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2008 is off to a good start. The "Best Day of The Year So far..." was Jan. 26th in Abacoa Town Center, Jupiter Florida. The Jupiter BrewFest has come of age. It will be known as the best beer festival in South Florida. From an expanded vendor list to beer celebrities it had it all. In March my annual trip to the 12 hours of Sebring combined with a visit to Orlando Brewing where good beer and good times are brewed. Reports below.. New Event! The First Annual Great Orlando Beer Festival was on May 17,2008; necessitating a trip back to Orlando. The event was a success; the schedule was similar to the Jupiter event which seems to work out well. (Saturday afternoon from 2 to 7PM.) Review Below

In July a road trip to the Mid Ohio Race course to see the Le Mans cars race happened. We flew in via Cleveland and explore the good beer scene in that area. A quick look at Beer Advocate's listings shows several days of brewpub visits! First up will be the Brew Kettle, a beer drinkers favorite followed by Great Lakes Brewing Co. for dinner. This years "theme" is "More Beer Bars in More Places" which should be evident on this trip! Reviews Below

My annual October trip to Western NC should yield many good beers; several new, I'm sure.

Barley Belgian Golden Ale Beer with Foam Head Hops Beer and Food
Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival Logo
Larry Bell serving at festival
Garrett Oliver serving The One


Jupiter Brewfest - Jupiter, Florida

On Saturday January 26, 2008 I attended the second annual Jupiter Brewfest with two of my good beer drinking friends. As is now "tradition"we stopped at the Yard House 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. There is a Yardhouse planned for Coral Gables; we look forward to visiting in October when they open. The fest was only a couple of exits up I-95 and we arrived there about 2:00. It is set up around the town center at Abacoa, a development that has retail and public areas with residential above or nearby. There was a long line to get in but the advance sale one moved right along. This years theme was "The Best Day of The Year So far.." I agree and it was. When I walked in I went to the first vendor, Shipyard Brewery of Portland Maine for my first beer taste. I met some guys from California with Stone Brewing shirts on. We spoke of how much we liked that brewery and when I turned around my two friends had melted into the crowd. This was probably for the best as it let everyone go at their own pace. I met many more people and had a great afternoon tasting beers and talking up the craft brewing industry in general. I handed out some cards with this website mentioned and had many positive responses. There were beers that we hadn't had as well as some familiar names. Dogfish Head had 60 and 90 minute IPA on. There was some 120 min there but unmarked. Someone told me about it and said to go early as it would probably run out. I did and also had one at the end; it was one of the only beers left about 7:00. Bells Beer of Michigan is new to Florida; they had a popular booth and some great beers. The owner, Larry Bell, was serving beer himself. Brooklyn Brewing's Brewmaster, Garrett Oliver was also there and opened a "Local One", a special Belgian style beer, and served me one. It was an excellent beer and I was able to find it locally the next day. One booth had a "home made" IPA which really tasted good. There was music in the background all afternoon. At 4:00 there was a "Best Dressed Monk" contest held by Monk in the Trunk the local Jupiter brewery. The silent disco by Oskar Blues was cool. When you walked by the dance floor there were people dancing with no music! (It was on their headphones!) I finished my day at Avery Brewing one of Colorado's best. I had made a friend behind the booth so it was a good ending point. I also met up with my two lost friends. I think I made most of the booths; if not there is always next year! It was dark and the fest was closing so we headed back to our hotel and dinner.
Beer Finders Tip: Emporium Wine Beer Spirits store is a local store for good beer. Located at 11865 US 1 N Palm Beach just south of Jupiter it had several beers we didn't have at home. Know your beer though as I saw some dusty bottles. Sierra Nevada Anniversary ale was in the cooler still good; I wish I had bought both six packs. Some interesting Belgians too. Traveling north there is a Publix Store 1049 "Countyline Plaza Publix" that gets mention because it has the largest selection of good beer I have ever seen in a Publix. There was an entire aisle, in this large store, of both warm and cold good beer. I found the above mentioned Brooklyn beer as well as Bells. This was a random find as we tried a liquor store first and just decided to check the grocery store on a chance. Good beer found once again! Website:
www.jupiterbrewfest.com Yard House Website: www.yardhouse.com

Orlando Brewing Logo
Orlando Brewing Tap Area
Orlando Brewing Bar

Orlando Brewing Co. - Orlando, FL.

As is my custom every March I attend the 12 Hours of Sebring sports car endurance race followed by a trip to nearby brewpubs, breweries or beer bars. On Saturday March 15, 2008, after an early start I arrived at Sebring Raceway, with two good beer drinking friends, just in time for the start of the race. As is tradition, beers were popped for the start. This year the "official" beer was Eel River Organic IPA. I have been having a hard time finding this beer but Steve the beer guy at the local Whole Foods Market got it in just two days before the race. Close call but this beer was enjoyed by all so it was worth it. Several were given to local friends who always enjoy what ever "strange" beer I manage to find. After a full day of racing, walking around looking at crazies and beer drinking we headed to Orlando for the night and a visit to Orlando Brewing. The Brewery is located in downtown Orlando where we stayed at an Embassy Suites hotel. This hotel is well hidden among the ever changing one way and closed streets of the downtown area. We arrived just in time for one beer at the "Managers Reception". It was a forgettable wheat beer but better that the big three, anyway. The brewery doesn't serve food but was having a St Patrick's day dinner / beer bash. We got a cab there (good idea) and arrived about 9:00. Orlando Brewing is just that; not a bar or a brewpub. Their tasting room has everything they brew and probably ten outside "guest" beers. The brewery is certified organic; all their beers are brewed according to the German Purity Law of 1516. The place probably holds 60 and was half full on this night. There was a guitarist in one corner, a bar along one side and tables scattered about the rest of the place. The Irish food was laid out in a back room; shepards' pie, corned beef with cabbage and pudding. There was plenty through out the evening. After this long day of drinking and walking the unlimited food was great; when they wanted to close the dinner table down we were able to fill plates before it was put away. The brewing takes place in a separate room just behind the bar area. Tours are available on weekdays. This is a great place to drink some good beer. The atmosphere is laid back, the staff and patrons are friendly and the beer is good. I sampled most of their beer and was presently surprised with them. There were several IPAs on including a double that I said was "world class" I spoke with one of the owners and told him that. These guys want to become the local beer for Orlando area and I think they will succeed. We had a great time and almost closed the place. After midnight we called the cab back and rode back to the hotel. Before bed we had a very necessary "nightcap" of Boulder MoJo Risin' Double IPA. Some of OBs' beer is available, locally, in 6 packs. The next day we found a few at a local Whole Foods. Their distributor only distributes for OB so is only selling their beer. We all like the beer and think that some need minor tweaking for the regular folks to enjoy. There is a lot of beer out there and $12 a six is pricey. We did get several to take back as we won't see this in Miami.
Beer Finders Tip: Big C Liquors in Winter Park has one of the best local selection of good beers. We found the entire line of Bells Ales as well as several other brands not available in Miami. They have most of the beers in singles as well as 4 and 6 packs. Located on University Blvd. in Winter Park. Update 2018: Big C now has a Facebook page.
Orlando Brewing Website: www.orlandobrewing.com

Great Orlando Beer Festival 2008
Orlando Beer Festival - Entrance
Orlando Brewing at the festival
Bells Brewing with Terrapin behind
Underground Bluz - The Fun Tent!

Great Orlando Beer Festival - Orlando, FL

On Saturday May 17, 2008 the first Great Orlando Beer was held. I attended along with the "usual suspects" my two good beer loving friends. We left early that morning, driving in my new car, so we would arrive at lunchtime. The event was to start at 2:00 and we were in town at 12:00. We had read about a great pub with good beers and food; The Ravenous Pig in nearby Winter Park. The place was great; excellent beers and organic, natural foods on the menu. I will give a full review of the restaurant in the beer and food section of this website at a later date. Suffice it to say I had Bells Two Hearted Ale with a Smoked Pork Sandwich with chimichurri, corn and black eyed pea relish, cheddar on grilled sourdough. A different taste; everything on the menu is made there at the pub from local sources as much as possible. This was a great find; I highly recommend it when in Orlando. That Bells ale isn't in Dade County yet so that alone was a find; great food made it even better! The 'Pig was great but we had to get to the festival. The event was held near the downtown area of Orlando; our hotel was a mile from the event. We drove to the festival and found the nearby parking garage as advertised. There were other festival goers there; we spoke with several and headed to the event. About one block from the parking lot we looked for our tickets and they were back at the car. Our new found friends said they would see us later inside. As we headed back to get the tickets we suddenly had company; they also had forgotten their tickets! We could see that this was going to be a great time! As we entered they handed everyone a "raffle" ticket to be drawn later. The festival was set up with tents on three sides and a group in the middle. The middle area is right in front of you when yor enter so it was up first. The Central Florida Home Brewers had a tent with four beers to taste. All were good; the "Red" ale was the best they were pouring. (Not to be confused with the red ales popular several years ago.) This was a stronger ale with totally different taste. Right next door was Dogfish Head Brewing; brewing "Off centered ales for off centered people". They had their Black and Blue a Belgiany ale made with blackberries and blueberries. This is a great beer but outside in the heat I enjoyed the 60 minute IPA more. Later I met the local distributor and he told me about a beer Dogfish sent him with a note "Enjoy this at the festival" on it. It wasn't on the bill or listed; it was Palo Santo Marron an ale fermented in wooden tanks! The keg at the festival was the only one to be here in Florida until they get production up. The beer will be available here soon but this was a cool thing for the festival. I returned to the tent and was able to try the new beer. I look forward to exploring it more when it is available here in Florida. It had a complex taste reflecting the wooden tanks it was fermented in and the brown ale it began as. For more about the beer visit Dogfish's website where there is a video about it and the company. Cool guys! Next door was Orlando Brewing which I recently visited. (Scroll up this page for the full review). The Red ale was enjoyed; It is probably their best seller along with the Pale Ale. This tent was at the end of the row; the stage and some tables to sit at were there. I like this idea; so many festivals don't offer a place to sit and relax for a few miniutes before continuing on. One group played old Joe Walsh tunes with some dancing along.The day was warm but cloud cover really saved the day. The may want to move the event up a few weeks to get the last of springs cooler weather. Around the corner was PBR; I skipped that and cut across to the back row where Bells was. They had the Two Hearted ale and Oberon both were great. Their booth is also always good for beer paraphernalia; stickers, key chains etc. Next door was Brooklyn Brewing and Flying Dog. Both have many bottled beers; many here at the fest. Terrapin Beer was nearby. I was able to try Big Hoppy Monster which wasn't out when I was last in Georgia. John, the owner, had a few stashed and invited me to tour the brewery in Athens next time I'm there. Shmaltz Brewing, maker of the Hebrew line was well represented. Sackets Harbor Brewing had their original War of 1812 Amber Ale and the newer Thousand Isle ale. I had never heard of this brewery; some is contracted with Saratoga Springs Brewing in New York. They are new to the Florida market; the booth was crowded and I only got a taste. The back corner was a fun area; a local pub Underground Bluz - UCF had several beers. They had two Lost Coast Ales on tap as well as Monk in the Trunk from Jupiter (Orlando) brewing. They had many interesting bottles; we were there for the opening of Speedway Stout a most enjoyable Calif. stout. Next door was the distributor of Sam Smiths English ales among other things. We then saw a South Florida local, Adam of Fresh Beer, Inc. I didn't know that he went this far upstate but the Fresh Beer line is going statewide. This includes Native Lager and the Eleven Brown Ale. I mentioned that I first met him at the old Miami Beach Festival years ago. At that time he was brewing and distributing locally. What a difference several years makes! His company has grown beyond his wildest expectations. I missed a few booths and I'm sure this went well for a first time event. There was one really bad beer; a sour ale from Jolly Pumpkin. I still pucker up just thinking about it. The event ended strangely; about 15 minutes before closing a bunch of "cops" started blowing whistles and announcing "All vendors stop serving now". These antics continued for around 5 minutes. Most everyone did stop pouring and people started to go. It was a great day; this was just a strange way to end it. We left to go to our hotel with a return to the 'pig for a late dinner.

Update 2018: This festival was a one off affair. The organizers tried to hold it for the next few years but never were able to make it happen again. There is a new festival "The Orlando Beer Festival" that started in 2015 and still is going. Maybe the November date will bring cooler weather. Website.

Beer finders tip: Knightly Spirits is a good local source for many hard to find beers. It is a small place but I saw beers I didn't know existed. Barleywines from Norway, IPA from Denmark, Swedish beers too. Many European examples of popular micro brew styles. Also a good selection of "regular" micros. Some stuff is a bit pricey; $9 for a bottle of IPA or Barleywine is a bit much but lets see how the beers are. Bring small he can't carry everything they were out of the Bells I wanted too. Still a worthwhile visit; Chris was very helpful and came out to describe and help find beers while running the counter also.

Update 2018: The location above has closed but Knightly Spirits lives on. The small chain now has 5 stores with the Orange Blossom Trail location the best for craft beer. Website.


Brew Kettle Logo


Roll over pictures below for another view

Brew Kettle Bar Area
Brew Kettle View

The Brew Kettle - Strongsville, OH

The Brew Kettle was a great start to our 10 day visit to Ohio. It is a good beer drinkers dream; some of their own, along with several great regional / national brews on tap for 24 total. All the good beer backed up by great food. If that's not enough they also offer brewing of your own beers also. It's a great combo and a friendly place. The brewing area has a several month long waiting list and they were brewing the night we were there. The 'Kettle isn't big on the outside; it looks like a small storefront. Once inside it is a long narrow area with a big brewing area in the back. We were there on a Thursday afternoon and there was still a good crowd there; by the time we left there were no seats left at the bar. We sat at the bar and started with samplers. They have a handout listing the beers and sample prices. The standard was five different beers. We all tried to get different beers so we could try more. They were in the process of moving the brew house so there were only three Ringneck beers available. The two I had were excellent; Founders Red Rye and 4 C's Pale Ale. The 4 C's was the first brew from the new brew house; the 4 C's are hops. (Cascade, Centennial, Columbus and Chinook.) The 4 C was great; I had a full pint later. The other samples I had were Bear Republic Racer Five, New Holland Mad Hatter and Boulder MoJo Risin. All are IPA's; my favorite style; it was great to have so many at one place. The 'Kettle has great pub grub as well. The chili had meat chunks in it with a spicy taste. Later I had a Bratwurst another local favorite. I can see why the place is popular; the menu is varied and everything we had was prepared fresh and with good ingredients. At five the brew area comes to life and there was a full group of home brewers brewing. Some were just starting the brewing process and some had already brewed and were capping the finished product. The brewing folks were having fun and friendly to anyone wanting to check out what they were doing. One group told me that they brew "all the time" and the recipe they used was one they had used before with good results. The capping is more fun as you get to sample your new beer as you are capping and labeling the new brew. I brewed at a brew on premises several years ago but this looks like a lot more fun. Having a full bar and restaurant right there makes it a complete experience and lots of fun. We hope for something like this back home but are still waiting. The 'Kettle was a great start; our bartender, Paul gave us great service and the entire staff is friendly and outgoing. We appreciate this as it is getting hard to find places like this these days. Website: TheBrewKettle.com
Great Lakes Brewing Co Bar
Great Lakes Brewing

Great Lakes Brewing - Cleveland, OH

Our visit to Great Lakes Brewing Co was for a few brews and a late dinner. Although it was a Thursday night and busy we were seated right away across from the bar. The place has several different areas to eat and drink; there is also seating outside on a patio. The pictures to the left are of the bar area. The building is over 100 years old and has some history to it. We were late so most of the crowd there was for drinks. They serve late and we enjoyed the food. GLBC has many of their beers on tap; six all the time and a rotating list of seasonals. We had beers fron the regular menu; there were no seasonal beers available that night. That was ok; the Commodore Perry IPA and Edmund Fitzgerald Porter both were good. The menu has a good variety of items; everyone was able to find something good. I had the Sirloin Steak with peppercorn sauce and veggie valley mashed potatoes with veggies. They are committed to using locally grown and organic ingredients when ever possible. The late dinner turned out great; sometimes the late eaters don't get the best menus. GLBC really came through on that. We would like to visit again as it was a long day and we didn't sample the beers as much as we would have liked. Also I hear that they have brewery tours that are fun as well as informative. Our visit was on the night that the AC wasn't working in the bar area. When I went downstairs I saw another huge dining and bar area. This downstairs was cool; we wonder why they didn't let everyone come down there as the upstairs was getting hot. The heat didn't ruin our visit but it did hasten our exit. We would like to visit during the day to see the building better and try more beers. Hopefully the AC will be working as well! Website: GreatLakesBrewing.com
Chucks Fine Wines Photo Street
Chucks Fine Wines Photo

Chuck's Fine Wines - Chagrin Falls, OH

Chucks is listed as Cleveland but is a bit out in the country. We were heading south to the races at Mid Ohio Race Course and wanted to stock up on good beer for the event and beyond. It is located east of town and the detour was well worth it. As close as it is to Cleveland it feels like a very rural place. Chagrin Falls is right in the center of town along with the Popcorn Shop an old fashioned candy shop by the falls. Just down the street in Chuck's. The building is probably 100 years old and has had many uses. There is ample parking on the side or on the street nearby. As you enter there are shelves and counters of all sizes filled with wine. The beer is located beyond the cash register area to the left. There is a great selection of American Micros and many imported beers also. The Belgian selection is one of the best for many miles around, I'm sure. The staff was helpful; we met Mike the guardian of the Vault. The vault is in the back and has many older and rare beers. You need a password to get into the vault; that's another joke at Chuck's. (There is none!) Once inside the vault Mike kept pulling out beer after beer that we had never seen or hadn't had for years. I like IPAs and one of my friends is big on Stouts; there was much to please everyone. There were so many beers that we wanted; we ended up with more that we could drink in the next week! A few example breweries from the selection: Stone, Bells, Great Lakes, Weyerbacher, New Holland, Southern Tier, Moylans, AleSmith, Pyramid and many more. Some of the collectable were one of a kind; we got several that were discontinued or no longer sold in Ohio. When we were finished they packed all the beer up in boxes and helped us to the car. Even though we were running late we went by the falls to see it and the town area. It would be great to return with more time as I can see the area has lots to offer; good beer being just one attraction. One note of caution: when buying old and "rare" beers be aware that some don't age well. We bought several that probably should have been left on the shelf. All things considered this is still a great beer store and we will return when in the area. Website: Chucksfinewines.com

M. J. Mugsy's - Upper Sandusky, OH

The trip went west on the Lincoln Highway into a very rural area. This was a great find; 100 beers in an Italian restaurant with American fare too. IPA and Stout both found; friendly service beers on display to choose from. Great food!

Mad Anthony Brewing Company - Auburn, IN

Mad Anthony's has three locations; we visited the taproom in Auburn. Good rotating selection; pale ale was the best. They also bottle; we got several to go. Robin, our waitress, one day will be your host on the Weather Channel!

Cooper Creek Brewing Company - Athens, GA

I missed this one in 2006; they were closed on the Sunday I was there. This was a quick stop for lunch and a brew. With four beers available I sampled each and had a pint of American ale. All natural food menu available also.

Bruisin' Ales - Asheville, NC

A "big" find in a small store! The best selection in the area; over 700 beers and more! The owner, Jason, was working and we made his day. Lots of great beers bought; it truly is "a high gravity world of beers" Green Flash (CA) brews found!



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! Update 2008: Two seasonal brews so far this year. A Belgian Triple and First American Pale Ale a very hoppy pale ale.




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