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

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

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

First Mag Dunkulla
Trop Hop – New England Style IPA

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cypress & Grove IPA
Cypress & Grove Stout

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panoramic shot of Indigo’s Homemade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Papabear

 

Celebrate the Season with Blackadder Brewing Company!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In my opinion, it was money well spent.

Papabear

 

Predictions for the coming year in Craft Beer

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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.

Oh yes… here is one more. One last 100 percenter…

I believe I’ll have another. BAM!!

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Papabear

 

 

Craft Beer Lover’s Are More Socially Conscious

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Tucker with Rowdy at the Pints for Puppies event at Gainesville House of Beer

First let me clarify the title of this article by stating that I have no empirical data or documented evidence to support that claim. It is merely an opinion, and being that I am a craft beer lover it is a biased opinion at that.

But what I have been observing first hand over the last few years is that the interaction between Craft Beer Breweries, tap rooms or beer houses, and their patrons is much more community oriented that my recollections of the interactions with the Macro Beer Breweries and their related distributors.

My experiences of interactions with Macro breweries or the representatives has been basically like one of their beer commercials.  Sporting events, or athletic related events, BBQ or Chili cook-offs, NASCAR, and of the course female swimwear contests seem to be the focus of their community interaction.

Don’t misunderstand me, I know that at least one of them has done things like donating canned water to disaster areas and I’m sure that there are some really good folks who work for them.  But it seems that for the most part their focus with customers is generally whatever increases the profits for the company and their stockholders. But then that really shouldn’t surprise me. As demonstrated by the numerous craft brewery acquisitions and the impending merger between ABInBev and SAB Miller the bottom line appears to be their final deciding factor.

But the focus of Craft Breweries and Craft Beer Tap Rooms when dealing with events around their communities is much different. Now every business wants to make a profit. Let’s face it without profits it won’t be long before these businesses no longer exists. But there comes a point where profits need to give way to the needs of the community that these businesses live in and rely on. And in this aspect most Craft Beer businesses (whether breweries or tap rooms) excel far above their Macro Beer counterparts.

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A perfect example was my most recent visit to Gainesville House of Beer. They hosted an event called Pints for Puppies. The idea was to raise funds for a new dog rescue Loving Hands Rescue. The idea being that $1 of each pint you purchased would be donated to this group. They also had beer specials and were accepting donations in cash or the form of supplies that the rescue could use for the puppies.

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The Brass Tap on Archer road recently hosted a fund raising event for Operation Cat Nip, which is a program to help spay or neuter feral cats to help keep the population from growing. They also have teacher appreciation night every Friday offering discounted drafts to local teachers.

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All of our local breweries, Swamp Head Brewing, First Magnitude Brewing and Alligator Brewing (located inside Tall Paul’s Brew House) are often involved in fund raising for various purposes. Ranging from environmental causes, charity events, political fund raising and even hosting yoga.

And the crowds that turn out for these events are inspiring. Even folks who may not normally patronize a craft beer business turn out for them because it helps the community. And there are other businesses in town that do similar fund raising events involving craft beer. Forgive me for not naming them all here. But you may have read about them in my other blog entries.

And while Gainesville is generally considered a liberal leaning college town where you might expect this kind of activity, from what I can tell of happenings in other towns with Craft Beer related businesses, this is not a liberals only activity. You see it happening all over the US wherever craft beers businesses have been popping up.

All I can say it I find it very inspiring and gratifying to part of a community (I refer to the Craft Beer community – not just Gainesville) that is so giving and concerned for the people, animals and environment around them.

Cheers to you all (that’s from Tucker too) and keep up the great work!!

Tucker likes good craft beer too. Don't worry I know hops are bad for dogs. This is a Hefeweizen and he only likced the mpty glass.
Tucker likes good craft beer too. Don’t worry I know hops are bad for dogs. This is a Hefeweizen and he only licked the empty glass.

Papabear

 

How Barrel-Aged and Sour Beers Make You End Up In Your PJs in the Street on a Saturday Night (A Review of Florida Brewers Guild Barrel-Aged & Sour Beer Fest and Gainesville Roller Rebels Pub Crawl)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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Then we walked around and began sampling and talking with the various vendors on site. below are some pics from the event.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Papabear

Unwinding with BrassTap, Roller Derby, Satchel’s Pizza and Craft Beer

imageA couple of weeks ago, my work week was hectic and not only mentally but physically demanding. By the time Friday rolled around I was exhausted and ready for the weekend. The phone signals don’t reach me in my office so when I left for the day my phone did it’s normal blow up of email, text messages and app notifications.

One app notification in particular caught my attention. According to Untappd, the Doctor had just toasted one of my check-ins of craft beer. If he was toasting, that means he was checking in as well. So I looked it up real quick and sure enough he was supping a craft beer. So I toasted it and waited for a response.

A minute later I got a text message inviting me to join him at BrassTap. I replied I would join him as soon as I got home and checked on the dog and changed clothes. Not long after that the Maestro sent out a text to the group suggesting happy hour at certain spot. The Doctor told him where he was and Maestro was all for it so the two of them were already seated and supping suds when I arrived.

The regular hand shaking and “Howdy-dos!” were exchanged while I sat at the bar with my friends. The bartender approached and we exchanged greetings as well. Luckily I’m there regularly enough that he knows me and my taste buds because when he asked what I wanted to drink I asked “What’s new?” He knows what I like and steered me toward Ballast Point Brewing’s “Victory at Sea”, an Imperial/Double Porter. It has really smooth coffee flavor with hints of chocolate.

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The Doctor, Maestro and I philosophyed for a bit, then I had Bold City Brewery’s 1901 Amber Ale, which I thought was a well-balanced ale. I could taste some hops but they didn’t over shadow the slightly roasted malt flavor of a red ale.

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The last beer I wanted to be lighter as I usually start light and work my way darker, but this time was reversed. The bartender recommended First Magnitude’s Cool Pond Belgian Blonde, which I had to agree with him was really good and finished well for the set.

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The Maestro had another appointment and had to take his leave of us. After the Doctor and I finished our last beers we talked a bit then parted ways until we would meet again the next night at Rowdy’s Roller Derby Bout. Unfortunately he wound up not being able to make it the next day.

The next day I went to a fish fry at O’Leno State Park then headed back in time to get changed and head out to meet Rowdy at the Alachua Country Fairgrounds where the roller derby was held. If you have never been to Roller Derby you need to go at least once. Once you understand the rules and how points are scored it makes easier to understand and root for your team. While the teams were warming up I found Rowdy and said good luck to her then went and purchased a Swamp Head Brewery Stomp Knocker poured from a pitcher. That was the only craft beer they were selling there, though they had cans of your normal American lagers.

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I spent the couple hours rooting for the Gainesville Roller Rebels, to no avail, as the Dub City Rollers were Amazons and kicked butt. Though I don’t think they made as many points as they wanted to.

After the bout I found Rowdy and asked if she wanted to go the after party they were having at Gainesville House of Beer. She said what she really needed was food so the nearest place that had good food and craft beer that I could think of was Satchel’s Pizza. Rowdy liked the sound of that so I went to get in line for a table while she helped her teammate’s clean up.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts you seen me mention that I don’t like lines and that I will usually not wait for any lengthy time to get a table. Well, there is an exception to every rule, and Satchel’s is it. If you have never been to Satchel’s then you must be new to Gainesville as it is one of the most well-known local restaurants and has almost a cult following. And not without reason.

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Satchel’s is known for their pizzas, calzones and salads. They have other items too, but these three things they do very, very well. They also have one of the most unique atmosphere’s you will ever see. Right in front of the restaurant is an old VW bus parked that has sit in the same spot forever. In fact it is actually used for seating guests outdoors. They have indoor and outdoor seating with the whole building kind of decorated in a 60’s deck/patio theme. At the rear of the restaurant is Lightning Salvage, which sells paraphernalia from the 50s, 60s and 70s like the magnetic rolling yo-yo, superballs, flash travel card sets, etc. I could spend hours in that place just looking around. Check out their website at www.satchelspizza.com

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In fact, while I was waiting for my table to open and Rowdy to arrive I went to Lightning Slavage and ordered a craft beer at the bar there, First Magnitude’s Drift Mild English Ale, then spent the next 20-30 minutes just looking at the junk they sell (When I say junk in this instance I don’t mean it in a negative connotation. After all one man’s junk…) and thought about the some of the items I remembered from my youth that they sold there.

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After a bit Rowdy showed up and about five minutes later our table was ready. We both ordered a craft beer, (I ordered First Magnitude’s Ursa American IPA), and a salad. Then I ordered the Major Calzone and Rowdy ordered a custom calzone. Our beers and salad arrived not long after and we caught up and ate and supped some suds. After we were done with our dinner and got our to-go boxes, the waitress brought over complimentary deserts in the form of cookies. I think Rowdy snagged a chocolate chip, but I couldn’t swear to it because I was eyeballing the macadamia nut. And I ate that cookie with delight, it was one of the best I ever had.

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If you haven’t been to Satchel’s Pizza before, one word of caution, they don’t accept credit cards there, but there is an ATM machine which will charge you a fee for using. Luckily my bank refunds those fees for me, because I forgot to bring enough cash with me. Rowdy and I said our goodbyes and were on our separate ways home. But it was a weekend well spent with friends and craft beer.

If you haven’t been to Satchel’s what in the hell are you waiting for?! GO… NOW!!

Papabear

 

A Fish Fry & Winghouse

A friend of mine invited me to a fish fry last weekend. He is an avid fisherman and didn’t have room left in his freezer from all of the fish he had caught so it was time to cook some of it up to make room for more. Whatever the reason for it, I love good fried fish so I was definitely going.

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Interesting root growth at O’Leno State Park

A pavilion at O’Leno State Park was rented and invites were sent. Since it was an outdoor event I decided to bring my dog Tucker with me. I knew he would enjoy not only the ride out but the change of scenery. Not mention there was an enite population of squirrels and lizrds that hadn’t met his wrath yet.

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If you ever have the opportunity to visit O’Leno I would recommend going. It is a little bit of a trip from Gainesville (about an hour from my house) but not too far to make the trip bothersome. And the scenery is great. It located off of US 441 north of High Springs and is next to the Santa Fe River. In fact there is a swimming area and plenty of spots for fishing as well. And some very scenic spots that you may not see in other areas of Florida.

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I mention the fish fry even though no craft beer was consumed there to get to the following point.

The friend mentioned above is the male half of the Loverbirds couple I have mentioned in a previous post. While there I noticed a sign indicating an impending marriage between him and his lady-love. After talking to his better half I was informed that their nuptuals were in fact happening very soon. So I decided that a proper send-off for my friend was in order.

I arranged a short notice bachelor party for him this week. Most of us in attendance have been to more than our share of these and in all honestly we’re a little old for the girl popping out of the cake routine. I figured just an opportunity for us to get together, BS, eat and drink a few beers was really all we needed. But seeing a pretty girl wouldn’t hurt any either. We may be older but we ain’t dead.

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So I figured Winghouse would be a good place for us to go. They have enough variety of food that it should fit most peoples needs. They have about a dozen beers on tap and quite a few more in bottles. They also have a liquor license so shots are available as well as some mixed drinks. And there are plenty of flat screen tvs around so any sporting event we might have a particular interest in would be available for us to look at.

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The boys night out being photo bombed in the background.

If you have never been to Winghouse, it is very similar in concept to the popular Hooters chain of restaurants. Winghouse is not as nationally known as Hooters and outside of Florida and Texas I am unaware of any locations, but that doesn’t mean they won’t expand in the future. The main draw (foodwise) are the wings, which explains the name, but they also have other foods (burgers, sandwiches, fries, salads and other delicious selections. The wing sauces are pretty good and they have enough variety to satisfy most palettes, and you can mix the sauces to your liking. And considering that the only two Hooters restaurants near Gainesville havve closed, it’s really nice to have Winghouse in town.

I mentioned beers on tap above and they do have a few craft beers in that mix. Though I have not seen any changes in their draft selection in a while, they do have at least one local (Swamp Head) as well as a couple of others (at the Gainesville location Sam Adams, Fat Tire, Magic Hat, Goose Island, and Blue Moon – please don’t pick up the Blue Moon controversy here).

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And like Hooters, Winghouse employs young women as their wait staff, clad in garments that hug their figures very closely. But they also have a great attitude and a friendly disposition.

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Sorry… I spaced out there for a moment.

One of my friends was in the hospital a while back so I bought him one of the Winghouse calendars and asked one of the waitresses who worked there and made it into the calendar (Kendall pictured below) if I could take her picture for him. She not only posed for the pic but as I recall wrote a little get well note in the calendar for him.

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Kendall with the signed calendar

When Swamp Head Brewery was at their original location, I used to stop by Winghouse almost on a weekly basis as they were on the way back. Since Swamp Head has moved I don’t make it by Winghouse as frequently, but that doesn’t lessen my opinion of their food or service.

This visit was another good example.

We sat around philosophying, drinking back cold drinks and eating. I motioned the waitress over and whispered that my friend was getting hitched and I wondered if there was anything they can do for the occasion. I know for birthdays they will usually gather the wait staff around the individual and sing and clap a little birthday ditty. She said she would see what she could do.

After a bit the waitress walked out with two large scoops of ice cream, each topped with a marachino cherry, and both with chocolate drizzled over them. She said this desert is called “The last strange pair of boobies you will ever see!”

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That kind of fun humor is the atmosphere you usually find at Winghouse. The food is good, the service is good and the scenery is great.

A Dragonfly and an Alligator walk into a bar…

I know that sounds like the beginning of a joke. And if I can think of one that fits while writing this review I will work it in. But trying to come up with attention grabbing tag lines can be harder than you think.

We started the weekend like normal with the texts going out midday Friday to figure out where we would meet for happy hour. The Maestro suggested First Magnitude around 4:30. Rowdy replied that she was in and I said I would meet them there though I probably wouldn’t make the 4:30 time. The Maestro came back and said that his Muse would be joining us, which was great. She doesn’t normally show up for happy hour because she is a wine drinker and doesn’t care for beer. But she will drink cider and we always enjoy her company.

I continued the rest of my workday, which was busy, and before long it was time to go home for the weekend. Shortly after I arrived home, a text came in from the Doctor stating that he had a table saved for us at the brewery, but that parking was a premium and that parking on Main Street was probably the best option. After I finished checking on the dog and changing clothes I headed out to meet my friends. Luckily I don’t live far away from First Magnitude so it didn’t take me long to get there. And the Doctor was right… parking was at a premium. But once I got inside I had no trouble getting up to the bar to get a pint. And there weren’t a lot of people inside. But there were a bunch out in the beer garden.

The Doctor, Rowdy, Maestro and Muse were already seated at a table near the bar. I ordered a limited release Session Amber from First Mag, and joined my friends. If an amber ale is done right I really like it and this one was. It had a good rich roasted malt flavor but was balanced well. While I supped that back we all began catching up with each other.

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After a bit Muse decided to head home. Shortly after the lady half of the Newlyweds showed up. (Side note – Henceforth she will be known as the Deck-orator, inside joke, and her spouse will be known as the Chemist.) And another couple (referred to here as C&D) joined us as well.

During our outing at First Mag I decided to go with some guests taps after the Session Amber as I had had all of the in house taps. Nothing against them, in fact I like most of them a great deal, I just like to have a different beer as often as possible. My first guest tap was actually a mead, from Royal Manor Vineyard & Winery. I thought this was really good and could taste a distinctive honey flavor in it, when some meads taste more like sugar this retained that honey taste. My friends are not big mead fans so they didn’t care for it.

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My second guest tap was The Company, a California Common from The Barley Mow Brewing Company. I like Common (or Steam) beers normally, but to be honest this one was not to my liking. Too bitter tasting and not balanced enough for me.

My third guest tap, and my last at First Mag, was Cigar City Brewing’s Hot Blooded Foreign Stout. I really like stouts and this was a good one. A red tinge to the dark color and a little different flavor but good tasting and a nice finish.

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There was a general agreement from our group that sustenance in the form of solid food was needed. I threw out the name Dragonfly as we hadn’t been there as a group in a while. Then Rowdy pointed out that with the kids graduating from college the weekend before we should have no trouble getting in. So we closed out our tabs and moseyed on over, except for the Doctor as he had other things to do.

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Rowdy and I at Dragonfly

Rowdy was right and a table for six didn’t take too long to seat us. Our waitress was Tia (I hope I am remembering her name right) and was a very pleasant young woman. She took our drink orders, which consisted of the Maestro, Deck-orator and Rowdy sharing a bottle of wine, D has a glass of a particular wine and C and I both had Sake, though he ordered a kind of Sake Sampler and I had a bottle of Nigori Sake.

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You may remember that I mentioned Sake at another Asian restaurant in a previous blog post. There are actually many different styles of Sake. When I was younger I was under the impression that Sake should be served heated to about body temperature. And generally I have only been served that type of Sake. I have since learned that heating Sake is usually done only on inferior Sakes. Other Sakes are served chilled, like the Nigori, which is a sweeter and cloudier Sake. It has fine rice sediments in it which is what sweetens the flavor.

So the meal commenced with an appetizer of Won Tons, followed by either Miso Soup or Salad with Ginger dressing depending on the preference, and for the main course we all decided to each order a Sushi roll and we would share, each person getting at least one sample of a particular roll. The only drawback to that for me was a problem I have with shellfish. I’m not exactly allergic to it, but it does wreak havoc with my digestive tract. So I made sure that my roll didn’t have any shellfish but couldn’t say that for the others.

Despite those concerns all of the Sushi rolls were delicious, which is what you would expect if you have ever been to Dragonfly. If you haven’t then you need to go. I must confess that some years back my only experience with Sushi was some dive place and it tasted awful, which put me off Sushi for a long time. Then after moving to Gainesville, I was invited to the home of a Chinese national whose wife made homemade sushi and it changed my mind. It opened my taste buds back up to trying others. Since then I have tried more than a few places and I have yet to find anyplace that does Sushi as well as Dragonfly. And if you are not a Sushi fan they have other excellent dishes there as well. If you are not a Sake fan they also have an excellent wine list and a good selection of beers, both bottled and draft featuring some local breweries.

After dinner, we all settled up our tabs and went separate ways, except for the Maestro and myself. We decided to wander across the street and visit Tall Paul’s for a craft beer or two. Tall Paul’s is really known for two things a big bar loaded with any drink you could want and live bands. I have been there several times with my friends and I have never been there in the evening without a live band playing. But Tall Paul’s is also home to Alligator Brewing, a micro-brewery. They usually have about thirty different taps with craft beers flowing and about ten of them are their own product.

Now over the last few years I have sampled many of their brews and to be honest when I first began trying theirs I wasn’t that impressed. Which was disappointing, as the bar and atmosphere of the place itself was a great place to hang out with friends and enjoy the evening. Luckily their guests taps had beers that were to my liking.

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However, lately, their beers have been tasting much better. A sentiment the Maestro pointed out to me. I started out with a guest tap, Riverton Brewing Company’s Wit Beer, which was just okay. I recently brewed my own wheat beer and it tasted a little better than theirs. So I took the Maestro’s recommendation and tried one of Alligator’s that I haven’t had before, the Cellon Oaked DIPA. If you had read my blogs then you know IPAs in general are hit and miss with me. And a double IPA usually means an even hoppier flavor. And while this had the kick that a DIPA carries with the extra alcohol it wasn’t as bitter as I expected. In fact it was a pleasing surprise. I will definitely be trying more of their brews.

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I’ve still got no joke for the tag line. If you have one then share it in the comments. As far as I am concerned if you haven’t been to either Dragonfly Restaurant or Tall Paul’s Brew House then what the hell are you waiting for? Go! Eat, drink and enjoy!

Papabear

The Blarneyman Visits – A Review of Loosey’s Downtown and Tree Fest at Swamp Head

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.

 

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

Papabear

Hogtown Craft Beer Festival, April 18, 2015

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).

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Did I mention I don’t like lines?

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Hogtown Craft Beer Fest 2015 map

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.

Hogtown Craft Beer Festival Passbook

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

Papabear