To Brew Or Not To Brew, That Is The Question…

Tucker, lizard chaser

With apologies to Shakespeare, I thought the statement appropriate to my thoughts this afternoon. I’m sitting on my deck right now enjoying this perfect spring day in Florida and listening to Tucker, my Jack Russell Terrier, run all over the backyard after lizards. He is new to the household, about a week, but he has already grown used to me and the cat and has made the house his in all but title. He has even been helping me spruce the place up a little…. Well maybe he thinks he is helping.

I’m having a little Beer sampling party next weekend. All of the growlers I collected on my recent road trip have beers from a few different breweries. And I will be sampling my first batch of homebrew as well. I have no idea what it tastes like yet as I decided to wait until the party to sample it with friends and see what their reaction is. I’m looking forward to the party and getting together with friends. But a small part of me is dreading sampling my homebrew for the first time with them. What if it sucks?

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not tying my vanity into this. I don’t regard this as some kind of passage or test of manhood. And civilization as we know will not crumble and fall into the sea as a result of my inability to make a good batch of beer. There are plenty of folks around who can brew good beer without me worrying about never supping any again.

But I haven’t been excited about a new hobby in awhile as I am about homebrewing. I’ve been visiting a lot of homebrewing sites and looking up recipes to try and looking at equipment I would like to have. I’ve even thought about building an outdoor shed to use just for brewing.

But what if the batch sucks?

I thought about getting into homebrewing for a while. I even bought a Mr. Beer kit but never broke it out to use. Then my sister and her husband bought me a beer kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop. It comes with most everything you need to brew. And it’s only a gallon size batch so if it doesn’t turn out well you’re not wasting too much. Homebrewing seemed like a natural fit for me. I like craft beers and I like cooking. And another way to think of brewing is cooking.

I’ve read a lot about brewing and there are a lot of things that can go wrong during the process that can ruin a beer. Brewing the grains at too high or too low a temperature, boiling the wort to high, adding the hops too soon or too late or at the wrong intervals, pitching the yeast, not storing the beer well during fermentation, too much honey in the bottling process, etc. And that doesn’t even cover all of the sanitizing you have to do.

If nothing else, I’ve gained a greater respect for craft brewers who’ve stuck with it and I hope to join their ranks. In fact I’m going to be brewing a new batch of wheat beer at the beginning of the party. We will be sampling the American Pale Ale I already brewed along with the others I brought back from other breweries.

Watching Tucker chase lizards all over the yard got me thinking why does he do it?

Answer: Because he enjoys it.

Will I brew another batch of this ones turns out to be not so good?

Answer: Well… I enjoyed brewing it.

Review of Swamp Head Brewery, Gainesville, FL


Swamp Head Facebook PageOne of the best breweries in Florida (if not more widespread) is right here in Gainesville…  Swamp Head Brewery. I’m not just saying that because I live in Gainesville and may be biased about it. I really believe it. And it’s really quite a bold statement considering the caliber of breweries. This includes Cigar City, 3 Daughters, Intuition Ale Works, Reprise, Orlando Brewing, Funky Buddha, Lauderale, and a lot more than I feel I can type right now.

Founded in 2008, Swamp Head has been taking the Florida Craft Beer Industry by storm. There have been a few restaurants with Craft Brews and microbreweries in Gainesville for several years. And it has a community of home brewers as well. But Swamp Head was the first production brewery to emerge from the local craft beer scene.

In 2014, at the Best Florida Beer Championship, their Sciaenhops Imperial Red Ale won a silver medal and their 10-10-10 Imperial IPA won the gold, then it went on to win the Best in Show. Later that year their Smoke Signal (Robust Smoked Porter) won the gold medal at the World Beer Cup. Let me repeat that…

World…Beer…Cup. I would say that is impressive. For a brewery that’s only a few years old, I consider that very impressive.

And this year (March 2015), one of their year-round selections (and one of my favorites), Cottonmouth – Belgian Witbier, won the silver at the Florida Brewers Guild Beer Fest.


Okay, let’s say none of that impresses you. Then I suggest…. no… Dare you to stop by their brewery in Southwest Gainesville and see for yourself. They have recently completed construction on their new facility and tap room (pictured above and below). The tap room is called The Wetlands, but what else would you call a tap room for a Brewery named Swamp Head.


Wetlands at Swamphead Panoramic

While you’re there ask about touring their facility. They enjoy showing off the new place and will readily answer any questions you may have. In fact, they have been known to give advice to other brewers in Gainesville and the rest of Florida. That is a trait that a lot of great breweries have.


Swamp Head has five year-round brews on tap in their tap room and they bottle these beers in kegs for shipping to local pubs and restaurants, and other areas in Florida. They also have begun canning some of these and have some available in Publix (a Florida based grocery chain).



Wild Night – Honey Cream Ale. this a light refreshing beer that I find very easy to drink.

Cottonmouth – Belgian Witbier. Since I’m a wheat beer fan it’s only natural that I would like this award winner.

Stumpknocker – a Pale Ale. A good hoppy flavor.

Midnight Oil – an oatmeal stout brewed using locally roasted coffee. This is another favorite of mine.

Big Nose IPA – this is a beer for Hop Lovers. My friends the Maestro and the Newlyweds L&H love it.

Besides the five flagship brews listed above they also have many different seasonal, occasional and hard-to-find releases. The afore-mentioned Sciaenhops, Smoke Signal and 10-10-10 fall into these categories.


While visiting there with the Doctor today, I had their Batch 800 PB&J. A very smooth and tasty Amber Ale with hints of peanut in the taste and a little jelly in the aroma, this is one I could drink year-round.


I also had the Down Deep West Coast IPA. If you likes hops you will more than likely like this. I liked it because it had a good balance.

Swamp Head does not serve food but will frequently have food trucks in front the Wetlands. And they don’t mind if you bring your own food in.

To learn more you can visit their website at and they have a Facebook page as well.

As one of the first local breweries I would say they have set the bar pretty high. I hope their influence leads to more breweries of the same caliber opening near Gainesville. They have already influenced one (First Magnitude) and I know they have begun working on collaborations with other breweries. They are…

Inherently Floridian. 🙂




Review of First Magnitude Brewing, Gainesville FL



First Magnitude website fmbrewing dot com

First Magnitude Brewing is unique. I know…. most craft breweries are unique in some ways. But First Magnitude is really unique in the atmosphere and the way the business is run. I’ll delve more into later.

As the second production craft brewery in Gainesville, FL (Swamphead being the first and the subject of my next blog) they have helped start what I hope is a trend in this town. Gainesville is located in North Central Florida and as their website says “Thanks to it’s unique geologic characteristics, North Central Florida has the highest concentration of freshwater springs in the world. First Magnitude springs are the most powerful over 100 cubic feet of water per second boils up from their limestone openings to form cool, clear pools that feed our rivers and lakes.” Sound like a logical and natural place to start a brewery to me.

FM Tap room - The Source

Their tap room (thoughtfully and appropriately named The Source) is spacious and friendly. A lot of thought went into the atmosphere. If you are facing the front of the brewery from it’s location on Veitch Street the tap room is on the far right. Just outside of the tap room is a spacious beergarden with multiple picnic tables and a bandstand where local bands will come and play.

First Magnitude beer garden

Inside the brewery, but before you get to the tap room, is a large open area with multiple tables and games for folks to play while they’re supping their suds (see what I did there). If you haven’t notice a theme by now let me point it out to you. Spaciousness. It seems these folks not only want to you to come and sample their brews but they’re inviting you to kick back and put your feet up a bit as well. Not a lot of tap rooms connected to breweries seem to do that, as a lot of them have overcrowded tap rooms with insufficient seating. But I do see it changing as the industry evolves.


And this brewery is very family oriented. I went with a couple of friends last night for happy hour and the place was more than packed with families with small children.

Now let’s discuss the beer. Being a resident of Gainesville, the natural tendency is to compare FM’s beer to Swamphead Brewery’s stable of brews. That would be natural but it would also be a mistake. Especially if you’ve never had craft beers from other breweries. The great thing about craft beers is that they all taste different, even the same styles have sometimes great variations in them. So with that in mind go and sample their beers with a clear palette, and remember your tastes will vary from others.

They have three year-round brews:

Siren Blonde Ale – This is one of my faves at FM. It’s light and refreshing and just what you need when the heat starts coming on, which in Florida isn’t that far away.

72 Pale Ale – Hoppy in flavor. You may have read my mention in previous blogs about not being a big fan of too much hops. For me this beer is okay. But it doesn’t have the balance that I like in a Pale Ale. But I have heard others exclaim they love.

Drift English Mild – This has been from the beginning and still is my absolute favorite at FM. This malty smooth beer isn’t heavy and is very refreshing.

They also have different seasonal brews they will throw in throughout the year as well as guest taps from other breweries, 18 taps in all.

Ursa - American Ale

Last night my friends the Doctor and the Maestro joined for me happy hour there. We hadn’t been there as a group in a while so I suggested FM. It was perfect weather for sitting outside in the beergarden so we did.

The Dr. got there first and started out with their Time Out Stout, which I have had before and really thought it was good. He enjoyed it as well. I started out with a limited batch they still had called Scott’s Session. You’ve heard me say above that I don’t like overly hoppy beers. This was hoppy, but not overly so, I thought it had a good balance and remember saying that I thought the Maestro would like this as he is a hops fan.

When the Maestro showed up he came walking out to the garden with an Ursa IPA, in honor of my return from my road trip. (Ursa is latin for bear, which is my animal totem but that’s a discussion for another time.) He thought that was pretty good. I recommended the Scott’s Session to the Maestro for his next round and when we finished with our first drafts the Dr. and I both had Ursa.

A perfect example of tastes varying is how the Maestro and I rated both Ursa and Scott’s Session on the Untappd phone app. Neither of us have ever rated a beer 5 stars. So for us, 3 stars is a good beer, 3.5 is a better beer, 4 stars is pretty frickin’ good, and 4.5 stars is out of this world.

I rated the Scott’s Session 3 stars and the Maestro rated it 4. He rated the Ursa 3 stars and I rated it 3.5. The Dr, rated the Ursa 4 stars. So, again, your tastes will vary.

Minnow Imperial Stout

The Maestro had a repeat of one of his earlier beers for his third and the Dr. and I had the Minnow Imperial Stout, which we both rated 4 stars, Smooth flavor and a great taste, with a little after taste that was different from a normal stout. Not a bad different, an I-can’t-quite-identify-the-flavor different. But it is differently one of their better brews.

Humble pie food truck menu

While First Magnitude doesn’t have a kitchen, they do have food trucks out front any night the tap room is open. Last night the food truck was Humble Pie, who cooks stone fired pizza on the back of their trailer.

Margherita Pizza from Humble Pie

I had their Margherita which was very good and made me want to sample more of their offerings in the future, especially the calzone.

FM sponsors a lot of community oriented events, and puts out an environmentally responsible and community oriented vibe. A lot of businesses claim to be community oriented but when you look at them closely it can often be little more than lip service. First Magnitude is not only community oriented but they give back to the community. They even offer free yoga sessions on Sundays (no I have not attended, my mat is in the shop for repairs).

If you’re in the Gainesville area, you need to stop by First Magnitude. They have growlers available in the current allowable sizes in Florida (topic for another blog) . You’ll not only find a brew you like but you’ll also feel the relaxation seeping into your skin.

You can check out their website here:

and they also have a Facebook page.



Beer-cation Pt 4 – Green Man Brewery, Asheville, NC

Green Man

On the way back to Florida from Pennsylvania, I knew I would need to stop and visit Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. That place is a spiritual haven for me and whenever the opportunity to go arises, I make every effort to do so. It had actually been longer than I like since I had last been there so I was definitely going there this time. I also knew that the Mountain wasn’t that far from several breweries that would be on my way home from there.

Asheville, NC is only about an hour and a half from Grandfather Mountain, and is home to several breweries, Highland Brewing, French Broad Brewing, Wedge Brewing, and Asheville Pizza and Brewing to name a few.  But I decided to give Green Man Brewing a try. I had tried one of their brews before at a brew pub and remembered liking it, but I had also heard good things about their beers either online or through some other source. So I entered their address in my phone and started the drive there.

The storefront of Green Man Brewery on Braxton Ave in Asheville, NC.
The storefront of Green Man Brewery on Braxton Ave in Asheville, NC.

Once I arrived I saw that the parking nearby is limited, but that is true with a lot of breweries/brewpubs. Being located in downtown Asheville, parking is a commodity. I was able to find parking around a corner on a side street and walked back. The building itself looks like it may have been a garage at one time with the one large wooden door on the front. There is a porch on the entrance side surrounded by climbing greenery.

The Green Man can be seen all over Asheville.
The Green Man can be seen all over Asheville.
Some bottle labels, a few of the hundred or so covering their cooler door.
Some bottle labels, a few of the hundred or so covering their cooler door.

You enter and see a hodgepodge of bar tables and décor, with the central theme being the Green Man (you can learn more about and see more pics of him at their site – And this takes up about half the building. The rest of the building is used for brewing.

Custom  made Green Man Ale sign hanging in brewery
Custom made Green Man Ale sign hanging in brewery
Behind the "Curtain" at Green Man brewery
Behind the “Curtain” at Green Man brewery
Some strange patrons lurking in the back
Some strange patrons lurking in the back

I approached the bar an asked about flights. I was offered the Flagship or a custom flight. I asked for the flagship. I will usually order the brewery’s primary beers so that I can get a good feel of their craftsmanship. This is the product they have all the time so this is what they should be best at making. Their Flagship Flight includes their three year-round brews (IPA, ESB and Porter) and one of their seasonal brews (in this case Forester). If this is an example of the kind of brewing that goes on at Green Man, then I have one thing to say…


A look at the colors of the brews
A look at the colors of the brews, left to right, ESB, IPA, Porter and Forester.

IPA – I am not as big a fan of IPAs as some folks are. Quite often it tastes like they are more concerned with adding hops than with balancing the beer flavor. This is not true with Green Man IPA. There is definitely hops present, but they are properly balanced with malt. Probably one of the better IPAs I have had.

Porter – On the other hand I do love Porters. And this is one of the better one. Smooth with hints of chocolate.

ESB – of the three flagship brews, this one is my favorite. This amber ale is well-balanced, smooth and has a great finish. I got a growler of this to take with me.

Forester – This seasonal is a Stout. Not just a Stout…. The Stout. One of the best I have had. Rich tasting, and smooth with a great finish. I also got a growler of this to take with me.

On their website they that they are building a new three story facility which will include packaging, a retail shop and a roof-top beer garden with a view of the Smokey Mountains. I look forward to going back to visit. Whether you visit them at their current spot or make it to the new one once it is completed, I recommend stopping by if you get the chance.

Beer-cation Pt 3 – North Country Brewing, Slippery Rock, PA

imageWhile driving home to Florida I figured I would stop and see some breweries on the way. This one is a little gem I found on-line the other night. Slippery Rock, PA, like a lot of other western Pennsylvania towns is known for agriculture, coal and a small college (Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania). But it is also known as the home of North Country Brewing (which a sign proudly states as you enter the town limits).

The original construction of the buildings (house and barn) were built in 1805. It has been an Inn, a cabinet and furniture making shop, and finally renovated into the brewery. From the website… “In the spring of 1998, Jodi and Bob McCafferty fell in love with the old storefront and immediately started renovating. They personally rebuilt the structure from the foundation through the roof with gathered local hardwoods and recycled on-site materials. Jodi and Bob McCafferty handcrafted the hardwoods, as well as black walnut and curly maple left from the Uber’s furniture store, into the custom feel found only in Slippery Rock, Pa.”


As you walk in you see the generous use of wood both in decoration and function, which is a feature I love. The front door has a bearded man’s face carved into the front and his backside carved into the opposite side. The tables inside, the rails, the bar all made from large natural wood planks. They pick up the light well and add a warmth to the place. Even the menu is constructed so that the front and back covers are two thin wooden planks (see pic below). If I had to try and peg hole the style of décor I would definitely say an Olde Irish pub, with a little western saloon mixed in.

North country menu
North country menu

Since all I had for breakfast was an apple when I got into town around 11 AM I thought a hardy lunch was in order. I must have been one of the first people there for the day. I was asked if I wanted to sit at the bar and I said sure.

The young lady behind the bar (Danielle) was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu and the beers. I asked about a flight of beers and she showed that they could be ordered in quantities of six, nine or thirteen. And she quickly pointed out that one of the taps on the menu wasn’t available and they had a substitute. I selected six of the thirteen drafts available (see menu below) and ordered one of the lunch specials.

Brew menu

The lunch was called The Breakfast Burger. It’s a half pound angus patty, topped with egg, bacon, ham, cheese and a hash brown served on Texas toast. I ordered it with a side of fries. The burger was on of the best I ever ate. I think the combination of flavors complemented each other. The fries were cooked “Fair Style” and I think had some seasoning on them. They were definitely fresh and delicious. But with the pickle spear and the burger I was lucky to be able to eat half of them.


The six beers I ordered are listed below with a description of them:

Station 33 Firehouse Red – a rich, malty red ale that was smooth tasting.

Squirrel’s Nut Brown – a crisp, malty Scottish ale with hints of nut flavors

Keystone Swankey – This is a common or steam beer that uses a lager yeast but is brewed at ale temperatures. It had a very smooth, slightly bitter taste.

Paddler’s Pale Ale – Clean, crisp dry ale with a hoppy flavor.

Paleo I.P.A. – If you like IPAs you will like this. Strong hops flavor and very aromatic.

Liquid love Chocolate Stout – Chocolate malt and Belgian chocolate were used to make this but I tasted strong hints of coffee.

Of the six I tasted they all were good representations of their particular style of beer, but four stood out. The Station 33, the Paddler’s Pale Ale and the Paleo IPA all has very good flavors to them. But I really liked the Keystone Swankey. I don’t know if I have had a Common (or Steam) Beer before, but I liked the flavor a lot. So much so that I got a growler to go.

I highly recommend stopping by North Country Brewing if you are ever in the area. Not only is is good beer and good food, but the staff are friendly and the bar itself is my idea of the perfect pub. I will definitely try and get back there in the future.


Beer-cation Pt 2 – Review of TimberCreek Tap & Table, Meadville PA

TimberCreek Tap & Table

While visiting my sister and her family in NW Pennsylvania I decided I would see if the craft beer “fad” (I use fad in quotes because I don’t believe it is a fad – see my previous blog The “Death” of Craft Beer) had reached the sparsely populated rural area I grew up in, Crawford County. The county has a little over 88,000 and the county seat, Meadville, has a little over 13,000 people. With a lackluster economy and the limited population I wasn’t sure of my chances. But after a little searching on the internet I found a couple of Micro Breweries in the county, Voodoo Brewing and TimberCreek Brewing. Because of operating hours and my limited schedule I was unable to visit Voodoo and will have to try it on my next visit. But I was not disappointed by TimberCreek.


TimberCreek is a BrewPub by definition. The full name is TimberCreek Tap & Table, it’s two separate buildings connected by a breezeway. The Tap portion is the brewery and tap room. This wasn’t open when we visited but you can easily find their hours on their website. Just outside the Tap is a large open breezeway with a gas-fired firepit surrounded by outdoor seating for those who enjoy their refreshments out in the open.

Firepit & Table

To the right of the fire is the entrance to the Table, which is the brewpub/restaurant. You open a large door and enter into a large open chamber, featuring a high ceiling and exposed wooden rafters. Hanging from the center of the ceiling is a chandelier that throws out soft lighting which highlights the wooden rafters. The bar is on the left, the center floor has high tables and stools and booths with high wooden backs on a raised level line the right and opposite wall. Overall the atmosphere is warm and welcoming.

Chandelier and rafters

There are two menus, one each for food and drinks. Each of the menus consist of two facing pages which I really like. Too many selections to choose from usually means that the food is not fresh. And yet they have enough variety on the menu that they should be able to satisfy anyone’s hunger. My sister had a Philly-Cheese Chicken Sandwich which she said was really flavorful. I ordered the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, which included their homemade Buffalo sauce and jalapeños. I loved the flavor and I didn’t think it had too much heat but I enjoy spicy food. We both had a side of fries which were cooked “Fair Style”. I prefer fries not cooked as dark but they were fresh and tasted good. And I was glad to see that they send sandwiches out with a pickle spear. Some places forget that traditional touch. We also ordered some chicken fingers and apple slices for my young nephew, which he seemed to like. I tasted his chicken and while it was plain tasting, it should be for a child’s pallet.

The drinks menu had beers on one side and wines and cocktails on the other. Their beer list consists of 5 year-round brews and seasonals. I asked for a flight of their year-rounds so I could sample them. I didn’t want try tasting too many or I would have ordered some of the seasonal samples as well. My sister ordered their non-alcoholic homemade Root Beer which was very good. .

The samples arrived on the flight in the following order: Liberty Blonde – a light tasting golden ale; Werkzaug Stadt – a slightly bitter German style Pilsner; Fresh Squeezed IPA – this had slight hints of citrus and was not a heavy bitter like some IPAs; Meadville Mock Top – a belgian style ale with strong hops flavor; Black Bear – a Porter with hints of chocolate and coffee and a smooth finish. All of them were good representatives of their style but I have to say I liked the Black Bear the best. I ordered a pint to go with my lunch and a growler to take with me. The growlers are the standard 1/2 gallon (which is normal in every state but Florida but that’s a topic for another blog).

If you should find yourself in this neck of the woods and need a good craft beer and good food then I recommend stopping by the TimberCreek Tap & Table. They are located on US 19 in front of the Meadville Cinemas. For more specific info about the brewery or the pub go to:

Beer-cation Pt 1- Review of BrassTap, Gainesville

BrassTap aficionado shirt

While preparing for a road trip up north I decided to go get some supplies for the trip. I prefer to drive and will get some fresh fruit and cheese to snack on during the trip, an old habit from my truck driving days. I decided while I was out I should visit a tap room or brewery before I left so I texted the Dr. to see if he wanted to join me. He said sure and asked if I was going to bring pizza from Lucky’s and i figured why not.

If you’ve never been to Lucky’s Market I highly recommend it. It’s a chain of markets started in California or Colorado that specializes in local grown and healthier choices. In my opinion better selections and better prices than Trader Joe’s and Fresh Market. They also have a deli and make fresh pizzas there. And while you’re waiting for the pizza or shopping you can sup a craft beer (choice of 6) for only a couple bucks. Some of the carts even have cup holders. I relaxed with a Victory Brewing HopDevil then got my supplies and the pizza and headed off to meet the Dr.

We will occasionally meet at the BrassTap (located on Archer Rd in Gainesville) since the Dr lives on that side of town. By the time I got there with the pizza he was already warming a barstool and halfway through a snifter of Ovila Abbey Quad with Plums. I ordered a Goose Island Festivity Ale and we began catching up and eating pizza. Like a lot of Tap Rooms in Florida this BrassTap doesn’t serve food. So they don’t mind you bringing or ordering in your own.

Their description on their Facebook page says “The BrassTap is an upscale beer bar that boasts 60 different craft beers on tap – plus more 300 varieties of import, domestic and local craft bottles, and a great selection of fine wines and cigars.” I have never seen or tasted anything to rebut that claim. In fact, I would add that the staff is very knowledgeable about beers and friendly. Allen Hessell and his son co-manage the establishment. I don’t speak to his son that frequently but I often see Allen when I’m there and he is very knowledgable about the beers and the breweries. And he imbues his staff with that same knowledge.

They have different events each night throughout the week such as trivia night, local bands, etc. They also have something called the Brew Crew. This is a computerized card which not only keeps tracks of the different beers you have but you get rewards like t-shirts, and credit towards future drinks. You also get discounts when you wear the Brew Crew shirts. I recently hit the 100 mark on my card and received my aficionado tee and have a credit waiting for me next time I go in.

BrassTap is a franchise with over 20 locations (mostly in Florida but others in OH, TX, AZ, and NC) and more opening soon. Some serve food and some do not. But if the atmosphere is the same as the one in Gainesville I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself.

Beer Basics -101

For those of you new to the craft beer scene the following is information about what makes all of these different beers the way they are. This is just the basics so don’t think you’ll be an expert after reading this. There will be no test after this but you may learn something that your friends don’t know so you can pull it out of your pocket and surprise them at a future gathering.


All beers are made up of four main ingredients: grain – which is malted to release sugars in the grain; yeast – which converts those sugars to alcohol; hops – which was originally used as a preservative for the beer but has become over time a major factor for the flavor; and finally good ole H2O also known as water. These four main ingredients combined in certain combinations will not only give you your alcohol content but the aroma and flavor of the beer.


The most common grain used is barley, but wheat and rye can be added as well. There are many varieties of yeast but only some are used for brewing. And the yeast is what determines whether the beer is an ale or a lager.


When it comes down to it a beer is either an ale or a lager or a variation of one of the two. Ales includes Pale Ales, India Pale Ales, Red Ales, Brown Ales, Porters, Rye Ales, Scotch Ales, Belgian Ales, Cream Ales and Wheat Beers. Lagers includes American, European and German Lagers, Pilsners and Bocks. And all of these Ales And Lagers have many varieties as well as blends between the two.


As I mentioned earlier hops was originally used as a preservative so the beer would last longer. But adding hops also affects the flavor of the beer. And other things can be added to affect the flavor. This can include spices, fruits, vegetables, sugars and even meat.


The last basic ingredient, water, is used throughout the beer making process.  It is used to help release the sugars from the grain, then is used again when the hops are added and again during bottling. The taste of the water used will affect the beer throughout. So making sure the water is good is a must for any brewer.


In the end though the best way to learn about beer is to go out and drink. Try the different types and varieties and breweries. Talk to the brewers themselves because most of them like to talk about how they make their beer. I personally like to try a different beer any time I go out for one. If for no other reason then just because I haven’t had it yet. The more varieties you try the more your tastes will change too. Enjoy.



The “Death” of Craft Beer

A couple of weeks ago you may have seen the ad put out during the Superbowl. It was put out by Anheiser-Busch InBev and was obviously a crack at craft beers lovers. Calling craft beer lovers “Beer Snobs” and showing a gent with an overly large mustache sniffing a snifter of beer before drinking it.

I’m not sure if I was more offended by the over acting of the sniffing or the overly large mustache (I both sport a mustache and sniff my drinks, not just beer, before I drink them).

But what I really found offensive was the direct implication that only Anheiser-Busch took the time to brew beer correctly. I just brewed a batch of American Pale Ale myself and it is requiring at least a week longer than the ad implied in its advertisement.

If you follow craft beer news at all the you have probably seen the backlash of craft beer supporters attacking this ad since then. If nothing else Anheiser-Busch InBev has at least put their name back out there in the public eye. Using the axiom “There is no bad advertising!” as a strategy is usually the act of desperation. I will leave comments on that ad at this point.

I also just read another article asking “Is the craft beer revolution over yet?” which you can read here if you choose.

I am here to say categorically no.. the craft beer revolution is not over. We’re just getting started baby!!

Look, if you don’t like craft beer then don’t drink it. It’s that simple. You don’t see a lot of commercials promoting it (I don’t recall any actually) so no one is pushing it down your gullet. I don’t see billboards and sports teams or models wearing clothing with the craft breweries printed on them.

This is a homegrown- taste driven phenom that will not go away. So get over it already. To paraphrase the late George Sternfels (who was a good man and a great wine sommelier “If you like the beer, drink the beer.” But as a word of caution I will add..

They will have to pry my craft beer from my cold dead hands.


“Where Everybody Knows Your Name…”

You may recognize the tag line from the old TV show “Cheers”. If you don’t then the premise of the show took place in a neighborhood bar. The show characters were the bar owner, the staff and some regular patrons.  I’m not going to delve into the plot lines but suffice it to say that the show lasted several years because you became involved with characters. It was comforting to tune in every week and see those people on the screen.  You can look it up on Netflix or Amazon or Hulu. That’s what a good happy hour place should be like.

Trying to find a place like that in a college town like Gainesville can be difficult. A lot of establishments cater to the college kids and who can blame them. And even if you can find a place more for a slightly older (no wise cracks) crowd the staff is usually made up of those same college kids. So if they work there long enough to get to know you… give it a minute… They’ll be gone at the end of semester.

This is why I like Gainesville House of Beer. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable about the drafts they serve. I’ve been going there for about two years now and while some of the staff has changed some have still remained because they like what they do. In fact while writing this I finished a delicious Einbacher Dunkel and wanted something else. Megan asked if I wanted an IPA or a Lager. I said Lager and she brought me two samples, a lager which tasted good, and a wonderful tasting Hacker-Pschorr Hubertus Bock which I think she knew I would like more.

On the way in to HOB I passed Amanda, who must have just finished her shift, in the parking lot and we exchanged greetings. And I don’t think I’ve seen her in over a month. She has a very discerning palate for beers and will gladly give her recommendations on a good draft.

Then there is Kat, who has not only helped broaden my tastes in beers, but has become a friend. This young lady not only knows her beers and her customers’ tastes but she can also steer you in the right direction for whiskeys and bourbons as well

Alex the manager is also good at learning the customers and recommending beers. There have been some other folks who have worked there as well who have been helpful but I will use the “older person” disclaimer to explain my not remembering their names, probably because they were guys, this a personal flaw of mine and should not reflect on them.

Gainesville HOB has 40 rotating taps as well as bottled beer and wine. It is centrally located in downtown Gainesville and is in walking distance of many restaurants. And you can bring food in with you if you like. I will admit that I am looking at this place through “beer” colored glasses while typing this, but I will also admit to liking this place from the get-go when I first walked in the door a couple years ago.

I would recommend experiencing it for yourself. Ask about the rail cards while you are there. I am on my fifth one and looking forward to the free beers or merchandise after filling it.