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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Look! Over in Jax Beach! It's A Restaurant, Bar, Brewery, Burger Joint and Trendy Tapas Place: Zeta Brewing Delivers It

I just love it when I visit a new place and have such a good experience that I can't wait to go back.  That's what happened recently after a stop to Zeta Brewing Company in Jacksonville Beach.  I didn't expect to stay there as long as I did, and that says something.  I had posted on social media that night that "I might not leave." 




Zeta opened in 2013 as a restaurant/bar, and in early 2014, it announced the upcoming addition of a 7-barrel brewhouse.  It did that in May, and it is now known as Zeta Brewing Company.


A look inside Zeta Brewing Company
(photo from its Facebook page)
The place features a wraparound bar, surrounded by perimeter tables along the walls. Wanna watch TV? You can do that, too. The brewhouse is housed behind a glass partition.


Ruby Beach raspberry wheat
Cut to the chase: The beer here is good, and so is the food. But let's start with the beer.  Zeta brews five main house beers: Twin Finn lager, American Garage American IPA, Ruby Beach Wheat (raspberry), Power to the Porter brown porter, and Private Rye American Pale Ale.

The lager is a good all-around beer.  It's what you'd expect: clean, easy-drinking.  This one should appeal to all of those "other" beer drinkers (c'mon, you know the ones).  So, if you're looking for a lighter-style brew that still has character, check it out. Untappd has this one as 5.1 ABV, 20 IBU.

But, I really liked the Ruby Beach raspberry wheat ale.  Generally, "wheat beers" are not my thing, but this one worked for me.  And, no, it's not because of the fruit-effect. This one isn't a sweet-fruity concoction that makes you feel like you're drinking pure sugar or something that requires a little umbrella (although I have nothing against those).  The raspberry is just right and not overpowering.  It's a beer alright, with a hint of raspberry goodness. (ABV  4.9)

The IPA (ABV 6.1) can hold its own as well, and didn't drink too hoppy. If you like a hoppier IPA with a little more bitter and bite, this will be a bit mild for you.  Overall, though, good drinkable IPA.

Faux pas on my part, but I didn't try the house porter or rye pale ale.  I like porters, but.... one of the guest taps-- He'Brew Death of a Contract Brewer American Black IPA -- really was calling me (really, it was).  Now, you can get small samples of any of the draft beers. That's where the real fun started, as the samples were lurking.  I'm always drawn to a Black IPA, and this one was awesome.  I may have had two, I'm not sure.


Black IPA in the glass.....
things were getting really interesting by this time
Zeta had a good selection of guest taps, including several good ones from local Florida favorites SwampHead and Cigar City, Tampa's Brew Bus Brewing's Last Stop IPA (also a good choice), and Green Room Brewing's Quad Fin Belgian Quad.  OK, you know I must have been pretty happy with my selections, because I didn't even have my favorite SwampHead Wild Night (shock). Rounding out the guest taps were Sweetwater IPA, Founder's All Day IPA (are we on a roll here or what), Shmaltz Rejewvenator and the Shmaltz/Terrapin collab Reunion Ale.  And, for you Bourbon-barrel fans, Lexington's Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale was also on tap. And, they also had bottles: DogFish Head 60 Minute, Fat Tire, and the old "Light/Lite" standbys. Plus, a full liquor bar, specialty drinks, and wine.

Well, that's a lot of beer talk.  What about the food? The menu on the website only shows brunch and late night menus, but there's a lot more here: appetizers, nachos, wings, soups, salads, tacos, sandwiches ("Big Zeta", chicken club, mahi), burgers, flats, pizzas. Sounds good, right? Yeah, it is.













This shrimp appetizer (look to the right) is lightly breaded and quite tasty. The tacos are ordered individually.  I got grilled mahi tacos (surprise, surprise), and these really passed the test. How about a flatbread pizza, you say?  Ok, that works, too! Overall, the food here was quite good.



The bartenders were fun, the beer was good, the food was good.  Never left the bar seat.  

Well, eventually, I did make it back to St. Augustine.  But, I'll definitely visit Zeta Brewing Company again.  Zeta is located at 131 - 1st Ave. N in Jax Beach, just a block or so off of 3rd St./A1A. Happy Hour runs Monday-Friday, 11-7, and there are also daily specials. Visit its website at www.zetabrewing.com.  You can also get social via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Monday, August 11, 2014

It Was A Party in Palm Beach: Palm Beach Summer Beer Fest

Little Intimate Indoor Party With A Few Thousand Beer-Lovin' Friends

You knew right away when you turned into the South Florida Fairgrounds and Expo Center off of Southern Blvd. that there were just a few people here for the Palm Beach Summer Beer Fest.  Once you found a parking space and made your way in the line to the front door, the sounds of the band came through loud and clear.  This was a party, to be sure.  It was Palm Beach Summer Beer Fest 2014!  

You know that I love a beerfest! I have been behind the scenes, behind the jockey box, and under the banner at a number of fests over the past two years pouring for my beloved former brewery and taking and posting pictures of all the beer-lovin' fans. So, this fest had a little different feel to it for me, as I was on the other side this time.

But hey, it's a Beerfest in one of my favorite places to visit: West Palm Beach! 


This one had been marked on my calendar since last year when I attended. So, I strapped on the 4-oz. souvenir cup to my neck lanyard, and ventured into the crowd.


The Florida Breweries Aisle.  Think they like beer from Florida?
And, that's no understatement!  Fest started at 1pm. I had seen posts and pictures of the initial lines. I got there a bit after 1, and made it through the gates shortly after 1:30. The first thing, it's loud!  The second thing, where the heck did all these people come from?  The fest is set up like a typical expo: aisles, with booths on either side. Thing was, you got real friendly with everyone, because, well, everyone was where you were! There weren't really any lines, but more of a mass of bodies trying to get to the beer. Attitudes were really good, and it made for some laughs.  Just a few thousand beer fans all grouped in one spot. Holy hops!  I don't know what the attendance was, but it seemed like every hophead was here.


Tried a bunch of Saltwater brews.
Yeah, those were good.
So, let's talk Florida. I started off with a Rickenbacher Pils from Wynwood Brewing (Miami).  They had a corner booth, and I was able to sneak in there.  Good tasty brew. Most of the Florida breweries were set together in one aisle, with a focus, of course, on South Florida.  You would expect to see 'em: Saltwater Brewery, Funky Buddha, Due South, Tequesta Brewing, Native Brewing, Wynwood Brewing, Florida Beer Co., Holy Mackerel, Cigar City, Brew Bus, and some new ones, too: Holy Waters Brewing, Lagerhead Brewing, Orchid Island Brewing, and others (see the website for a complete list.  I've met these guys at prior fests, and congrats to them for their efforts and producing some really good beer.  My check-ins on Untappd got a little out of control. There were a lot of different beers to choose. Some of the breweries had their "usuals," but others came in with some really creative styles.  And, if you didn't know what you wanted or just wanted to give something new a try, all the styles were in attendance.

I won't list all the beers that I sampled, but I did try a few Pilsners, porters, and pale ales.  I may have had an IPA or two.  The peanut butter apple ale from Due South was a very sensory experience, from the nose to the taste buds.


The Brew Bus was here, too.
I'd like to hop on sometime.
Lost my koozie.
In addition to the Florida brew, there was plenty of beer from regional, national and international breweries. Lots of cider, too. Many favorites. And, if you got hungry, they had you covered (so to speak). An outside area featured food trucks, where you could get anything from BBQ, to fries, to vegan, to bagels.

Several radio stations were also on the premises, and you could even get your computerized photo taken with Tiger Woods, Tom Brady or Johnny Manziel at the ESPN booth. (disclaimer: they were cardboard). Three bands played over the course of the afternoon, and as expected, later in the day, there was more dancing. 

And, as happens with every beerfest, at some point, the beer starts to run out.  That's how it goes.


The sign at the Due South table. 













Put this one on your calendars for next year, everyone.  Check out the website at www.pbsummerbeerfest.com. General admission advance sales $35, VIP $75.  The VIP price got ya a bigger logo mug, some exclusive beers, and access to private catered food. Maybe next year, they can do something to make that Florida brewery aisle wider, or only do one row of booths.  But, maybe it wouldn't matter--they're all so popular.  All in all, a fun time in a fun place.  I'll be back next year. 



So, what's a girl to do after a beerfest?  Well, I stayed overnight in one of my favorite areas, Abacoa in Jupiter, about 15 miles north of the fest off of I-95 (no golf clubs this time around). Hit one of my favorite watering holes there, and then... the foodgasm...  But, that's another story...... coming next. 

Til next time, sweethearts!  See you out there in the breweries and beer bars. Peace, love, pints.... Cheers and Happy Hopping!