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2010

Welcome to the new year and decade! 2010 promises to be another great year for good beer! The craft brewing industry is still out pacing the rest of the industry in sales and quality. Times have never been better for good beer; both in availability and choice. As has become custom the beer year in South Florida begins in Jupiter at the Jupiter Brewfest. This year they have added a beer and food paring the night before the main event. I think we will be seeing more of this type of event this year and beyond. The rest of my year isn't planned yet but is sure to include the annual trip to the Sebring races and a visit to Gainesville's new brewery, Swamphead. This page will be updated as events are planned and reviews will be up shortly after each. The picture to the right appeared in e-mail; it is a scene from the Antic Blast that has gripped much of the nation for the first part of January 2010. While I don't know these folks personally; I like their attitude. Toasting the snow and new year with beers somewhere in Canada. Cheers!

2010 Artic Blast Toast!
Past reviews 2006 - 2009 Click on each year. Enjoy, Larry Quebec City, Canada
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Field of Beers Friday Event
Chefs cooked great foods
Jupiter Brewfest Logo
The StoneBrew Crew
Swamphead Brewery Fla's next Big thing!

Brew it and they will come - Field of Beers - Jupiter, FL

This was one of the best beer events I have attended. The number of participants was limited; each station had a chef and brewer (or rep) there to talk about the beer and food. It was set up inside Roger Dean Stadium just off the Abacoa Town Center. This was inside in both dugouts and by home plate down on the field. The weather was great; much of the country was getting snowed in and we were outside in 70 degree weather drinking good beers and enjoying food paired with each beer. A few examples: Victory Prima Pilsner paired with Maine Lobster with corn and potato in a broth. Good match; the lighter taste of the lobster worked well with the lighter tastes of the pilsner. The "heavier" tastes of a beef brisket went well with Bourbon Barrel Stout form the local Corner Cafe and Brewing. Bells Brewery Hop Slam, poured by owner Larry Bell, went well with a spicy Chicken Curry Tikka Skewer. For the complete menu click here. This part of the festival is in it's second year and will continue, I'm sure as I mentioned it to many the next day and they want to go next year. When I got tickets it was a bit of a gamble as I didn't know what to expect. Once I saw the menu a few days before I knew I had made the right decision. It was small enough to meet people both participants, brewery reps and cooks. There was ample time at each station and no one was pushing me out of the way. I was there with 2 friends and we got split up several times. With the size it was easy to find someone if you were looking for them. Victory beer was a good stop; I spoke with their rep Cameron for a while. He was also at the regular festival with 6 different beers. They have a good line; something for everyone. The evening ended in the home plate area. There was Flying Dog's Gonzo Porter; named for Hunter S Thompson the Gonzo Journalist. The booth next door was producing "Cider" Mini Doughnuts; they were fresh, warm and were a desert to the evenings foods. A special shout out to Swamphead Brewery of Gainesville; they were the final stop on a great run around the ballpark. They had a special Double IPA; call it "unlisted" as it was mentioned nowhere on any menu. This DIPA was "world class" and could be bottled and sold nationwide. These guys are new but I think they will grow with great product and the natural growth of the industry. See you next year!

The 4th Annual Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival Jan. 30, 2010

This festival is the best in Florida and probably more. It has out grown the prior venue, nearby, and moved to the front of the baseball stadium. I liked the change but they could use a bit more room for people to stand around in. Several times the going got tight but if this is the only complaint they did a fantastic job. We arrived late with on line tickets and walked right in. None of the lines from last year. At least for us; I met a couple that said they waited an hour and 1/2 to get in. That's absurd and will be remedied, I'm sure. The festival area is a large square area with most of the booths lining the sides with a few in the middle. A stage was to one side and music played all afternoon. Within minutes of arriving I "lost" my 2 friends and only saw them briefly for the remainder of the festival. I saw many vendors from the night before and a few of the participants too. I started out with Cigar City of Tampa now distributing in our area. The Jai Aai IPA is tasty and I will look for it. I found Victory Brewing; the booth was very busy as Cameron and friends had great choices. He gave someone a mixed beer and it really was good. I had never done this before. He mixed the Prima Pils Pilsner with Storm King Stout. I tried it and it worked! The stout gave the drink a bigger bite and the pils took some of the edge away from the stout. Cool Idea! This was done at several different booths and worked well with the correct beers. The best combo was Stones Smoked Porter mixed with Ruination Ale. That Ruination can be rough on the entire mouth not just taste buds. The Porter smoothed it out well; this was a real revelation about what can be done with these beers. I was able to try many different brews through out the festival. Jefferson City Brewing had a good Pale Ale; Swamphead's stout was thick like oil. Brewzzi makes an authentic Belgian Triple; many have tried but few really do the job right; good job by them. Inlet now has a Black Ale to go with the Monk in the Trunk; both good local ales. I was able to try Left Hand's Barrel aged stout; I haven't been able to find it locally. Big Bear is still going strong; I met some folks that were sitting nearby and would just go back and forth to Big Bear and really enjoying their Pale Ale. As the festival was ending I was at the back corner where Stone and Sierra Nevada were located This became the Party Zone for the last part of the festival. I tried many beers; met many different folks and had fun in general. The mixed beers were had at Stone and 2010 Bigfoot at Sierra Nevada. Several pictures were taken and cards handed out. Everyone was having a good time. All good things come to an end; I was able to get the last triple from Brewzzi and the fest shut down. I ended up with some swag form several places and some guy saying (several times loudly!) he would e-mail "Good Beer Larry"! Oh well, all in a good days work! Website:JupiterBrewfest.com

The Brewery Side of Swamphead
Tasting Room Taps / Tasting the beers

Swamphead Brewery - Gainesville, FL

From it's home deep in a small industrial park south of the Swamp rises the Swamphead! Making brews that all will celebrate, Swamphead Brewery is quickly becoming one of the best micro breweries to come out of Florida. Swamphead is a fairly new brewery and looking like they will enjoy steady growth for some time to come. The doors to Swamphead were opened to us in March for a quick tour and tasting. They have two areas of the brewery; the "office" side which will have a tasting room / growler filling station and the brewery side where the brewing takes place. The brewing equipment was moved from the former Spanish Springs brewery of Lady Lake, FL. The brewery side is shown in the pictures to the left. Craig, the brewer makes five beers that will be year round and several seasonals. He is still experimenting with different ideas and styles; the latest being 10 - 10 - 10 a double IPA. We tried several beers in the tasting room. The Wild Night Cream Ale had a slightly sweet taste with the hops balancing it for a smooth finish. The Big Nose IPA is tasty, not too bitter with light citrus aroma. Big Nose is a welcome addition to the Florida beer scene. The Midnight Oil Stout pours thick and black like it's name. There is a coffee taste but it is in the background. We had a Cigar City Stout and it has a dominating coffee taste; almost like those small shots of Cuban Coffee; authentic but you really have to be into coffee. The surprise beer was the 10 10 10 which is limited but Craig switched one of the taps to let us try it. It drinks smoothly (like all his beers) and doesn't hit you on the head with the hops like some IPAs. I like IPAs but some of the doubles really hit with the hops; this is still hoppy and I could enjoy many. It is 10% ABV but it isn't obvious. Since our visit they have won several medals in Florida beer competitions; including a gold for the world class double IPA. Swamphead is on it's way to becoming north and central Florida's premier brewery. Get updates on where to find them and what's happening on their website. Swamphead.com

Brusin Ales Asheville NC
600 Beers at Brusin Ales

Bruisin' Ales - Asheville, NC

In mid May I visited Asheville, NC from our family home in Highlands, NC. Asheville doesn't disappoint and neither does Brusin' Ales. The area now has ten breweries and the local beers are all very good. There is a lot of variety and some of the breweries are over ten years old, a long time in the industry. The day I was there, Jason the owner was working checking in new beers. In a store with over 600 beers available there are still new beers coming in! I have noticed that there always seems to be new beers coming on to the market. I don't know how long this can continue but it is great. On this day one of the new brands was Coronado out of California. I have not tried their beers but seeing 'Idiot IPA' I had to have one. Other beers procured on this visit include Olde Hickey Bardstown Barleywine 2007; aged in bourdon barrels. this is their first bottled beer and can be aged for several years. I also found the 2010 version of their Irish Walker a English style barleywine. Another local brewery, Pisgah, makes different specialty organic beers. Today I found 2008 Cosmos a Belgian style Baltic Porter in a corked / caged bottle. This one should be good and already aged! Another new beer form New Belgium Brewery (Colorado) was Eric's Ale one of the Lips of Faith series. I'm not big on flavored beers but NB's website calls this "A sour beer for those who don't like sour beers. And a fruit beer for those who don't like fruit beers." That's defiantly wroth a try. NB's Ranger IPA was also found. Local (NC) brewery Duck Rabbit was found as well as Green Flash (CA) and Weyerbacher (PA). I ended up with quite a collection of beers not available in Florida and will enjoy them over the summer and return in the fall for new surprises. The day I was in town there was a six course beer dinner as a local restaurant. I wish I could have stayed when I saw the menu. I will make plans to stay overnight in October; I'm sure there will be some cool beer event in Asheville then or anytime you visit. The pictures to the left were taken on this visit. Roll over each for an additional shot. Website: www.bruisin-ales.com

Dunedin Brewery IPA Festival Poster
The Brewgarden Cleawater, FL
Dunedin Brewery Fest Outside / Swag Table
Time to give out some swag
Taps under Wraps / Taps exposed
Dunedin Doggle Rescue

Dunedin Brewing 2nd Annual IPA Festival

This year's festival was on Saturday June 5th. Like last year's, the first hour and a half was a blind tasting but with more and new beers. This is a cool idea as people have to taste and decide which beer they like with no clues from branding, labels etc. The festival was great and more details are below.
The Tampa Bay area has the best beer scene in Florida; several other beer venues were visited before the festival. The Brew Garden in Clearwater is a "European Style Beer Bar" with many Belgian styles and hard to find American Micros on tap. This was our stop for a late lunch and the place was empty. Adam, our beer tender from the last visit was in charge. He has a vast knowledge of beers, as he grew up with his father working at the World of Beer, which exposed him to beer and beer lovers and what they like. I had some New Belgium Ranger IPA to let people try and I let Adam try one and gave him one for later. He isn't really into the hoppy beers but really did like the Ranger as it is a well balanced hoppy but not too bitter of an IPA. Some IPAs are "bitter hop bombs"; too hoppy and bitter for some. I like those beers but know that some don't. He had something special for us to try as well. He had an advance bottle of Southern Tier Mokah, an Imperial blended stout made with chocolate and coffee. The Belgian chocolate came through with a slight coffee taste also. This is a big stout that would be a great dessert beer at a beer dinner. It was great to have the place to ourselves and talk and try beers with Adam. We then headed over to the World of Beer to see what was new there. Adams father, Dennis, now owns the World of Beer. The original owner, Savino Sterlacci, let him take over; he had worked there for years and knows the business well. Our visit was expected and beers were tried and traded. We opened up a 400 pound monkey to try and I gave them some of the Ranger to try. We met Victor (aka Garrett Oliver Jr.) and Bill, who are working with Dennis to update and upgrade the place. The craft beer movement has grown and many things have changed. These guys want to keep up and enhance the WOB's reputation as Tampa Bay's premier beer store. As usual we found beers that we haven't seen and got several bottles to take home. Cigar City was big here and I was glad to see it as the retail bottles aren't in south Florida yet. They make a great IPA and DIPA which we would get later at the festival. We then headed to Dunedin to check in at the Holiday Inn that is two blocks from the brewery. This is great for a beer festival as no one is involved in driving. Eli's BBQ was had; it is a local BBQ joint just across from the hotel. We then walked to the festival. The brewery had expanded the space for events to a big tent outside and added a "Nook Bar" inside. This allowed space for the 25 beers for the event. It also gave folks different areas to get beer and talk to other beer lovers. Dunedin, as usual does it right; there were custom glasses made for the event. Not cheap plastic cups like many but a 'small' pint glass. These are great glasses that look like a classic pint but smaller scale. The glassware got kudos all around and I heard many comments all night. Someone dropped one and it didn't break! They are sturdy and have thick glass decorated with a version of the hoppy logo below. As mentioned the first hour and a half was a blind tasting; all the tap handles were covered with paper bags. This made for some fun guessing or just seeing which one you liked. I was able to try about 12 before the bags were removed and got 6 right. It helps to be a big IPA guy and know some of the tastes; I was fooled on some and it does get hard to taste, especially after 6 or 7 hoppy bitter beers. While the event went on the band played in the main bar area. There was spicy food, good with IPAs, available also. Buffalo wings, spicy franks and beans, taquitos and Gorgonzola crostinis were put out all evening. This was good so folks could eat a bit and, maybe, get some taste buds going again to try more beers. After the beers were unmasked the band took a break for the first raffle for beer swag. Tickets were sold through - out the evening. There was lots of good swag: pint glasses with a bottle of the appropriate beer, shirts and other beer related items. Numbers were called and put on a board. You had half an hour to get over there and collect your winnings. I have always participated in these raffles but never won. Today I had a wining number! Once you turn in the ticket you are allowed to pick your prize. I saw a Southern Tier pint glass with one of their beers and chose that. It was now dark and everyone knew what beer they were drinking. I went to the different areas and got beers that I liked. The Nook Bar was the most fun; there were 6 beers, all excellent. They had Swamphead 10 10 10, Flying Dog Double Pale, Cigar City IPA, Lost Coast Acme IPA, Oskar Blues Gubna and Dunedin's own Drop Kick Red. The Nook was where I ended up for the last part of the fest. I met several good beer folks and had a really good time. There are 2 local guys that are home brewers that only some locals know. I only know that one guy has 11 taps in his house and the other is a nano brewer on Annebelle Island. When I met one guy and used those descriptions he knew both personally and has had many of their beers. So, there is even an "underground" beer scene in Tampa! As I have said, Tampa has a really cool beer scene and I want to learn more and meet some of these smaller brewers. Maybe at the next Dunedin event. They do know how to do it right at Dunedin and I (and everyone else) can't wait for the next event! Website
:Dunedin Brewing

On Sunday, we went to the Brewery and the outside area was filled with dogs! They were there for the monthly dog wash, sponsored by the Dunedin Doggie Rescue. Some of the members also work at the brewery and the brewery could sometimes be known as Dog Eden Brewing as there are dog events there all the time. DDR is a local dog rescue group that rescues dogs from shelters and finds homes for them. When they rescue a dog they get them all needed shots and help socialize them by bringing them to events like the dog wash. While we were there it was noted how well behaved over 50 dogs were around each other. There were a few barks and growls but nothing really happened between all those dogs. The locals all come to the brewery and get their dogs washed and can have a cold brew while they wait. For more information on the Dunedin Doggie Rescue see their website. Dunedindogs.com

Hoppy Endingd June 5th 2010
Sarasota Brewing Bar Area

Sarasota Brewing - Sarasota, FL

I have been to SBC before and always found the beers good and the food great. This was a quick lunch stop on the way to the St Pete Craft Beer Expo, reviewed below. We got there about noon and were one of the first groups of the day. We sat at the bar where Paul, our bartender, was friendly and helpful. As a few regulars came in they were also good guys and everyone was friendly. As we came in there was a musty odor; we think the place could use a good general cleaning. This is one of the oldest brewpubs in Florida, opening in 1989. It is dated but has a good laid back Florida atmosphere with character and is a sportspub as well. (TVs all over the place.) I had the Honey Mead Amber Ale and my friends had the Midnight Pass Porter. We enjoyed our beers; the Amber had a caramelly, sweet taste with decent hops and the porter was a rich full bodied beer with a slight coffee taste. The food has always been great here; the Shark Bites are famous and didn't disappoint today. My burger was good and my friends lunch was all great too. They have 5 of their beers on tap and several guest beers too. Over all it was a good stop; I hope they have their IPA next time. No website!

St Pete Coliseum
Around the Festival
Cheese & Beer Pairings
 

Craft Beer Expo - St Pete, FL

The third annual event was held on July 31, 2010 at the St Pete Coliseum. The venue was changed from last years because the theater was too costly and not enough people showed up. This year will be considered a total success as there were people still coming in well into the event. The Coliseum was built in 1924 and is a cool old building. Inside it is a big church like room with small rooms off each side and a stage at the front. As happens sometimes there was a big line and lot of time wasted, by some, just getting in. As we approached there was one long line for buying tickets and a much shorter one for pre sold tickets. This shows that planning ahead is the way to go. This has happened at other beer events also. If you want to go, get your tickets ahead. Also, don't let the long wait ruin your day! I heard a lot of complaints well into the event; some were letting that wait ruin their day. Get over it and enjoy the beers and people there. The complaining can be done later via e-mail etc. That way the promoter will hear about it after when they can evaluate and change things for the next event. Fortunately I had a ticket and got inside in about 15 minutes. The first area of the beer had some familiar names; Highlands, Swamphead and Harpoon. Highlands was first and I needed a cold beer as it was very hot outside. That was enjoyed. Swamphead had their Big Nose IPA on tap; also refreshing and cooled me down. Harpoon had their 100 Barrel Series Single Hop ESB. That was good; I haven't seen it here in Florida yet. It was a nice change; there aren't too many ESB's out there. I worked my way down the left side; Brooklyn Brewing, Terrapin, Rogue and Cigar City. Cigar City had a Russion Imperial Stout that I am not familar with. It was tasty but I had a hard time getting the taste out of the cheap plastic glass issued for the fest. Last year they handed out real glasses; this year there were a few official glasses that were out by the time we got there. I then went to some of the cheese and beer pairings in the small rooms along the side. The best area was with Chimay and cheeses made for the beers. The Chimay Blue was mated with a chocolate goat cheese which really was good. St Somewhere also was there with beer and cheese pairings. There was food available for purchase too; this area had a garlic stand; everything was made with garlic. I walked back out to the main floor and South Hampton was my first stop. I talked the guy out of one of their pint glasses so I had a good glass the rest of the event. Brew Dog was running out; I managed to try the IPA as it ran out. Several vendors ran out; some closed and others went for more. Palm Belgian and Sierra Nevada were still there as well as Lagunitas. They had gone out for reinforcements and everything was cold. I stayed nearby and finished the event there. They had 'Little Sumpin' an amber ale with great taste. It was cold and I had only seen it in 22 oz bottles. Now they have six packs. The band announced the last song and the event was ending. Overall it was a good event; I was able to get around to most vendors and the crowd was having a good time. The entrance wait and cheap glasses can be addressed and didn't ruin my day anyway! Website: CraftBeerExpo.org

Beer Finders Tip: Shep's Foodmart & Deli has all these beers and more. It is located at 2001 4th Street N just north of St Pete Downtown. No website

Smoke't BBQ Beer Tasting Flyer

Beer Tasting @ Smoke't BBQ Coral Gables, FL

The first beer tasting was held at Smoke't BBQ on Thursday October 28, 2010. The event was successful and will be the start of a monthly series of beer events at the restaurant. This was an event that I organized and brought as many craft beer drinkers to as possible. The turnout was good for a first event and as people hear about the events they too will come out. At the event there were 12 beers to try. I had tasting sheets and some information on each beer / brewery. Michael, the chef - owner of the restaurant, was there and led off the tasting. The pours were generous which allowed the participants to swirl the beer to get the various odors (nose) and enough to actually drink a bit to experience the beer. Some tasting's, with many beers, only serve a tiny plastic glass of each beer and this usually isn't enough. This worked better; real glasses and fewer beers; you can only taste and enjoy so many. I like the way this went and will follow the same procedure at future events at Smoke't. Meanwhile, feedback was positive and many who heard about this want to come to the next one. I have an e-mail list to keep anyone who is interested informed about these and any other local event I hear about. The list increases daily; if you want to get on it go to the top of the page and click on e-mail list or click HERE to signup. The e-mail uses Constant Contact which is subscription based and your e-mail will never be used for anything else.

Beer Tasting # 2 @ Smoke't BBQ Coral Gables, FL

The second tasting was held at Smoke't BBQ on Thursday November 18, 2010. This will be an on going series of tastings at Smoke't usually once a month. Things went smoother than the first event; the beers were all in one place and I was in the middle so more people could hear me. As before the pours were generous and many people found new beers that they liked. Tasting sheets were provided and were filled out by many of the drinkers. I was able to get around to answer questions and see how everyone was enjoying the beers. Having the beers nearby made it easier to go from one to the next. The staff at Smoke't was helpful in every way. We needed glasses for each beer and they kept fresh ones there. One of the beers was on tap and they were brought over when requested. Snacks and food was available throughout the event. Those not participating, but with someone who was, were able to order whatever they wanted. Overall I have received positive responses about the event and look forward to seeing some of these folks and new people in December. The next tasting is planned for December 21st. This will be Santa's pre-flight tasting and wail be a good one to get some holiday cheer going early. "Santa Claus coming to town and he's bringing beer!" See you there!

Smoke't Tasting December 21, 2010

Beer Tasting # 3 @ Smoke't BBQ Coral Gables, FL

The third tasting was held at Smoke't BBQ on Tuesday December 21, 2010. This was a part of the on going series of tastings at Smoke't usually once a month. Things went the best yet; the beers were all in one place and the staff had prepared the big table well. As before the pours were generous and people found new beers that they liked. Tasting sheets were provided and filled out by the drinkers. There wern't as many people we had hoped; the holidays were upon us and some people were already out of town. Those who were there felt like it was Christmas with the number of beers to taste. This tasting will be remembered for the different beers and the smaller group enjoyed thier party. As usual the staff at Smoke't was helpful in every way. Snacks and food was available throughout the event. Those not participating, but with someone who was, were able to order whatever they wanted. I have received positive responses about this event and look forward to seeing some of these folks and new people next month. The next tasting is in January date TBA. I will post the details when I get them. There will be an e-mail blast, in early January, with the months local events. See you then!

Happy New Year to everyone. Larry

One more short review to come - my yearly Champagne Party is becoming a beer tasting!
 
 
 
 
New Idea for the year: Mixing beers - try it today!
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