Beercation 2017 – Preparation (Subtitled “Hey Irma… We’re still standing!!”)

I don’t know about the rest of you but the last few months for me have been extremely busy. We in Florida had a rather worrisome lady friend, named Irma, give us one helluva visit in September! She may not have been as dangerous as we thought she was going to be, but she was plenty dangerous enough for me.

Her arrival in the wee early morning hours on September 11th, and her subsequent departure later in the day, left the utility company I work for enough to keep us busy for 8 straight days of 17 hour shifts. By the time it was over we were exhausted, but we had services back up to 100% of our customers in that time frame. A lot of other places in Florida weren’t as fortunate.

This also put a little bit of a time constraint I had on prepping a new RV trailer I purchased the week before, Labor Day weekend. When I got the trailer home I took Tucker and his new little buddy Harley (I was babysitting Rowdy’s dog while she and the Cooler were out of town.) out to see the new toy and they were plenty excited.

Later that day I began making plans for a vacation to Asheville, NC. I booked a KOA camp site, looked up a list of breweries and pubs that I haven’t been to yet and highlighted those that were pet friendly as Tucker is accompanying me, then began an itinerary that included some time at Grandfather Mountain, hiking, and just some relaxing.

Then upon returning to work on the Tuesday after Labor Day we were entered into full blown Storm Prep. Any plans I were working on were forgotten in the milieu that accompanied the approaching doom. You may think I am exaggerating, but at the time Irma was tracking on a course that would bring her right up the middle of the state, the worst possible scenario. The devastation from that trajectory would do so much harm that the recovery could take months.

At work we prepped as best we could, contacting Vendors to get as much material in ahead of time that we could, seeing what was lined up to come in and what was available after Harvey had torn up Texas. I have to give some credit here because the Vendors that we use for supplying our material needs really stepped up and made sure we were a priority for them. After that is was a matter of battening down the hatches and securing the facilities. By the end of business that Friday, except for a couple of last minute deliveries we had set-up for that Saturday and Sunday, we were about as ready as we could be for this storm.
I attended a little pre-storm beer session with my fellow Beer Bacchanalians that early Friday evening and, in between answering phone calls and emails from work on my cell phone, managed to enjoy a couple of last brews before the storm hit.

All of Saturday was spent on phone calls and emails coordinating schedules for after the storm restoration and determining who would be hunkered down at work during the storm. I spent so much time on this that I wasn’t able to get the outside of the house prepped for the storm until late Sunday morning. I was picking up deck chairs and making sure the new RV was secure while it was raining cats and dogs.

Around 10 PM my power blinked out once for about 5 minutes. I took that as a hint that it was fixing to get bad, so when the power came back on I turned everything off and went to bed to await Irma’s imminent arrival. I actually spent the next couple of hours texting back and forth with my sisters who both also live in Florida. Tucker had fits all during the evening as the sounds of the storm made him restless.

Around 1 AM I woke up to the sound of the wind howling like a banshee around the house and through the trees that surround my neighborhood. I began hearing the sound of the house creaking loudly coming from the corner that my bedroom was in. The sound of the wind and the creaking was enough to make me rethink my location so I got up and laid down a couple of sleeping bags in the hallway between my office and the guest room. That was centrally located and probably provided the best protection in case of a tree falling or the roof lifting off. Tucker followed me and while we tried to get some rest we both had little of it that night.

At 430 AM my alarm went off and while I was already awake I knew I need to grab my flashlight and begin getting ready for the early morning storm briefing. At that point Irma had passed over us but we were still experiencing tropical force winds and would until about Noon that day. I checked out the house and saw some damage to the privacy fence but near damage to the main structure so I changed clothes and went in to work.

That alone was a difficult task. Not only were trees and limbs down all over town and well as power out to most of the traffic lights, but the entrance to my neighborhood was under about three feet of water. I know that because when I drove though it, as it came up to the bottom door of my pick-up truck. Some of my neighbors were stuck there with the lower cars they had.

So we all went in at Noon and worked til 10 PM that night. Then went home and came back at 5 AM in the morning and again worked until 10 PM. This routine repeated for the next 6 days.

By Friday morning, all of us had been at this for at this for at least 61 hours, some longer because of the preparations for the storm. As I looked around the room all I saw were tired faces. Tired… but determined.

Sunday morning while we’re dragging ourselves in to try and finish restoration to the last 1.5%  of the community, while most of the folks in the area are already back to their Sunday routines of church, family gatherings and NFL football. That routine is what the last 1.5% wants to get back to… and so do we. But we’re not done yet.

As the day wears on the effect of the fatigue we are feeling becomes very evident when one of my staff members is injured. Luckily, the injury is just a simple contusion,  but it could have been worse and would have been easier to prevent if we weren’t all exhausted. After getting him a medical check out at the Health Center we sent him home with a lesson learned for all of us.

By Sunday night we have all but 380 customers back and we plan to start working on those at first light. That is less than 0.4% of our customers. Well over 60,000 restored within a 7 day period. By Tuesday morning we had restored all customers back to service.

Nothing enhances flavor quite like the deprivation of it. Going home for the first time in daylight that day I was finally able to do a better evaluation of my home and how it survived the storm. I talked to some of my neighbors to see how they fared. And I noticed that someone had cleaned up some of the debris in my yard and piled it for pick-up. The neighbors know I work for the utility company and knew I was at work while they could start making repairs on the damage they went through. Not only did the company I work for pull together to get everyone back up and running, but the community as a whole pulled together to help each other out.

The next weekend I began working on replacing a portion of the privacy fence. I also restarted prepping the RV for a trip I was planning in October. That was the first time I had been able to enjoy a beer since before the storm hit. I don’t know if it was deprivation or just a really good beer but nothing has tasted so good in a long time.

The following Monday the 25th I was joined by Rowdy and the Cooler for a Taps and Tapas dinner at Blackadder Brewing. An excellent 4 course meal accompanied by 5 excellent beers.

The following Saturday brought more rain back into the area but Rowdy and I decided to attend the Bacon and Brew fest in Deland Florida. They had some excellent Bacon available but the beer ran out in less than two hours. As you can see from the picture below we weren’t happy about that.

We did however decide to visit one of the breweries in town, Persimmon Brewing, which had some very good beers. And Rowdy’s Mom joined us and we went to Yola Mac and Grilled Cheese for some food. Excellent food bit the service was only so-so.

I finally finished the section of fence by this last Tuesday night and continued prepping for the vacation to Asheville NC, this Saturday. Tucker and I are both ready for a road trip and I have picked out some pet friendly places in Asheville to visit.

Today I am attending the Gator Homecoming Parade with my fellow Beer Bacchanalians and Gainesville House of Beer. Then I will finish up my preparations from the trip and leave for Ashville in the morning.

Tucker and I will report in on our visitations and provide some much needed information for this blog. It’s been too long without some wordage!

Papabear

My Annual Drink with Dad!! Craft Beer vs Macro!!

Today is my Dad’s 75th birthday. Or it would be if he were still with us. He passed away in ’98 and since then I have taken this day to drink a beer with him.  I don’t know if it’s to make up for all those I didn’t get to drink with him or just my way of remembering him, but wherever I am I hunt down his beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and drink it in his remembrance. Today I picked Gainesville House of Beer for this annual event.

Most of us probably learned about beer from our Dad’s. Even though there are lot more female beer drinkers today than have been (at least in the US) in the last couple hundred years, I would bet even most of them learned about beer from their Dad’s. The same way we learn a lot of things from our fathers, they do, we watch, we repeat.

That’s right son…now shake it a little bit…

I can remember as a kid helping Dad work on the car or some other work around the house and he would take a break and crack open a bottle or snap open a can, then slowly pour back the container and let it roll down  then would stop and tip his head back up and slowly let the beer roll around on his tongue before he swallowed it.  Then I would hear the inevitable, yet interesting “Aaaaaaahhh!”

I may not have known what he was having the first time I heard that sound but I certainly knew he was enjoying it. I catch myself doing the same thing occasionally. It’s that sound you make when you feel that quench being satisfied or the pang being quelled.

I just finished his PBR and am moving on to 3 Daughters Key Lime Cider because in Florida in July light and refreshing is the way to finish on a hot day.  Having said that while it did help cleanse my pallet it was not quite the “Aaaaaahhh!” I was hoping for.

You see there a couple others things I learned from Dad. He wasn’t afraid to try something new.. at least not when it came to beer. After I got back from the Air Force or any time I went up to PA on vacation we made it a point to at least go out to a bar together at least once and have at least one beer. And it was always a draft, never a bottle or can. I learned from him that draft beers usually taste better than packaged, something that usually still holds true today. At least for me. We also tried to find a beer that we hadn’t had before.

More than a few people have asked me if I thought my Dad would have liked Craft Beer or stuck with his go to. I can answer that easily. His go to beer was for sitting around the house on the weekend and doing odd chores like working on the car or helping relatives build something, or having with a family picnic. But whenever he and I went to a bar together we would always have something different. I get the tendency for that from him.

Me with my Nova SS and Dad with his Nash

Rowdy came in and joined me when the cider hit the bar in front of me. She stuck around and we philosphied a bit while supping suds. When I finished the cider I ordered an Old Rasputin Nitro, which I had had before but not as a nitro, which changes the texture of the beer certainly, but the flavor a little bit too.

I like the coffee flavor of Old Rasputin tempered slightly with the hint of chocolate, but when you add the nitro you take what could be to some a heavy feeling beer and add a nice malty feel to it. Now that’s the “Aaaaaaahhhhh!!!’ I was looking for.

So, Dad, I started this out with your go-to Macro beer, but ended up finishing it with a great Craft Beer I think you would have enjoyed trying with me. Order another round at that bar in the sky and give Mom a hug from me. Cheers!!

Papabear

Cypress & Grove Brewing and Indigo’s Homemade Ice Cream – New FLavors in Town!!!

So part of my July 4th weekend was spent doing the usual, grilling food and spending time with friends and family. Part of this involved visiting a couple of new places in Gainesville as well as some of our regular haunts.

On Friday, June 30th, the Maestro and I met up at First Magnitude to begin Supping back some Suds and begin some earnest Philosophying. I started off with their Dunkulla Weizenbock  which was a great example of a good roasty Weizenbock flavor. I also sampled their Kemp’s Ridley Radler and it tasted good but sweeter than I expected. But the highlight for me at First Mag that evening was their New England Style IPA Trop Hop, which had strong citrus and floral notes in the nose but a great IPA flavor with a clean finish, a very refreshing beer.

First Mag Dunkulla
Trop Hop – New England Style IPA

While there, the Maestro and I started up a conversation with two other gents, both Gator Alumni and one was visiting for the first time in many years. We discussed a lot of the changes that had happened around town since he had been here last. Then they eventually told us they had just left another brewery called Cypress & Grove Brewing that had just opened up.

Now I knew there was a new brewery opening, that was originally going to be called Rainstorm Brewing but they had to do a name change for some reason, but I never heard the new name. But when these gents told us where it was located I knew it was the same place. So the Maestro and I wrapped our conversation and decided to head over there and see what offerings they had available.

In the interim, Rowdy and the Cooler had texted us to see if we were still at First Mag so we told them where we were headed and said to meet us there.

Cypress & Grove has only had a soft opening so far and is still undergoing some construction. For instance the AC was not installed yet the night we went and they have a large game area where they will probably have Corn Hole games and other games set-up. But without the AC it was very hot in that section as well.

They had a small list of beers available, but they also had a wine and some of their own seltzer water with flavoring for any young ones. The beers listed included a Blonde, a Pale Ale, an IPA and a Stout. They haven’t come up with any catchy names yet so if you go to look the beers up on Untappd it’s just under the brewery name for now.

I started out with their IPA which had a pretty good flavor and finish. I would definitely order it again. The Maestro said they same about their Pale Ale. My second glass was their Stout which had a traditional Stout flavor and reminded me of a Guinness. I have to be careful when trying Stouts anymore as more and more folks are putting out Chocolate Stouts and Barrel-Aged Stouts and a normal Stout really doesn’t compare to those. But if you like Guinness you will probably like this one.

Cypress & Grove IPA
Cypress & Grove Stout

I asked some folks on the staff and the Grand Opening will be in August sometime. By then I suspect they will have the AC in place. But if you can take the heat I would recommend stopping by and trying some of their fare.

After our second beer there I was hungry and suggested we adjourn to Satchel’s for dinner, which the Maestro, Rowdy and the Cooler all agreed was a good idea.

Our wait at Satchel’s was short and we were shown to a table pretty quickly for a Friday evening. We decided to share a small house salad and do a Democratic large pizza. I call it Democratic because it includes 4 toppings and there were four of us present so we each got to pick a topping and each had a veto power over a topping. Democracy in action on a holiday weekend celebrating our liberty’s….

Sorry, I just felt a lump forming in my throat.

To accompany the pizza I ordered the Big John’s Apricot Wheat from Bold City Brewing. I gotta tell you I love Satchel’s, but that night the pizza, salad and beer combination really hit the spot. I left completely sated.

The second part of this blog story takes place the Monday after this visit on July 3rd. I worked that day and had a cold come back on me over the weekend so plans I had to visit a new Ice Cream shop over the weekend had been delayed. I was originally going to try and bring my sister, her husband and the kids with me, but since I didn’t go out on the weekend and this is kind of on my way home, I decided instead to see if they offered to-go quarts, which they do.

Indigo’s Homemade hasn’t been open a year yet and I actually discovered them through Twitter. But I have to say, when you first walk in the door it’s got a very nostalgic feel to it. The décor is definitely 50’s style with that old soda shop look to it. In the background you hear music from the 50’s/60’s and can see the accompanying videos on a couple of flat screen TVs.

Panoramic shot of Indigo’s Homemade

The ice cream is in large container’s under a glass display where you can easily see them. I don’t remember the exact number but I am guessing they had 24 different flavors of ice cream to choose from. They have a waffle iron on the back counter where they make their own waffle cones. And they have enough homemade syrups and toppings to make any dish served very personally tailored.

I talked with the lady behind the counter while she filled my quarts and found out that the ice cream is made locally by a company in Tampa, but it is fresh made and uses local ingredients, except for the Caramel which comes from Peru and the chocolate in the Dutch Chocolate, which is one of the quarts I ordered. The other two were Vanilla and Strawberry Cheescake. The service was great and the décor was very well done.

The real test though came later that night after dinner. I decided again to play Democracy and give every flavor a chance at impressing me. Unfortunately, it is next to impossible for me to try and have something like ice cream without Tucker catching wind of it, no matter how hard I try. So the entire time I was scooping and sampling he was right there watching.

Now some of you may ask with 24 flavors available why I would order Vanilla. I like Vanilla, particularly good Vanilla. And I have to tell you this is good Vanilla. Really good flavor and the texture is very smooth and that buttery-creamy texture that homemade ice cream should have. It was sweet without having that over-sweet flavor that a lot of store bought ice cream has.

The Strawberry Cheesecake doesn’t just taste like strawberry cheesecake, it has chucks of strawberries and cheesecake in it. And the Dutch Chocolate doesn’t taste like store-bought milk chocolate ice cream, but dark chocolate from the Black Forest Region of Germany. Rich flavor without being sickeningly sweet with a creamy texture. I gotta say I loved all three and am looking forward to another bowl this evening.

I definitely recommend stopping by Indigo’s Homemade. I certainly will again and the next time I want one of their homemade waffle cones.

Just an FYI I couldn’t resist letting Tucker lick the bowl. And he wants more too.

Papabear

 

Celebrate Independence!! with genuine Craft (Independent) Beer!

So if you have seen any of the latest Craft Beer related news lately you may have seen some hub-bub both from the Macro side of the aisle and from the Independent (formerly referred to as Craft) side of the aisle.

It all has to do with the newly created seal (see below) put out by the Brewers Association which can be used to differentiate between beers created by small independent brewers and those owned by the macro beer companies.

If you have been paying attention at all then you know that the Macros (which I will use to refer to AB InBev, Molson/Coors, Heineken International, Constellation Brands, and Pabst Brewing Company) have been trying to purchase Craft Breweries (and succeeding) on the sly to stop their bleeding loss of market share. At one point these Macros owned 99% of the world market share and pretty much 100% of the American market share. But in the last 20 or so years that share has fallen to 75-80% thanks to the renaissance of Craft Beer.

This trend is also starting gain a foothold in Europe and Asia as well, potentially leading to more losses for the Macros. To try and win back those they have lost to the Craft Beer movement, the Macros have started a campaign of purchasing craft breweries to add to their brand lines. AB InBev has actually called their craft brand line their High End line (visit their website if you don’t believe me). Of the 18 brands listed there Breckenridge, Goose Island, Leffe, Shock Top and Wicked Weed were all indepenedent brewers until recently. Molson/Coors purchased Terrapin Brewing, Constellation Brands purchased Ballast Point and Heineken International has recently purchased Lagunitas Brewing. All of these were known successful Brewing companies with a good following. These purchases are meant to enhance their already burgeoning portfolio of brands (see list of brands in link below).

Macro Beers (revised 7-2-2017)

FYI – This list is created with information pulled directly from the websites of these Macros.

The Brewer’s Association has decided to fight back to differentiate their brands from those controlled by the Macros by creating the above seal which Independent Brewers can place on their products so their will be easily identifiable to those folks who care about who they are buying their beer from.

Brewers Association seal on various products

The Macros have responded saying that these seals have nothing to do with beer quality and are misleading to the customer.

If the Macros were making quality beer to begin with then why have they lost such a huge chunk of market share? If the Macros were making quality product to begin with then why are their bolstering their brands by buying craft breweries? And why do they use bullying tactics with their distribution channels to keep Independent Craft Breweries from being able to reach more customers?

Budweiser, which is no longer an American owned brewing company, has once again this summer changed their labels to the brand name “America” to reinforce the idea that they are still the King of Beers. Kaaachhhkk!! Sorry something caught in my throat. Budweiser is about as American as the $5 tee-shirts made by children in Asian sweatshops.

Don’t get me wrong… this is still America and you are free to choose whatever beer you like. If any of the beers listed on the Macro list in the link above are your go-to beer then enjoy it to your hearts content. But don’t try to tell me that slapping the name “America” on a beer that, in my opinion, tastes like horse piss will make it any better.

And if you really want to be patriotic, then why not actually switch, or at least try drinking, a beer made by an American owned company and generating profits that benefit not only American workers but the communities they live in, your locally owned Independent Craft Brewer.

The United States was founded on the idea of freedom. Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Taxation without representation (okay – I’m finding that one hard to swallow sometimes too), are all basic tenets of the Constitution. I am sure that if some of the Founding Fathers were here today they would easily prefer the beer available at your local brewery than the watered down product mass-produced and filling the shelves at your local store or distributor.

Let freedom ring and hoist a glass to flavor and the right to choose it!!

Papabear

 

Craft Beer Stroganoff!

I love using alcohol based marinades!! And no it’s not because I am a drunk, that’s a separate topic altogether.

It’s because the alcohol in the product helps to tenderize the meat. It also Imparts some of the flavors of the product into the meat. And I like to use different products for different dishes.

I love using a good red wine to make my homemade marinara. The wine helps break up some of the acidity of the tomatoes.

I love making my Cowboy Baked Beans with a good bourbon, or a brandy depending on the other ingredients. The bourbon helps the molasses and brown sugar mix well with the navy beans and the beef or sausage.

When I make chili or beer batter I like to use a lager, pilsner or pale ale. They all mix well with the spices I put in. It doesn’t matter whether it’s beef, pork or turkey. Some of these also go well with fish marinade but that depends on the fish. Some fish need a stronger flavor.

Now, with Stouts, Porters, Barleywines, Old Ales and Scotch Ales I like to make either a BBQ sauce or use it for marinating beef. Beef needs a stronger flavor for a marinade and depending on the dish the higher alcohol content can help break down fats.

I have not made beef stroganoff in a while and this was the first time using a beer marinade. Usually I do a combination of Worcestershire and Soy Sauce for a marinade and only let it set for 20 minutes in the fridge. For this marinade I decided to use Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout for a couple reasons:

  1. It was the oldest stout in my fridge and I wanted to use it before it went bad.
  2. I liked the mouthfeel of this stout and thought it would lend itself well to the beef stroganoff.
  3. I tend to try to line up my beers in single file on the shelf and using this one would open up room for a new six pack. I know… Kinda OCD of me… but hey.. it’s my fridge. You arrange yours the way you want it and don’t worry about mine.
Pairs well with Ice Cream too!

So if you’re interested, the recipe is below. It was delicious by the way. So much so that the sauce from the stroganoff tasted so good I had to use biscuits to sop up the remainder.

Stout Marinade Beef Stroganoff served with a biscuit and paired with a Weyerbacher Tiny Imperial Stout

Stout Marinade Beef Stroganoff

This recipe is for crockpot cooking, so cooking time will be much less if you cook on the stove top.

Prep Time: Marinade overnight; Prep time before crock pot turns on 20 minutes; prep time for thickening sauce 5 mins; crockpot cook time 10 – 11 hours.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of cubed beef (chuck roast, steak or in my case kebab meat)
  • 1- 12 oz. bottle of your preferred Stout Beer
  • 2 large Vidalia onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 lb. of sliced mushrooms
  • 3 cups of beef broth
  • 2 carrots chopped into big sections
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Ground Thyme
  • 3 tbsp. Sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tbsp. Chopped Parsley
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Place the beef in a stainless steel (or other equally suitable bowl) large enough to hold the beef and the bottle of beer. Make sure to cover the beef thoroughly in the beer and place a cover over the container and let in marinade in the refrigerator over night.

In the morning, chop onions into 1/4 to 1/2 inch squares and line bottom of crockpot. Place garlic on top. Take beef from marinade container and place into crock pot, keeping it from contacting sides. Place sliced mushrooms around beef between crock pot wall and beef. Place chopped carrot pieces and two bay leaves on top of beef. Pour any remaining marinade, Worcestershire, soy sauce and beef broth over beef. Cover crock pot and cook on low a minimum of 8 hours, maximum of 10 hours. Do not remove cover during cooking.

When the first stage is complete you can remove the carrots and bay leaves. You can set the carrots aside for something else but dispose of the bay leaves. Add the remaining ingredients as a thickener except mix the two cups of milk and the 2 tbsp of flour into a roué and stir into the mix. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Let cook on low another 30 to 45 minutes and it will be ready for serving.

I like to serve on a bed of buttered wide egg noodles with a dollop of sour cream and some parsley sprinkled on top, accompanied by a biscuit and paired with a good stout. For the picture above I used the Weyerbacher Tiny Imp Stout, which went very well with the meal. Try these stouts or your own favorite in the recipe.

Papabear

Craft Beer’s Most Important Ingredient!!

You will hear many points of view on which grains to use, which hops or spices provide the best bittering, and which yeast works the best to attain a particular flavor. But you really don’t hear often enough the importance of the largest ingredient in any brew…. Water!

Dihydrogen Monoxide (Hoax), Aqua, Aqua Pura, tears, saliva, drink, rain, H2O or Adam’s Ale… No matter what you call it, it is the most important resource on the planet, perhaps in the universe. No known form of life can exist without it. It is one of the few elements that can change it’s form into multiple shapes and densities and resume it’s previous state.

As man’s knowledge of water has increased so has our culture and civilization advanced. Most of humanities growth, until the last century or so, has been alongside a rich water source. In ancient Greece it was considered on of the 4 basic elements (air, fire, earth and water), in ancient China that was five (earth, fire, wood, metal and water). It has a basis of reverence in many modern religions (Christian Baptism as an example) as well. It is used as an example of purity and strength in these religions as well as other philosophical arenas. (Do you wish to be as rigid and unforgiving as a stone, or as flexible yet powerful as water? The stone may assert it’s place for now, but in a thousand years the water with have cut a path through the stone. – paraphrasing)

It covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and can be found throughout the solar system and the universe in various forms. It can take the fluid form as in the rain, streams, rivers, lakes, seas and oceans. It can exist in a gaseous state as in clouds, fog and steam. And it can be solid in a crystalline form as in snow and ice.

Mankind is becoming more and more reliant on finding resources or developing water cleansing technologies in order to survive. Water is our most valuable resource, no matter what some commodities brokers may want you to think. Our reliance on it as a natural resource has been demonstrated time and again throughout our history.

When Ancient Rome fell and Europe entered the Dark Ages, disease and famine were rampant throughout the continent.  Some of the knowledge of importance of water for farming, and medicine disappeared with the cultures that had discovered them, at least in Europe. Eventually the importance of clean water for drinking became known and the act of boiling to get clean drinking water evolved into brewing water with grains to help ration both the water and the grains. This eventually became the beers we know today.

As a beer connoisseur and a home brewer, I understand the importance of this natural resource for a hobby/subject that is near and dear to my heart. We use water for every aspect of beer making. We use it to brew the mash, we add more when we are doing the boil and adding the hops, the yeast preparation may require water for activating the yeast, and we may add more when we are mixing the bottling sugar in with the beer for carbonation. But more importantly, we rely on water to grow the ingredients we make beer with. Everything, from all of the grains, to the hops or other bittering agents, to the yeast for fermenting to the sugars rely on water for growth.

As a group, brewers more than anyone understand the importance of maintaining this resource as clean and available to all as possible. My day job is with a local municipal utility and through my 12 plus years in association with them I have really learned not only how much we as a society rely on this resource but how difficult it is to maintain a high quality of drinking water and how much harder it will be in the future. We have some of the best drinking water, not only in Gainesville, but also the State of Florida and the United States. Our community understands how important this resource is now and will be in the future.

Drinking_Water_week_2017_proclamation

The was a TV show on a few years ago called Heroes and one of the lines from that show was “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World!”

I’m going to paraphrase that now and give you a new Mantra to recite…

“Save the Water, Save the World, Save the Beer!”

Papabear

Art of Beer – Addendum: What’s All the Brew Ha Ha Over Beer Companies Buying Each Other Out??!!

The picture above is what a lot of Americans think that any activity related to beer is all about. Getting rowdy with your frat brothers at parties and smelling like stale beer. Sitting around watching sports and seeing who can belch the loudest and  longest, or seeing who pukes first from the results of a beer chugging game is one of the first pictures that comes to mind whenever the word “beer” is spoken aloud.

And to be fair, since the repeal of prohibition right up until the last decade or so that would not be an inaccurate depiction of most beer related activities in the U.S. Thanks mostly to marketing campaigns of a lot of the major brewing companies in America (Anheuser-Busch, Coors, Miller Brewing, Pabst, etc.) the light American Lager has become associated not only with those activities but others as well, most of which are usually pandering to the lesser qualities of mankind. These include lust, competitiveness, laziness, and a lack of propriety.

And that is the exact opposite of how a majority of the rest of the world views beer. For many other countries it is a beverage that can have as much prestige as some of the finest wines and liquors available. Especially if it is carefully and skillfully CRAFTED!

In America, thanks to industrialization, beer has had done to it what many other products have had done. Make the most economically feasible product, mass produce it and use advertising to shove it down the consumers throat. And since so few companies survived the dark years of prohibition only those that were mass producing other products were capable of coming back from the brink to begin producing beer again. And in the American business model the more you can make for a cheaper price the better your profits are.

But a little secret was revealed to many of us over the years. Some of us have had the opportunities to visit Europe or Asia or the Middle East and taste beers and other styles or the same style but in it’s original form. We were awakened to the fact that what we have had limited to by the corporate conglomerates was in fact crap! And when we came back to America from other countries and went to try out old reliable American staples we realized the truth… “My God!! This is shitty beer!!”

Luckily, in the late seventies, then President Jimmy Carter signed a bill making it legal for home brewing to begin again. Whatever else you may have thought of him as a president, this was one act that everyone can agree on was a good one.

With that act, the home brewing craze and the craft beer movement began. And for about 20 years that is exactly what it was, a fad or a craze that someone wanted to try. But eventually enough people not only stuck with it, but became very good at it and tried to do what many other American Entrepreneurs had done before them and turn a beloved hobby into a business they could make a living at. Some of these entrepreneurs are still at it today, Anchor Brewing, Sierra Nevada, Samuel Adams, and many others who have seen the rise of a revolution in taste as well as quality in process.

These companies which started out small have grown into larger companies by maintaining quality products and consistently trying to expand their skills in different styles of beer. Something the larger brewers have forgotten how to do.

With this industrious rise in Craft Brewing, there resulted the inevitable loss of market share to the big brewer’s. And how did the big brewers react? Did they rethink their brewing techniques and think about investing in higher quality products using better ingredients? Did they think about expanding the styles of beers that they brewed and trying to draw back some of the market share they lost through honest competition? I’m sure they thought about it.

But that isn’t what they did. Instead they came up with a two step approach:

Step 1 – Buy out the competition. Buy out successful craft brewers, learn how to produce their products for less money, and reproduce their beer labels under your brand. This method has been the Grim Reaper of many venues of American industry. The problem with this is that is doesn’t work well. Quite often quality suffers and the customers you hoped to win back can tell and find a new brewer to follow.

This has not helped the big brewers gain any more craft beer fans, but it has helped them to gain in other ways. Recently the founder of Sam Adams Brewing publicly stated that over 90% of the beer made in the world is owned by two companies both European Conglomerates who own not only most of the breweries on every continent but also a lot of the distribution companies. AB-InBev and Heineken N.V. own companies in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, North and South America. Leaving only Antarctica as unclaimed territory.

Step 2 – Strangle their supply chain. If they won’t sell out to you then make it difficult or impossible for them to get the ingredients to make beer and even harder to get their beers to market.

These two conglomerates have repeatedly tried buying out hops and grain markets in efforts to stifle the supplies for others to make beers. And when that didn’t work they put a stranglehold on the distribution by buying out a lot of the distributing companies, or giving monetary incentives for their products to get top billing. These companies have been reading the robber-baron’s handbook and instead of creating new games just gave a wink-wink nudge-nudge to the concerned lawmakers who failed to stop them.

So to answer the question in the article title – the “Brew Ha Ha” over the beer companies buying the others out has nothing to do with the beers they originally made. And really not even with the beers being made buy those that have sold out to them. No matter what happens there will still be folks who like all of those beers and will want to purchase and consume them. We are after all creatures of habit.

The problem is that if the trend keeps going as it is, eventually new craft breweries will no longer be built. The ability to choose from over 5000 breweries and tens of thousands of different beers will disappear. Craft beer is going to be changing, whether we like it or not. Craft breweries will have get even more inventive with their “Think outside the box” strategy to continue to exist.

The good news is this:

  1. Thinking outside the box is what craft brewers do best.
  2. The Genie is already out of the bottle. Home brewing is alive and well and will continue to be so. Larger Craft production breweries may not continue any growth, but the little guys who just want to brew and share with the locals will always find a way to do so.

Papabear

 

Celebrity’s Soul Food of Gainesville… a New Favorite in downtown!

Okay, I know I usually blog about Craft Beer related bars, breweries and other related activities, but I wanted to take the time to give a proper shout out to a new business in town that not only delivers good food but great service.

Some of my coworkers have told me about a new place in downtown Gainesville that they have frequented a couple of times for lunch. And their rave reviews and an invite to join them more than once had piqued my curiosity.

Friday that curiousity was sated with a visit to Celebrity’s Soul Food of Gainesville. It’s located downtown right next to Mark’s in Union Station and worth finding a parking spot or going to the garage across the street to pay for parking. Luckily I was working downtown today so parking was not an issue and I walked there with a couple of coworkers at lunch time.

We were immediately greeted by a friendly hostess and seated at a booth not far from the bar area. The décor is not what you would normally expect. As my friend the Blarneyman would say, “It’s very posh!” Very nice color scheme and comfortable seating and an upscale atmosphere. Check out the chandelier behind the hostess station when you walk in (below). All of the tables had replicas of the Hollywood sign in on them, and the menus were replicas of the envelopes from an awards show, with the “Nominees” listed inside. And the music playing in the background was some great classic soul music from the 70s & 80s, which is some of my favorite music to chill to.

A hint of the interior décor
The menu cover – Can you feel the anticipation?!
Menu has a wide variety of choices.

Our waiter was “Mr. Hollywood”, was very friendly and knowledgeable of the menu and took our drink orders quickly, then returned and answers a coupe of questions about the menu and took our lunch orders as well.

We sat and talked for a short time, then a woman named “Lady J” came out and greeted us. I think she recognized my coworkers from previous visits cause she greeted them like old friends. They pointed out it was my first visit and she gave me a nice warm welcome and asked what we had ordered. When I told he I had ordered the buffalo chicken she said she would be right back with something for me. Then she asked if I liked the white meat or the dark meat. I said it didn’t matter as long as I had some hot sauce. She laughed and said not to worry about that. Not long after she came back with a small plate with a piece of fried chicken breast on and a small side of hot sauce and told me to give that a try. Then she was off to greet some more folks.

Fried chicken with a side of hot sauce – Yummy!!!

I have to tell you the chicken was great. I loved the seasoning they used in the breading and the skin had a nice crunchy texture. It was so good I ate everything but the bone.

While I was working on that Mr. Hollywood brought out our orders. The sandwich I ordered was huge and filled most of the plate, but still left enough room for a large helping of the truffle fries. Both were delicious. The sandwich had slices fried chicken with hot sauce on it, with tomatoes, lettuce and pickles on it, which were a great combo. And the truffle fries were perfect, light and tasty. My only problem was that with the fried chicken piece Lady J brought out for me I could only eat half the sandwich and fries and had to get a to go box.

My Buffalo Chicken Sandwich with Truffle fries in the foreground and my co-workers Pork Chop smothered in gravy in the background.

My one coworker ordered the Pork Chop smothered in gravy served on a bed of rice and a couple of sides, all of which she enjoyed and, to me, looked delicious. My other coworker enjoyed her meal as well, but I can’t remember what it was because it was eclipsed by the order of Mac and Cheese Waffle she had gotten brought out to her (see below).

Mac and Cheese Waffle – The best way to eat Mac & Cheese!

She shared a taste of it with the other two of us and we all just loved it! It was nice and cheesy on the inside of the waffle with a lightly crunchy exterior on the outside. I will never eat Mac & Cheese any other way ever again after having this. It has ruined all other Mac & Cheeses for me for life!

I have to say this place hits all the right check marks on my lists.

  1. Good location
  2. Nice atmosphere
  3. Friendly and knowledgeable staff
  4. Great food

Check, Check, Check and Check!!!

I scoped the place out a little while we were there. It has a nice cozy bar area stocked with a variety of hard liquors and wines and beers on draft including some craft beers and at least one local brewery (Hah! tied it into craft beer after all!) I understand that on the weekends they will also feature some live bands. I can think of no reason not to go back to this place and am looking forward to the next visit.

You can find a little bit more about them on the website here.

Or just go and experience it yourself.

Papabear

 

Happy National Beer Day!!!

84 years ago on April 7th, 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, legalizing the purchase, sale and consumption of beer, for the first time since the start of Prohibition.

Since that dark and ominous day in January of 1920 when alcohol consumption in the U.S. was banned nationally, this day marks the first glimpse of sunlight for a nation that not only saw one of it’s favorite guilty pleasures being forcibly banned, but also saw the rise of organized crime and an uptick in unemployment as hundreds of distilleries, breweries and wineries were closed forcing thousands to be sent home jobless.

The only breweries that survived those tumultuous times were those could turn their breweries into producers of some other types of products. Very few were capable of doing that.

Before Prohibition there were over 4,000 breweries in the U.S. and after prohibition that number dwindled down to a few hundred, most of them being own by the large corporate giants, Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Coors and Pabst Brewing. The entry of America into WWII helped to increase the production of beer because it was a morale booster for the troops as well as those at home.

The rise of commercialism in the 50s and 60s made sure that the big producers could keep their foothold on the beer market. And the introduction of light beer in the 70s was an obvious grab for the women of America’s purse strings, as more and more of them were entering the work force. America had an all time low of 42 breweries in operation by 1978 pushing out the watered down, low taste that American Lager had become. Then a little miracle happened.

On October 14, 1978, H.R. 1337 was signed into law, legalizing the home production of a small amount of beer or wine for personal consumption. With a pen stroke, then President Jimmy Carter, began the movement that has become known as Craft Beer today.

My owl little Catalyst Fermentation System with my home-brewed White Gables Pale Ale
The measuring of OG (Original Gravity). When compare to the FG (Final Gravity) this gives you the ABV (percent of alcohol).
Getting ready to bottle.
The finished product. And it tasted delicious!

As of March 28, 2017 the official number of breweries in the US has now reached 5,301 and continues to grow. Even if each of these breweries only produced five different styles of beer, that would be over 26,000 different beers in the US to choose from, not including the imports. And I guarantee the number of styles produced is far greater. These breweries have employed well over a hundred thousand people and this number should continue to grow. Craft brewers alone were responsible for producing over 23.5 billion dollars of income in the US in 2016.

So in honor of National Beer Day why don’t you and your fellow beer guzzlers drop on down to the local brewery, or micro brewery or pub and hoist a cold one. You certainly have enough to choose from.

Papabear

Celebrate the Season with Blackadder Brewing Company!

If you have read my blog before you have probably seen my mention of anticipating the opening of  new Brewery in Gainesville, Blackadder Brewing Company! Well, the day has finally arrived and they have opened and in my opinion, it was worth the wait!

Last Friday, a little before 10 AM I got a message in my email that Blackadder was opening it’s doors that day (see above). I sent a pic of the email out to my fellow beer bacchanalians and suggested this for happy hour that afternoon.

Unfortunately, I immediately succumbed to a flu bug going around town, (fever, chills, aches, digestive disorders, etc.) and ended up going home early that day. I told the crew I wouldn’t make it but to send me pics or the new place so I could see how it had turned out. The Doctor, Rowdy and the Maestro both obliged with the following:

While I was kinda ticked that I was too sick to make it to the opening day festivities, I was certainly glad to see that the business had a good turn out for their first day.

If you don’t know anything about Blackadder Brewing Company here is a quick quote about the owners/brewers from their website Blackadder Brewing:

Chris and Sissy Hart have been married for 20+ years.  Sissy is a Gainesville native and Chris has been here since coming to the University of Florida in 1987. Brewing has been a part of their lives for over a decade. For more than 6 years, Chris has worked at and managed the local homebrew supply shop and is a BJCP judge. Both Chris & Sissy are active members of Gainesville’s homebrew club, the Hogtown Brewers.  Collectively, they have earned over 30 medals in beer competitions throughout Florida and the US.  Their love of creating craft beer and sharing it with others led to the establishment of Blackadder Brewing Company.  They look forward to sharing their award winning beers with the Gainesville community. “

Whether you bother going to the website or not (and I would recommend you do) all you really need to know is that they not only know good beer, they make good beer as well.

Now it really took me a few days to get over the bug I caught. I was pretty much sick all weekend and while I went back to work on Monday I was still drained physically of any energy. But by Tuesday I was feeling much better. Well enough that after work I headed over to the west side of town to do some Christmas shopping for the niece and nephew at Toys R Us, which is just west of the Oaks Mall. After I was done there, I decided to stop by Blackadder on the way home and see how it was.

If you are trying to find Blackadder, the address is 618 NW 60th Street, Suite A. It’s on the Southeast corner of the same building that is home for Honey Baked Ham, McAllister’s Deli and Painting with a Twist.

As you approach the business you will easily see the sign on the front, and they have a front and side entrance.

Once you enter you immediately feel like you have stepped into something much akin to an Olde World Pub. The tables are Pub style, and the wood brace accenting, fireplace and chandelier definitely lend themselves to that feel.

At the bar you can see they took their time in decorating and picking out the right look for that area. The dark wood cabinetry, raised white accent paneling and Olde World Style map behind the bar go great together.

But now let’s talk about the best part… The Beer!

First, it looks like they have around 40 taps available. I know they had 4 of their own brews (signified by the Blackadder tap handles) and well as two sodas they brewed themselves as well. But they also had a wide selection of good quality craft beers.

But I didn’t care about the other craft beers. You see I have had samplings of their beers before at some Beerfests and other activities and I know the kind of quality they are capable of producing. So I went their flight deal, which includes a sampling of all of their taps.

That evening they were serving the following from right to left in the pic above:

Prince Ludwig the Indestructible: which is a lager with really good flavor. If you or someone you know is not that familiar with craft beers I would recommend this as an introductory beer.

Zakziskie: A Smoked Wheat Beer. The smoke definitely hits the nose when you bring the glass up to the lips, but the smoke flavor combines with the wheat and almost makes it taste like a Belgian, in my opinion.

Warm Cockles: This Old ale is very tasty and you can tell it has a higher ABV. Loved the flavor! I would put this up against Founders Dirty Bastard, maybe even the Backwoods Bastard. This was probably my favorite of the evening but it was close tie with the next one.

Riders of the Lost Oat: This was an excellent stout! It was smooth tasting with a good mix of coffee and chocolate flavors!

I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t want to go to this establishment. It has a great atmosphere, a great staff that knows the product and good quality selection of beers to choose from. The only drawback for me is that it isn’t closer to my side of town, but for this place I will make an exception and brave the traffic.

One little disclosure statement: If you sit at the left hand side of the bar and look up on the wall you will see a plaque with some names on it called the Blackadder Founders Club. My name is one of those on that plaque. But I do not receive any funds or profit from the business and am not associated with it in any way other than as a patron. I donated some funding to their Kickstarter campaign because I wanted to see another brewery in the Gainesville area and I always like to see a small business get a good start.

In my opinion, it was money well spent.

Papabear