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A whirlwind of good times at East Orlando Beer Festival

Submitted by on March 22, 2010 – 9:42 amNo Comment

Beer, food, sunshine, smoke and an unexpected whirlwind added up to make a memorable East Orlando Beer Festival on Saturday.

Photo by Gerard WalenFlorida Beer Festivals put on the bash in a large fenced-off area of the Waterford Lakes Town Center on a gorgeous first day of spring in Central Florida. Many craft and mass-market brews were poured as the thousands of festival-goers moved from booth to booth to sample the offerings.

Among the highlights:

Lots of tasty food samples from such local and national eateries such as Hooters, California Pizza Kitchen, Urban  Flats, Bojangles’ and the Pita Pit.

Among the tasty brews sampled, my top new-to-me three are: Southern Tier’s Oak Aged Unearthly Imperial IPA (IBU: 70, ABV: 11.0%!) , Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale (IBU: 50, ABV: 7.2)  and Abita Jockamo IPA (IBU: 52, ABV 6.5).Photo by Gerard Walen

A really friendly crowd, with many students from the nearby University of Central Florida, all gathered for the love of beer.

A group from the Central Florida Home Brewers Inc. tapped about a half-dozen creations for festival-goers to sample.

Cigarz at Waterford did a brisk business from its sales tent – and at fair prices!

The most unusual event of the day occurred when a languid whirlwind (Dust devil? Mini-tornado) somehow formed  on an otherwise calm day, crossed a corner of the festival area and lifted a portable shelter, a beach umbrella and loose litter about 100 yards into the sky. The crowd cheered as the spinning detritus slowly moved across the parking lot to parts unknown before the wind dissipated. Florida Beer Festivals tracked down some video of the whirlwind and posted it here.

Disclaimer: Tornadoes are no laughing matter, but really, this was no more than a funnel-shaped strong breeze, and no injuries were reported.

Photo by Gerard WalenAnd for about a half-hour, a distant brush fire added more excitement as it formed a towering plume of smoke on the near horizon before firefighters quenched the flames.

If you missed this fest, Florida Beer Festivals is holding two more in Spring 2010:

Greater Gator Beer Festival, Saturday, March 27, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Magnolia Parke, 4700 Northwest 39th Avenue, Gainesville, Florida.

Florida International Beer Festival, Saturday, May 15, 4 to 8 p.m. at Heritage Square, 65 E. Central Blvd., Downtown  Orlando.

Judging by success of the one in East Orlando, you might want to make these festivals a part of your next Florida road trip for beer. And if you can’t make it to those, keep an eye on the Florida Beer Festival website as more are announced – and make a note for next year.

Find more of my photos from the festival here.

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