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2009 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!

Past reviews available for 2008 and 2007. - Larry

Barley image Belgian Golden Ale image Beer with Foam Head image Hops Image Beer and Food
Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival 2009 Logo
Larry at Highland Brewing Co.
Shipyard Brewing
Festival in full swing! photo
A good time was had by all!

Jupiter Brewfest - Jupiter, Florida

The 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 a new IPA! It's called Torpedo Extra IPA and will be brewed using the "Hop Torpedo" dry hopping device that controls hop aroma without increasing bitterness.. 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 year!

Update 2018: This would be the last year at the town square location and the last to end after dark. The move to the front of neraby Roger Dean stadium will increase size and vendors. A new event also was added to the festival weekend; the Field of Beers on Friday night. I attended in 2010 and still make it in 2018. See you there!

Beer Lunch photo
BJ's Brewing Orlando photo
Beer Wars Ticket image

Sebring Road Race - Orlando Beers - BJ's Brewing

Early 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! Update 2018: after being acquired by Long Trail Brewing of Vermont in 2010 the Wolaver's line ceased production in 2015. See related article. 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.
Website: www.bjsrestaurants.com

Hoppy Endingd IPA Fest
Festival Start Outside / Inside
Main Bar Blind Tasting / Enjoying the Fest
Patio Beers Revealed / Inside Area

Dunedin Brewing 1st Annual IPA Festival

Appropriately 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!

Mahaffey Theater
Oysters & Beer / Crowd
Chimay Fun / Hopimator

St. Pete Craft Beer Expo - July 18, 2009

The 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. Roll over images for additional picture!

Update 2018: This event moved nearby for 2010 and never was held again. There are manynew and different events in and around St Pete as the Bay area had seen incredable craft brewery growth.

Cigar City Brewing
15 BBL Brewing System
Tasting Area with Bottle Collection on wall behind

Cigar City Brewing - Tampa Florida

We 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

32 taps at The Brew Garden
Bar areas at The Brew Garden

The Brew Garden - Clearwater, FL

The 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.

Update 2018: I visited a coule more times in the next few years. It always was a great place with an interesting selection. Unforutanally, it has been out of business since 2012. Savino, where are you?

Bruisin' Ales Logo

Bruisin' Ales - Asheville, NC

This 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. Website: BrusinAles.com 2018: Still going storng!

Go Dogfishing today!
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