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2007

In 2007 I took two road trips. As always there was plenty of good beer involved and good times as well. In October I usually travel to Western North Carolina for my annual fall vacation. I usually drive, but flew in to Atlanta with several friends to attend the sports car races at Road Atlanta. Then it would be on to NC. This also enabled me to explore Atlanta's beer scene which has exploded since Georgia legalized higher ABV beer and brewpubs. The other trip was to Connecticut via New York. This trip also involved a sports cars race at Lime Rock Park, CT. Good beer was found from New York City, New Paltz, NY to Connecticut which had brewpubs at almost every stop we made. I also made several weekend trips around Florida, in Tampa good beers have really been discovered. I would say that Tampa has the best beer scene in Florida. As with all trips the first order of business is to find good beers to have along. I always manage to find a good beer store and stock up the ice chest. When there is a good beer store near one of the brewpubs I will list it as a "good beer locators tip" and note what was good about the store. The year started off with a new beer festival in Jupiter, Florida. At the end of the year I created my "Beer Resume" to enter the beer drinker of the year contest at Wynkoop Brewery in Denver, CO. I didn't win but there is always next year!

Barley Belgian Golden Ale Beer with Foam Head Hops Beer and Food

 

Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival
Brewfest Crowd

 

Jupiter Brewfest - Jupiter, Florida

On Saturday January 27, 2007 I attended the first annual Jupiter Brewfest with two of my good beer drinking friends. On the way up we stopped at the Yard House Restaurant for lunch. Yard House is a small chain of restaurants that each have over 100 beers on tap. Most of their locations are on the west coast; this is the only one in Florida. Saturday lunch is fairly quiet; apparently the place gets mobbed at certain times. We found good food and beers to match. This was a quick visit as we were headed to the festival. The fest was only a couple of exits up I-95 and we arrived there about 2:00. The number of people is limited so it was good that we had tickets in advance. It was a warm day (for January) and there were 50 plus vendors. At the entrance our tickets were traded for a pass and tasting glass. The fest is set up around the town center at Abacoa, a development that has retail and public areas with residential above or nearby. It was a fun crowd and there was live music going most of the day. We made many friends here and everyone had a great time. There were beers that we hadn't had as well as some familiar names. Local brewpubs and restaurants had booths. Big Bear Brewing, Brewzzis, Titanic and Monkey King were there to name a few. The complete list is on their website. As the day went on some of the beer ran out but there were enough still pumping when closing came. It is dark by 6:30 and the fest officially closed at 7. We had made some friends at some of the booths and partied on while they were still there. Rooneys Pub is a local authentic Irish pub, built and shipped from Ireland, was a great dinner place after the fest was over. It is within walking distance and was crowded but we still managed to get a table and good food. For the first time this went well and we look forward to next year! Website: www.jupiterbrewfest.com Yard House Website: www.yardhouse.com

Monkey King Brewery

Monkey King Brewery - Stuart, Folrida

I found Monkey King at the Jupiter festival mentioned above. Their booth was out of beer when we got to it. Since Stuart is just up the road we decided to go there for lunch the following day. This location used to have a Hops brewery and a couple of local guys took it over. The food is caribbean with a Florida flair. They have three beers on tap; See, Hear and Speak No Evil. I enjoyed the See No Evil, an American Pale Ale. The menu is different and a refreshing change from chain type operations. Lunch specials included Grouper with mango sauce, Jerk pork and tiki pizza. This could be called a local sports bar as there were several TVs around the bar and restaurant area. I wouldn't travel out of the way but if you are visiting Stuart it is a worthwhile stop with good beer. Website: www.monkeykingbrewery.com

 

5 Seasons Brewery Atlanta,GA

5 Seasons Restaurant and Brewery - Atlanta, GA

5 Seasons has two locations both serving excellent food and good beers. I was able to visit both and was pleased at each. I had dinner at the Sandy Springs location enjoying a peppercorn steak and several beers. They had Copperhead ESB, dry hopped with a fruity aroma and a slightly sweet finish, and the "Big O" an organic version of an English Strong ale. I enjoyed the Big O and had several for the evening. This organic ale paired well with my peppercorn steak as well as with other organic dishes on the menu. The following day, lunch was at the Alpharetta location. This location is in the picture to the left; a ski lodge type atmosphere. They have different beers than the other location. I found the Plan B IPA excellent and hoppy as advertised. The staff was friendly and gave us good service. I had a shirt from a Vermont brewery on and met a brewer, who spotted the shirt, from that state. He is in Atlanta now and we traded stories and information about the beer scene in Atlanta. I have met many people just by having a shirt from a brewery on. It leads to conversations and usually yields some tip or advice on the local scene. Alas, lunch came to an end and we were heading to North Carolina shortly afterward. Website: www.5seasonsbrewing.com/index.html

 

Brick Store Pub from above

Brickstore Bar from above.

 Brick Store Pub Decatur, GA

Brick Store Pub - Decatur, GA

The Brick Store pub is located near Atlanta, GA. This was a great find; We were coming into Atlanta late and wanted a good dinner with good beer. This filled the bill perfectly. I found it on the 'net; it was right on the way to where we were going. It was on a Friday night and crowded. We got a table outside fairly quickly. This probably was good as it was quite noisy inside and we needed dinner as well as beers. The beer menu was great; about twelve beers from American micros to Belgian High Gravity ales. Most of the beers I had not seen on tap; I started with a Victory Hop Devil Ale. The draft version was excellent; I really wished we had more time to try more. The food was enjoyed; the Brunswick Stew was a good starter and the entree I had went well with my beer. I tried several beers but it got late quickly and we had to head on. I did get to walk around inside and discovered the upstairs was a separate Belgian Beer bar. It looked cozy and inviting; I will visit it some other time. Someone told us that there was a hotel within walking distance; I began to think of a return visit. In fact I was able to return at the other end of the trip; I caught the pub at happy hour. The place is quite different as there is a big sunlight that makes it totally different inside. I was on my own that day and met several people at the bar; enjoying good beer and life in general. Website: www.brickstorepub.com/
Beer finders tip: There is a great beer store right down the street from the pub. It is Decatur Wine and Spirits. They have a good selection of micros and the high gravity beers too. This store was the first stop on the trip to have beer for the races the next morning; a very worthwhile stop.
Website: www.decaturspirits.com/

 

Twain's at Night!

Twain's Billiards and Tap - Decatur, GA

After happy hour at the Brickyard I wanted to try Twain's as they are brewing their own beer. The picture to the left was taken before I walked across the street to go there. I probably should have turned around and gone back to where I was before. Twain's is a big place with lots of pool tables and other games. It looks like a fun place but as I found out the beer wasn't. When I sat at the bar, eventually the bar tender came up to see what I wanted. He was in no big hurry and didn't know their beers too well. There are four beers on at any given time. I tried the Jumping Frog IPA and was disappointed. I wondered if they were brewing in plastic buckets. It was flat and not very hoppy. I spoke with a local next to me and he was drinking a guest beer as were many others at the bar. This could be a clue. I tasted one other beer a "IRA" supposed to be a Red IPA, I guess. It tasted terrible; like nothing I have ever had. A menu was offered but I knew better after the beer. Somehow, I finished my one beer, paid up and headed to one other place I wanted to try.

Taco Mac Decatur, GA

Taco Mac - Decatur, GA

While on a walking tour of Decatur, earlier, I noticed Taco Mac along the main street. I returned there for the last beer bar of my vacation. Taco Mac is a local chain of sports bars with a big beer selection. This location had 92 beers on tap and over 300 in bottles. I was not disappointed; they had a wide selection of good beer. Micros, Belgian ales, beers for almost any taste. The place wasn't too busy the night I was there; I'm sure that during games it could get noisy. I sat at the bar with a view of all the beer taps. As I looked at the beer menu (published monthly) I saw several that I had never tried on tap. Amazingly, the first two I ordered were "out". I settled on a local beer, Sweetwater Donkey Punch, a hoppy Barleywine style ale. This beer is hard to classify; I tried it in a big bottle one other time. It is indeed very hoppy and does have a punch! The draft version was better. The bar was friendly; I spoke to several people and they all were enjoying the beer selection. Everyone was drinking good stuff; no Bud drinkers tonight. I had a taco dinner and was able to have Great Divide Hercules Double IPA with it. I have always liked this beer from the bottle; the draft version really rocks. This is one of the best IPAs anyway but on tap it is scary; it goes down very smoothly without the usual alcohol taste associated with a 9.2% double IPA. I said goodbye to my new friends and headed to my hotel. It had been a great two weeks but it was now over. I flew back to Miami the following day and certainly will return for the Decatur Beer Festival next October. (I missed it by a day this year!)

Barley's Taproom Asheville,  NC

Barley's Taproom - Asheville, NC

Barley's is Asheville's original taproom. Opened in 1994 with many local beers on tap, they started the good beer scene in Asheville. My first visit was in 1994; all the taps were unknown to me and, unfortunately many are gone. I enjoyed that first visit and continue to in 2007. Some of the original taps didn't even have names; now the locals rule supported by great out of state beers. They still feature many from NC, which is the next great beer happening state, in my opinion. The local organic brewery, Pisgah Brewing, has five taps and makes special beer exclusively for this bar. Highlands Brewing, also local, used to be brewed below the bar until they out grew the space. In fact for several years Barley's almost could have been called a brewpub with Highlands as their house beer. Highlands has several taps also. More than half the taps go to local or NC breweries. For a complete list, see their website, updated monthly. Barley's has great house pizza as well as other pub fare on their menu. I usually find a way to get to Barley's every year when I am in North Carolina. This year, I was visiting with friends and wanted to show them Asheville beer scene. We found a book, in our hotel, that proclaimed Asheville the "Beer Mecca of the East"! I never put it that way but they are right. The Asheville area has about 200,000 residents. There are five breweries and many good beer bars / taprooms in that area. By contrast, in my hometown of Miami, FL, with two million residents, there are no breweries, one brewpub and a few good beer bars! This is partly why I think NC in the hot beer state. This appreciation and enjoyment of good local beers is seen throughout the state. In Florida most convenience stores and gas stations have the big three and a few imports. In NC, I saw great selection in a small gas station store! Clearly the good beer scene has really taken hold in North Carolina. Website: www.barleystaproom.com/

Pisgah Brewing Organic Ales Black Mountain, NC

Pisgah Brewing Company - Black Mountain, NC

Pisgah Brewing is the newest brewery of the five in the Asheville area. I found out about them in an article in the Southern Brew News. These guys have brewed many different styles and are on their 250th batch of beer. Everything brewed is all organic and they have a loyal following in the local area. They can count me and my friends as loyal fans after our visit. I knew about where the brewery is located and planned to drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway as far as possible, get off and come around to Black Mountain. It happened to be a Thursday and we had worked our way to Mount Mitchell State Park. It was mid afternoon and we had been to the summit and saw "rime ice" on the trees! It was 30 out and had been 60 at the start of our day in Asheville. We had finished lunch at the "slow service" cafe and I was looking at maps to see how we would return to Asheville. I happened on the above mentioned article and read it looking for their phone number and / or directions. The article states that they are open to the public on Thursdays from 4 - 8 PM. "It's a rustic set up - no tables, chairs or snacks, just a line of beer lovers that snakes past the tanks and sometimes out the door." Since it was almost 4 I said "What are we doing here; we need to get to this brewery and do the right thing - drink some beer!" It took a little over an hour to get there and it turned out to be one of the coolest breweries we have ever been to. It is in an old business park on a back road just west of Black Mountain. On Thursdays a bunch of locals converge on the place and drink good beer, talk about it and just enjoy life in general. We made many friends among the crowd of about 50 people. The owners and brewers all work the open house and are available to promote their beer as well as all good beer in general. They are cool guys and really are on to something, I think. I felt as if I was looking at the begriming of something big. I will return many times, I'm sure and I have a feeling that one day these guys will be one of the most popular regional breweries in western NC. They know their beer and make it well. I had a Harvest Style ale called "Equinox", also a Belgian Triple called Solstice. Both were excellent; both in taste and style accuracy. They give out logo pint glasses to everyone and you can keep it if you want to. There are four beers on any given Thursday; the beers change weekly depending on what they can spare for the tastings. This visit is exactly what I mean when I say that everything leads to good beer. We hit them on the right day at the right time; all unplanned. That is what makes some of the best happenings; spontaneous and unscripted. I will be back and look forward to trying some more of their styles as well as the camaraderie at the brewery. Website: www.pisaghbrewing.com

Jack 'o the Wood Pub Asheville, NC
Greenman Ales

Jack of the Wood Pub / Greenman Ales - Asheville, NC

Jack of the Wood Pub is the home of Greenman Ales; a brewery located nearby. This is a cool local Celtic style pub that serves authentic pub fare and ales to match. We visited there on a Thursday, which is their Bluegrass jam night. This was another surprise and was appreciated. The jam was on as we came in so we found a table away form the stage as people were standing and enjoying the music and we didn't want to be in the middle of everything. The pub is a cozy place; the bar is in the middle surrounded by long pub tables on either side. The ceiling is low; as you look around it could be an old Colonial pub! The menu has traditional favorites; even though we were late they were still serving. Their beers all were great; I know the styles and they did them justice. One of the great things about brewpubing is that each brewer interprets the styles differently. This makes for some interesting tasting and it is cool to see what each brewer does. The IPA was hoppy but not like the typical American style is now. It still had big flavor; it was a nice change. The Pale Ale also was a fine brew. My friends had the Stout and a Porter which went over well. The stout is nitro so it pours out creamy and black. The food paired well with the beers; the Irish Stew was flavorful and filling. The fish and chips were authentic and fresh. Overall for beer and food we found the right place that night. The bonus was the Bluegrass jam still going on as we ate dinner. There were probably seven or eight guys playing; several with their backs to the audience. The group plays with everyone able to see each other for different musical communications. This is also how a bunch of players would play in any setting. It was really great to see real counrty music; we don't get much in South Florida. Western NC has plenty of Bluegrass and it is popular; I listen to a local station, WNCW and they play plenty of Bluegrass and advertise local concerts and festivals. It was cool to happen to get to see this group in a great setting. The group was winding down, some of the guys left but several played on. It was a good day but time to go. I walked up and stood and listened for while then we headed home to the hotel. Website: www.jackofthe wood.com

Tampa Bay Brewing Company - Ybor City

I have visited TBB several times; this was the first in their new location. They have a great selection of their beers and guest beers. This was a stop for "a beer" that turned into a full blown St Patrick's day parade just outside the brewpub!

The World of Beer - Bar and Retail - Tampa, FL

The original World of Beer is a Tampa area institution with hundreds of beers available.The best selection in Florida. They now opened a bar with the same beers and some on tap. By the end of our visit there were girls dancing on the bar!

A1A Ale Works - St Augustine, FL

Great local pub right by the Bridge of Lions. I have visited many times; the restaurant is excellent and always has fresh seafood. The renovated brewery is brewing good ales again. Great lunch on the balcony overlooking the water and parks.

Titanic Brewing - Coral Gables, FL

This is my "home" brewpub so there could be some bias. They have six regular ales and several seasonal's on tap. Good varied menu; something for everyone. Mug Club members meet on Wednesdays for happy hour and dinner on the house!

Chelsea Brewing Company - Pier 59 New York City

The first brewpub visited on the trip. Lunch on the fourth of July overlooking the Hudson river. They have a decent selection of beers; I chose the IPA. Good pub grub; seating inside and out with brewing facilities behind glass, nearby.

Liberty Beer Store - Somewhere along 5 W New York

This store is a big metal building along 5W on the way north. The store has many signs for the big three; we good beer drinkers are relegated to a hidden back room where they actually have some good beers. Some looked old so be careful.

The Guilded Otter Brewing Company - New Paltz, NY

The trip was routed through New Paltz to try this brewpub. It didn't disappoint. Good selection of beer styles in a big open bar with dining rooms off the sides. Our late dinner was excellent with many choices on the menu and service was good.

Half Time Beverage - Poughkeepsie, NY

The beer store of the future is here now. Every available beer in NY is at this store; as singles, six packs or kegs! They also have growlers to go of 12 beers on tap at the store. This place could be called "Good Beer Larry's" if I opened a store!

The Cambridge House Brewpub - Granby, CT.

This one gets "Brewpub of the Trip" from me. A bit hard to find but well worth it. Outstanding menu paired with great brews, friendly atmosphere and service as well. Lobster mac & cheese, stout steak and Abijah IPA anyone?

Willimantic Brewing Company - Willimantic, CT.

Good beer and food in an old post office! They have several of their own and guest beers available. The menu had a good variety. We were there late on Sunday night and some things were out. We will return on a better night next time.

 
Drink Good Beer!
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