The Art of Beer Pt 5 – Brewing (Home, Craft and Production)

December 5th, 1933, the date the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was enacted, which repealed the 18th Amendment, (also known as Prohibition); and October 14, 1978, when then President Jimmy Carter signed H.R 1337 into law, which eventually led to the newest advent of Home Brewing in the US; both of these dates are probably the most important dates in the 20th Century in relation to beer.

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The truth of the matter is that beer and brewing have been around much longer than any known laws (beer was developed as far back as 7000 years ago and the earliest recorded laws date back less than 5000 years.) Samples of beers, meads and wines can be found from many ancient cultures from many different parts of the world. To say that the Prohibition Act was not only one of worst ideas ever would be an understatement. It not only forced hundreds of thousands to become law breakers but it was one of biggest reasons for the rise of organized crime. And up until that point in American history brewing your own beer at home was not only an everyday occurrence it was a large portion of the source of beer consumed at that time. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s that production beer brewing started really growing.

So I am going to describe and compare the three main types of beer brewing, where they have similarities and differences and the pros and cons of each type. I have broken them down by the main factor of what currently defines them and that is by amount of beer brewed.

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Home Brewing is exactly what it sounds like, beer being brewed at home. Before America existed as a nation and for about 150 years after it was born, home brewing was the original method of brewing. And because it was done in the kitchen it was considered cooking, so most brewers in those days were women, not men. But then looking back through the history of many ancient cultures, brewing has always been primarily associated with women.

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In fact most of the ancient deities associated with beer brewing were goddesses:

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Siduri – Babylonian goddess of wine and beer

Siris – Mesopotamian goddess of beer

Ninkasi – Sumerian goddess of beer

Hathor – Egyptian goddess of brewing and enjoyment

Nepththys – Egyptian goddess of beer

Tenenet – Egyptian goddess of childbirth and beer

Dea Letis – Celtic goddess of waiter and beer

Nokhubulwane – Zulu goddess of rainbow, agriculture, rain and beer

These goddesses were also associated with agriculture, bread, water or childbirth depending on the culture, which means that the ancient world closely associated beer with life and good living.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “Beer is proof that God loves us!”

Today many people are getting back into home brewing as a hobby, including yours truly. Brewing beer at home means that batch sizes range anywhere from a gallon to 10 gallons being brewed at a time. And the 10 gallon size batch can be very difficult for some folks because now you’re having to handle liquids in containers weighing at least 100 pounds. Once you get out of the 10 gallon range then you need to invest in more commercial like equipment and you’re really stepping into the Craft Brewing category.

If you enjoy cooking then Home Brewing may be an option for you to try. You need the same discipline that cooking requires; measuring ingredients, prepping both your kitchen and your equipment, and a good sense of timing for when the product is ready’ and the patience to wait for the product to be ready for consuming. If you don’t have those skills then you may be better off finding a friend who does and drink their homebrew instead.

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While Home Brewing has been around for centuries, Craft brewing is a much more recent phenomenon and is really the next stage of evolution in the beer making industry after you graduate from being a hobbyist. A Craft Brewery is a business where much more experimentation is done on different varieties of beers, the goal being not to only create a good tasting product but to also create something unique using traditional ingredients and methods, something that the larger Production Breweries can’t or won’t do.

While most Craft Brewers started out as Home Brewers, they have now graduated from a hobbyist to an entrepreneur and need to keep in mind that they are running a business. They have to run a good business model and still maintain the higher quality of product than the large Production Breweries have. But if they do run the business well, they can often experiment more with varying styles of beer and ingredients.

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Production brewing exploded after the start of the industrial revolution. With the invention of new machines that could do the work of many men the production of beer became much cheaper. Before Prohibition there were over 4000 breweries in America. During prohinition that number became zero. And only a handful of those breweries were able to survive Prohibition by changing their products produced to something legal, like near beer, malts, syrups, or other non-alcoholic related products. After prohibition ended, those that survived started up brewing again but with a much more homogenized version of beer due to new laws governing beer. And in order for these breweries to start making profits quickly, they changed a lot of their ingredients from the traditional barley and malt, to a much cheaper ingredient list that now also included corn and rice starches.

Another reason for the rise of these mass-production beer companies was due to the abject consumerism of the 1950s, ‘60s. ‘70s, ‘80s & ‘90s in the United States. The rise of radio and then television brought commercialism to new highs. Marketing alone sold the American public on the need for a particular kind of beer. Miller “High Life” used the ideal of living the high life to appeal to its customers. Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer subliminally associated the blue ribbon with being a prize winning beer, where in reality the name came from the original packaging of the beer which had a silk blue ribbon tied around the neck of the bottle. The Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull, Coors Silver Bullet, and Miller Lite “tastes great vs less filling” commercials all used various forms of comedy and flashy props to sell their products.

Which brings us to the “King” of commercialism, Anheuser-Busch. Adolphus Busch and Carl Conrad developed their lager style after a Bohemian Beer from the town of Budweis in Bohemia. The beer they copied was founded by the then King Ottokar II. So they used a “Beer of Kings” and named it after the town and called it the “King of Beers”, a marketing scheme that has lasted for over 100 years. Then of course there are the other marketing ploys, like the Budweiser Clydesdales and the sponsorship of sports, which all of the big beer companies have participated in.

The production beer makers are all about the business. It is much more profitable to make an inferior beer, mass produce it and sell it to the masses with marketing schemes than it is to make a good product. And that is what big business has become in the world today.

Thank goodness for Home and Craft Brewing’s rise in the 80s. Without them, a lot of Americans would never have learned what good beer is actually supposed to taste like.

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Papabear

The Art of Beer Pt 4 – Knowing When to Stop

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I am currently sitting down at one of my favorite tap rooms. There are eight people in the whole joint including myself and the bartender cause it’s still kind of early. In the background while I am typing there is some music playing with a Jamaican flare and a large cacophony of boisterous female cackling and drunk dudes trying to over talk them. One party of four is making most of the noise

Ok. To be fair this place is not the greatest acoustically. And it’s Friday Happy Hour and these folks are happy. Good for them. They seem to be enjoying themselves and having a great time. More power to them.

On the other hand when it’s time for them to leave I hope they use the phone a friend lifeline. Because I doubt any of them is good to drive. Which brings me to the point of this particular section of the Art of Beer…. overdoing it. Or more importantly… Knowing When to Stop!

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I remember when I was a teenager drinking was considered the cool thing to do. And that thought process is still probably true for the younger generation today. “Adults do it so it must be cool!” Or whatever word they use for cool now. Of course they also have a lot more peer pressure to use a lot of different chemical combinations than when I was that age. But this post is about beer so back to the topic at hand.

At that age the only signs that said you had to stop was when you couldn’t walk upright anymore. For any teens then, especially for boys but also for a few girls, this was considered a rite of passage culturally, and not just in American culture. I served overseas In the Air Force from the age of 18-20 in Germany and the same cultural rite of passage seemed true there as well. The difference between Europe and the U.S. is that alcohol consumption there is much more ingrained in the culture and the knowledge of proper consumption is taught to their young adults earlier. Americans have a tendency to throw their kids into the deep end of the pool when it comes to cultural dos and don’ts.

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Americans culturally are usually all about testing their limitations. If you’re not pushing boundaries then how do you know how much you can do? The old adage “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!” has been adopted by American youth throughout the many years for many different cultural activities, but this is especially true for consuming alcohol.

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There is always one person in the crowd who thinks it’s funny to see how much it takes to make someone puke. This can be a man or a woman. And the victim is usually someone of the same sex who is new to that current social gathering and it makes the instigator feel better about themselves to make someone else look foolish. If you have ever drunk any alcohol then the chance is very likely that you have been the victim in the scenario I just mentioned. If you have been the instigator then shame on you!

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If you are one of the lucky ones who have so far escaped unscathed from those who want to see what your limits are, or if you have not yet pushed your own limits, the following are definite signs that you have had too much:

  1. When you get up to walk to the restroom the earth suddenly shifts 45 degrees and you lose your balance. Just FYI – unless you are in an earthquake prone region the chances are pretty good that alcohol is interfering with your equilibrium, which means puking is not far away.
  2. You feel that closing one eye helps you see something you’re looking at better. Unless you have a glass eye, or are sighting down a barrel rifle scope, looking out of one eye is never better for you.
  3. You find yourself flirting with someone who, for some reason unknown to you, your friends keep trying to pull you away from. If these are girlfriends then they won’t stop pulling until they get you away from this person. Guys on the other hand only try to warn you once. After you growl a “Leave me alone!” at them then they adopt the “I warned you and now you’re on your own!” attitude. Part of that is because we’re a bit lazy and part of it is the guy code thing where you don’t try to interfere with another guy trying to get some.
  4. You’re willing to drink anything someone puts in front of you. Most people have their preferences as to what they are drinking for the evening. And while that may vary from night to night, you usually don’t mix different types of alcohol because they don’t always play well together. For instance, a beer and a shot are ok as long as you don’t do too much. Beer followed by wine if fine. But wine followed by beer doesn’t work as well. And you don’t do shots with wine… at least not with good wine. Mixed drinks don’t mix well with either beer or wine, but are okay with shots. If you start mixing these combinations and don’t pay attention to the common rules just stated it usually doesn’t end well,
  5. If you lay your head down on the bar, table or other hard surface and close your eyes, you’re done for the evening. It won’t be long after that you start praying to the porcelain god.
  6. You and a perfect stranger are suddenly the best of friends and you start telling each other things you wouldn’t tell to people who have known you for years,
  7. You come back from the restroom and see that someone has taken your drink or your seat and you start yelling at the top of your lungs and challenging them to a fight. Then you realize you’re at the wrong table/seat and these other people aren’t the group you came in with… or even worse you’ve wandered into a different bar altogether.
  8. You start airing your dirty laundry because your girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse said something to piss you off!!! Granted, some folks don’t need alcohol to get to this point but it certainly drops the barriers that would normally keep that from happening.

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The following, unfortunately, are definite signs that you have had too much but they don’t make themselves apparent until it is far, far too late:

  1. You wake up curled up on the bathroom floor or hugging that nice cool commode.
  2. You wake up and don’t remember how you got there.
  3. You wake up and don’t know where you are.
  4. You wake up with someone whom you do not recognize.
  5. You wake up in jail.
  6. You wake up in jail and the new friend you made that night at the bar is next to you smiling a really creepy smile that makes you wish this is all a bad dream.

If have been sampling alcohol for any length of time then you have probably experienced at least one, if not two, of these signs. If you have experienced all of these signs then you probably have a drinking problem. If you have experienced all of these signs more than once then you probably have a death wish.

The point I am trying to drive home here is that pushing the boundaries has its place, but alcoholic beverages is not really the area to adopt that philosophy in. Knowing when you have had enough is a very important part of being a responsible adult. It’s also a very important part of making it home safely to your loved ones.

Oh by the way, the boisterous quad of drunks I mentioned at the beginning of the post have departed. Three of them left when one of the females started getting real loud and yelling. Then she broke down and started crying into her beer and telling a few strangers at the bar what a great and giving person she is. This is a perfect example of someone who is pushing their boundaries and should have stopped a few beers back.

My point is this, enjoy yourselves as much as you want. But when the alcohol starts letting down inhibitions and your start exposing parts of your personality that are better left hidden then expect to hear something like “Hey… I know you!!!… You were that drunk idiot in the bar the other night!!”

Showing your ass, figuratively and literally, always has consequences.

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Papabear

St. Paddy’s Day Weekend In Gainesville (BrassTap & House of Beer)

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Myself, Rowdy and the Doctor starting our St Paddy’s Day celebrations with a Smithwick’s.

Here’s hoping you all had a festive and very Green St. Patrick’s Day this year. Our group of Suds Supping Bacchanalians certainly did.

We actually started planning where we were going to go a couple of days earlier in the week by trying to find out who was going to have Smithwick’s on tap that day. Drinking Smithwick’s (properly pronounced “Smittick’s”) Irish Red Ale on St. Paddy’s is a tradition for our group. We knew one place in town that always has it on tap for the holiday, but we didn’t want to go to that particular establishment and I won’t mention the name or why here.

We found out that the Red Onion Bar & Grill and the BrassTap would have it on tap. While there is nothing wrong with the Red Onion, we were more in a “drinking at the pub” kind of spirit and BrassTap fits that description much better. Plus the owner, manager and staff all know us and our tastes and are really great at finding us something we might like that we haven’t had before.

When Thursday, the 17th, afternoon arrived the texts started flying like normal. The Chemist and the Decorator had bowling that night which is on the other side of town from where we were headed, so they were going to House of Beer for a pint or two before bowling. The Maestro had a guest visiting from out of town who he was bringing but they were going to dinner first. So that meant  me, Rowdy and the Doctor would begin on our own.

I have to state one little drawback, for me personally, on going to the BrassTap during Happy Hour… the driving there sucks!!!

If you have ever been around Gainesville and tried to get anywhere on the west side of town in the late afternoon/ early evening then you know that what would normally take 15-20 minutes will take 45-60 minutes because of the traffic.

And this year on St. Paddy’s day it was also raining. So the idiots were out in force as well. Honestly, if it weren’t for the fact that we really like the bar and the staff does a really good job, we probably wouldn’t go there just because the traffic is that bad. So that’s a back-handed compliment to BrassTap, and as long as they continue to do so good a job we will find our way there.

By the time I arrived Rowdy and the Doctor were already at the bar, and Allan, the owner, was setting them up with Swag they had gotten for the day. This included a really nice Smithwick’s glass with raised impressions, a glowing Guiness necklace and a St. Patrick’s Day bead necklace featuring a different brewery, in my case Left Hand Brewing. He set me up with a set of these as well. And I began my supping with a Smithwick’s.

My second draft of the night was a Guiness, pictured with the Swag.
My second draft of the night was a Guiness, pictured with the Swag.

We started philosophying and supping suds. I began getting updates from the Maestro about when they were arriving and eventually found out we would be joined by more than himself and his guest Anne. So we decided to move to a larger table before they were all gone. We got lucky and found the big one on the center was available so we snagged it.

It wasn’t too long after that, that Maestro and Anne arrived and the supping and philosophying began in earnest. I had finished my draft of Guiness and was wanting something different so I asked if they could do a black and tan. I was told yes as they also had Bass on tap, but I didn’t like it with Bass, so he suggested one with Smithwick’s instead and I gave the go ahead for that.

Black and Tan with Guiness and Smithwick's
Black and Tan with Guiness and Smithwick’s

Another round of philosophying commenced and before long I was ready for something else. I figured three different pints was enough of a homage to Ireland and I asked for a recommendation and was steered toward the Stone Brewing’s Americano Stout, an Imperial Stout. It had a really nice espresso flavor with a malty aftertaste.

The Americano Stout from Stone Brewing
The Americano Stout from Stone Brewing

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A couple of Anne’s friends arrived and we soon had a sizable group to justify the larger table. And Allen sat down with us for a bit as well.

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After a bit I was ready for my last selection of the evening. So I got a Rodenbach Grand Cru, which was really excellent. Some Grand Crus have too much of a sour taste to them, but to me this one was very nice. I will definitely be ordering it again. Even Rowdy liked it and she doesn’t normally dig the sour beers. At least not as much as I do.

Rodenbach Grand Cru
Rodenbach Grand Cru

After that glass I was ready to leave and so was Rowdy and the Doctor. We said goodbyes to everyone and went our separate ways.

The next day, after a busy day of meetings I was again ready for a little relaxing. So I sent out a text that I was heading to the House of Beer for Happy Hour in case anyone wanted to join me. I didn’t hear back from anyone except from the Maestro stating he would be passing.

When I arrived Alex greeted me and asked what I was having. I wanted something on the lighter side so I asked for the Sixpoint Sweet Action Cream Ale. It had the nice smooth creamy aftertaste that I was looking for but it also had a nice hoppy flavor.

Sixpoint Sweet Action
Sixpoint Sweet Action

I sat at a table and took out the smart phone and was trying to catch up on emails. After a bit I heard a familiar voice and looked up to see the Deck-Orator and the Chemist had arrived. So my weekend celebration would not begin alone.

Being it had probably been a month or so seen I had seen these friends it was especially nice to see them stop by. They went to the bar and got a couple of drinks for themselves and joined me at the table. And we sat around catching up.

After a bit both the Chemist and I were ready for another so we went to the bar and I studied the menu for a bit while he ordered, then I decided to go with a mead and the only one I saw was Stock Up from Moonlight Meadery.

Moonlight Meadery's Stock Up
Moonlight Meadery’s Stock Up

It arrived to me in a wine glass which I thought was unusual but took and headed back to the seat. I have to say it did not taste at all like a typical mead. In fact the more I drank the more it tasted like a wine. In fact very similar to a German Reisling.

I served in the Air Force in what was then West Germany for two years and became very familiar with their Reislings. German wines are mostly made from Reisling grapes and generally also have sugar added to them for the fermentation. So they have an added sweetness to them that is not found in other European wines.

It was probably not my favorite mead because it didn’t taste like what I expected a mead to taste like. But it certainly put me in the mood for more wine instead of beer for the evening.

The three of us sat around for a bit longer while we finished our drinks, then we said goodbyes and parted ways.

Here’s hoping your St. Paddy’s Day weekend went as well for you.

Papabear

A Craft Beer Weekend: BrassTap on Friday and FBG Beer Fest on Saturday

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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.

Sonoma Cider's The Anvil - Bourbon Cider
Sonoma Cider’s The Anvil – Bourbon Cider

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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.

Southern Tier 2XIBA
Southern Tier 2XIBA

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.

Yeungling IPL
Yeungling IPL

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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If you’re near there stop by and try and tell Alex I sent you.

Papabear

Painting with a Twist…. And Craft Beer!

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The Doctor texted me after work on Friday and told me that he and Rowdy were going to Painting With A Twist that night. They had a special class that was featuring Swamp Head Brewery and would include some free samples of the local brewery’s wares. I asked him what time and he told me the class started at 7 but you want to get there at 6:45 to get prepared.

Now, if you have never heard of Painting with a Twist it’s an art based business where you and some of your friends go and learn to paint a specific drawing or painting and while you are doing that you can consume wine which you bring yourself, which is the Twist part.

http://www.paintingwithatwist.com/gainesville/

If you are older guy, like me, there is probably a misogynistic archaic portion of your brain that is thinking “Sounds like a chick thing.”, or something similar. And I confess when Rowdy had told me about the business a while back that was my natural, albeit Cro-Magnon, reaction.

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But this evening they were not only featuring beer, but Craft Beer from Swamp Head, which is one of our local breweries in Gainesville. And after thinking about it some more, why would I not want to hang out around a bunch of women imbibing in beer and wine.

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The Doctor also sent me a pic of his current location, the BrassTap, so I made sure the dog was walked, changed out of my work duds and headed out to join him.

When I got to BrassTap, I saw both father and son, Allan and Brad, were working behind the bar. I wasn’t sure what I wanted so Allan recommended the Terrapin Hopsecutioner (w/ Tangerine and Lemon Peel). I gotta admit it was pretty damn good, and this is from someone who is not as big a fan of IPAs as other people, like Allan, are. It definitely had a hoppy flavor which should satisfy anyone looking for that taste, but it didn’t have the harsh aftertaste that some IPAs have. I would definitely drink it again. It was also nice to score two more badges on the Untappd app.

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The Doctor and I sat around Philosophying and catching up with each other, then I was ready for another so I ordered the Erie Brewing Ol’ Red Cease and Desist. This was a Scotch style ale with a mild rye flavor and very little aftertaste. It was a good Scotch ale but not the best I have had.

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When I was finished with that one it was time to go and both the Doctor and I wanted to grab a bite before we got there. Luckily for us the studio is located right next door to McAlister’s Deli off of Newberry Road in Gainesville. So we stopped there and got a sandwich before we went to the class.

Rowdy met us there and went ahead to the class to make sure we were all seated together, while the Doctor and I wolfed down our food. And I have to point out that is really a shame because McAlister’s makes some pretty tasty sandwiches.

When we finished we walked around the corner to the studio and walked in and waited in line to pay for the evening class. After we paid we were handed our canvas and went into the studio and found Rowdy already decked out in her painting apron and saving two more for us along with our seats.

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When you arrive they have each seat equipped with the easel for your canvas, the brushes you will need, a large plastic cup with water for washing out the brushes (obviously we were using acrylic paints), and a palette with premeasured samples of the paints we would be needing for the evening. Ok, to be honest the “palettes” were actually paper plates, but when you are working with large numbers of people like this it makes more sense to use paper plates or you would end up having to clean off all of the palettes after every class.

And this particular class was pretty full already. And while it may have sounded misogynistic earlier, the class was made up of a majority of women. But there were a few other men there as well so the Doctor and I were not the only ones attending.

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Around the studio were the various paintings that had been done before for earlier classes and I saw some that I liked a lot. They represented a wide variety of styles. Not being an expert in Art I will not try to pass myself off as one on here.

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And before class began we were encouraged to help ourselves with a sample from the cooler that Swamp Head had provided for the event that evening. Their canned fare was available to us, which meant we could choose from Stump Knocker Pale Ale, Big Nose IPA, Wild Night Cream Ale and Cottonmouth Belgian Witbier. Unfortunately, my favorite of their year-round offerings was not there, Midnight Oil Oatmeal Coffee Stout. So I selected the Cottonmouth for my first sample. If you haven’t had it before, then you should as it is a nice clean witbier with just the right flavor.

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When the time arrived, our teacher, Katie (who I found out later is also the studio manager for Gainesville), began talking about the studio and explaining how things were set up and whether you had been there before or not that you would still end up enjoying yourself. She introduced her assistant for the evening, Holly, who would be going around and helping where she was needed.

Katie and Holy being Photo=bombed by the Doctor.
Holly and Katie being Photo-bombed by the Doctor.

Then she talked a little bit about the painting we would be doing that evening, the Swamp Head logo. And she introduced Nick Dunn, who is the Director of Operations at Swamp Head. He stood up and spoke a little bit about Swamp Head’s history and about what the logo represented and what the company believed in. I won’t try and quote him here. You can go the Swamp Head website and read that for yourself here:

http://swamphead.com/

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After he was done he sat back done with the other patrons who were painting. And Katie then mentioned some of the nice swag he brought along would be given away during various little contests throughout the night. This perked Rowdy’s ears up as she is all about the swag.

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So we began class by discussing the brushes and the paints and how to use them during the course of the evening. Then we started working on the background for the painting first. Now while I said I am no art expert, I have done some artwork over the years, mostly for my own enjoyment. But I usually just work in sketching, either with pencils or charcoal. And in that I usually work on the object of the drawing first and then fill in the background later. So this is a different way of thinking for me.

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Now, I am not going to go into the details of each step we took in the process as reading about it would not be the same as experiencing it. I will say that Katie was a good teacher in that she took her time explaining how to do what we needed to do and pacing the class so that everyone could catch up. She even worked in a couple of 5 minute breaks so we could stand and stretch. I will say that I was very glad to see that they had a camera on the easel that she worked off of and displayed it on a big screen TV in the back of the room, where we were. It made it much easier to see what she was doing and describing.

And Holly was very helpful throughout the evening as well, making sure folks had enough of the various colors we were using, pointing out ways to help out the students, and giving encouragement as she went along.

Both of these young ladies were very good at their job and you could tell they enjoyed doing it. I would recommend asking for them when you go. I know Rowdy wants to do her birthday party there and them to teach the class.

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A little more than halfway through the class I decided to get another sample and selected the Stump Knocker Pale Ale this time. It’s also a refreshing beer and probably my favorite of the year-rounds just after the Midnight Oil and Wild Night.

The contests throughout the night included posting a pic to social media and checking in at Painting with a Twist, the one receiving the most likes wins, another included painting temporary tattoos on each other and having a pairs contest to see which pair of tats had the best symmetry. And there was another but I don’t remember what it was. We didn’t win any of them but we still had fun.

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A young couple who sat across the table from us had brought their own wine and was sampling it and really didn’t know anything about Swamp Head. The young man came up to me and asked what beers were good. I told him that they were all good but it depended on what kind of beer style he liked. I asked him what he normally drank and he responded that he wasn’t a big beer drinker but he liked the usual stuff. I guessed that he meant a normal American Lager and steered him toward the Wild Night Cream Ale. I didn’t want to throw him into the deep end of the pool with an IPA or a Stout. He said that it tasted pretty good, so we may have discovered another convert to craft beer.

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In your face Macro!!

During the whole class music played in the background of a variety of artists, but I especially enjoyed listening to Darius Rucker’s Wagon Wheel, the Spinner’s Rubber Band Man, and a lot of older hits and quite a few of us were actually singing along.

A lot of picture taking took place at the end both by the patrons and the staff and the staff also took pictures throughout the night and later posted them Facebook. The two hours spent at the class went by fast and when we were done we all hand a painting to take home with us. I’m thinking I will hang mine in the brew house I plan on building later on.

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So all I can say is if you get an invite to go to Painting With A Twist then you should take the opportunity to go. Or make an opportunity yourself. You learn something new, get to meet new people, have a little alcohol and just enjoy yourself a lot.

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Bad A** Beer Fest 2015 – Tampa Bay Brewing Company (Subtitled – “We’re Baaa-aack!!” Craft Beer Crew Road Trip)

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.

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BADA** BEERFEST Passport

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.

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the Cooler, Rowdy and me on the ride down from Gainesville. the Maestro doesn’t do pictures.

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.

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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.

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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.

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A map of the TBBC brewery and how the fest was laid out.

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).

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The new brewery’s inside equipment

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The outside deck where brewery customers can relax and imbibe.

Which brings about a couple of critiques I have about the fest:

  1. 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.
  2. 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…
  3. 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.

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Papabear