In case all of the commercials and ads for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, all of the shiny glowing decorations along the streets, all of the radio stations playing holiday music related to their format and all of the chintzy holiday related TV shows wasn’t a hint enough for you that we are in full blown holiday mode, then all of the seasonal releases of holiday craft beer flooding the shelves, should be.
I thought I would offer up some recommended ales and holiday recipes involving craft beer for spicing up your seasonal favorites. Now for me, the holiday season starts out on November 11th, Veteran’s Day. Being a Vet myself, I always like sitting back and remembering those who have served, especially those who served with me. That remembrance included Ayinger’s Hefeweizen and their Oktoberfest Marzen, both excellent examples of German beers, where I served for 2 years in the 50th TAC Fighter Wing.
The next day I spent the afternoon at Intuition Ale Works in Jacksonville for the Florida Brewer’s Guild Barrel Aged and Sour Beer Fest. This was the second year in a row I attended this beerfest and it was, again, worth it. I could name all of the beers I enjoyed but that in itself would be an article. Instead I will recommend going to the FBG website and download the list yourself. I didn’t have a single one that wasn’t worth trying, but I couldn’t try them all.
On Thanksgiving Eve I began the holiday weekend with Funky Buddha’s Sweet Potato Casserole. An ale so good I had to fight Tucker off from trying to steal it from me.
For Thanksgiving Day, I decided to smoke a turkey and a ham, and while the process was going on I enjoyed supping back the Big Deal Chocolate Cherry Imperial Stout from Darwin Brewing, a really tasty stout with a great finish.
After the turkey and ham were done cooking I accompanied them both along with some other traditional fare with a bottle of 2013 Trignac XII, a Tripel aged in Cognac barrels, which accompanies all the dishes well.
The day after, Black Friday, after coming home from happy hour I decided to make my annual egg-nog, But I also wanted to try a little experiment and decided to make a double batch, with a portion of the second batch I would add a wee heavy ale to the mix. I thought the flavors of the ale, especially a good one, would enhance the bourbon, cognac and rum in the eggnog. For the ale I chose a bottle of Founder’s Backwoods Bastard. Only one more week to wait before it will be ready for sampling. To give credit where credit is due, for my egg-nog recipe I use Alton Brown’s recipe which you can find on Foodnetwork.com.
Which brings us to this weekend, where today I used the remainder of my leftover turkey to make Turkey Chili. Now you may remember reading above where I smoked a turkey and a ham on Thanksgiving. When I cook a turkey I include the giblets and the neck in the pan for roasting or smoking, so that I can get the rich flavors and juices from those parts into any gravy I make. In this case, I used the cooked liver and heart along with the white and dark meat from the bird and cut them up into small pieces. I also used a Pilsner along with some other ingredients (see below) and cooked them in a crockpot all day. The results were not only delicious but if you’re in a cold climate I highly recommend it. Definitely something to keep you warm in the winter months.
Papabear’s Smoked Turkey and Pilsner Chili:
2 Medium sweet onions – chopped
1 ½ Cups of chopped celery
1 ½ cups of chopped carrot
3 large jalapenos (deseeded and sliced)
3 cans of navy beans
1 can whole kernel corn
2 pounds of smoked turkey (cubed)
3 tablespoons of flour
1 tablespoon of chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon of curry powder
½ tablespoon of Cajun seasoning
16 oz. Pilsner (I used Marten’s in this case) – you could also use an IPA or a Wheat beer.
Add all ingredients in the order above into 6 quart crockpot or dutch oven. Top off with enough water to just cover ingredients, then cook on high for 8 hours.
When serving top off with shredded cheddar cheese and serve with corn chips, crackers or rolls.
More recipes will be coming in the days to follow but wanted to get these, and the list of beers of to you while I had time.
Ahhhh Summer Camp… the phrase draws to mind many different images for many different folks. And those images can vary from person to person and they will vary depending on what kind of camp you went to when you were a kid. There were (and maybe still are) Bible Camps, Math Camps, Music or Band Camps, and of course the scouting related camps. Kids playing pranks on each other and the camp counselors, parents getting a respite from the duties of parenting all the while worrying about their kids getting poison ivy and bee stings or some other summertime ailment.
I went to some scout camps when I was very young, then when I got into my teens I went to fishing camps with friends and their families. I always enjoyed getting away from home, not because home was a bad place but because it was something different. And some great fishing for Crappy and Bass takes place in upper New York, Black Lake to be specific, and all throughout Pennsylvania in the summer time.
So imagine my joyful glee at hearing that Sierra Nevada was hosting a BeerCamp in six different cities throughout the country this year. And one of them was actually close enough for me to attend.
The overall concept was that 31 different breweries would get together and make six different collaborative beers representing different regions of the country. Then they were to host a beer festival in each region to show off these beers and invite a lot of different breweries from the area to show up and show off their wares.
The first BeerCamp to be held this summer actually took place yesterday in Tampa, FL. Some of you may be asking why Tampa? I would reply “Why not Tampa?” If you haven’t been to Florida then you are missing out on well over 100 breweries (that could be over 200 but I didn’t want to exaggerate) many of which can stand up to most of the other brewers in the country. The greatest conglomeration of breweries in Florida is around the Tampa area, so it makes perfect sense to those of us who live here.
The event was held at the Curtis Hixon Park which is on the west part of Tampa along the Hillsborough River. Not having been there before, but to other venues in Tampa, I have to say this was an excellent location for this event. It is located near many other venues, has access to public transportation, and has a natural amphitheater built into the site. And the views of the river walk are great!
Having been to a few other Beer Fests in Tampa or the surrounding area this time I planned in advance and scouted out for nearby parking. And luckily practically right next door to the park is the William F. Poe Parking Garage. So instead of setting my iPhone map feature to the event I mapped out getting to the garage instead.
The park itself is surrounded on three sides by tall and/or architecturally interesting buildings which provide a scenic surrounding even when you are not looking at the river.
Once you entered BeerCamp you immediately lay eyes one of the best party buses ever. Obviously a customized paint job, I will bet that this beauty will be at all of the BeerCamps. What lucky S.O.B. has the job of driving it and who do I have to bribe to get his job?
Nearby were the food trucks which numbered probably around a dozen. And on the other side of the bus were the beer tents. They had four large tents altogether, which housed the many brewery vendors. Also nearby were large vats of fresh water for folks to drink and rinse out their glasses, a stage featuring a band performing the whole time, a splattering of high top tables throughout the grounds and off to the side was a bank of porta-toilets.
The place was packed with folks there to sample the various beers. But even with the large crowd you didn’t have to wait long to get to most of the breweries and sample their brews. There were a few exceptions, one or two of the breweries seemed to have a long line to get a sample, and there was a line for getting your picture taken at the BeerCamp display, which is why I don’t have one.
I didn’t take pictures of all of my samples only a few, but those and some others are definitely worth a mention. Big Storm Brewing’s Oats in Hose Oatmeal Stout (pictured below left), Cigar City brew Pub’s Space Race Imperial Russian Stout, Smog City’s Coffee Porter (pictured below right), and the collaboration Stout of the Union all were great examples of a good Porter or Stout, with the Space Race winning by far out of the group.
Hourglass Brewery’s Beatrijs Belgian Dubbel with Gooseberries, Brew Hub’s Diver Down Red Ale, and Wynwood Brewing’s Guava the Hut a Berliner Sour Ale (pictured above), all came across very well too. I also want to give credit to the Tampa brewer’s Guild collab Guildy by Association which was a really refreshing Saison which hit the spot on a hot summer evening.
Food trucks all had long lines at them and nothing at them really seemed to tickle my fancy when I looked over the menu. Except the last one which didn’t have a line, probably because it was the furthest away from the beer. The Red Line Truck had three items on their menu: Korean Beef Lettuce Wraps, Hot Dogs and Sweet Potato Croquettes. All three looked good to eat, but I ordered a hot dog and a side of the croquettes. The hot dog had a good flavor and they didn’t drown it out with condiments, jst enough to enhance it. And the Sweet Potato croquettes had a goat cheese center that made it creamy as well as sweet. If you’re in Tampa and see this food truck again I highly recommend it.
After a couple of hours of beer sampling and sweating in the evening sun I decided to head out, but not before taking a last look across the river at the minarets for the University of Tampa reflecting the light on the sunset.
I also grabbed a selfie with the BeerCamp bus and took a pic of kids playing in the fountain outside the children’s museum which is beside the parking garage.
BeerCamp was great. The venue selected worked great and the various vendors all had great beers and foods to sample. Too bad it didn’t last a week or more like the camps did when we were kids.
I certainly hope they hold more of these next year. I would definitely attend it again. The only change I might suggest is allowing pets. Tucker doesn’t like it when I leave him at home and insists on showing me how much he missed me when I get back. Either that or he’s trying to get some beer and food samples out of my beard.
I don’t know about you folks out there but my work week was filled with meetings, business process discussions, both existing and what should be happening and decision making about a few different topics. All of this in conjunction with a project I am involved in at work and will be for a pretty long while. Needless to say I was ready for the weekend when it arrived.
So it was a welcome sign to see the Doctor start texting me Friday afternoon and let me know where he was. After completing a couple of errands, running home and changing the dog and walking my clothes, I headed out and met the Doctor at BrassTap.
When I arrived he was at the bar talking with Brad, the manager and son of the owner, Allan, who was talking with other patrons. Brad greeted me and after I settled in asked what I was in the mood for. Since I had missed the Cider Event they had held the night before and they had some on tap still, I decided to start with The Anvil Bourbon Cider from Sonoma Cider.
That garnered me another badge on Untappd but I also liked that it wasn’t the cloyingly sweetness or tartness associated with most ciders. The bourbon flavor in the background help dampen down the sweetness, and any tartness that might have been in play. It was refreshing in a way that you don’t normally expect from a cider.
The Doctor and I started catching up with each other and before long a second round was needed. I wanted something with a darker flavor too it and I saw that they had Southern Tier’s 2XIBA, which is a Dark Ale. It had the roasted malt flavor in the background that Schwarzbiers and Porters have, but an extra amount of hop flavor brought it back into the IPA realm.
After a bit, Allan’s relief came in and he sat down and jawed with us a bit while we supped suds and swapped lies. About the time I was getting to the end of my Dark Ale I began to feel a bit peckish and decided that with my next beer I would have one of the hot pretzels. So along with the pretzel I ordered something I had heard about but had not tried yet. They actually had Yeungling’s IPL (Imperial Pale lager) on tap.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by it. I used to drink regular Yeungling frequently before I started drinking Craft Beer and if I find myself somewhere where craft beer is not available or at least not one that I like, then I will ask for a Yeungling. It is not my go to beer but I still prefer it over Budweiser or Coors or any of the others. The idea of treating a Lager like and IPA isn’t unheard of and is probably how the Czech’s created Pilsners but the flavor was interesting. It was smooth like some Lagers and you could definitely taste the hops in it, but it didn’t have that harshness that Hops can add to an IPA when the brewer gets carried away.
And I have to add that it went very well with the hot pretzel they had served me. Though to be honest the pretzel could’ve stood on its own with the honey mustard dipping sauce they served with it I can’t wait to try the beer cheese sauce they are thinking of trying.
After I finished the pretzel and the Yeungling I decided it was time to head home as I had a long drive the next day. So I bid a good evening to the Doctor and the BrassTap staff and made my way home. But I must confess to a case of the munchies and stopped at Steak and Shake on the way home. Nothing like a steakburger, fries and a shake to stave off the hunger pangs.
The next morning after a hearty breakfast, walking my dog Tucker a couple of times, and prepping the truck for a long drive I headed off to Tampa. Most folks would travel I-75 down to Tampa and I have done so many times in the past but I really hate dealing with the traffic on that route. So instead I went further west, through Williston then turned south and eventually hit the Suncoast Parkway and took it into Tampa.
The ride was fairly smooth even though there was a lite bit of traffic. But on Saturday in Florida that’s gonna happen. I got to my destination about 10 minutes after it started and as I drove by the entrance I saw a very long line to get in.
As I drove past I started looking for some parking whether it was free or pay to park didn’t matter as I had figured I would end up paying. But nothing in the immediate vicinity was available. I actually ended up getting turned around and lost while trying to find point nearby, which if you have driven to the vicinity of the Tampa Stadium you understand.
Eventually I ended up parking between the stadium and the historic museum at a pay n park but it was about 40 minutes later by the time I walked back to the beer fest. The only good part of that was the line has shrunk considerably by then and I gained entrance in a matter of minutes.
Soap box time!!
Why is that beerfests always take place in areas with I sufficient parking and then don’t post anything about it on their sites I don’t mind having to pay to park but just once I would like to attend a Beerfest where I don’t have to walk a mile to get to the rest from parking or worry about being towed or worse token into!
Stepping down from soap box.
After finally entering the fest I was glad to see that it was fairly well organized as far as the site went. There were plenty of brewing tents and quite a lot of food trucks And lots of port-a-potties strategically placed throughout the grounds.
As I began making my way through the various beer vendors I saw some familiar faces with folks from Alligator Brewing, First Magnitude Brewing and Swamp Head Brewing all having their wares for the offering. All of them being Gainesville based I felt obliged to stop by and see if they had something I hadn’t sampled yet. Unfortunately for me I had sampled all of them before but that didn’t stop me from having one anyway as I know they all have pretty good beers.
There were a ton of other brewers present, many of which I had sampled offerings from before. These included Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Intuition Brewing, Funky Buddha Brewing, Cigar City Brewing, Barley Mow Brewing, Coppertail Brewing, Due South Brewing, Florida Ave Brewing, Motorworks Brewing, Miami Brewing, Green Bench Brewing, Wynwood Brewing, Rapp Brewing, Pair O’Dice Brewing and some more.
But there were quite a lot that I had never seen before, maybe not even heard of yet. These included: 7venth Sun Brewery, Barrel of Monks Brewing, Central 28 Beer Co., Copperpoint Brewing Company, Crooked Thumb Brewery, Mastry’s Brewing Co., Rock Brothers Brewing, The Waterfront Brewery, Ulele Spring Brewery, and maybe a few others.
There was a very large crowd with people mostly from the Tampa area but there were also some folks like me who traveled from a bit further out.
I had a good two hours of beer sampling before the fest ended and that actually was about all I really needed. There were hundreds of beers and I probably only sampled about 30 or so it was enough to hit my limit.
So I wended my way back toward the parking garage and half way realized I hadn’t eaten anything at the fest. Luckily for me an answer appeared in front of me.
Yes, there is nothing quite like wings and fries to go with craft beer.
This fest occurred last weekend and I haven’t been able to finish the article til this morning. I stopped by Gainesville House of Beer yesterday after work an chatted with the manager Alex for a bit. I mentioned the beer fest and he asked me if there were any beers that stood out.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention them here:
Mosaico – Session IPA from Four Stacks Brewing
Paratrooper Porter from Veterans United craft Brewery
Udderly Calm – Milk Stout from Swamp Head Brewery
Twisted Streams – a Saison from Saltwater Brewing
Glass Emporer – a rum barrel aged Imperial Stout from Proof Brewing
5th Anniversary Panhandle Steamer – a California Common from Pensacola Bay Brewing
Mad Cola – a mead from Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company which tasted just like a cola.
Dry Hopped Series Pale Ale (Mosaic) from Due South Brewing
Domestic Bliss – a Belgian Strong Pale Ale from Crooked Can Brewing
Blood Orange Wit – from Copperpoint Brewing Co.
Honey Bach – a Doppelbock from Central 28 Beer Company
Indiscretion – a DIPA from Escape Brewing (This got my highest ranking for the day but all of these listed I scored pretty high.)
One last little note for the beer geeks out there. HOB has a couple of Cigar City beers that haven’t been around before: Strawberry Shortcake – a Helles Lager with strong strawberry notes in the nose but a smooth lager finish, and Cinnamon Apple IPA which also has a fruity nose (smells like apple pie) but a strong IPA flavor with a smooth finish.
But they also have a very, very good Belgian Strong pale Ale from Lost Coast Brewing called their 25th Anniversary Ale. Really good flavor and a nice smooth finish.
If you’re near there stop by and try and tell Alex I sent you.
Okay, so “Predictions” is probably too strong a word to use for this particular article. Why don’t we try “Intuitive Guesses” instead, as some of what I will put down into words this time will be 100 % accurate and some, at best will be 50/50.
Let’s throw a 100 percenter out first…
ABInBev will purchase more craft breweries around the US this year. BAM!!
Okay, that was an easy one, especially considering they keep making overtures to multiple breweries. And I believe I read that they stated in their corporate newsletter something to the same effect. So if it is really a surprise to anyone that they will continue this strategy you need to wake up and change your name to Rip Van Get-a-clue.
100 percenter #2…
New Craft Breweries will keep opening throughout the year. BAM!
During recent months craft breweries have been opening at a rate of almost two a day nationally. Even if the Macro Brewers keep purchasing Craft Breweries they won’t be able to outpace that rate. So there will be even more new beers for all of us to try out there.
In fact I have read that Gainesville will be on the receiving end of a new brewery by the name of Rainstorm Brewing in the coming year. We will also be home to a new brew Pub with a Micro Brewery as part of the business, called Blackadder Brewing, supposedly this May.
50/50 percenter #1…
New Craft Beer Tap Rooms and businesses will continue opening up throughout the year. BAM!!
Again this is not news to me as I have already read or heard about this from other local sources. Gainesville recently received a Buffalo Wild Wings which will serve craft beers alongside the macro beers that most sports establishments feature. World of Beer, which has a business west of Gainesville in the Town of Tioga is opening a new business (I believe with a different franchisee) in Gainesville just off of Archer road at the old Hooters location. Hopefully there will be others as well.
100 percenter #3…
Beerfests will abound. BAM!
Okay, I did that one with my eyes closed. But they weren’t closed when I got invites to the FBG Beerfest in March and the Hogtown Craft Beerfest in April. And you can be sure there will others I will try to attend throughout the year. Maybe even outside of Florida this year.
50/50 percenter #2…
Social acceptance of craft beer and those who consume it will continue to grow. At first craft beer lovers were referred to as Beer Geeks, but as more people become introduced to it I believe more people will appreciate the different styles and flavors that are available to them. Two years ago you saw an increase in ciders and meads. Last year you witnessed the rise of barrel aged and sour beers. I am hoping Porters and Stouts will begin coming back stronger, but that is a personal preference, not a prediction.
I believe social acceptance will grow because more and more craft breweries are becoming involved in community events and charities. Yoga classes, Wildlife and Environmental Charity Events, Political Fundraisers, and other fundraisers for various charities are constantly popping at breweries and brew houses. I don’t see that trend waning, in fact I see the opposite happening.
So that is my Craft Beer Pred… umm… Intuitive Guesses for the coming year.
So last Friday (November 13th) our group of Craft Beer enthusiasts decided to gather together at the BrassTap on Archer Road for our regular Friday Happy Hour. The Maestro and the Doctor both made it there first. They talked Allen (the owner) into taunting me with a picture of a beer (see below), saying “Here’s looking at you.” Now I was already on my way and didn’t recognize the number so I didn’t reply. By the time I arrived they had started to head for the patio and claim a table outside. Not long after me Rowdy showed up and our Philosophying began for the evening.
My first craft beer that night was a Dunkles Hefe Weizen from Tucher Brau. It was a very good example of a Dunkel with a nice roasted malt flavor and a smooth aftertaste.
Allen pulled up a chair and joined us and not long after the Deck-Orator arrived as well. So we put another table alongside ours so discussion was not hindered by any inter-table distances. We began catching up with each other and finding out what was new.
My second draft of the evening was a Hop Nosh IPA from Uinta Brewing. The IPA lovers in the group thought this was pretty good and while I thought it was okay with a nice smooth aftertaste it was a little hoppier than I care for.
My third choice of drafts was the Jefferson Stout from Lazy Magnolia Brewing. It was supposedly going to have a little sweet potato flavor but I couldn’t taste any. I did taste a light stout flavor but that was all.
As we were working on our last round I mentioned that I was going to Florida Brewer’s Guild Barrel-Aged & Sour Beer Festival the next day and asked if anyone wanted to go with me. Rowdy said she would go but I had to agree to go to the PJ Pub crawl for the Gainesville Roller Rebels.
I agreed, though I was reluctant to do so because the idea of wearing PJs in public bothers me. But I agreed at any rate and said I would text her in the morning and let her know where we would meet up for the trip. Everyone else in the group had other plans.
So I met up with Rowdy at Hogan’s Heroes Sandwich Shop on NW 13th Street and found her paying attention to the most well-behaved dog I have ever seen in the back of a strange pick-up truck. This little guy was not chained or leashed and would not leave the bed of the truck, but he was happy to be getting the attention that Rowdy was giving him. And as we turned to go inside he stayed right where he was and ducked back down under the truck side to stay out of the sun.
We wandered inside the sandwich shop and walked back to the bar to order our sandwiches. If you have never been to either of Hogan’s Heroes locations then you owe it to yourself to do so. In my opinion, they have the best subs in Gainesville. Both of them have a sandwich shop in the front half of their respective buildings and a little bar at the back end. The décor is World War II related and being a Veteran feels nice to me. During the work week if I come in for lunch I never make it to the back, but after work or on the weekends nothing goes better with one of their sandwiches than a nice cold draft. Most of the draft beer selections are the normal American Lager variety, but they do have one or two local brewery fares along with Newcastle Brown and Guiness on tap as well as some European brews in bottles.
Rowdy and I each ordered a sandwich combo which included an 8 inch sub, choice of chips and a drink. We both ordered the same sandwich but she had a cider with hers and I ordered a Stump Knocker from Swamp Head with mine. It wasn’t long before our orders arrived and we enjoyed a nice little lunch before heading out to Jacksonville.
When we left I followed Rowdy back to her place and she retrieved her traveling accoutrement, jumped in my truck and we headed out to Jax. I decided to avoid the traffic associated with driving from Gainesville to Jax by the normal route of going through Starke and instead headed up 121/231 through Hidden Lake, Brooker, Lake Butler and Raiford until we reached I-10 and then headed east into Jax. It was a lot less traffic and much more scenic. We listened to the gator game as it was playing while we drove.
When we got into Jax I knew I had not been to Intuition Ale Works before and wondered what kind of area it was in as parts of Jax aren’t too bad and are in fact really nice and others you start looking for the fastest way to the interstate. As we left the interstate it started to look like we weren’t necessarily in the best part of town. Like most new craft breweries starting out, Intuition started their location in an industrial section of town in an older warehouse. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but sometimes these areas are surrounded by not so prosperous housing. As we headed down King Street we came upon a set of railroad tracks and literally, on the opposite (notice I didn’t say “wrong”) of the tracks was the warehouse where intuition is located. Right after you crossed the tracks they had the road closed off with a vendor truck and you could see a crowd back behind it.
I turned left there and found a parking spot not too far away where it looked like other attendees were parking as well. Then Rowdy and I grabbed our beer sampling gear and headed out. We went to the check in and received our sampling glass and the list of breweries and their available wares (see pics below)
Then we walked around and began sampling and talking with the various vendors on site. below are some pics from the event.
I can tell you that there were a lot of great barrel aged beers there. And I was really surprised at how good the sour beers were. Most of the sours beers I have had up until that event were so sour that you really couldn’t taste any other flavors. That was not true with most of these.
The following is a small sampling of those that really stood out to me:
Darwin Brewing Co., Bourbon-barrel-aged big Deal; Due South Brewing, Barrel Aged Mariana Trench; Engine 15 Brewing Co., Barrel Aged Simcoe; Funky Buddha Brewing, Cabernet Barrel Aged Nikolai Vorlauf; Intuition Ale Works, Tres Brujas; Orchid Island Brewery, Citron – Cabernet Barrel Aged Saison; Proof Brewing Co., Fruit Punch Blind Fate – Berliner Weisse; Tampa Bay Brewing Moose Wood – Barrel Aged Barleywine & Capt. Skully – Rum barrel Aged Imperial Pumpkin Ale; Tomoka Brewing Mint Julip Southern Sour; Zeta Brewing, Cabernet Michaelmas and their Bourbon Michaelmas; an what I consider the two best examples at the fest, both from Wynwood Brewing, NSDLA – Barrel Aged Barleywine and BA 100 Barrel Aged American Strong Ale.
Please keep in mind that as we sampled more we were probably being a bit more lenient but the beers kept tasting better and better.
We decided to get some food before we left and stopped at the FunkaDelic Food Truck. Rowdy got a fish sandwich and I got a burger and we split an order of fried beets. The sandwiches were good but I have to say I have never enjoyed beets so much in my life as I did the ones they served.
We started our trek back to Gainesville around 5:30 and got back around 7:00.
After I dropped Rowdy off I headed back to the house to check on Tucker, my dog, and rest up a bit before heading out to meet her and the Doctor downtown for the PJ Pub Crawl. To be honest, after I took Tucker for a walk, I settled down in the recliner and he jumped up and snuggled with me. It was enough for me to fall asleep for a bit. Rowdy’s text telling me where to meet her and the Doctor is what woke me up.
So I jumped up, took off my clothes and put on my PJ’s and a robe (it was chilly out) and headed for downtown. Now the previous year’s Pub Crawl had a Lumberjack theme which I can slide into very easily. I’m a middle-aged white guy with a beard, work boots and jeans and all the plaid shirts I could want. I even own a couple of axes so Lumberjack is an easy theme for me to do. But PJs in public is not my cup-o-tea. So along with the t-shirt and PJ bottoms I wore my silk Kimono, going for the Hugh Hefner look. I actually got more than a few complements on it.
The pub crawl started at the Midnight on Main Street at 8:00 and we got there around 8:30. The Pub Crawl hits five downtown bars, with 45 minutes at each bar and one complimentary draft beer at each. So we got at the Midnight with enough time to check in with the group and finish a beer. As I recall we had three to choose from and I ordered the Shock Top Belgian White.
Our next stop was Tall Paul’s Brew House just up around the corner on 2nd Avenue. I had a little disagreement with a bouncer about whether or not I had to pay a cover charge to get in. I ended the disagreement by saying “Dude, I’m with the pub crawl! Look at the way I’m dressed! Would I put this crap on to go out on the town??!!” Luckily, he saw my point and we didn’t have to get any deeper into the disagreement. Unfortunately, the beer they selected for us at Tall Paul’s was the Narraganset Lager, or as Rowdy likes to call it, Nasty Ganset. I don’t know who chooses the beer for these things, but that one just has to go. And if you’re a Narragnaset fan good for you, but leave that in Boston where it belongs.
From Tall Paul’s we meandered over to Loosey’s where they were also having Karaoke. A couple of the roller derby gals and one of our gents tagging along sang a couple of renditions. At least here they served a decent draft beer in the form of a Yuengling Lager. Of course that is just my opinion. And being a PA boy it is only natural for me to like that beer.
The next stop on our tour was one of our old standbys, Gainesville House of Beer. HOB is also one of the gathering places for after the derby matches and one of the Meetup groups I belong to meets there after their monthly meeting as well. Not to mention our occasional treks to there (See last blog about Homecoming). I knew HOB would have a good beer available for the group. Especially since Rowdy had already discussed the beer list with Alex, the manager. I had a stout from local brewery First Magnitude, I believe it was the Drift but I’m not certain.
The next and last stop of the crawl was supposed to be the High Dive, which is where we ended up last year and a lot of dancing took place. But I looked at Rowdy and said, “I think I’m done.” She looked at me and nodded her head and I knew she was done too. With the all the beers we sampled earlier and the last few on top there was definitely no dancing in my future. The Doctor said, “See… That’s why I didn’t go the beer fest with you.”
Let me end this article by saying that I don’t regret going to either event, doing both in the same day can be taxing, especially when you get to my age. Next year I hope the Pub Crawl falls on a day when there is no nearby beer fest. But if it does it could be another long day.
I hope this little story is an entertaining Thanksgiving Eve respite. Enjoy your holiday and drinks some beers. I will write again after the weekend is over.
First off, let me apologize for not blogging in a while. It wasn’t that we haven’t been sampling any of the local Gainesville pubs, breweries and eateries… we have. 🙂
And it wasn’t that I have started several documents intending to post them here… I did.
But if you have ever done any writing then you know that there is a creative process to it. And this process can be mentally draining. If you’re already occupied with other matters then it can drain some of that energy out of the process, making it very difficult to finish a line of thought. Suffice it to say that there will be several postings in the near future that have been in the process for a while. Ok, apologies out of the way let’s use the lousy weather today to do some catching up.
I learned about the Bad A** Beer Fest about a month ago via Facebook. This was the 2nd Annual so I apparently missed last year’s. I began talking it up to my local craft beer crew, who were very reluctant to go to a beer fest. They seemed to have a bias against beer fests, where these biases came from I don’t know. But we have all wanted to do a road trip together to some different breweries so this seemed like a good opportunity to explore multiple breweries from around Tampa at one stop… which is one of the best advantages of any beer fest.
It was kind of back and forth for a while. Rowdy wanted to go but getting anyone else to go was iffy at best. The day before, I found out that the Maestro was coming and Rowdy told me that she and the Cooler were coming as well. I offered to drive because I was going to go whether anyone else went or not, and I have a vehicle that accommodates four people well for a road trip. Maestro suggested a different route that taking the interstate down to Tampa, which I was in favor of. If you have ever driven around Tampa in the last couple of years then you know that the I-75 traffic is terrible because of all the construction that is going on. We opted instead to head down along the west coast of Florida and come into the Beer Fest site from the north instead of trying to come into Tampa from the east. A choice which proved better as we went because the rain on the way down was much like the rain we’re having today. And trying to drive through down pours on the interstate is much more dangerous than on the less traveled highway.
General Admission for the fest started at 7 PM, and VIP entry started at 6. None of us opted for the VIP entry because the only advantages we could see were that you got a tour of the Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s new brewery in Westchase (where the event was held) and an hour head start on the beer sampling. Considering that the event was scheduled to last til 11 PM, the idea of paying for an additional hour of sampling seemed a little ridiculous. And while touring the brewery might be interesting if you haven’t toured a brewery before, it did not interest any of us. However, there were folks coming in for the VIP access even as late as 10 minutes before General Admission began.
TBBC’s entrance is on the Northeast corner of Race Track Road and the entrance to Monroe Business Park, which is located in the Westchase area of the greater Tampa area. The brewery is the only building on the site and is centrally located on the northern edge of the site. If you come into the entrance, which is on the south of the brewery, there is parking spots all along the west between the brewery and race Track road and along the south along Monroe Business Park entrance. On the east of the brewery is the loading dock area.
For the Beer Fest, all of the parking spots were occupied by brewery tents and merchandise vendors, except for the Southwest corner of the parking lot where a bandstand was erected. The loading dock area on the east side was where the food vendors and the port-a-potties were located (see map above).
Once we entered the fest, we turned to the immediate left and had samples from the host brewery. I had their Full Moon Madness (a Subtropical Porter) which was a special 20th Anniversary release by TBBC, which I thought was a pretty tasty porter. I don’t recall what the rest of the crew had but they all seemed to like their selection.
And so we began wandering around the fest, sampling the various beers, chatting with our fellow beer lovers and just generally enjoying ourselves. I couldn’t tell you the name of the band but they were doing a great job at covering various songs.
Most of the beer vendors were local Tampa breweries or at least near the Tampa area. And it was a good mix of different types of beer. Though I did notice there were a lot of fruit beers and a lot of spicy beers. I must have had at least three samples of sour beer and another three of beers brewed with peppers. All of them I liked but I do have to give a shout out to Three Palms Brewing with their “The Rooster Says”. This was a really tasty Gose, flavored with Tomato juice and Siracha. To me it tasted like a combination of a Bloody Mary and what we called a “Red Dog” when I was younger, which was tomato juice and beer, an old hangover cure. I just thought it was great.
There were also a great number of IPAs, Porters, Stouts, APAs, Hefeweizens, etc. Most of what I sampled tasted great. I want to mention two other beers that really stood out for me personally. Paw Paw Brewing had three beers to choose from and I selected their Schwarzhound, which is a Chocolate Orange Black Beer. It was really tasty and smelled great. I could smell the hints of orange in the foam and the combination or chocolate and orange had slight coffee undertones. It was just a really good stout.
The last one I want to mention was not a professional brewery, but a home brew club. Being a home brewer myself I like to taste someothers whenever possible. I asked for their Single Hopped APA which was named “Trekkie”. This was a really good Pale Ale, well balanced and smooth. I really liked it and thought about going back for another.
After a couple hours of beer sampling I had decided I had pretty much had enough beer, so I began drinking water while the others continued a little while longer. While we were walking around during the evening we also looked at some of the wares on display at various booths for sale. There were hats, t-shirts, glassware and the regular stickers and coasters available. I ended buying a really cool looking glass and a t-shirt that my friends suggested matched my style of beer drinking.
It seemed to be a really good turnout for the Beer Fest. Beer drinkers from all walks of life were in attendance. I believe I read they were expecting about 3500 people, which I can neither confirm nor deny… I just know there was a whole lotta people.
Which brings about a couple of critiques I have about the fest:
Only 4 food vendors for that many people is no where near enough. There were lines with about a 20 minute wait just to order your food at most of the trucks. The good point about this was that the shortest line for food was at the Jersey Mike’s truck. So I got a really good Philly Cheesesteak. But anyone else who waited at the other trucks had a much longer wait.
The number for port-a-potties for that size a crowd was also very inadequate. Again there was at least a twenty minute wait just to get up to be the next in line. I think the key point that the organizers missed here was this… IT’S A BEER FEST!! What did you not get about making sure there are enough facilities at an event where the featured product is a liquid that makes a large percentage of people have to use a bathroom?! And this leads to…
Why would you have the port-a-potties located so close to the food vendors??!! Enuff said about that.
Overall, my friends and I enjoyed ourselves a lot. I think I have dispelled their concerns about beer fests and will be able to bring them along to future ones I attend. And I think the event organizers did a very good job and other than the three points I mentioned above I wouldn’t have changed anything else. I will definitely be going back again next year. I think my friends will too. Hopefully we can convince some more to join us.
Out-of-town visitors… Don’t you love ’em? I do. Especially when they’re fun folks like the Blarneyman and his Blushing Bride. Whenever they visit it’s a great excuse for our Band of Craft Beer Enthusiasts to get together and enjoy some libations (not that we really need an excuse). Wherever we end up we have a good time together.
Blarneyman and his Bride had arrived the night before but since that was a Thursday I elected to stay home because I had to work the next day and Thursday night usually involves karaoke. And karaoke usually involves more beers than I. See on a Thursday night. By the time Friday afternoon rolled around I got a text from Rowdy inquiring about Happy Hour. I suggested Loosey’s and she came back with 430 and I passed it along to the others.
If you haven’t been to Loosey’s then you either haven’t been in Gainesville long or you’ve been dead for a while. This is what Gainesville residents would refer to as a local legend. Located in the heart of downtown Gainesville it has always been known for drinking and entertainment but in recent years it has also been known for good food as well. Now I can’t speak to their other food as the only thing I have eaten there are their fish and chips. But they’re the best fish and chips in Gainesville. Since I don’t eat there that often I have a tendency to get the one thing I know they do best and that no one else can do as well yet.
Loosey’s also has a large number of craft beers on tap as well as bottles. Their selection may not be as varied as say House of Beer, BrassTap or World of Beer, but they do try to offer varieties that you mind not find elsewhere in town. I started off with Blue Point Brewing’s Spring Fling, which a pretty well balanced American Pale Ale. The Doctor arrived, followed shortly by Rowdy though she didn’t have the Cooler with her as he was off “huntin’!” We grabbed a little table and began philosofying about our past week. Soon enough I was ready for another and ordered Sweetwater Brewing’s 18 Belgian Style Tripel Ale which was potent but smooth tasting.
Not long after that the Maestro arrived with the Blarneyman in tow. We all decided on a bigger table and found one nearby. The Doctor, Rowdy and I checked out the menu while the Maestro and Blarneyman ordered some drafts. I tried someone’s Terrapin Ale Special Project and did not care for it at all. So with my food order of fish and chips I ordered Founders Blushing Monk, a fruit beer, to help get rid of the taste. Sometimes I like fruit beers and sometimes not. I really liked the Blushing Monk. And it pared well with the fish and chips. Did I mention yet that they have the best fish and chips in town?
So we drank craft beers, ate fish and chips (Rowdy kept stealing my chips – did I mention these are the best fish and chips in town?), and philosified. Blarneyman ordered another round of the same beers we were having so I had another Blushing Monk which I found out is a 9.2% beer. By the time we finished the food both Rowdy and the Doctor had to leave. So the Maestro, Blarneyman and I continued on to First Magnitude Brewing.
Parking was at a minimum there so once we all finally stowed our vehicles away, we made it inside to find that despite the full parking the wait to get drafts wasn’t too long. Blarneyman hadn’t been here since they opened the beer garden so we headed outside to enjoy the nice cool breeze. I had the Big Shoals American Brown Ale. I believe the Maestro and the Blarneyman both had the Time Out Stout, which is also a really good First Mag brew. By the time we had finished these beers it was late enough for me to go home and take the dog for a walk. We had all agreed with Rowdy and the Doctor to go to the Tree Fest at Swamp Head Brewery the next day so I said I’d see them then and headed home.
Swamp Head Brewery created an event called Tree Fest to raise money for planting trees. The following is a description from their Facebook page:
“We would like you to help us plant some trees. Solar Impact, Inc. and Swamp Head Brewery have teamed up to create Tree Fest, an annual event to be hosted at the Swamp Head brewery around Earth Day and Arbor Day each year. Tree Fest will celebrate the environment by raising money to plant trees with the Alachua Conservation Trust in an event that will feature food trucks, family-friendly activities, and of course, Swamp Head beer. Five trees will be planted for every beer purchased during Tree Fest, and all sponsor donations will go toward planting trees. The trees planted will be one year old longleaf pines and will be planted on ACT’s Little Orange Creek Preserve in Hawthorne, Florida. Our goal is to plant over 5000 trees with money raised by Tree Fest.”
Swamp Head Brewery began the Tree Fest at 1 PM, so the Doctor, Rowdy and I decided to meet there around then. The Brewery grounds were covered with three food trucks, a couple of bounce houses for children, and some information booths. It was nice outside but the threat of rain was in the air and tornado warnings weren’t that far away.ant over 5,000 trees with money raised by Tree Fest.
The Doctor and I both started out with Swamp Head’s River Logger, which is a black lager, and quite tasty. I moved on to Catherine’s Wood, a Russian Imperial Stout. If you’ve read any of my blogs before you know I enjoy a good stout and this one is one of my faves. Rowdy decided to get a Lobster Roll from Monsta Lobsta food truck which she loved.
About the time she finished eating that I noticed a couple at a nearby table playing some kind of game that required holding your phone up to your forehead. I was intrigued so I wandered over and asked about it, and was introduced to the Charades App for phones. After I downloaded it, Rowdy and the Doctor and I played it for a bit. It is really addicting and is a fun way to pass time while you’re supping some suds.
After we finished that first round, the Maestro and Blarneyman showed up with their respective spouses. Blarneyman has his Blushing Bride and the Maestro has his Muse. If you know these ladies you will understand why I picked these names for them. Blushing Bride is a warm friendly lady who always seems to have a smile on her face, especially when she is around Blarneyman. And the Muse (or in ancient Greek the Mousai) in Greek mythology, poetry and literature, are the goddesses of the inspiration of literature, science, and the arts. This lady is not only wise and musically talented but gifted at sharing these talents. They entered carrying saplings being given away by the Alachua Conservation Trust.
So we spent the next hour or so, catching up, playing Charades, philosifying, and supping suds. It was an enjoyable afternoon where our activities helped the environment, the money we spent was for local businesses, and we spent our time in good company.
On the way out, both the Doctor and I had to stop and get some ice cream cones from the Sweetdreams food truck, a perfect topper for the afternoon.
If you get the chance to attend a similar event at Swamp Head in the future, I suggest going, especially if you can go and meet friends there. If not, then go and make some new ones.
And if you have never been to Loosey’s Downtown, then what in the hell are you waiting for. Did I mention I love their Fish and Chips?
As the Blarneyman says “EEM!!! (Enjoy Every Moment)
Let me preface this review by saying that I don’t like lines. And by that I mean lines to get into a movie or a restaurant or night club or bar. If I walk up to place and I hear that there is a wait of more than 10-15 minutes to be seated, 99 times out of 100, I’m walking away and going somewhere else. That’s just the way I am. Very rarely over the last 30+ years of going out to places have I found anyplace worth wasting mine or anyone else’s time to wait to get in.
Having said that, I got to the beer fest a little later than I would have liked, the pouring started at 1PM sharp and they let folks enter around Noon. But I didn’t get in line til around ten after 1. The line to check in when I arrived was about 300-400 feet long and it reached from one side of the back square at Town of Tioga all the way to the other side and a bit more (see the pic below).
Did I mention I don’t like lines?
It took about 20 minutes for my spot in the line to move around to the check-in. Which considering how many people were attending (1400 tickets pre-sold) wasn’t bad. And the line moved at a decent pace. At the check-in the event organizers (the Hogtown Brewers) dutifully checked I.D.s and verified tickets holders, then passed out the sampling glass with the Passbook, a small booklet listing the different vendors and their products and a map showing their location. Immediately after the check-in tables was a guy dressed in some kind of Incan Sun-God King outfit (at least that was what it appeared to be to me) pouring out samples of Bold city Killer Whale, a Cream Ale, which seemed kind of timid for a craft beer festival. But then if you’re someone who is not familiar with craft beer this would be a good crossover beginner beer. But who am I to judge… I once drove 4 hours just to get some Genesee Cream Ale, and one of my favorite Swamp Head brews is Wild Night, a honey cream ale.
One of my friends, the Blainenator, was helping out at one of the vendor booths and I stopped by the booth to say hi. He hadn’t had a chance to wander around the festival yet. So we decided to explore the festival together for a bit. He had heard about a Maple Milk Stout so we went to the pod which had Florida Avenue Brewing. This stout wasn’t in the passbook as one of those they were serving so it was a surprise. and a good one at that. Definite hints of the maple syrup as well as chocolate and coffee hints that a lot of stouts will have were present and it also had a smooth texture.
While we were in the same pod, we also stopped at Copp Brewing, where I had the 1821 English ESB, and at Three Palms Brewing where I sampled the Guess Again, which is a sour ale. The Guess Again I thought just ok but then I like some sours and not others. I am, however starting to become a big fan of ESBs (Extra Special/Strong Bitter). Don’t let the name fool you. The ESBs I thought were the best tasting were not overly bitter as the name suggests, In fact, they have very well balanced flavors. Copp Brewing’s ESB is one of these balanced beers.
We then wandered to many different pods trying the various samples available to us. The breweries that I had samples from included (but were not limited to): 3 Daughters Brewing, Aardwolf Brewing, Abita Beer, Bell’s Brewery, Bold City Brewing, Brew Bus, Bugnutty, Cigar City Brewing, Copp Brewery, Engine 15, Florida Avenue, Florida Beer Co., Founders Brewing, Green Flash Brewing, Intuition Brewing, Left Hand Brewery, Lost Coast Brewing, Motorworks Brewing (soon to be covered in a review by Rowdy), Ommegang Brewery, Persimmon Hollow Brewing, RJ Rockers Brewing, Sixpoint Brewery, Southern Tier Brewing, Sweetwater Brewing, Three Palms Brewing, and Uinta Brewery. Then of course I had to stop by the locals (Swamp Head Brewery & First Magnitude Brewing). And there were probably three times as many breweries represented that I did not sample. Most of the beers were good, a few were just okay, but none of them made me want to dump it out and wash my mouth out.
I think the one I liked best for the day was a Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout by Lexington Brewing and Distillery. They weren’t even listed in the passbook but I really like stouts and the bourbon flavoring on top of this one was really tasty. The Blaineanator and I got into line for their booth and only had couple folks ahead of us. After we got our samples we turned around and saw the line had grown back about 20 or more people. It literally grew in the blink of an eye.
Did I mention I don’t like lines?
And beer was not the only brew being offered; there were a few (mostly local) vendors who had samples of ciders, meads and some local wines as well.
And of course there was the killer 55 foot trailer that was converted into a large multi-tap dispenser. Dubbed “Craftzilla” this beast is a beer drinker’s dream.
I was very glad to see not only the local breweries (Swamp Head, First Magnitude and Alligator Brewing) being represented, but also some of the local tap rooms, like BrassTap and Gainesville House of Beer. And I was especially glad to see a lot of local food vendors.
I’ve been to beer fests where the food vendor is basically Domino’s or Pizza Hut Pizza, a fast food place, and Baskin Robbins Ice Cream. I have nothing against any of these places. But they, in my opinion do not even come close in comparison with the likes of our local places. For pizza you could choose from one of the Food Truck’s which was called Humble Pie (see blog on First Magnitude brewing for a mention of them) and one of Gainesville’s must visit pizza places, Satchel’s Pizza had a booth. The Reggae Shack café had a booth, if you like Caribbean cuisine, and there were several other local food truck vendors. For me there were three highlights as far as food goes for the day.
First, Stubbies and Steins, one of the first establishments to bring craft beers to Gainesville and the best german style sausages anywhere, had a booth. This was one of my favorite places for food right up until they closed last year. So seeing the staff from there back serving the most awesomest sausages was a great treat. I also purchased a tee and some glassware from them for memories sake. Hope to see more of them in the future.
Second… What is a beer fest without pretzels? One of the best german traditions is hot fresh soft pretzels and a stein of beer. Particularly served with either mustard or a horse-radish sauce. Well, friends, I’m here to tell you that there’s a new player in town. A little company by the name of LEJ Pretzel, Co. has arrived and they make some really great pretzels. Soft and chewy without being too dry these tasted great. I am wishing them well in their new enterprise and hoping to see them in other events around the area. (P.S. – they have a Facebook page so you can find them there.)
Third, and while my last vendor mention they are in no way the least, is Sweetberries Eatery & Frozen Custard. I have not had the opportunity to sample any of Sweetberries other foods, but their frozen custard is the best. This time I had their Honey flavored and it was a perfect topper for the other foods and beers I had that afternoon. I could tell that they used good quality honey to make the custard, and not some syrup substitute. The flavor came through that well. After purchasing my custard, I said “bye” to the Blainenator and slowly walked toward the exit of the festival, savoring every bit of the frozen treat. I was half tempted to lick the bowl clean it was so good and probably would have in the privacy of my home.
I made my way to the front of Tioga Town center where I had been lucky enough to happen upon a parking space just as someone was leaving, otherwise I would have had to drive to the overflow parking and ride the shuttle back. The one drawback of Tioga Town Center for use of any event is the lack of sufficient parking. I feel bad for the businesses located there when these events happen because it must be a deficit for their customers. I had to park in front of Blue Highway Pizza to find a space. And when I got back to the vehicle I realized that a pizza for dinner would be nice, so I figured since I parked in front of their shop I should at least patronize their business.
I ordered a special which was basically their Greek pizza with Tzatziki sauce instead of tomato sauce and the pieces of meat that are normally roasted on a spit (can’t remember the name). It was delicious. If you haven’t tried Blue Highway (whether this one or the one in Micanopy) you need to.
When I got home, before I settled down to eat dinner, I spread out the Swag I had bought or collected (with the Blainenator’s help) which you can see below. Not a bad little haul. Glad I brought a little shoulder pack with me.
If you couldn’t make it to the Hogtown Craft Beer Festival this year, you should have. There were a lot of great people, some who you may have known and probably a lot you didn’t. There were plenty of great beers to sample and lots of good food to eat. They even had a little area for kids to play in. The price tag for the entrance was $45. Some of you might hear that and think to yourself “Why would I spend that much for beer when I can buy a twelve pack of my favorite beer for less than $15?”
And if all you want to do is drink your normal everyday Lager and drink it and nothing else, then I agree with you that is what YOU should do.
But if you want to be able to sample multiple styles and breweries in one spot, eat some of the best food in Gainesville, and meet some really great folks, then spend the money… it was more than worth it. I’ll certainly be back again next year. My hat’s off to the Hogtown Brewers for throwing such a great event.