Naples' first Craft Beer Fest features more than 60 tastings

— Move over, wine: Craft beer websites and festivals have cropped up around the country to draw beer aficionados internationally. The Naples North Rotary Foundation in partnership with local distributor Coastal Beverage and local restaurant partners are joining the parade with the inaugural Naples Craft Beer Fest this weekend.

The festival is at Bayfront from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, in Naples. Event proceeds will benefit Rotary programs including Gift of Life, Dictionary Day and other local causes.

The event will feature tastings of more than 60 craft beers and will include food pairings from Agave, Avenue Wine Café, Boston Beer Garden, Chef Paul, Latitude, South Street Bar and Grill, Tavern on the Bay, The Pub, Turtle Club and Wynn's Market. Rocky Patel's "Burn" cigar bar also is partnering in the event. Tickets are $50 per person and include a commemorative tasting glass.

Joe Unsinn of South Street has dozens of craft beers on tap and is excited to partner with Naples North Rotary Foundation to produce the event.

"With 41 drafts on tap, 36 of which are craft beers, it was a no-brainer to get involved with the Craft Beer Fest to not only showcase what we do here at South Street, but to continue to promote the craft beer industry here in Southwest Florida," he said. "Craft beer is more approachable than wine for most people because there are more flavors with craft beer, and it's also less expensive per ounce."

Coastal Beverage will introduce beer from Naples Beach Brewery, the first Naples-based craft brewery. Brewmaster Will Lawson will offer samples of his latest recipes. A variety of other samples will include ciders, beer malted with rye and wheat, beer flavored with pumpkin, chocolate, coffee, raspberry, or blueberry and barelywine.

"Naples has a tradition of appreciating the finer elements of life and through the Naples Craft Beer Festival, we will enhance the Naples experience by showcasing beer from across our country and around the world while pairing it with food from innovative local restaurants," said Mark Vroman, president of Coastal Beverage, a Naples-based distributor of ales and lagers.

"Beer varieties have exploded over the last couple of years and brewers are becoming more innovative by accentuating different ingredients and at the festival, attendees can sample Capital Brewing's Blonde Dopplebock from Madison, Wisconsin, Gordon Biersch's Maibock from San Jose, California, or Blue Point Brewing's Toasted Lager from Long Island, New York."

Vroman says ticketholders also will be able to try traditional pilsner style lagers from Europe. Those include Krombacher from Germany, Staropramen from Prague in the Czech Republic, and Estrella Damm from Barcelona, Spain.

The food available at the event was selected to pair with different beers. Attendees will learn how beer's aroma, carbonation level, body, bitterness and malt properties blend with different types of foods.

Jeff Clapper is membership director, Naples North Rotary Foundation, Inc. He says in the summer of 2011, past club president Heather Milner approached him with the idea for this fundraiser.

"Heather and I both share a passion for craft beer and that is where this concept began and I thought it was a perfect fit for Naples because we have never had a true beer festival here, even though they are common in cities all over the state and country," said Clapper. "The consumer demand for craft beer has been steadily increasing over the years and is much more prevalent in other areas of the country, but even here in Naples it has grown dramatically — even the beer aisle at Publix looks totally different today than it did three years ago and I'm sure that isn't an accident on their part."

Safety is a strong consideration, the organizers emphasize.

"First and foremost in our minds is safety and we want everyone in attendance to have a great time and enjoy the craft beers and food pairings generously donated by local restaurants and to do so safely and responsibly," said James Morey, senior counsel with Bond, Schoeneck & King and president of Naples North Rotary Club Foundation. "We will have a designated driver area set up to provide designated drivers with soft drinks and other perks to encourage the use of designated drivers, plus there will be water and soft drinks available for all patrons."

All volunteers serving beer will be TIPS-certified. TIPS is a program that trains servers, sellers, and consumers of alcohol how to prevent intoxication, drunken driving and underage drinking.

If you go

Naples North Rotary Foundation Naples Craft Beer Fest

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 10

Where: Bayfront. intersection of Goodlette-Frank Road and U.S. 41 with entrance on Goodlette-Frank, Naples

Tickets: $50 per person. Tickets include beer tastings, education, food pairings and commemorative tasting glass. To purchase tickets, go to www.naplesnorthrotary.com

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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