Wednesday, September 18, 2013

More Than Drinkin' Beer in Key West

Golf and Scuba Diving: Part of the Keys Adventure
I know it sounds like all I did was drink some pretty good beer before, during and after Key West Brewfest (I did that).  Well, there was more! While Brewfest was the focus of this trip (I won't lie), I managed to play a round of golf and get a couple of dives in, too.  (Yeah, the SUV was crowded with equipment.)  And, the Sunset at Mallory Square is always a must-see!

Key West Golf Club -Who Wants to Play?
It's the only 18-hole course in the Florida Keys.  I've been here a number of times, but had never played the course before.  It was in good shape, and it's a fun course with just enough water.  

There are a good number of "locals" that visit this course, too, and, they're pretty friendly!

I have never seen him before!
The signature hole is a par 3 over the mangroves.  Yes, this is the view from the tee. Somewhere back there is the green. I had no problem clearing the mangrove forest, but I won't talk about what happened after that. Let's just say there was some slope on that green.

All in all, I can't imagine going back to Key West and not playing this course again.  It was fun, the holes were challenging, and the holes were different.  Pro shop staff was friendly.  The property doesn't offer a driving range, but you can warm up by hitting into a large net.  Bring the clubs and get out there!

Let's See the Fish!
Florida Keys diving is known for the abundant fish life.  Not only are there large numbers of them, but they can get big!  Good food supply.  Last May, I dove in Islamorada.  The Upper Keys (Key Largo/Islamorada) offers prime diving. This time around, we opted to go just north of Key West.  Looe Key is generally a protected site, and it seems that the marine life knows that they are safe there. Looe Key Divers provides dive/snorkel trips on a large catamaran.  It's quite comfortable, although it really is a giant stride off that boat!  

As is typical of Keys diving, there were large schools of fish, and, yes, some big guys.  I didn't see any turtles or sharks on this trip, but they are out there. Unfortunately, this time of year apparently brings moon jellyfish, and, while fascinating, they are a bit creepy (especially to someone like me who is allergic to bug and critter bites and stings). But, I had my neon divesuit on for added protection. (I don't know if jellyfish like or dislike neon). The diving here includes formations of large finger-like corals, and all you have to do is follow along.  Easy to navigate. The depths are rather shallow - only about 25ft. The visibility was a bit down, due to recent storms, but there was little or no current, which was nice.  We saw some great fish life, and I even got the elusive queen angel to sit still long enough. I think those queen angels know they're awesome, and they really do mess with you!  I would like to do some dives here when viz is better and without those jellies!  Yeah, I'll be back. Here are just a few samples of my pictures.

Ahh, there she is!  Gotcha! Thanks for being a good model!
The French Angel likes the camera, too! And, always so friendly!

Don't Forget the Key West Sunset (No, That's Not Possible)
Key West, in my mind, is one of the best places to view a sunset.  The clouds seem to cooperate just as the sun goes down, providing some brilliant colors.  Have you ever been to Mallory Square at sunset?  This place goes all out - a real sunset celebration near the Westin. Boats skim by, birds swoop, and the sun sizzles (along with some people).  I love pictures of sunsets.  It's like taking pix of fish or birds: you take a bunch and hope for that awesome shot!

This cloud formation was spectacular
And, before you know it, it's gone. (Just like other things in life, that was fast)
And, then it was time for another beer! (But that's another story, or maybe the same one???)

As you can see, I really like pictures!

Til Next Time! Thanks, Sweethearts!

©2013 Brew Nymph. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

On The Road to Key West Brewfest

So, we loaded up the SUV and headed South on I-95 enroute to Key West.  But, we had to make some stops along the way, of course......

Got a Little Funky
First up, the new Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park FL. A number of other writers attended the Grand Opening in June and told all of us what a great place this is.  I happened to be at the original lounge the week before (coming back from the Keys at that time). So, the new brewery was a must-see! Got here around 5pm or so, and there was a nice crowd, and by the time we left, they were streaming in.  Plenty of places to sit and talk. In a nutshell, yeah, it's a cool place, the beer is good, and I definitely plan on getting back over here again.

It's a nice place, pretty big.  The ceilings are high, so I suspect it can get noisy when crowded.  That night, the bar offered 7 of its beers and 5 guest taps.

I started out with the just-tapped Missionary Blonde Ale, described as a one-malt lighter brew.  While this brew likely won't appeal to the heavy-hoppy-lovin hopheads, I found it very pleasing, a crisp ale - you could drink a few of these (at least).  I had to try the Blueberry Cobbler Ale.  The spices are prevalent, and it tastes just like a pie. Usually, I'm not into spices in beer, but this smelled like a bakery.  Although I thought it was nutmeg, I was told it was cinnamon.  Just like a pie crust.  Overall, the brew was very tasty, and I was pleasantly surprised. However, it's more of a sipping or dessert beer, not one that you would pound all night long. I also had a Crusher Pale Ale (4.6%, 35 IBU), which I thought was also quite good.   
Blueberry Cobbler Ale, 5.6%, 12 IBU

So, I finally made it to the Buddha. Really glad I did.  I can't wait to go back.

Where is it?  1201 NE 38th St., Oakland Park, FL 33334.  www.funkybuddhabrewery.com
 One Tap, Two Taps, Tap 42
Now, time to focus on dinner, with a good beer list.  Headed over to Tap 42 in Ft. Lauderdale.  Had been here in May, but decided to grab some food here this time around. Indoor and outdoor patio seating available.  We chose to sit outside under the large umbrellas. Upon walking in, one of the first things you notice is the long bar with the large wall of taps!  Apparently, there are 42 taps on the back wall, with additional taps just off the main set.  The drafts include "core" craft drafts (non-rotating) and others that switch out.  the bar also offers "lock & key" bottles, which include collabs, meads, oak-barrel and others that are described as being "non-traditional."  And, they also offer "layered drafts," made by combining two beers/ciders.

 After deciding on a Founders Rubaeus at the bar, we waited just a bit for the outside table.  Loved the Rubaeus, by the way, which I had been waiting to try, but hadn't seen anywhere.  You won't find full dinners here, but the menu offers sliders, appetizers (wraps, wings, dips, soup, salads), burgers, and fish and chips.
Now, get a load of that "Left Hand BBQ Short Rib Burger."  And, I do mean a load, just look at this picture:
So, what's under that bun? A burger, a pressed pulled short rib made with Left Hand Milk Stout, and bbq sauce. I opted for the add-on caramelized onions. A definite taste explosion. Let's just say I didn't leave hungry, and I didn't tackle the entire behemoth.  They also offer veggie and turkey burgers, and a blackened mahi sandwich.  Although the patio is situated adjacent to the parking lot, it's a pleasant dining experience under the patio umbrellas. The inside dining and bar area opens to the outdoor patio, for a free-flowing layout that makes for a nice setting.

If you're looking for a casual place with a great craft beer list and nice atmosphere, I'd recommend checking out Tap 42!

Where is it?  1411 South Andrews Ave. Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316.  www.tap42.com

"Adult" Milkshake for Me, Please! (Or, A Beershake!)
After spending the  night in Lauderdale, time to brave the stretch of pavement known as Florida's Turnpike for the trek through Miami to that gateway of the Keys, Florida City.  Of course, it was raining, and Miami traffic never fails to be, well, Miami traffic.  Don't know why every time I go by or to Dolphins Stadium (or Pro Player, or Landshark, or SunLife), it rains!  Anyway, the rain eventually ended, and the traffic miraculously cleared up.  Passed by the Mutineer, and away we go! 

OK, I had heard about this place called MEAT that had "beer shakes." Obviously, a no-brainer to stop here on the way.  Located in a small plaza at Mile Marker 88, on US 1 in Islamorada, Florida Keys, you need to be on the lookout for this place as you approach MM88.  Generally, it's right across from the Marker 88 Restaurant (which, by the way, has amazing seafood dinners and great water views). 

It's a small storefront, but you notice the design of the red oval, the lettering M.E.A.T., and the fork holding a sausage.  So, it's a quick turn into the plaza once you see that.  Enter into a diner style eatery, with a chalkboard menu posted on the wall (they have paper, too), a counter and booth seating.  Now, of course, you're wondering what M.E.A.T. means: Meat Eatery And Taproom.  So, there's beer, too. Actually, about a dozen on tap, including craft and domestic. Diverse selection, too (Chimay, Bell's, Guinness, Brooklyn, Affligem, Well's, Dogfish Head, and others). Wine and soft drinks served, too, even including Abita root beer on tap.

The food menu includes: soup/salad, sides, burgers, sausages, pulled pork, "tube steaks," and fried chicken, in addition to lobster mac-n-cheese and lobster roll.  The burgers are  5 oz. or half-pound, and you can get crazy by adding a number of add-ons.

But, I went there for the beer shake!  They have Vanilla Bean and Nutella housemade ice cream. As if that doesn't sound good enough!  The "adult" milkshakes are made with Guinness and Nutella, or Banana Bread Ale and Vanilla Bean. They'll also make a combination, like a chocolate banana kind of thing. I chose the Banana Bread/Vanilla Bean.  I hadn't had the Well's Banana Bread Ale yet (I did later on), so I was really intrigued.  Four ounces of Banana Bread Ale, ice cream, and a whipped cream topper later, I had my shake, and couldn't wait to dive in.

Yeah, there it is, in all its glory.  It tasted like a creamy banana shake, with a touch of decadent sinfulness from the ale. The banana was just the right amount. This combination of ale and  ice cream is a delight for your tastebuds.  I had done beer floats before, but not a beershake.  Blending the ale and ice cream produces a creamy texture that is nothing short of awesome. Well, now, just writing this, I want another one!  They also make "regular" ice cream floats and shakes, without the "adult" ale or Guinness.

I had planned on stopping again on the way back to try the Guinness/Nutella shake, but travel plans and timing changed, and it didn't happen.  Next time through, I will stop by, no doubt about it.

So, check this one out, for food, ice cream, or a beershake that will leave you ooh-ing and aah-ing for a while. 

Where is it?  Plaza 88, Mile Marker 88, Islamorada, Florida Keys.  www.meateatery.com

So, that's it for nowMore on Key West still to come: hotel, food, beer, more beer, etc. Til next time!

©2013 Brew Nymph. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Key West BREWFEST Was A Blast!

Alright, it's Key West, and there was lots of beer involved.  Of course, it was fun (duh).  A great way to spend the Labor Day Weekend!  The main event, BrewFest, on Saturday, Aug. 31, rocked South Beach at the Southernmost Hotel.  Like the program said, "where the Atlantic Meets Duval." 

But, that wasn't all: there were quite a few brewers' parties, beer dinners, tap takeovers, pool parties (yes, with bikinis and beer) and even paddleboard events, all around Duval, Greene and other famous (or infamous) streets and venues (Sloppy Joe's, Krawl Off Duval, World of Beer, Willy T's, The Green Parrot, Camille's, Smokin Tuna, The Porch, and others). 

Let's just talk about the main event here for the time being.  I'll get to some of those parties later.

The official program listed 55 beer booths! Yeah, that's right, 55 beer vendors all on one beach, on the sand, wading distance to the beach and sea.  Sure, it was hot, but we expected to get a little steamy.  The Drink Like A Local campaign had a group of Florida Breweries in the Center Pavilion arranged in a square.

See some familiar names there? Yeah, no doubt. Other Florida breweries were located at the Entrance Tents and Pavilion 1.  But hey, there's more: breweries from Colorado, New York, California, Michigan, Hawaii, Washington, Georgia, Vermont, Oregon, Delaware and Scotland were also represented.  So, the beer was flowing in our souvenir glasses.
The VIP entrance opened at 3, and general admission started at 4.  And, it lasted til 8pm!! A hot day on the beach, drinking samples of great beer!  And, there was Caribbean DJ music and a lot of dancing going on (I guess that's what you'd call it). Not wanting to implicate anyone in compromising behavior or bodily positions, I will not post pictures of the "dancing" here.  (Was that Miley Cyrus?  Sorry.)  But, the main thing, a good time was had by all (some apparently a bit more than others), even the ones who couldn't see, walk or talk straight by the end of the night (and, yes, they were out there).

This was the 4th Annual BrewFest, but my first.  Next year will be my second!  Oh, yeah, there are a lot of pictures of BrewFest on the site www.mileZerokw.com, a social event site.  If you look really hard, there's even a picture of yours truly in there somewhere between the other hopheads, the beer, and the sand.  

If you can get away next year over Labor Day, take the drive south on US 1 and get your beer-lovin' butts, tanktops, and shorts over here. 

Oh, how 'bout that: that's the subject of the next post, On the Road to BrewFest!  Yeah, I hit some great places along the way. That to be followed by the Jimmy Buffett-inspired Key West: Searchin' for My Lost Bottle of Sun-In, and, Places I Didn't Get To, But Wanted To, And You Should Go There.  Til next time, Sweethearts!  Thanks for the ride!

©2013 Brew Nymph. All rights reserved.