, and a number of South Florida’s top female chefs. Tickets started at $10.00 for designated drivers and went up to $40.00 for VIP.
The festival was scheduled to run between 1:00 and 5:00 pm. I arrived at 12:30 to get the lay of the land before the foamy liquid began to flow. Thankfully, the festival was held inside a warehouse space because it was a sweltering hot South Florida day. Air-conditioning was pumped into the space dropping the temp to acceptable levels. I did hear at least one person complain that it was a bit hot too which I was quick to remind them that we could be outside. After making my rounds and taking a few pics I stopped by the Islamorada Beer Company table to see what they were pouring and to say “hi” to head brewer, Stephanie Harper, and Director of Sales and Marketing, Jose Herrera. Stephanie was pouring ‘Sandbar Sunday’, ‘Channel Marker IPA’, and ‘Key Hoppin’ IPA’. ‘Key Hoppin’ was a bit hoppier than she typically brews.
After some small talk, it was one o’clock and time to drink some beer. My first stop was to Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing out of California who had traveled the furthest distance to be at the BrewFest. They were pouring crowlers of three of their brews. ‘Madame Grey’, a milk stout, brewed with Earl Grey tea was quite good. The aroma and taste of tea went very well with the lactose. Their Juice Box IPA was brewed using El Dorada and Azacca hops specifically for the festival. The Oathkeeper IPA was brewed on International Women’s Day with one pound of lavender and local organic strawberries. I can’t recall ever having an IPA brewed with lavender before. Together with the strawberries, it was one of the most interesting IPA’s I’ve ever tried.
Progressive Distribution provided and poured the VIP beers. Since they were just to the left of Santa Cruz they were my next stop. They were pouring Jester King’s ‘Le Petit Prince Farmhouse Table Beer’ as well as ‘Double Negative’ Imperial Stout and ‘Blackberry Orange Pop’ Berliner Weisse from Grimm Artisanal Ales. Both beers from Grimm were fantastic and two of my favorites of the day.
Next, I paid a visit to the Accomplice Brewery and Ciderworks table. They were pouring ‘Simple Apple’ (base cider), ‘Piñas Envy Pineapple’ (fan favorite), and their 8% heavy hitter ‘Cidewinder Cinnamon’ (apple pie). Accomplice is only about 15 minutes from my house, but I haven’t stopped in yet. My focus has always been on craft beer, not ciders. Having the opportunity to try to enjoy a few of their ciders as well as talking to co-founders, Felonice Merriman and Matt Stetson, has me curious to stop in and see what else they have to offer.
General Manager and Assistant Brewer, Maria Cabré, and newly promoted Account Representative, Alex Reyes, represented J. Wakefield Brewing. They were pouring ‘El Jefe Hefeweizen’, ‘Hop 4 Teacher IIPA’, and ‘Part Time Lager’. ‘Part Time Lager’ was brewed in collaboration with Jack’s Abby. At 9% it’s quite possibly the biggest lager I’ve ever tried. I have to say it was pretty damn delicious. The Black Cauldron Brewery and Taproom out of Orlando was up next. Co-owner and head brewer Jeanna Malines was pouring ‘Ancient Rites Belgian Blonde’, ‘Black Rose Immortal Stout’, and ‘Bleed Purple Blackberry Saison’. I enjoyed both the blonde and Saison, but wasn’t the biggest fan of the stout. I have yet to review the Orlando area so it was good to get a taste of what they have to offer.
Next, I hit Ballast Point to tick (check off) a couple of beers I had yet to try. Both the ‘Bonito Blonde Ale’ and the ‘Sea Rose Tart Cherry Wheat Ale’ were bottle pours. I enjoyed the ‘Sea Rose’ from its wheat malt beginning to its slightly tart pomegranate and cherry backing. The Big Storm Brewing Co. has tap rooms in both Clearwater and Odessa, Florida. Brewer Megan Michael and Director of Sales Kym Poon were pouring the ‘Helicity Pilsner’, ‘Wavemaker Amber Ale’, ‘Tropic Pressure Florida Ale’, and ‘Surfline Gulfcoast Lager’ from cans. I had never had the opportunity to try Big Storm before. Their offerings were impressive! I’m looking forward to visiting the brewery and trying a few things that aren’t in cans.
Lisa Siegel, part owner of the Craft Beer Cartel and Riverside Market was pouring ‘954 Pale Ale’ and ‘Honey Love Cream Ale’. Both beers are brewed by New River Brewing. which will be opening later this year in Fort Lauderdale.
The M.I.A. Beer Co. was next up and pouring their ‘Neon White IPA’ and ‘Tourist Trappe Belgian Trippel’. They are a brewery that I will be reviewing in the near future.
Lastly, I tried a refreshingly tart lime agave mead called ‘Tuco Style Freakout’ from the B. Nectar Meadery. After a day of beer, it was an interesting change of pace.
I think there are a few changes that should be looked at for next year’s festival. It’s generally frowned upon when brewers pour their wares from cans or bottles. As a lover of craft beer, pouring from kegs is one of the things that draws me to a festival. You will always sell tickets to beer festivals, but if you want the festival to really take off, kegs are definitely the way to go. Also, breweries should bring more than just their core beers. Again, if you want the craft beer community to support and look forward to your festival there needs to be the pull of something that isn’t readily available to the masses. Lastly, something that was missing and is a mainstay at festivals was the pour bucket. If I’m served a beer that I don’t like the first thing I want to do is toss it and move on to the next offering. Without a pour bucket, you’re forcing festival goers to either finish the beer or find a garbage can to pour it into.
Overall I really enjoyed the festival. As a first time event, the FemAle BrewFest was really put together well and even though it was a tad warm in the festival space, the fact that it was inside was a serious plus. I spent half of my time talking with the different brewery representatives. The rest was spent trying beers I hadn’t tasted before. With a few tweaks, I can really see this festival growing from year to year. The concept of celebrating women in craft beer is something that has been desperately needed in the industry. The few people I talked to about the festival from outside of the state seemed rather intrigued. I’m expecting a much larger showing next year and for quite a few more breweries to attend from outside of Florida. This is one of those if you build it, they will come projects. Kudos to all the amazing women who contributed to this year’s FemAle BrewFest and made it a huge success. I look forward to drinking with you again soon.