Get to know history of local breweries with free screening of new film Tampa Beer: Crafting the Bay

The Tampa Bay Area has a growing passion for locally crafted beer, with small breweries popping up frequently over the last decade or so. But beer culture has been around for much longer, starting with Florida’s first brewery, The Florida Brewing Company, which opened back in 1896.

Intrigued by this history, Tampa Bay filmmaker and beer-lover James Blankenfeld followed 16 Tampa and St. Pete breweries to create the documentary film Tampa Beer: Crafting the Bay
“Cigar City Brewing was forefront of that current craft beer boom. They opened around 2007, and that’s when they opened the door for craft breweries to exist in Tampa Bay,” says Blankenfeld, Director of Tampa Beer. “Tampa is a destination to begin with anyways with sports, the beach, and Disney not far away. Beer goes so well with living that laid-back lifestyle which is why we have over 80 breweries in the area and still growing.”
Blankenfeld and his wife have always been fans of craft beer. When they moved from Brooklyn to St. Pete in 2014, they noticed an exponential growth in the sheer amount of breweries in the area and saw a story there. They wanted to know why Tampa was becoming such a large hub for craft brews in the Southeast: touching on our bubbly history, what goes into making beer, and the individuals behind the brew.
“We wanted to make sure to focus on the people too: the passion, the love, and the craft of what makes these people wake up and do what they do,” Blankenfeld says. “A lot of the breweries say that if you need hops or barley, you need to get stuff from Germany but whenever they can use local fruit, coffee, or chocolate, they want to do that. Not only do they team up with other small businesses, but there’s also a lot of camaraderie between breweries, with them helping each other out, that people don’t know about.”
For those interested in learning more about their favorite local breweries, Tampa Theatre in partnership with Film Tampa Bay and Visit Tampa Bay will be hosting a free community screening of Tampa Beer: Crafting the Bay on Friday, Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m. The film will run for 1 h 22 min. 
“We also have section on COVID as well. It wasn’t something we were going to touch on in the 6 years of planning to make this film, but as soon as it happened, our approach to making the film had to change. It shows the human side of these breweries and seeing the struggle of what they were going through with shutdowns and playing catch-up,” Blankenfeld explains. “We want to get this film out to the masses and hope that we can get people to visit breweries again and help out these businesses that rely on community by reminding them of why Tampa is so great at producing beer.”
Plan to stick around after the film is over, as Blankenfeld leads a Q&A session with folks from a few of the top local breweries, like 7venth Sun Brewery, Cigar City Brewing, Coppertail Brewing Co., Green Bench Brewing Company, and Tampa Bay Brewing Company.
Though the event is free, reservations are required by visiting the Tampa Theatre website.
Can’t make it to this event? After this screening, they are working on getting the documentary into the Sunscreen and Gasparilla Film Festivals to have two local screenings in film fest circuit. They also are planning a mini media tour with breweries featured in the film. Eventually, they hope to find a distributor and partner with a brand like Netflix so that people can watch from the comfort of their homes.

To keep up with upcoming events, follow them on Facebook and Instagram: @TampaBeerDoc.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Caitlin Albritton.

Caitlin Albritton is a freelance writer based in Tampa with a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and a MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. When she's not looking at art throughout town, she can be found making it. You can keep up with her visual art on Instagram @caitlinalbritton or on her website. Visit her recent line of inlay “wearable paintings.”