TAMPA — In the battle of beer, Bucs and band, it was the brew that emerged on top among the early arrivals for the Oktoberfest event in the south parking lot of Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.
Nearly 70 craft beers were poured along the back of the entertainment tent, slaking the early-day thirst of attendees who also were treated to live music and a jumbo screen showing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Event planner John Santoro expected brew and football fans to come from as far away as Naples and Orlando.
The event, which also offered a variety of food, ran from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. Though entry was free, it did cost to taste. Tickets ranged from $45 for unlimited tasting for three hours to $75 for unlimited tasting, VIP seating and a commemorative stein.
Thousands were expected to attend the inaugural Craft Beer Oktoberfest, said Santoro who works for Sunset Events, which staged the beer bash along with Sailaway Productions. He said promoters hope to hold the event annually in October when the Bucs are playing an away game.
“Year one,” he said, “you lose money. Year two, you break even and year three, you start to make money.”
The event is a natural fit with Tampa, he said, which is emerging in the craft beer market. Years ago, he said, such an event would tap four or five different brands of beer. This year, there were 67 flavors from a 37 brewers, including Tampa’s own Cigar City Brewing.
Samantha Mathias slung beers for Cigar City, which offered five of its more popular flavors, as 10th Concession played a mix of pop rock.
“We’re here for the band,” said Stephanie Schulte of Tampa, as she sipped a sample beer with her friend, Jessica Johnson, who dates the bass player. “I guess we’ll support the Bucs too. They need it.”
Pennie Friendly and Candy Rodgers strolled in, eager to get out of the blazing sun, and under the entertainment tent for some shade. They sported wristbands that said they could sample unlimited brews until 3 p.m. Both made no bones about it. They were there for the beer.
“Look,” Friendly said, pulling a handful of papers out of her purse. “I’ve got a list of them. We are going to create some trouble.”