It is time for my annual beer column. This year I am truly excited about a new event that will showcase local craft beers and local restaurants to a limited crowd. The inaugural Marco Island Craft Beer Festival is Saturday, Nov. 7, and it is going to be a celebration of the art of craft beer and food.

The Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008 (from the 110th Congress) defines “the term ‘locally or regionally produced agricultural food product’ as any agricultural food product that is raised, produced, and distributed in (I) the locality or region in which the final product is marketed, so that the total distance that the product is transported is less than 400 miles from the origin of the product; or (II) the State in which the product is produced.”

And, 400 miles from Marco Island includes Florida’s Gulf Coast through the Big Bend to Panama City, north to Tifton and Savannah, Ga., then south, encompassing part of the Atlantic Ocean, the Bahamas, Cuba and the Florida Keys.

Why the civics/geography lesson?

Local breweries only

Because the Craft Beer Fest will feature only local beers. There are six breweries participating, none from further away than Odessa, Fla.

In order from furthest to nearest, featured breweries include Big Storm Brewing Company from Odessa; 3 Daughters Brewing from St. Pete; Motorworks Brewing from Bradenton; Big Top Brewing Company from Sarasota; Fat Point Brewing from Punta Gorda and Naples Beach Brewery from neighboring Naples.

Each will be partnered with a Marco Island restaurant (chop239, CJ’s on the Bay, Konrad’s Tropical Grille, Mango’s Dockside Bistro, Sand Bar and The SpeakEasy).

So let’s talk beer. Each brewery will showcase at least two of their brews. The craft beer industry is known for its creative and amusing beer names like Bru Man Chu, Wavemaker, Rod Bender Red, Bimini Twist and V Twin Lager. Each of these beers is tasty in its own right. There will be no shortage of beer styles from American Amber Ale, Imperial Ale, India Pale Ale, Tripel and Vienna Lager.

In general, America has long been a country devoted to lagers (think Budweiser or Yeungling). We are now expanding our palates to include much more variety and flavor. Those flavors come from the traditional beer recipe: water, malt, hops and yeast. Each style of beer has a specific quantity of certain types of malt (typically malted barley), hops and yeast. Timing and temperature are also critical. Hops added at the end of the brewing process often is the driving flavor in the finished product. Beer referred to as “hoppy” usually is somewhat bitter.

There are also some clever brewers out there who add components at the end of the brewing process. How about fresh mango and ginger? Or grapefruit peel? Oxbow Brewing Company in Portland, Maine, even finished a beer with live lobsters and sea salt this summer – I am not too sure about that!

Come out on Nov. 7 and explore the variety of beer and delicious food – it is sure to be a brew-tastic event.

The fest runs 1-4 p.m. There are 250 regular admission tickets available at $50 in advance and $60 at the door (first-come, first-served). VIP tickets get patrons in an hour early at noon, with access to a VIP lounge and food, $80. Under 21s are $30 (no beer), as well as designated drivers. Buy tickets at CJ’s on the Bay or at the chamber offices, or call 394-7549.

Laura Owen is executive chef and CJ’s on the Bay restaurant manager. This week, she veers away from wine to focus on the working man’s drink.

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