IF YOU GO
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Oct. 19
WHERE: Keel & Curley Winery, 5210 W. Thonotosassa Road
Keel & Curley Winery will celebrate the introduction of its new beer label, Two Henrys Brewing Company, this weekend with a hopping kick-off party.
The Plant City winery’s first Biertoberfest will take place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at 5210 W. Thonotosassa Road. In addition to samples of Two Henrys brews, the festival will feature a variety of craft beers from throughout Tampa Bay, live entertainment, a cornhole tournament, food vendors and more.
The idea for Biertoberfest came from the winery’s desire to host a fall festival. Inspired by the German Oktoberfest, Keel & Curley decided to theme its autumn bash as a celebration of craft brewing. To help host such an event, Keel & Curley owners modified the winery to accompany the new label, building a dark wood bar inside the tasting room and another bar outside that will serve beer.
“We’re always looking for something new and to diversify,” Marketing Director Clay Keel said.
The idea for Two Henrys began a little over a year ago — largely from the growth the Keel family saw in the craft brewing industry. The industry posted 15% growth by volume in 2012, according to the Brewers Association.
The winery had the facilities and equipment to sustain a brewing operation. So, the owners began brainstorming a label concept. Named after Henry Plant and Henry Flagler, it was a good way to pay homage to Plant City as well as Florida. Plant and Flagler were the two businessmen largely responsible for forming the railroad system the state has today.
Keel began playing around with recipes last September and traveled to conferences and gatherings with his father, owner Joe Keel.
“It’s really a brotherhood,” Keel said of the beer community. “It’s a pretty open community.”
Keel used recipes from networking and research. Then, he added his own spin. For the IPA, he added more caramel to lessen the bitterness on the hop.
Attendees will be able to sample a pale ale, stout and black IPA, which will be for sale. The winery currently is working on its pilsner.
In addition to the Two Henrys samples, attendees also will get to sample brews from throughout Tampa Bay. There are 14 different home brewers signed up to bring their craft to your cup. Many participants will be bringing more than one type of beer and will have multiple people with their own brews. The Brandon Bootleggers Homebrew Club will have at least seven members in attendance. Two are from Plant City — Mike Sweet and Steve Spencer (see sidebar).
“We both like better brewed beers,” Sweet said.
“There’s so many different flavors, but with wine, you’re limited,” Spencer said. “There’s only so many varieties of grapes.”
Sweet has been brewing for 13 years and said he has seen a recent upward trend in the popularity of home-brewing and microbreweries.
“There’s a boom in the industry,” Sweet said. “It’s popping off.”
As of March 18, the Brewers Association is aware of 409 brewery openings in 2012 — 310 microbreweries and 99 brewpubs.
The home-brewers are excited for Biertoberfest and hope to meet other Plant City home-brewers in the process.
“Most of the microbreweries are out in St. Pete or Tampa,” Sweet said. “It’s hard not having anything in between here and Orlando.”
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PLANT CITY BREWED
Mike Sweet and Steven Spencer have been brewing their own beer for a combined total of 16 years.
Sweet introduced Spencer to the hobby three years ago. Since then, they have invested in larger equipment and moved their operation to Spencer’s home. They even built a bar to accommodate their tastings.
Both will showcase different samples at Biertoberfest. They also are looking to network with local brewers. The duo currenly is part of the Brandon Bootleggers, but, if there is enough interest in Plant City, Sweet and Spencer would consider starting a local club.
Anyone interested should contact Sweet, MikePSweet@gmail.com.
TIME BREWING: 13 years
HOMEBREWING CAREER: Mike Sweet received a beer kit as a Christmas gift from his wife, Realtor Natalie Sweet. Before he knew it, Sweet was building a “keezer” — or keg freezer — with a three tap tower and experimenting with different recipes. He started bringing his beer to social gatherings. Soon, he also was bringing it to different plays produced by Hal Brewer and even charity golf tournaments.
FAVORITE BREW: IPAs
BIERTOBERFEST SAMPLES: Dark maple syrup, wheat, blueberry wheat
TIME BREWING: Three years
HOMEBREWING CAREER: While Steven Spencer’s son was involved in scouts, he met Sweet, who introduced him to the hoppy hobby. He was retired from Verizon and thought it would be a great way to spend his free time. Now, the duo uses his home and bar as their base of operations. Stir plates, stainless steal vats and coolers litter his back porch.
FAVORITE BREW: Pale ales
BIERTOBERFEST SAMPLES: Red IPA, Bavarian Doppelbock