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Berliner Weisse said to be Florida's signature beer style

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Getting ready for the panel discussion at Southern Brewing and Winemaking in Tampa on March 8. (Staff photo / Alan Shaw)

Getting ready for the panel discussion at Southern Brewing and Winemaking in Tampa on March 8. (Staff photo / Alan Shaw)

The Leftovers Party on Friday night at Southern Brewing and Winemaking in Tampa -- part of Tampa Bay Beer Week -- was a lot of fun. There were hundreds of homebrewed beers available for tasting, and the panel discussion I was part of went really well. My fellow panelists:

Rodney Sedillo, president of Special Hoperations homebrew club and cellarman at Tampa Bay Brewing Co.

Michael Lyn Bryant, vice president and general manager of Dunedin Brewery, Florida's oldest craft brewery.

Justin Grant, beer correspondent for the Tampa Bay Times.

Gerard Walen, moderator and editor of Roadtripsforbeer.com and Beerinflorida.com. Walen has frequently written for us here at Ticketsarasota.com.

Several hundred people turned up for the event, and a good number of them attended the panel.

My favorite points:

Craft beer is exploding. All of us agreed that the growth of craft beer in Florida has been exponential. From the number of breweries starting up to the swelling memberships of homebrew clubs, more and more Floridians are getting interested in better beer. Tampa Bay is perhaps the nexus of Florida craft beer, but Jacksonville and South Florida are quickly gaining reputations of their own. But there are vast regions of the state that don't have any craft beer culture that are ripe for growth.

Beer bottle sizes. To try and stir things up, Walen brought up my gripes about the rise of the 750-milliliter bottle and concurrent price increases. Bryant, the professional brewer on the panel, gave a great explanation for the proliferation of 750s.

It's easier for a brewery to package a small batch in a 750 than in a six-pack, he said. A six-pack requires the design of a cardboard holder and a case to hold the six-packs, while putting beer in 750s only requires the design of the label that goes on the bottle.  And a 750 is a classier package than a 12-ounce bottle, and customers are more willing to pay more for a 750 than they are for a 12-ounce.

Berliner Weisse, Florida's signature beer? Grant said he hoped that as Florida's craft beer scene matures the state (and even regions within it) would become known for certain beer styles, in the same way that the Pacific Northwest is known for fresh-hop beers and Southern California is known for its strong India pale ales.

Sedillo said he felt that Berliner Weisse has essentially become the Sunshine State's signature beer. While I hadn't thought of that before, I have to agree with Sedillo. More and more Florida breweries are making versions of this light, tart and thirst-quenching wheat beer. In Germany, where the style originated, flavored syrups are frequently added by bartenders to the beers to offset their tartness. Some Florida breweries are brewing versions with tropical fruit already added. Walen, in a comment on Facebook, suggested calling these beers Florida Weiss, since they aren't strictly adhering to the German original.

Tart and sour beers can be an acquired taste for some, but they can also be as addicting as bitter, hoppy brews.

Do you think Berliner Weisse is Florida's beer? Use the comment field below to sound off.

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Alan Shaw

Alan Shaw has been a fan of craft beer for more than a decade. He is partial to hops and has been an editor at the Herald-Tribune since 1997. He can be reached at (941) 361-4914, by email or mail at 1741 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. Follow him at @alancshaw on Twitter and on Facebook.
Last modified: March 11, 2013
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