will be another great year for good beer, I'm sure. First up is
the Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival held in Jupiter, FL (!) on January
24, 2009. This is the third edition and should be the best yet.
It promises "Little Cups - Big Beers". This was evident
as many vendors had "big" beers. Imperial IPAs, Stouts
and Barleywines all were there. The weather was great and so was
the fest! Report below. Next up, in March, is my annual trip to
the Sebring races which is a "beer fest" like no other!
Later we travel to Orlando where good beers seem to be everywhere!
In April the movie Beer Wars debuted on the 16th. May will bring
the First annual Dunedin
Brewing "Hoppy Endings" IPA tasting event! This should
be great; look for the review after the event! St Pete is having
a Craft Beer Expo in
July; while in the area I will visit other craft beer venues.. All
reviews are below. I will also take my annual trip to Western NC
in October. Not as much beer travel this year as in past years this
just means that 2010 will have to be better. I think that is the
theme of many folks' 2009. Do what you can and keep on drinking
good beer where ever you are! 2009 is the last year of the decade;
I wrap up in the year and decade at the bottom of the page. It's
been good; let's do it again next year!
reviews available for 2008
and 2007. - Larry
Brewfest - Jupiter, Florida
third annual festival was held on Saturday January
24,2009. I was there with two friends; all of us enjoy
craft beers and think this is one of the best festivals
going. It isn't too big and has more beer vendors
each year. This years theme was "Little Cups
- Big Beers". This referred to the small "taster"
cups and the "big" (strong) beers that many
vendors brought along. Many vendors had a big or extreme
beer available and there were some surprises along
the way. But first we had to get in! As we approached
the festival the Budweiser Clydesdale horses were
right in front of us. These huge animals are a sight
to see; I have never seen them up close like this.
We walked by the horses to the entrance area. There
is usually a line to get in but not that long. Today
it went on forever. We ended up two blocks away! This
was the only bad thing of the day; it took over half
an hour to get in! I thought that the theme should
be changed to "Little Cups - Big Lines"!
Once we got in the expanded vendor list made shorter
waits at each booth; this worked out well and the
long wait was soon forgotten. First up was Hops, a
Florida chain brewpub that usually has three standard
beers and a brewers selection. Today they had a nice
Dry Irish Stout which isn't Hops at all. Nice surprise.
The beer was tasty and correct to the style. "Axe
For It by Name" at your local Hops! (Lumberjack
Oatmeal Stout) The day was beautiful and music played
in the background most of the day. Around from Hops
was Abita (LA) with their IPA, poured from bottles.
I spotted Highland Brewing, which I like, from Asheville,
NC. They had their Gaelic Ale on tap as well as several
others from bottles. They have just come into this
area; hopefully they will make Miami. Bold City Brewing
from Jacksonville had a nice IPA; they are a microbrewery
that wants to expand to other parts of Florida. Big
Bear and Titanic Brewing, local brewpubs, were next.
Big Bear was fairly busy; Titanic had their 2x IPA
an excellent Double IPA a big beer if there ever was
one. Sierra Nevada had all their beer to sample; the
big news was that they are coming out with their own
Double IPA! It's called Torpedo Extra IPA and will
be out this spring. At the end of this row was Shipyard
Brewing of Maine which has been brewing some new styles
lately. I tried Pugsley's Barleywine and a special
stout. The barleywine was very sweet; I wondered if
I got the right thing. The bottles looked the same
and could have been mixed up. I'll try it again later.
Around the corner was Left Hand Brewery of Colorado.
Left hand had draft and bottles. I had Warrior IPA
a "wet hopped" ale. Next door was the Corner
Cafe and Brewery, a local eatery with a small brewery.
We had lunch there before the fest; there is a separate
review below. They had all four of their beers for
tasting; I tried the Brown Ale which I had missed
at lunch. Good job by the closest vendor the the fest!
Thomas Creek Brewery, from upstate SC, had four beers
to taste. Nothing extreme; I tired a good IPA and
a Red Ale. Their motto is "Sink the Status Quo".
There is a good sense of humor here; I got a shirt
that starts out: "Deceased Gangstas don't have
taste buds!" They have more fun stuff; coming
to FL soon! Bells Brewery of Michigan is brewing some
of the best beers out there. They had Amber ale and
their Barleywine to sample. The barleywine is great;
it will be in FL soon. Larry Bell, the owner, was
there and had a "secret" stout for everyone
to try. I asked him if they were coming to Miami and
he says yes they are, there are just some details
to work out. Great! Bells Two Hearted Ale is one of
the best IPA available in bottles. On tap it is even
better..bring it on! At Brooklyn Brewing we recognized
someone we had met last year. My friends had made
a CD with pictures of last years Monk contest and
presented it to the couple while we were tasting Brooklyn's
Local One, a Belgian golden ale bottle fermented.
Shortly the best dressed monk contest was up on stage.
It came down to two guys; one was last years winners
and 'Father Pete". The contest is judged by crowd
reaction. The first try ended up in a tie; the crowd
really cheered for "Pete". I called it the
"Obama effect" he was tall dark and skinny.
On the second try last years guy won; he really does
look like a monk; slightly balding and "rotund"
clasping his hands in "prayer" from time
to time. One of his "friends" ,nearby, booed
him each time the vote was taken; the MC said to be
careful when you boo a monk. You never know! It was
now dusk and some vendors were running out of beer.
We ended up by Stone Brewing, Rogue and Dogfish Head
Brewing. This area was fun; everyone was having a
good time and drinking whatever was left. Stone had
an Imperial Stout that was excellent. Rogue also had
a stout left. Dogfish had 60 and 90 minute IPA and
some bottles left. I walked by Boulder and they were
gone. We ended our day by the three booths mentioned
above. The beer was flowing and some folks were heading
on. The Dogfish guys opened the bottles and poured
until closing. Good job by Dogfish! They gauged how
much to bring and brought a good variety. At 7:00
most vendors closed; I walked all around the festival
and managed a few (totally necessary!) more samples.
Alas, all goo things come to an end; we ended up where
the Clydesdales had been earlier with our final beers/
It was a great festival and we look forward to next
Road Race - Orlando Beers - BJ's Brewing
on Saturday March 21st The usual gang packed the car
with beer and headed for the 12 hours of Sebring Endurance
Race. This years beer was an assortment of favorites
from IPA's, Stouts and Barleywines. As is tradition
beers were poured for the 10 AM start of the race.
We usually run into some friends that all have been
going to the race for years. They like to try whatever
beers we have along. This year there was a new truck
to ride around in so we loaded up on beers and hopped
in to view the crazies all around the track. On the
way to the drive over bridge was "Camp Dumbass"
a good description if I ever saw one! On the inside
area, called "Green Peace" the party is
totally wild and crazy. I know I'm getting older when
I just look around and wonder "was I this crazy
back in the day?" We parked and walked around
the area and it was rough. Every now and then you
see someone passed out in a chair, car or on the ground.
The big party is fueled, mainly, by light American
lagers but times are changing. Every year we see more
people drinking the good stuff. It's cool to walk
around just to see what people have done for their
campsites. Many display all their dead soldiers; that's
how I can see that good beers are getting popular.
They probably won't take over but as people learn
about them they may change over. I guarantee that
the passed out folks weren't drinking IPA! (Probably
Bud Light but what do I know?) After a day of racing,
fan viewing and beer drinking we headed for Orlando.
That night we had a small family reunion with my friends
and most of their family. This was held at an Irish
pub near Downtown Disney. Not much good beer here;
they do have Guinness and Bass but no micros. That
was ok as I had my fill of beer anyway so I had a
margarita with dinner. The next day we moved from
our dingy suite to a larger two bedroom suite. The
move was completed about noon and we had no specific
plans and weren't exactly full of energy - a big surprise
for the day after Sebring! We were just hanging out
so I turned the college basketball tournament games
on. We had plenty of beer leftover; a few that I never
had before. Great Divide Hades a belgian inspired
beer, the latest Sierra Nevada - Torpedo IPA among
others. The first picture to the left was taken sometime
during our "lunch". We could have stayed
there all day but would eventually go out for another
adventure. While we were around the hotel a call was
placed to the local brewery - Orlando
Brewing to see about reserving a special bottle
of aged beer that they had been talking about for
almost a year. That beer is Anisocoria an organic
single malt ale. It was brewed almost a year ago and
would be released this coming May. They would take
reservations for the numbered bottles. I took 95 the
same as my number at the mug club. My friends also
reserved bottles. We returned to Orlando in early
May and got them on the day they were released for
sale. No one had had it yet but I will report it here
or at Twitter@goodbeerlarry.
Meanwhile we decided to drive over to an area of Disney
that has bikes for rent and ride around a woodsy area.
Later we discovered that even Disney has found good
beers. A new bar in the basement of the old contemporary
hotel had the Wolaver's
line of organic ales on tap. Naturally we had to have
a round! Later we went to BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse
Orlando location for a late dinner. BJ's is a west
coast chain that recently has expanded into Florida.
They brew the beers at a central location (we were
told Reno Nevada!) and distribute to the various locations.
They have a varied beer menu; seven of theirs and
several guest taps also. I enjoyed the Piranha Pale
Ale and Jeremiah Red. The Red style isn't as popular
as it was ten years ago but this one is good. Not
too hoppy and a nice malty flavor. The place is huge
but we owned it this night; we were waited on by several
people and everything was great. They have an extensive
menu; great pizza selection and many "classics"
to suit anyone in the party. I had a personal pizza
and several reds all served by friendly people glad
to have an easy night. I can see beepers at the door
so sometimes the place gets very busy. All together
a good visit.
Brewing 1st Annual IPA Festival
named "Hoppy Endings" this was the coolest
beer fest yet! There were 19 kegs of different IPAs
and DIPAs to taste. The first session was all blind
tasting with a vote at the end to see who won. Very
cool idea; tasting and trying to guess what beer it
was in addition to deciding which one was the winner.
This fest was a great ending to a day of beer events.
Lunch at The Ravenous
Pig Gastropub, Orlando where the beers are selected
to go with the food. The first Saturday of the month
is the pig roast with BBQ and all the trimmings. Next
up a stop at Orlando Brewing to pick up the Anisocoria
beer mentioned in the above section. Then a stop by
the World of Beer in Clearwater where over 800 are available.
It was then a race to the tape to make the fest. (Missing
the Kentucky Derby in the process!) A quick bite at
Eli's a local BBQ, check in to the hotel then walk to
the fest for a great time. As we arrived at the brewery
there was a long line outside. Good; we thought we had
missed the start. It took a while to get in as each
person was checked for ticket and ID then issued a Dunedin
pint glass for the festival. that was cool; most beer
fests give you small plastic cups. There were 19 different
IPAs to taste; as mentioned it was a blind tasting for
the first session. The largest group of beers were at
at the regular bar, there were several on the outside
patio and a few on the front porch. We found space at
a table with some other folks; everyone became friends
and tasted together and tried to guess which IPA each
was. Number 1 was Stone IPA; I recognized it as it was
a recent beer at my hometown bar. The tasting got tougher
as we moved along. Most of the indoor bar were normal
IPAs; the patio was a different story. By the time we
were tasting out there our taste buds were shot anyway.
When the patio beers were revealed it was really strange.
There was a Terripin Rye Squared next to Dogfish Aprihop
a hoppy apricot ale. Smuttynose IPA and "Dunbrew"
DIPA were nearby as well as 2 cask conditioned local
IPAs; Cigar City and Dunedin Rye IPA. The winner was
out on the front porch; we were lucky to get out there
as time was running out for the first session. One beer
did stand out and I was able to vote for it as the voting
closed. The winner was: (drum roll) Avery Maharaja IPA
a double from Avery
of Colorado. Everything Avery does is excellent; it
was no surprise to see them win. They make quite a variety
of beers, some at the "extreme" end of the
segment but all are great tasting and drinking beers.
Avery has something for everyone and that Maharaja is
hard to find on tap. I have had it one other time at
another tasting. After the various beers were revealed
there were some surprises as well as some good guesses.
We all got some right and some wrong or just couldn't
tell. That would happen to anyone trying 19 hoppy beers!
Session Two was just to enjoy whet ever beer you wanted;
I went outside to the patio and tried the local cask
beers and we met Joey of Cigar City
Brewing a new brewery in Tampa. They had just opened
and we would see Joey at another festival later in the
year. This was one of the better festivals; it said
first annual so we will be back in 2010 if they have
it. The Dunedin
Brewery guys always do it right!
Pete Craft Beer Expo - July 18, 2009
Mahaffey Theater on the St. Pete waterfront was a
great venue for this event. Situated one block from
our Hilton hotel on the water and inside in July it
was ideal. The event had two sections; one was beer
and food pairings (upstairs) and the other was a craft
beer tasting (downstairs). The upstairs started an
hour before the down to give people a chance to eat
and sample good beer before the festival below opened.
There were some good pairings and different ideas.
Much of both areas was bottled beer so that allowed
for more varieties from each vendor.
As we entered the event and cleared the ID area we
were directed to the left to get a glass and directory
for the event. Most events have a cheap event glass;
not here we were offered real glasses from several
breweries. I chose a pilsner glass from Pabst Blue
Ribbon. I liked the glass and throughout the event
people saw it and wondered where I got it. I think
there were only a few and we were there early. The
directory was a pocket sized color printed booklet
listing breweries and beer bars at the event. We were
then directed upstairs to the paring event. It was
busy and there were long lines at some vendors. The
thing to do when that happens is find the vendors
that aren't as busy and come back later to the others.
Highlights include: Rogue Juniper Ale with White Cheddar
cheese and gorgonzola. Avery Hog Heaven with a white
cheese. Chimay paired with Chimay cheeses; each made
for the respective Chimay beer. There were oysters
served with Fat Tire Amber and Imperial Stout. This
area ran out fairly quickly; good thing we hit them
first. There were ice cream floats made with Lambic
beers; I didn't have a float but did try some ice
cream. The two most popular booths upstairs were Hickory
Hollow's and the Moon, local beer bars. H Hollow had
BBQ paired with North Carolina beers. There were several
types of pulled pork; both good. They had all beers
from NC and several aren't available in Florida. Moon
had curried chicken with Lagunitas IPA; great pairing
and the last as they were running out. We then went
downstairs to the regular festival. This was crowded
but fun. There were vendors all around pouring their
best and everyone having a good time. Cigar
City a local brewery, recently opened, had all
their beers and took part in one of the seminars offered.
We were able to tour Cigar City Brewing the following
Monday; thanks to Joey, who we met here. Some brewery's
that were there: Bells, Albita, Sierra Nevada, Dogfish
Head, (Cool poster!) Bold City, Boulder Beer, Smuttynose,
Highlands, Brooklyn, Flying Dogs, Shipyard, Terrapin,
and many more. Tampa
Bay Brewing, a local brewpub was there until the
end. As the festival was closing I was able to get
my last sample there. Their Moose Killer Barleywine
is a local favorite and I can see why. Website: CraftBeerExpo.org
over images for additional picture!
City Brewing - Tampa Florida
met Joey, the founder of Cigar City, at the above festival.
He said that the brewery wasn't open on Mondays but
call and he would be there and show us around. After
a "mapquest adventure" we finally found the
place. It appeared that there were streets with the
same name. This actually wasn't true as we found out.
Anyway it was good that he was there to tell us how
to get there. We arrived about mid day just as the brewer
and his assistant were heading out to get a part to
fix a leaking Glycol line. Even though Mondays aren't
brew days things seem to come up anyway. A brewers work
is never done. The offending tank was shut down and
waiting for the part to fix the cooling system. Meanwhile
we got the nickel tour of the place. CCB has a 15 BBL
brewing system and associated equipment. There is some
space for expansion which will happen as they already
sell everything they can make. We tried a coffee porter
that really tasted like the small Cuban coffee shots
seen at cafes around the area. He didn't have anything
else to try or take home; we were able to try the IPA
at a local beer bar reviewed below. Joey has a extensive
background in the beer industry. I think he has been
involved in almost every area of the business and has
a huge bottle collection at the brewery. His collection
is just that; only his stuff is there and he has a story
for most of the bottles. There's a bunch of 22 oz bottles
up in the rafters in the side wall of the brewery and
he hasn't even started with the 12 oz! The tasting room
is on one side of the warehouse; still part of the big
space. It was pretty hot that day and we were sweating.
As things go forward they will probably make a separate
place for the tasting room with a real bar and A/C.
It will be fun to go back to see the changes that success
will bring to Cigar City. As we left a new customer
came in; a distributor who was interested in the new
company. I look forward to seeing Cigar City in the
South Florida area by October. Things are just getting
started at Tampa's first micro-brewery! Website: CigarCityBeer.com
Brew Garden - Clearwater, FL
Tampa Bay area has the best beer scene in the state.
The Brew Garden is the coolest bar in the area. Built
in an old Starbucks in Clearwater they started out
(in April) doing coffee in the mornings and good beers
in the PM hours. Sometime over the summer they figured
out that coffee sucks and went with the beer pub only.
This was a good decision as the pub has been a success.
One of the owners is Savino Sterlacci; I have known
him from the World of Beer store for ten years at
least. He is known for finding hard to get micros
and rare Belgian beers. That passion is now focused
at this "European Themed Beer Bar" that
has 32 taps and many bottles. I was there a day after
going to the St Pete fest mentioned above. It was
nice to be there when it was quiet; the place can
get really busy. I tired Cigar City's' IPA a great
local find. I also tried several of the Belgian beers;
very enjoyable to have beers I normally can't find
or don't even know. This happens all the time here
as the beer menu is constantly changing. You could
depend on them to have a great selection at all times.
If you are really wanting a specific beer they may
have it but if they don't there will be something
else that will be totally acceptable. This pub is
all about beer; there is a small limited menu of really
good food. Not typical pub fayre; all real good food.
No greasy burgers & deep fried mysteries; instead
there are a few quality sandwiches and small appetizers.
I have kept up with the pub by signing up for the
e-mail letters. This alone is worth it; go to the
website and sign up and you will soon wish, as I have,
that you lived within walking distance! A really cool
place don't miss it when in the TB area. Check the
website for updated beer menu.
Ales - Asheville, NC
is the best beer store in Asheville and the southeast.
They stock many different beers as well as hard to
find beers. The day I was there Jason, the owner,
was working and they were having a beer tasting later
in the day. If you visit try to go on a day of a beer
"event" (usually Thursdays) as it looks
like fun to see how many people can fit in this small
store. I asked about Dogfish Squall IPA hoping that
this market had it. Jason said that they didn't get
it either. I looked around and started to gather some
beers to buy. The selection is really wide; something
for everyone. There wasn't much local beer as they
sell out all the time. This is amazing as Asheville
now has nine or ten breweries and many cool beer places.
Being the best in Asheville means a lot as the town
has become a Mecca, of sorts, for beer drinkers all
over the southeast. There is a complete selection
of American Micros with plenty of high-gravity IPAs,
Barleywines, Stouts and many Belgians. I gathered
up a "few" beers and ended up with three
boxes full. It is always great to have these beers
that I can't get back in Florida. When I checked out
Jason was gone tending to another part of the business;
shipping beer all around the world. This is new and
if you are looking for a particular beer go the website
and see if they have it. Shipping was illegal in NC
until a few years ago. A must stop if you are in the
area. I loaded up the car and headed back to the Blue
Ridge Parkway to enjoy the fall colors and weather.