Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Founders Brewing Hits Florida!

Night of Founders Beer and Pizza
Sometimes you just gotta jump on the bandwagon.  So, with the launching of Founders Brewing in Florida this week, of course, I had to get some of that!  Well, I like pizza, too, so I headed over to Brewer's Pizza in Orange Park, FL (just outside of Jacksonville) for some pizza that I already know is awesome and for some Founders on tap!  WooHoo, knocked it out of the park!

I don't know whether to begin with the beer or the pizza, but I'll go with the beer.  Now, I don't claim to know all the technical stuff (you beer snobs), but I do know a bit, and I know what tastes good. I can tell ya where the good beer, food and fun is.

The Founders Pale Ale is brewed with Cascade hops and comes in at 5.4 ABV and 35 IBU.  Drinkable.  Citrus notes with a bit of floral.  Yeah, it's good, it's pleasing, with just enough bite to let you know it's a real beer.  Available year-round.  I'll get this one again.

At this point, time for a small salad.  Tough to screw up lettuce and onion, but the Italian dressing kicked (and, the lettuce was crunchy).  OK, more beer.  Tried the All Day IPA, a sessionable IPA, available year-round.  At 4.7 ABV and 42 IBU, it's definitely a "knock-back-a-few" beer. Silver Medal winner at GABF in 2010.  If you're into super-hoppy IPAs, this isn't for you, but for us mainstream drinkers who like an IPA that we don't have to get dentures for, it's a good choice.  The scent says IPA, the flavor says "drink me" and "enjoy it." Sold.

So, let's talk food.  Brewer's Pizza has, well, pizza. Its signature pizza is the "Florida Smacker," an 8-in, square baby that comes out a little crunchy on the crust (intentionally). It's an amazing piece of pizza goodness. Good selection of topping choices.  They also offer hand-tossed round pizzas, with a bunch of topping choices, sandwiches, soups and salads. Some of the best pizza in the area, according to this girl.   It's a casual place, with a small bar area, but it has over 20 taps and about 43 bottles of craft available, including local Jax and Florida beers. Scan the code for a list of beers, also scrolling on the tv monitor. Home to Pinglehead Brewing, too, available on tap.  Very friendly place, but you might have to wait a bit on the service.   

So, I saved the best for last.  The Founders Porter.  A definite work of happiness for your mouth and tastebuds. 6.5 ABV, 45 IBU.  Classic dark and creamy.  Now, I know what you're thinking, but I'm talking beer here.  Chocolate and caramel, with a dark taste so smooth, I'm getting all sweaty thinking about it. No weird flavors, just a damn good beer.

So, there ya have it. Founders, welcome to the Sunshine State. I can't wait to try more Founders beers, especially the Rubaeus raspberry (available July-Aug) and the Breakfast Stout (Oct-Dec). Looking forward to getting Founders in my fridge. And, if you want your tastebuds to experience some tasty pizza and sandwiches along with a good variety of beers, check out Brewer's Pizza, 14B Blanding Blvd, Orange Park, FL.

Til next time, Sweethearts! Will be comin at ya from South Florida and Key West, and who knows where in between! Cheers!

©2013 Brew Nymph. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

"WaZoo" of a Time in Tampa (Part 2), Or, On the Road to WaZoo

Well, it was only a weekend, but there's a lot to cover. This was a weekend of "firsts." Never been here before.  So here goes.....

Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Ybor City
In the Centro Ybor entertainment complex, this brewery and brewpub has a fun atmosphere.  Inside seating and an outside patio bar.  The brewhouse is in the restaurant area.  Now, there are quite a few house brews here, and they also have guest taps.  They had special IPAs on tap from IPA Day.  Loved the menu, and they play some kickin' music.  I was kinda jammin' in my seat.  Nice Blonde Ale, and yeah, I agree that it's "smooth, crisp."  There's a style for everyone here.  Especially liked the Jack the Quaffer porter, too. The motto is "Beer Is Your Friend," and, yes, TBBCo, it definitely is!  Just a really cool place to sit, eat and drink! And, yeah, another pint glass added to the collection.

Florida Ave Ales (Cold Storage Brewery)
I first had Florida Ave Blueberry at 595 Tap and Tavern in South Florida in May (after being tweeted), about 5 minutes after they tapped it.  One of my favorites.  So, like they say, "gotta have a Florida Ave" and had to try it again straight from the source! 

Did not disappoint!  This blueberry is a perfect blend - not too much berry, and a nice complement to the "beer."  The tap room is fun, with sofas, tables, picnic tables, hightops, and a bar.  Friendly staff, too!  They also brew an ale, IPA, and brown. And, yes, another pint glass to the collection, and a growler, too!

Tampa Tap Room
Recommended from some friends for the food and beer selection.  Located at 13150 N. Dale Mabry, in the Carrollwood area, in a shopping center called Village Center.  Easy enough to get there, but there's some construction going on in the center.  So, for us foreigners, it took a little maneuvering to get to the front door.  No problem, after turning around a couple of times, we just parked on the side and walked to the rear of the center.  The place is under renovation, but you can tell it will be killer when it's done - new furniture arriving, etc.  Pool tables and TVs, a pool hall/bar feel. There is an outside covered patio area.  So, let's get to the beer - about 50 taps, with an impressive selection of craft, including a number of Florida brews.  Score there!  Menu is described as Cajun and creole, also burgers and po'boys.  Now, there are some really interesting food items here, (ever heard of crab beignets? melt in your mouth doughnuts filled with crabmeat), and they're definitely worth the try.  The shrimp po'boy was awesome!  Lots of shrimp, and so tasty. The burger looked excellent, and the review was nothing short of spectacular.  So, it's a friendly, ultra-casual place, with crazy-good food and beer menus.  Yeah, I'd go back! 

WaZoo Beer Fest
Billed as having 275+ beers, food from at least 22 vendors, and a "wild" atmosphere at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, this fest caught my eye a while ago - an excuse to visit here, if I ever heard one. Ticket price included unlimited beer samples, unlimited food servings (generally appetizer portions, which were very good quality), and several musical performances. A number of Florida breweries were represented, including Florida Beer Company, Cigar City Brewing, Holy Mackerel, Saint Somewhere Brewing, Southern Brewing Supply, Saint Pete Brew, Pensacola Bay Brewing, Tampa Bay Brewing Co., Cold Storage (Florida Ave Ales), Bold City Brewery, Tampa Bay Beers. 

Parking seemed plentiful, from what I could tell, and we found a spot in the main lot without too much effort.  VIP tickets were also sold (and sold out), which allowed early entry, additional food choices, and an air-conditioned place to hang out. Four separate areas set up, and tent after tent of delicious brews. It was non-stop. Something for everyone: many favorites, some unknowns, new flavors.  I didn't keep track of everything I tried. They gave out nice brochures (18-page brochures) which listed all the vendors and beers. Yeah, it was hot, it rained just as the fest started (then stopped), but it was a great night.  This was no secret--the place was quite crowded. Still, the attendees were quite civilized and well-behaved. Parts of the zoo were closed, probably a good thing for the residents (i.e., animals).  But, those emus looked like they were getting a bit amorous, and they probably wanted to be left alone.

Title sponsor was J.J. Taylor Distributing, which did an outstanding piece of work.  Main Stage Sponsor World of Beer had a presence throughout the grounds, and I even got a free koozie at the "Wheel." Imagine that. Applause to all the sponsors and vendors.  This fest is one to visit next year.  Mark your calendars and get a room.

That's it for now...Til next time....(can you say Key West Brew Fest)

©2013 Brew Nymph. All rights reserved.

"WaZoo" of a Time in Tampa (Part 1)

Hey, Sweethearts! If you've been following me on Twitter, you know that this past weekend was my first trip to Tampa!  "Like a Virgin" as the song goes. Hard to believe, I know, and I was excited to head to the west coast of Florida mainly for the WaZoo Beer Fest at the Lowry Park Zoo.  After all, a beertrip is always a good reason to travel somewhere!  I stayed at the Residence Inn Westshore by the airport (which I recommend), and it was a good location for getting around. Tried to stay fairly close. But, thank goodness for Google Maps!  On the next visit that way, I intend to hit some other places closer to the coast, as this entire area is booming with craft beer! (so, yeah, don't hate me if I didn't make it to see you) This trip was an awesome introduction to the area!

First up, in this post, the maiden voyage to Cigar City Brewing.

Cigar City Brewing
Once you figure out that the larger lot on Spruce St. is an overflow parking lot and that the old Sears Roebuck building isn't the brewery, it's a quick walk across the street to where you really are trying to go. 

The tasting room consists of two sections, the front being the original tasting room. The on-tap brews are identified on the digital screen over the bar, and the beers change as they are put on tap. I did a double take a couple of times because "that wasn't on there a minute ago."  I started off with Hotter Than Helles lager - tried and true.  I also tried several others, including the peanut lager, Nutoberfest, and the Pineapple Ale.  Those latter two weren't really my thing, as I thought the flavors overpowered the beer, but, hey, that's just me.  However, I loved the Jose Marti American Porter (8%).  I also tried the Torcedores Series Ben Romano's India Pale Lager (5.9%). That one was a bit too bitter for me, but, then again, I can be a wimp sometimes. Really wanted the imperial stout, but at 11%, I thought I'd save that for another time (and probably another place which doesn't involve driving while relying on the aforementioned Google Maps).

The overall place is huge: two brewhouses, a packaging warehouse, the tasting room. It's like its own compound that takes up an entire block.  Inside the tasting room is a shop where you can buy shirts, hats, glasses, and stuff.  There's also a small café that is open limited hours, and a food truck also comes to the site. And, there's a guy who makes hand-made cigars. Of course, we added a new pint glass to the collection.

Cigar City is innovative, and the brewers always come up with new flavors for beers.  Can't argue with the success this brewery is having. 

©2013 Brew Nymph. All rights reserved.