Sarasota Florida Wine and Beverage Event: 2023

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Craft beer lovers gather outside of Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium for their inauguaral Sharktoberfest Event in Sarasota, Florida  ©Dawn Damico

What happens when you drop Oktoberfest in the middle of a shark tank?

Sharktoberfest! This past weekend’s craft beer festival at Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida, was a big hit with beer lovers and marine life enthusiasts. Even the sharks seemed to enjoy the night.

Mote Marine is no stranger to firsts. It is one of Florida’s oldest marine research laboratories, and they can add this past weekend’s inaugural Sharktoberfest event to their list of “firsts.” I attended Sharktoberfest with hundreds of other marine life and craft beer enthusiasts in the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium courtyard on Saturday, October 14, 2023, and what a treat!

 

Sharktoberfest Mote Marine Sarasota is like…

The entrance to the Oktoberfest event at Mote Aquarium in Sarasota, Florida

The Mote Aquarium courtyard was transformed into a Beer Garden during Sharktoberfest, where Sarasota residents sampled local craft beer.  ©Dawn Damico

Picture yourself wandering among a mesmerizing sea of aquariums, their deep blue waters brimming with life and lights, setting the mood for your tasting adventure. You hang a lanyard around your neck, securing your beer-tasting vessel. As you take in the sights, smiling at new friends, whimsical Oktoberfest-themed performers on stilts glide by, their playful antics paying homage to Sarasota’s rich circus heritage. Guests engage in friendly games of cornhole, live music fills the courtyard from a stage perched at the top of the shark tank, and a dizzying variety of beverages flow. You are likely to find new favorites here!

The mood was electric! Maybe because they postponed the much-anticipated event last year because of Hurricane Ian or because people love our local craft brews…and sharks! Either way, the event was a huge success.

This inaugural Sarasota craft beer event showcased 19 local and regional breweries that provided a tasting of some of their brewery’s favorite beers in addition to seasonal samplings.
The participating breweries included:

Drinking Local: One Craft Beer at a Time!

Brewers at Sharktoberfest stand ready at their tables to pour samples of craft beer for guests

Local Craft Brewers pour samples of their tap room favorites, seasonal flavors and other beverages. Pictured here, Clay Robinson of Sun King Brewery.  © Dawn Damico

I appreciated meeting some of the brewers and owners because you see the people who make what they pour into your sampler glass. I’ve discovered that every brewery, taproom, and business owner has a story. That story often begins with a passion for making something they love and sharing it with others.

Like Clay Robinson from Sun King Brewery, a new-ish Sarasota resident who started his brewery adventure in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was there where he and his business partner Dave Colt worked together at several brewpubs before cooking up the idea to venture out on their own. Today, Sun King Brewery still operates in Indiana, and Clay and his family have come to Sarasota to spread a little of that beer love to Floridians. Try the Orange Vanilla Sunlight Cream Ale…yum!

Fat Point Brewing recently opened its taproom at the University Town Center (UTC) Mall in Sarasota after brewing for years as a local favorite in Punta Gorda, Florida. They are champions of the Drink Local and Eat Local philosophy. They create their flavors using local, Florida-grown produce. The freshness and taste from this locally grown focus definitely come through in their Pumpka Gouda Spiced Ale, made with real pumpkin. I’m not always a fan of pumpkin-flavored beverages, but this was an exception.

I also enjoyed the unique flavors!

We sampled the Big Storm Vodka Soda Mango Banana from Big Storm Brewery. What a great flavor combination when you want something tropical and tasty!

Coming from Spain, Pulpoloco has a line of Sangria in earth-friendly paper cans. The fruity flavors of strawberry lemonade, lemon ginger, and traditional fruits (the one I sampled) were rich without being overly sweet. I could see how pairing this with ginger beer served extra cold over ice would make a delicious holiday beverage or something nice all year.

SweetWater Brewing Company has an IPA without the signature bitterness of an IPA! Gummies Tropical IPA gives your taste buds a hint of fruitiness from the passionfruit, pineapples, and tangerine combo. One I look forward to trying is their SweetWater Oasis Premium Hard Seltzers because they say they have packed them with electrolytes, antioxidants, and Vitamin C.

Then, what else would you expect from the tie-dye-wearing host for Mother Kombucha but to serve up uniquely flavored small-batch beverages that are good for you and the environment? I love that this woman-owned business is intentional about how they create their kombucha, from sourcing, to processing, to the care of their employees. That’s excellent stewardship. Plus, their Lavender Mojito Kombucha combines a unique blend of flavors that goes down smooth with the kiss of lavender. We met one of the event guests at this display who used to own a pharmacy. She was very enthusiastic about Mother Kombucha, and told me that it was very popular with her customers. We later tried their Turmeric Ginger Lemonade Kombucha from our local store and the mellow flavors were another win.

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These are just a few highlights from all the Florida local craft beer and beverages represented at the Sharktoberfest. I’m looking forward to extending the experience by visiting the tap rooms for each brewery and watching for other beverages at our local stores.

 

What Else Was at the 2023 Sharktoberfest at Mote Marine Aquarium in Sarasota?

Representative from Mother Kombucha, wearing a tye-dye shirt, pouring beverage samples at the Mote Marine Sharktoberfest event in Sarasota, FL

There was more than craft beer represented at Sharktoberfest at Mote Aquarium. Other beverages like Mother Kombucha, local craft and gift vendors, live music, backyard games, and food stations were also enjoyed by guests.  ©Dawn Damico

In addition to the entertainment, food stations, live music, craft beers, and other beverages, local artisans were on hand to tempt guests with their merchandise. For next year’s event, I recommend being ready to pick up some gifts for you, your family, and your friends!

Quality items like those from Tricia Bolds from Gulf Coast Custom Designs were available. She had an impressive variety of wood art, charcuterie, and cutting boards on display. We are lucky that she is in Sarasota, and when you visit her website, you can find out which local art shows you can find her at.

Another stunning display was from owner/creator Priscilla Shelter from The Wooden Fence Designs. Her jewelry and home decor collection has a soft color palette and is dainty and pretty. Be sure to visit her website and follow her Instagram account.

There were other great vendors on hand as well, providing a well-rounded selection of goods to enjoy, like:

Openwater Relics with a collection of shark tooth jewelry
Grammy’s Dog Bandanas
Sea Monkey Apparel
Aaron Willoughby Jewelry
Claire and Cleo

 

There was a VIP Tasting Event held before the the main Sharktoberfest Beer Festival. With selections from local brewers and a curated menu of light bites, I’m sure it was a wonderful experience.

And of course, the entire event is held at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, so you have the opportunity to admire the displays and talk with the docents on hand to learn about the Aquarium’s work and marine life in, around, and under the waters of Florida.

Be sure to add Mote Aquarium’s Sharktoberfest Event on your calendar for next year and set a reminder to purchase your tickets early. This year’s event was sold out. They have other events and programs throughout the year too so it’s easy to find something to do in Sarasota when you love marine life and Florida!