Monday, June 30, 2014

Spaced Out on Florida's Space Coast: Brews and Beach (Episode 1)

Got a Little "Bugnutty" on Merritt Island

Not like I really need a reason or excuse for a "Beertrip," but, I thought it would be a cool little getaway thing to do on the last weekend in June. The criteria: there must be craft beer and beaches; also, for this short trip, somewhere not too far from the St. Augustine homebase. Actually, heading out to points south from here is pretty much a snap courtesy of I-95. Well, I already knew about three breweries in the Space Coast:  Bugnutty Brewing, Cocoa Beach Brewing and Intracoastal Brewing, so this Mission Control set the destination and reserved an oceanview room at the Hilton Melbourne Beach on A1A (Florida resident rate, by the way). T-minus and counting.  

This trip would also be a chance to meet up with some fellow beer-lovers from Melbourne whom I had met while working with Mile Marker Brewing. (Actually, I poured their last growlers of Mile Marker beer a few weeks ago when they visited the tap room). The craft beer community is comprised of a great bunch of beer-loving sorts, many of whom (like me) like to travel to various places in the quest for new and interesting beers as well as fun places to drink 'em and talk beer. I've met so many people in the tap room and at beer fests, who travel via plane, train or automobile (maybe some other ways) in search of great craft brew.  

First Brew Stop:  Bugnutty Brewing Company (it's called "Episode 1" for a reason)

I should take up surfing
Y'know when you set out on a trip, there are usually billboards that you see, and you think "I'd like to check that out one day." Well, I pass this billboard for Ron Jon Surf Shop almost daily right here in St. Augustine.  Yeah, you guessed it:  this beach bum just had to make that stop.  Not that the store itself has anything to do with beer, but if you love anything beach, it's worth a stop.  You could get lost in the place, and the outside has a bunch of cool artwork, sculptures, and things that make for good tourist photo ops. And, it's open 24 hours in case you get the urge to buy a tanktop, swimsuit or flip flops at 3am.

Anyway, back to the beer.  The surf shop was a diversion until around 4:30pm or so, and then it was time to backtrack just a bit back to Merritt Island to destination Bugnutty Brewing.  Driving over the causeways is entertainment in itself, as I saw three dolphins skimming the surface.  

Bugnutty Brewing Company is located at the end of a strip mall on SR3, aka Courtenay Pkwy. It has a nice welcoming storefront space.  A good-size wraparound bar and tables and chairs make up the tap room, with a separate area for darts.  The small brewhouse is visible through a window. Several TVs are up over the bar.  Our bartender, Chris, was pretty knowledgeable about the beer, and it was fun talking beer with him.  For such a small brewhouse (two barrel system), this place sure pumps out the beer variety.  Apparently, they are looking to expand the brewhouse in the near future.

Just look at all those different Bugnutty beers on tap. They had some guest taps, too.  Ok, the best way to do this was to get a flight of four, so I got the Camel Toad Pils, Sticky Foot Pale Ale, Red Falcon IPA, and Mike's Milf Stout.  Each of these was quite good.  

Pils, Pale Ale, Red IPA, Stout
Damn, all gone!
The Pils had body for this style, and even though it was light, you knew you were drinking a "real" beer.  That Pale Ale has a very good balance and just enough hop character.  The Red Falcon IPA is one of the best things I've ever tasted.  My Untappd checkin put it a little differently, but you get the point.  It's one you definitely need to try. And, you gotta love a stout that has a sense of humor (or at least the brewers do by naming it like this).  For those of you who might be offended by the name (first of all, get over it), they say to think of it this way:  Malts I Like to Ferment.  Yeah, sure, but either way, this is one helluva of a stout: a little sweet, with easy coffee tones, a really good drinkability, and easy mouthfeel.  Brought that one back in a quart growler. 

 I love black IPAs, so I had to get a full pint of the Black Falcon IPA, which is made with a blend of the "C" hops.  That was one awesome taste bud treat.  The hops were just right.  I also tried the Flakey Blonde, which is a Belgian style ale, with coriander and orange. The coriander isn't my thing, but it's a nice lighter-type beer, good for the climate.

Take one or two back with ya
Well, I ended up staying here too long and didn't get to the second brewery on this night. (But, that's another story for Episode 2).  It was tough to leave this place.  There were so many beers, all of which were so good.   The staff was real nice -- Chris even gave a tour of the brewhouse. The brewers have a sense of humor; apparently, at least a couple of them are engineering geeks, too. So, yeah, I got a little "bugnutty" over here, and had a great time doing it.  And, by the way, the printed beer menu and the website even give you the definitions of what that means, but I like definition 2: being in a state of overwhelming emotion, especially rapturous delight.  Yeah, guys, I did get "bugnutty" over these brews.  A huge "thumbs-up" on this one!  I will definitely be back, and soon!

The brewery and tap room is located at 715 N. Courtenay Pkwy, Merritt Island FL.  Visit its website, and/or its Facebook and Twitter pages.  And, expect to get "bugnutty" over these beers.

So, after this, it was a stop to a brewpub to get some food, and, a major storm that knocked out power in the hotel upon checkin, which created all kinds of havoc.  Then, on to Day 2 of Spaced Out on the Space Coast......

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Want Some Craft Brew with that BBQ in the Old City?

Mojo Old City BBQ Brings the Q and Brew

Well, sure, I've been here before, and this is one of my favorite places for good ol' BBQ, comfort food, and some great craft brews.  If you're hungry in downtown St. Augustine, this is a sure bet.  A recent visit on a quiet night was quite relaxing, and I had some awesome BBQ and beer (but I expected that)!

Located adjacent to the Historic Parking Garage just across Orange St., it's a quick walk. There's also a very small free customer parking lot on site, but you probably won't find a spot there.  A larger paid lot sits behind the building.  I tend to find the garage the way to go, especially with the resident Park Now card.

Fronting Cordova St., the property starts with a large outdoor patio seating area.  Your olfactory senses immediately let you know you're at a BBQ place, and you will be chomping at the bit to get some of that awesome BBQ as soon as you get here. Inside, the dining area is large with tables and booths. It can get noisy here, but that's part of the ambience, if you ask me (but I tend to be loud anyway). To the right is a large, full-service bar area with ample tables and seating.  Several TVs are featured. There's also another outdoor patio area in the rear off the bar. I always find the staff to be quite friendly here, too.

This is from the Mojo Old City BBQ Facebook page.
Couldn't find my exterior photo.
So, let's get to it, but I'm not sure where to start.  You can't go wrong with the food --- or the beer --- here. OK, let's start beer.  The first thing you notice on the 16 taps (did I count right?) is the amount of local-brewed craft beer. Good job, guys, always support local. On this recent visit, there were three Mile Marker Brewing beers, four from Intuition Ale Works, two from Bold City Brewery, and one from Pinglehead -- all local to this area.  Also, Florida Ave Blue was on tap, a very good, refreshing blueberry ale from just outside of Tampa. Rounding out the tap list were Bell's Two-Hearted Ale, Fat Tire, and a cider.  All in all, a very strong showing, featuring a good variety of different styles that appeal to everyone, I think.  And, yeah, there are those other mainstays, too (c'mon, you know the ones: Bud, Stella, Corona, Miller, etc.).

Look at all that good craft brew.  And, local, too!
That's a Mile Marker Blonde Ale on this visit.
So, it's worth coming here just for the beer with a brew list like that!  And, then, there's Happy Hour on top of it, from 3-7 daily. You could just hang out the bar and drink.  But, what do you say, you're hungry, too?

This photo is from a prior visit, but you get the idea.
Check out that food!
And, that's a King St. Imperial Stout from Intuition Ale Works.

Then, you've come to the right place.  They recently changed the menu just a bit from the last time I was here, but the favorite comfort foods are here. The food choices range from various BBQ meats (which you can combo, by the way, like brisket,  pulled pork, chicken, turkey), to steak, catfish, shrimp, mahi, chicken, and sandwiches.  And, hey, those side dishes are worth talking about too (you get two): salad, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes with yummy country gravy, just to name a few, along with Texas toast. 

On this particular visit,  I ordered the combo smoked turkey/brisket, and, some of that went back with me for the next day's lunch.  Be prepared to take a "to-go" box.  I've always had a good meal here, and the BBQ is well-prepared.  

No BBQ place would be complete without sauce.  Mojo offers 5 sauces on every table, but the Sweet is my favorite.

Beer and BBQ!
So, looking for Brew and Q? Get over here: you won't leave hungry, and the beer list will satisfy your taste buds' cravings for hops.  Mojo Old City BBQ is located at 5 Cordova St. in downtown St. Augustine.  They have other locations around Jax, too.  Check out the website. Also on social media.

Friday, June 13, 2014

People Watching At No Name Bar (The Bar With No Name)

Great Place to Watch Everyone Go By...
Downtown St. Augustine on the Bayfront

I recently stopped by No Name Bar (or is it The Bar With No Name) on Castillo Dr. in downtown St. Augustine. Surprisingly, I had not been here before, but I've driven by a bunch of times and have seen the crowds there, so I figured they must know something.  

It was a reunion of sorts, as one of my favorite bartenders with whom I worked at Mile Marker Brewing, Miguel, now works here.  Hugs all around, and great to see him again!  He's always been entertaining to say the least.

No Name Bar is a cool little place to relax and people watch overlooking the Castillo (the fort) and the beginning of Avenida Menendez.  There's an outdoor deck with seating under umbrellas, as well as indoor seating along a bar. Not a big place, but cozy. Three tv's run along the bar.

People watching or beer watching? Both, maybe.
It has a full liquor bar, live music and an assortment of beers.  Personally, I'd like to see more craft beer and local craft offerings, but this list will typically appeal to the masses (combination of draft and bottle): Intuition I-10 IPA (local craft from Jax), Goose Island 312, Magic Hat No. 9, Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, Session lager, Stella, ShockTop, Yuengling, Red Stripe, Guinness, Heineken. And, yeah, you can get the PBR Tall-boy 16 oz cans for $2, too, if cheap is your thing.  If you get the munchies, there's a small grill menu that features typical bar food (burgers, shrimp, fish tacos, fries) til 7pm.  Feel like taking something back with you? There's an attached liquor store, but you'll need a bartender to access it.

Overall, I can see why this place is popular. If you're walking along the bayfront from the parking garage towards King St., it's right on the way, and looks like a place you'd want to hang for a while. The view is great, and it's real laid-back.  It's located at 16 Castillo Dr.  So, grab a drink and watch everyone go by.....

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hidden Gem at St. Augustine Beach: The Original Cafe 11

Find It and Visit It:
The Original Cafe 11 on A1A Beach Blvd.

Set back just a bit off of A1A Beach Blvd. is this hidden gem, located at the corner of 11th & A1A Beach.  There's a parking lot that fronts the street, but don't drive by this one!  It's a laid back and chill place that has something for everyone.

It had been a while since I'd been here last, and it got me wondering why, oh, why, haven't I been back here sooner? (actually, it has more to do with the fact that I live on the other side of St. Augustine, and usually only get out this way when hitting the beach).  Of course, I already knew Cafe 11 offered a pretty good selection of craft beer, and local beer, at that.  Check out these offerings: Mile Marker Blonde and Red Ales, Bold City Brewery Killer Whale Cream Ale and Duke's Brown Ale, Intuition People's Pale Ale and Aardwolf Belgian Pale Ale.  And, there are some additional good beers: Florida Ave Ale, Sweetwater IPA and 420, New Belgium Fat Tire, and other guest taps.  And, yeah, you can get a few of the "usual" beer offerings, too.  They also serve red and white wines, if you're not a hophead.

The Half-Price Happy Hour from 3-7pm daily is a real deal. I sat outside on the patio with my beer (a Mile Marker Blonde Ale) and just relaxed by watching the cars drive by.  There are six outdoor tables on the patio.   The inside bar area is small, but cozy.  Inside is a good amount of seating and a stage, which features various shows.  The staff is very friendly.

The venue is located across the street from beach access, and there are several public parking spaces in this lot as well.   It's a great location for coming off the beach, just walk across the street, and you're there.  Check out Cafe 11's website for a copy of the menus, which feature breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, and the schedule of shows.  It's open daily from 7am to 9pm, with brunch on weekends and holidays from 8am to 12:30pm.  The selections include a wide variety of salads, sandwiches, both cold and hot, wraps, vegetarian options, appetizers, quesadillas, chicken, salmon and seafood offerings, and coffee, tea and smoothie beverages. Heck, they even have fresh-baked muffins and cookies!  The "healthy" food options are really nice, especially when you're at the beach and might feel a bit guilty about eating something too heavy, especially when you're wearing a bikini under that tank top (just sayin').  I only enjoyed my beer on this visit, but I've had the wraps before, and they are tasty.

Many of you know that I'm a bird lover, and I was excited to have that gregarious flock of black-hooded parakeets make a few fly-bys.  I look forward to seeing them anytime I head to the beach, and they seem to live closeby.  Awww.  You can't really see them too well in this photo, but they are very striking.  Fun to watch.
All in all, Cafe 11 has some good beer choices and a good variety of comfort food, veggie and healthy food options, all in a chill but trendy atmosphere.  Find this cool little place, and take some time to relax after a hard day at the beach.  

Til next time, Cheers!  See you out and about in the beer, bar and beach world!  And, yes, it's Beach Season, so I'll be back this way very soon.....

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Beach and Brews at St. Augustine Beach

Diggin' The Beach Scene at St. Augustine Beach!

You Should Be "Somewhere on A1A"! (That's Sunset Grille)

Anyone who knows me or knows of me knows that I love the Beach!  I am based in St. Augustine, and St. Augustine Beach is a great place to walk, people watch,or just veg out with the sounds of the waves.  It's a great walking beach.  And, you can even drive on it from the A Street ramp to points south.  A1A Beach Blvd. is quite laid back, and although street and lot parking can be a bit difficult at times, you can usually find a spot somewhere.  This time around, I didn't have the SUV, and the low-rider sportscar can't go on the beach, but I found parking at the public 10th Street lot (there's a bathroom facility there, which is one of life's most important things).

So, I lathered up the Coppertone lotion, enjoyed a relaxing afternoon on my lounge chair, had a little siesta after a long walk on the beach (yeah, you have to walk back too, you know), watched some sea birds, watched some people, and then headed out to A1A Beach Blvd for some cold brew and dinner.

I headed to Sunset Grille, 421 A1A Beach Blvd.  This place has fast become one of my favorites.  The motto is "Somewhere on A1A," and yes, it's somewhere you want to be.

The downstairs area features indoor and outdoor seating and a good-size bar area. Ocean breezes flow through the open windows.  I opted for seating upstairs on the roof top.  There is a covered seating area, along with tables shaded by umbrellas. I don't mind sitting in the sun (that's what the Coppertone lotion is for), so a little shade and sun combo suited me just fine. There's a great view of A1A Beach Blvd, with the ocean in the background.  Yeah, I can get  into this!
Yeah, that's a photo of a beer with a view. The bar features a full liquor bar, good cocktail offerings, and some pretty good craft brews, including local Intuition I-10 IPA, Mile Marker 82 IPA, and Bold City Brewery beers. There's also the popular SweetWater 420 on tap. By the way, that's a Bold City Brewery Killer Whale Cream Ale in this pic. Great beer for the setting and one of my go-to brews!  With all of this research, I had to have a second one as well (it comes with blogging, but we do what we have to do). The place also offers the "usual" beer offerings on draft and in bottle, too, for those novices (sorry) who haven't discovered or delved into craft beer yet. So yeah, you can get Stella, Bud, Yuengling, Landshark, Corona and Miller, too.

Sunset Grille recently revamped its menu, and I must say, I think it's on point.  Nice variety of offerings, such as pastas, steaks, ribs, seafood dinners, large-portion salads, and desserts. I've had the mahi salad (grilled) several times before, and it's a meal in itself. I just love those little tortilla chip strips, and the corn on top is a great addition. This time around, though, I went with the coconut shrimp dinner.  The shrimp made my taste buds happy, and the coconut wasn't overpowering, but just right.  The Caribbean pina colada dipping sauce was quite good. Ya, mon, a real party. I brought a full dinner back for leftovers, too.  That was a macadamia crusted mahi, which was a treat as well.

So, hey, BeachBums, do yourself a favor and end up "Somewhere on A1A".  You'll be glad you did. And, if you're lucky, you'll see those black-masked parakeets that fly around A1A Beach Blvd (but more on those guys in an upcoming post).

Visit Sunset Grille's website, and get social with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (I love getting social with them; they do some pretty cool photos, too).

So, til next time.  See you out and about in St. Augustine and other places.  More St. Augustine Beach and Downtown St. Augustine posts coming - I've been busy lately.  

Cheers, sweethearts!