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.



Loosey’s also has a large number of craft beers on tap as well as bottles. Their selection may not be as varied as say House of Beer, BrassTap or World of Beer, but they do try to offer varieties that you mind not find elsewhere in town. I started off with Blue Point Brewing’s Spring Fling, which a pretty well balanced American Pale Ale. The Doctor arrived, followed shortly by Rowdy though she didn’t have the Cooler with her as he was off “huntin’!” We grabbed a little table and began philosofying about our past week. Soon enough I was ready for another and ordered Sweetwater Brewing’s 18 Belgian Style Tripel Ale which was potent but smooth tasting.


Not long after that the Maestro arrived with the Blarneyman in tow. We all decided on a bigger table and found one nearby.   The Doctor, Rowdy and I checked out the menu while the Maestro and Blarneyman ordered some drafts. I tried someone’s Terrapin Ale Special Project and did not care for it at all. So with my food order of fish and chips I ordered Founders Blushing Monk, a fruit beer, to help get rid of the taste. Sometimes I like fruit beers and sometimes not. I really liked the Blushing Monk. And it pared well with the fish and chips. Did I mention yet that they have the best fish and chips in town?


So we drank craft beers, ate fish and chips (Rowdy kept stealing my chips – did I mention these are the best fish and chips in town?), and philosified. Blarneyman ordered another round of the same beers we were having so I had another Blushing Monk which I found out is a 9.2% beer. By the time we finished the food both Rowdy and the Doctor had to leave. So the Maestro, Blarneyman and I continued on to First Magnitude Brewing.

Parking was at a minimum there so once we all finally stowed our vehicles away, we made it inside to find that despite the full parking the wait to get drafts wasn’t too long. Blarneyman hadn’t been here since they opened the beer garden so we headed outside to enjoy the nice cool breeze. I had the Big Shoals American Brown Ale. I believe the Maestro and the Blarneyman both had the Time Out Stout, which is also a really good First Mag brew. By the time we had finished these beers it was late enough for me to go home and take the dog for a walk. We had all agreed with Rowdy and the Doctor to go to the Tree Fest at Swamp Head Brewery the next day so I said I’d see them then and headed home.


Swamp Head Brewery created an event called Tree Fest to raise money for planting trees. The following is a description from their Facebook page:

We would like you to help us plant some trees. Solar Impact, Inc. and Swamp Head Brewery have teamed up to create Tree Fest, an annual event to be hosted at the Swamp Head brewery around Earth Day and Arbor Day each year. Tree Fest will celebrate the environment by raising money to plant trees with the Alachua Conservation Trust in an event that will feature food trucks, family-friendly activities, and of course, Swamp Head beer. Five trees will be planted for every beer purchased during Tree Fest, and all sponsor donations will go toward planting trees. The trees planted will be one year old longleaf pines and will be planted on ACT’s Little Orange Creek Preserve in Hawthorne, Florida. Our goal is to plant over 5000 trees with money raised by Tree Fest.”


Swamp Head Brewery began the Tree Fest at 1 PM, so the Doctor, Rowdy and I decided to meet there around then. The Brewery grounds were covered with three food trucks, a couple of bounce houses for children, and some information booths. It was nice outside but the threat of rain was in the air and tornado warnings weren’t that far away.ant over 5,000 trees with money raised by Tree Fest.


The Doctor and I both started out with Swamp Head’s River Logger, which is a black lager, and quite tasty. I moved on to Catherine’s Wood, a Russian Imperial Stout. If you’ve read any of my blogs before you know I enjoy a good stout and this one is one of my faves. Rowdy decided to get a Lobster Roll from Monsta Lobsta food truck which she loved.


About the time she finished eating that I noticed a couple at a nearby table playing some kind of game that required holding your phone up to your forehead. I was intrigued so I wandered over and asked about it, and was introduced to the Charades App for phones. After I downloaded it, Rowdy and the Doctor and I played it for a bit. It is really addicting and is a fun way to pass time while you’re supping some suds.


After we finished that first round, the Maestro and Blarneyman showed up with their respective spouses. Blarneyman has his Blushing Bride and the Maestro has his Muse. If you know these ladies you will understand why I picked these names for them. Blushing Bride is a warm friendly lady who always seems to have a smile on her face, especially when she is around Blarneyman. And the Muse (or in ancient Greek the Mousai) in Greek mythology, poetry and literature, are the goddesses of the inspiration of literature, science, and the arts. This lady is not only wise and musically talented but gifted at sharing these talents. They entered carrying saplings being given away by the Alachua Conservation Trust.

IMG_4018 edited

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)


A Hit and a Miss – Of Craft Beer and Japanese Steakhouses

This weekend marks the start of Craft Beer week in Gainesville. There are a number of festivities going on at the various tap rooms and local breweries. There is even something called the Brew Bus that will take you around town to these various locations so you can sup your suds without the worry of driving. All of this culminating in the Hogtown Craft Beer Festival on April 18th. Already have my ticket and am ready for much beer tasting.

With all of that going on you would think that our hardy band of craft beer lovers would be involved in something related to these events last Friday night. Rowdy suggested we try a new place and truth be told I had seen a write-up in one of the papers about this place and thought about trying it myself. It’s called Curia on the Drag and is located near what used to be the Gainesville Animal Hospital. The concept of the place is a Coffee, Tea, Beer and Wine stop. It is intended as a kind of resting place for the local art community and includes a building outback called the “Fermenter”. If you’re reading this then you may have assumed, as I did, that the “Fermenter” was where they would build a micro-brewery. But, like me, you would be wrong. The Fermenter is actually a studio where different artists can go and work on their pieces.

So a haven for artists is not where I would normally connect craft beer. But then craft beer could also be considered by some as an art form. It is certainly a creative expression as is most art.

I arrived first and was greeted by the director Zack Kennedy. I told him it was my first time there and I was interested in their craft beers and asked what they had on tap. He motioned toward the taps behind and named off all three.

That’s right three taps. Now before you roll your eyes and start crossing this place off your list, read on. Zack also mentioned a small refrigerated case on the side of the counter that contained some hard to find craft beers in cans. And he also pointed out a row of bottled beers on display on a high shelf over the counter. All in all I would say he had between 30 and 40 different beers to choose from as well as a couple of ciders and a ginger beer.

I had just gotten a draft of JDub’s Poolside when the Maestro joined me. He ordered a Dale’s Pale Ale. Then we went and sat and waited for the others to arrive. We both liked the atmosphere of the place. It’s small and kinda kitschy but it is still a decent place to hangout and start your weekend. I especially liked the wooden bar that resembles a gator hide (see picture below).

Alligator hide design in counter at Curia
Alligator hide design in counter at Curia

Rowdy soon showed up, followed by the Cooler. Then the Newlyweds joined us along with the Lovebirds. Our small party took up a good portion of the shop. Luckily for other patrons they have a small section of the side in the curio area and a little patio as well.

Cowboy cookie and Sixpoint Abigail 2015
Cowboy cookie and Sixpoint Abigail 2015

I already mentioned coffee and tea and wine as well as beer. I didn’t get a chance to eye the wine list but I did see the various types of tea they served and they use Sweetwater Brewing for their coffee, which is a locally operated coffee roasting business. They also have assorted cookies available for munching and I had the Cowboy, which was delicious. Don’t know if they’re made in house or ordered in.

Zack was certainly knowledgable about craft beers. And freely shared what he knew about them including recommendations. He and the young lady working with him were certainly friendly enough and helpful. This place is definitely worth a look see and I would go back again. My only concern is the limited number of taps and whether or not any of those and the cans and bottles are rotated out with different selections or whether it is a steady menu.  Overall this place scored a big hit for me.

Bus behind curia - artwork in progress?
Bus behind curia – artwork in progress?

After a couple of beers I believe the Maestro left to go watch the gator baseball game. And not too long after that I felt the need for dinner and declared that “I need to either go home or go get something to eat!”  The Newlyweds decided to head home but the Lovebirds, Rowdy, the Cooler and I decided to go for Japanese Steakhouse. I believe I suggested it so what happens next is partly my fault.

We went to the closest of the options available to us, the Samurai Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar in the Publix Plaza on the corner of 13th ST & 39th AVE. I had been there once before with an old girlfriend for Sushi which was good. But she had a thing about hibachi bars so we didn’t go into that part of the restaurant. I wanted hibachi because I like dinner and a show. Let’s be honest, the food at a hibachi bar is usually the same no matter what bar you go to. The difference is in the cooks who work the hibachi. The flare of the knives and the interaction with the customers is what sets them apart. Being an amateur cook I appreciate and take note of their techniques.

I think I remember hearing the hostess say that they had a big party getting ready to leave but I can’t swear to that. After a small wait (not even five minutes) the five of us were seated at the hibachi with two other couples, one of which had a small boy with them. Rowdy said that was awesome because when there are kids at the hibachi the chef will show off a lite bit more. I agree.

Sake carafe and serving cup
Sake carafe and serving cup

The waiter came and took a head count and got our drink orders. I ordered Sake because I always order Sake with either Sushi or Hibachi. And when it arrived it was served hot in the carafe with two small cups. Traditionally, Sake should be shared and each party should pour for the other though after the first cup I usually forgo that part of the ritual. The Sake tasted clean and clear and slightly sweet with a little bite at the end. I enjoyed that. For those who don’t know Sake is sometimes referred to as rice wine which is actually misleading. Sake isn’t fermented from rice like wine is from grapes but it is actually brewed like beer. You can even find some Sakes on Untappd.

The waiter took our food orders and I ordered the Yaminiku, which is sliced beef with mixed vegetables in a special sauce, according to the menu. Something I hadn’t had before so I figured why not try it. The waiter got the rest of the tables order then was off to get the Miso soup. He came back with the soups and was one short for the hibachi and had to get another. Hint number one.

When the salad came, again he was one serving short and had to go back for another. Hint number two.

While we had our soups and salads I noticed that there didn’t seem to be a lot of staff on hand. Hint number three.

The hibachi cook came out with his cart of prepared items for cooking introduced himself to everyone and then confirmed the food orders. When he got to me he said, “Steak and Chicken.” To which I shook my head and replied, “Yaminiku”, or as close to that as I could remember and pronounce correctly. He looked down at his paper and obviously couldn’t find my order, then went on to confirm everyone else’s. He came back to me and asked again if I had steak and chicken and again I replied that I ordered Yaminiku. He excused himself, said he’d be right back and took his cart back to the kitchen. Hint number four.

After a short period he returned with his cart and said, “Ok, here we go!” then began the routine of prepping the hibachi. If you’ve been to a Japanese Steakhouse before then you know they begin with the eggs for the stir-fried rice, then any vegetables that need cooking, followed by low mein noodles and then start working on the meats. As he went around the table again checking on everyone’s order and confirming it with the meats he put on the hibachi, when he got to me he still had no food to confirm. When he began portioning out the rice and low mein he obviously didn’t have enough for my plate. Hint number five and the last I needed.

While all the other patrons at our hibachi were eating off of their plates I sat there with an empty plate feeling like Oliver Twist trying to ask for more gruel. I believe the cook saw my perturbation and began calling for the waiter who took our order. After he finally showed up and was asked where my food was I realized that he had dropped the ball big time here. And so did he. He ran off toward the kitchen (I am assuming). And the cook continued working on the meats that everyone has ordered.

He finished those quickly and began dispensing them to the various plates around him. By the time he was done I was still sitting there with an empty plate. He did a quick clean and thanked everyone, then looked at me apologetically and said he would find out where my food was.

After another few minutes, I told my friends that this was ridiculous and that I was about to get pissy with the manager and called for someone to get him to our table. It took another few minutes and just before he came over a different person came up and put my plate of food in front of me. When the manager arrived I told him that I was getting ready to complain about not having any food but that it was there now. He nodded his head and went away to leave me to my eating.

The food was good but not any better then any other similar restaurant I have been too. Once we all finished we still had to wait around for checks to come out which is unusual. Which was another telltale sign that the place was understaffed that evening. This was confirmed again as we left and I could see a lot of folks in the Sushi bar looking like they were waiting for things as well.

I will give the place credit in that my bill was probably only 40% of what it would have been otherwise. And the waiter did apologize to me for his mistake. And the cook was not to blame for my dish not being included in the cart. He was working from the list he had been given.

This is a clear sign of bad management. The restaurant should not have been that understaffed to begin with. If the waiter was new or needed help he should have gotten it. Or maybe he needs another line of work to be in. And part of the benefit of going to a hibachi is getting to watch them prepare your food for you. My plate was done in the kitchen so I don’t even know who prepared it.

I have heard some folks tell me over the last couple of years that they liked this place. The last time I was here it was ok. Nothing outstanding but nothing wrong either. And your experience  with this place will hopefully differ from mine if you go there. But I won’t be going back.

These two places are perfect examples of what makes for a good experience. The Samurai Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar was a perfect example of what you don’t want a patron to experience. The food was fine and the cook entertaining but the whole experience was a very big miss.

Yet, Curia on the Drag while first entering I was dismayed by only seeing three taps, the overall experience makes me want to go back again. A definite hit.

Here’s hoping your weekend began better.


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.

“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.


The search for Happy Hour begins!!

Way back when (before some of you were old enough to drink)  a bar owner in Somewhere, U.S.A. decided that he needed to find a way to get more patrons into his establishment. A variety of beers, liquors and wines wasn’t enough so he (or maybe she) added chips, pretzels, nuts and in some cases popcorn.

But while salty snacks were tasty (and certainly didn’t hurt sales) they eventually became boring for some folks. So another bar owner thought about adding other foods, like sandwiches, fried vegetables and.. (thank the Beer gods!!) wings. For a low price you could stop by a local watering hole after work, fill up on food and drink yourself silly and while you’re at it buy more drinks for your friends. Which brought about the need for pitchers, but I digress.

And thus was born Happy Hour. It has undergone some changes over the years but the idea has essentially remained the same; good food (and I mean bar food not fine dining), good drinks and good company.

The hard part is finding a place nowadays that has all three of those basic elements in the same place. A lot of places are specializing so much that you can’t find the combination that pleases the way it should.

Join my friends and I as we visit places around the town we live in (Gainesville, FL – GO GATORS!!) and other places in Florida and Elsewhere U.S.A.. We will share our thoughts on the venues, the different craft beers and breweries and the food. And you can join in the conversations we’ll have on whatever tickles our fancy (thus the Philosofiers in the title – Phiosofiers intentionally spelled wrong…discuss).

Writing again soon,