Local craft-beer influencer Kris Marino wants you to meet and greet some of the nation’s best brewers and sample dozens of uber-rare beers with the 2022 edition of Free the Whales.
The annual beer bash, whose inaugural year took the form of an invite-only party to celebrate Marino’s birthday at J. Wakefield Brewing before moving on to the now-shuttered Boxelder in 2014, is unlike any other.
Now a successful beer festival in its own right, Free the Whales stands as one of the city’s first large-scale craft-beer events. The name is a homage to the festival’s mantra of highlighting each attending brewery’s rarest, hard-to-find beers, the ones industry folk refer to as “whales.”
“While that type of festival is becoming more popular, we were one of the first,” Marino tells New Times. “It’s really a thank-you to everyone in the community that’s made Florida beer what it is today.”
On Saturday, July 2, the nation’s best breweries will take over Tripping Animals Brewing Co. in Doral for the seventh annual Free the Whales.
This year’s edition will showcase more than 60 venerable and up-and-coming breweries from Florida and across the nation. During the five-hour event, each participating brewery will offer several of its most inventive and limited-batch brews — which adds up to unlimited pours of more than 100 of the nation’s most exclusive beers.
“Our goal is to always offer something different. I’m always trying to find new breweries that haven’t been in Florida,” said Marino.
Participating Florida breweries include Fort Lauderdale-based Orchestrated Minds and Dream State Brewing, Orlando-based Ellipsis, and Dunedin’s Seventh Sun. The festival’s 2022 out-of-state talent will showcase newcomers Xul Beer Co. from Nashville; New York-based Froth Brewing, Obercreek Brewing, and Tin Barn Brewing; Virginia-based The Answer; Georgia’s Little Cottage Brewery; Iowa-based Lua Brewing; and Pennsylvania’s Country Club Brewing.
Over that weekend, Marino will release several beers brewed especially for the event. They include Killer Oreo, a 22-month barrel-aged imperial stout treated with Honduran cacao nibs, chocolate wafers, Oreo cookies, and Madagascar vanilla, brewed by Pontoon Brewing; Whale Oil, an imperial stout brewed by Ology Brewing aged for 27 months in Blanton’s bourbon barrels, then two months in rye whiskey barrels, and finished with vanilla, almond, and marshmallow; and Blubber, an imperial stout brewed by Lua Brewing that’s aged in Old Fitzgerald and Blanton’s bourbon barrels for 14 and 25 months, respectively. Bottles will range in price from $20 to $30 apiece and will be available to purchase from Tripping Animals via the Oznr app on the day of the event.
Marino has curated a wide array of food vendors, which this year include Tripping Animals Brewing’s new in-house restaurant, Meat N’ Bone Kitchen, as well as Miami pop-ups Lazy Oyster, Luchadough, Panolo’s, Ted’s Burgers, and Off Site restaurant in Miami’s Little River neighborhood.
As in years past, expect plenty more in cans and bottles to add to the lineup. If you’re so inclined, the event’s BYOB ethos encourages guests to bring their own whales to share.
“We’re still encouraging sharing and that original beer-festival culture,” Marino says. “That is part of our humble beginnings, when we were emptying our cellars to put together a cool event.”
A limited number of tickets are on sale via Eventbrite. General admission tickets cost $80 per person and include access to the event at 1 p.m., a Free the Whales tasting glass, and unlimited pours. VIP tickets cost $100 per person with the same premiums but gets you in at noon. There’s also a $50 three-hour entry ticket that comes with glass and the pours but you can’t get in till 2 p.m. New Times readers receive a discount of $20 per ticket by using the code “newtimes” at checkout.
Free the Whales. Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 2, at Tripping Animals Brewery, 2685 NW 105th Ave., Doral; instagram.com/freethewhalesbeerfest.