Busch Gardens invited us out to visit the opening of Bier Fest, a festival which showcases the Tampa Bay craft beer scene, as well as some unique food. We arrived around 4:00 p.m., due to rain holding us off for a bit. The festival was set back next to Gwazi, in their festival space, and had a fantastic atmosphere with tables and lights set up all around the various booths.
Like most festivals, you had the option to purchase a sampler lanyard to get the best value for your money. There are 5-item, 10-item, and 12-item (pass holders only for the 12-item) samplers available, which you can use on food, beers, wines, and cocktails. The 5-item is $29.99 (plus tax), the 10-item is $49.99 (plus tax) and the 12-item is for pass-members only, which is $49.99 (plus tax). Pass holders can also save 10% or more on 5 and 10-item samplers.
Before you entered the main part of the festival, there was a huge board setup outside that showcased every beer that they had available, so you can get an idea of what you’d like to try.
We started out visiting the Pub Grub booth, where we sampled the Fried Chicken Wings (both in the Spicy Mango sauce and the Korean BBQ sauce). The wings were incredible, with just the right crunch and the light and airy sauces made them perfect to eat in the Florida heat.
Up next, we went down to the Sip N’ Sliders booth, where they were serving Bison, Schnitzel and Bratwurst sliders. The Bison smelled amazing on the grill as you walked up to it, giving it that end-of-summer barbecue feel. We sampled the Schnitzelwich Slider, which was on a pretzel roll with swiss cheese and maple-bacon honey mustard. This might have been our favorite thing to eat out of the festival! It was incredible.
We next moved onto the Melted Munchies booth, where we ordered the Short Rib & Brie Melt, as well as the Griddled Cheesecake Melt. The Short Rib & Brie Melt has short rib, brie cheese, and caramelized onions on a toasted roll with creamy horseradish sauce. It was cooked to perfection, and the flavors all blended together for a perfect bite to eat. The Griddled Cheesecake Melt had sweet cream cheese filling on pound cake, grilled and served with guava sauce. The cheese was very creamy, and made for a delicious treat.
We moved on next to Tacos on Tap, where we grabbed the Shrimp Tacos and the Smoked Brisket Tacos. The Shrimp Tacos featured beer-battered shrimp, shredded cabbage, queso fresco, and sweet ginger pickled onions on a flour tortilla. The Smoked Brisket Tacos were comprised of smoked brisket, citrus chipotle bbq sauce, shredded pepper jack cheese, and crispy jalapeno strips on a corn tortilla. Both tacos were great and had a great flavor. It’s definitely something you should check out.
We also stopped and grabbed some beer from the Barley Barrel booth. We sampled Stone Brewing’s “Tropic of Thunder” and Sea Dog Brewing Company’s “Blue Paw Wild Blueberry”. Both were light, airy and perfect for the season.
Next, we sampled from the Best Bites booth, trying the Reuben Croquettes and the Deep Fried Cheese Curds. Both of these came with your choice of dipping sauces, so we tried the basil parmesan mayo with the croquettes, and the maple-bacon honey mustard with the cheese curds. Both of these sauces complimented the bites well, and the food was cooked to perfection with a great crunch on them.
Finally, we ended the night by stopping by the float booth, to grab some adult root beer floats. The booth also served a Hard Coffee Float, Rose Float and Maduro float. There’s a stage where some live music was being played, so we took our floats and headed that way.
Overall, the festival is a great end-of-summer treat, where the beer is perfect and cold, and the food is unique and flavor and delicious. It’s definitely a must-try, so make sure you head on out to Busch Gardens to visit the Bier Fest! You can find out more details and information here.