“I can’t believe it’s been three whole years,” says Graham Jarrett, who launched Beer ’Merica as a consumer beer festival for the public with partners City Beverages in 2016. Canceled in 2020 and 2021, the event will happen this Saturday for the first time since 2019. What makes this festival so special, in addition to all the amazing beverage sampling, is the theme, the entertainment and games, and a beautiful location that truly can’t be beat.
But before we get into all those details, it’s important to remember: Why Beer ’Merica? Well, because the festival serves as the unofficial kick-off to American Craft Beer Week here in Central Florida, hence the “’Merica.” It originated strictly focused on American craft beer. Over the years, the list has grown tremendously and has branched out as trends and tastes have evolved. “The festival will always be rooted in showcasing American craft beers. We have nearly 100 of them this year, but we now have over 60 non-beer drinks, including seltzers, ready-to-drink cocktails and even non-alcoholic beverages. You can have a full day of sampling, and not sip a single beer,” says event manager Miranda Hodge. The list is truly extensive, from local craft breweries Ivanhoe Park Brewing and Sanford Brewing to St. Petersburg’s 3 Daughters, who will have a craft beer tent as well as a “beyond” tent, which will feature Key Lime Margarita and something called a Pineapple Mango Sunset, which sounds delicious. For an entire list of all the varieties, you can check out www.beermericaorlando.com.
Now onto that other stuff that plays a very large part in making this festival feel like the “Official Kick-off to Summer!” First and foremost, there could hardly be a more beautiful setting: under the oak trees on the banks of Lake Ivanhoe in the shadow of Downtown Orlando’s skyline. It’s a perfect place to be outside for a festival, so a festival is in store! In fact, don’t be surprised if you think you see a clown, a superhero or what looks like they strayed here from the Electric Daisy Carnival. Beer ’Merica attendees take the theme to the extreme, and don some of the most outrageous and adorable “all-American” outfits, including tutus, face paint, dyed hair, jumpers, bodysuits and everything imaginable. Regular attire is allowed, but fun-themed and over-the-top is highly encouraged!
In true festival fashion, live music will blast from the main stage: popular headliner Tom O’Keef Trio returns from 2019, doing ’90s pop-punk favorites. Orlando Beer Festival resident DJ from 2019 and 2021 DJ ET will also mix hits from all genres that will get even the most reserved to the front of the stage by the end of the day! In the game zone, DJ Kurt will keep the beats, holding court over the jumbo beer pong, giant jenga, cornhole matches and Team Vision Dojo professional wrestling. But if you’re more into getting into your own zone, Sweetwater Brewing Company will provide headphones for you to enjoy tunes pumped in by yet another live DJ, silent disco style! And what’s a Saturday in a beautiful park without our best friends? Indeed, friendly, leashed dogs are welcome (no charge!) and a handful of vendors will be on the north end near the entrance just to cater to your pet’s needs. Best of all, all 150 beverage samples, all the games, all the vendors, all the entertainment — all of it is included with the price of your ticket, which makes this a festival that’s hard to beat.
The only thing you might want to spend a few bucks on would be delicious local food and the charity raffles and silent auction. When it comes to food, Cholo Dogs, Chillin Tacos and Supreme Wings are among the top options for nosh. As for good causes, Camaraderie Foundation returns in support of their mission “to provide healing for invisible wounds of war through counseling, emotional and spiritual support for all branches of Military Service Members, Veterans and their families.” Making their Beer ’Merica debut is local nonprofit the Getaboard Foundation, who believes that action sports, creative art, STEM and literacy help underprivileged youth build self-esteem, self-respect and self-confidence. To learn more about these great organizations, check out www.CamaraderieFoundation.org and www.Getaboard.org.
The event goes from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. in Gaston Edwards Park in Ivanhoe Village, with VIP entry starting at 2 p.m. VIPs get that extra hour to take first crack at all the delicious beverages. Then they can hang in their private section with complimentary bites from Publix Aprons Cooking School and enjoy their own beer sampling station, private seating and restrooms. As of publication, less than twenty VIP tickets were still available.
Beer ’Merica Ticket Info: This event is a “21+” event, with no exceptions. Advance general admission tickets are currently $45 (plus applicable tax and fees) and will increase to $50 the day of the event. VIP is currently $75 (plus applicable tax and fees) and will increase to $80 the day of the event. (However, VIP is anticipated to sell out prior to event day.) Tickets may only be purchased online at www.beermericaorlando.com.