Saturday, December 20, 2014

100 Taps Overlooking Downtown St. Augustine: Henley's Steak and Seafood Opens

You probably heard about it, as it had been in the works since Summer.  The new Henley's  Steak and Seafood is now open in downtown St. Augustine, upstairs at the corner of St. George and Hypolita Streets. It's the sister to the J.P.Henley's pub on Marine Street (which, as you know [especially if you read my posts], has 70 taps, along with wine, and salads and sandwiches). 

The new place has 100 taps, which last night included about 10 or so for Florida craft. I was happy to see one of my favorites: Swamp Head Brewery's Wild Night Honey Cream Ale. I also had an Engine 15 Nut Sack Brown Ale (which is not only fun to say, but it's a really good beer). 
SwampHead Wild Night Honey Cream Ale!
There's also wine and a full liquor bar.  The bar opened to a soft opening last night, and they'll be serving up some bar food/appetizers starting today (Saturday).  According to Pat Henley, the full dining menu is still about a week or so away.

I had the chance to get a sneak peek a little over a week ago, and although there were still boxes around, it was exciting to see all those taps! The wraparound bar surrounds the island of taps, and there are 7 HD TVs in the bar area.  Great views of the downtown from the outside deck seating too. The dining rooms feature tables and booths, along with several fish tanks. 

Not all of the beers were available last night, and they still have some things to work out. For now, the beer list is simply a typed list, with some handwritten notes.  If you're not familiar with some of these names, you'll need some extra information. Once it gets in full swing, this place will be a welcome addition to the restaurant scene in St. Augustine. 

I'm looking forward to dinner!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Lighten Up...It's Nights of Lights in St. Augustine!

On Avenida Menendez looking towards the Plaza

Twinkle, Twinkle!  There has been a lot written about St. Augustine's Nights Of Lights, from local press to National Geographic.  I attended the "Light Up Night" in the Plaza on Saturday, Nov. 22, and I ooh'd and aah'd with everyone else. Beautiful Christmas Tree, along with thousands (three million, I've heard) of white lights throughout the trees and shrubs. The local businesses are also all decked out and sparkle.  Truly a spectacle. Of course, I love Holiday lights, and my house is a little megawatt in its own right (wish I had a bucket truck).  Yeah, I wandered around downtown St. Augustine again last Friday night and took some photos -- in between hitting some of the pub establishments and merry-making with the passengers riding by on the Holiday Trolleys.

At the plaza.  And, those
presents aren't going anywhere.
If you haven't witnessed the bright twinkling splendor yet, get yourself to downtown St. Augustine and walk around and take it all in,and do it more than once.  You'll be glad you did!

Walk around the lights, but make sure to take a few breaks (you need hydration) at some of the local places for a cold craft beer.  Not an exhaustive list here (and I don't mean to leave anyone out, and I'm happy to supplement), but check out some of these guys:  J.P. Henley's, just around the corner from the Plaza (70 taps - yeah - 70!, plus bottles and pub menu; seems I'm here every so often, go figure).  A1A Ale Works, just across from the Plaza (beer brewed on site; bar, table and balcony seating; full menu). Barley Republic Public House and Irish Pub, a few streets over on Spanish Street (70 beers, give or take a few, including 10 on draft; hey, some really good burgers and fish and chips, too). Take a walk over to Cordova Street, and head to Mojo Old City BBQ (but ya better be hungry; nice craft beer tap list, too, with Florida brews).  And, of course, also on that end of downtown, on Orange St. close to the parking garage (you probably have to go there anyway), is Ann O'Malley's Deli & Pub ("St. Augustine's Oldest Irish Pub," where you can always find some friendly types, sandwiches (including beef-on-weck), music, lots of soccer, Buffalo Bills games [yup, you read that right], and beer specials including craft beer features on draft and bottle). And, make sure you stop by Tini Martini Bar at Casablanca Inn, right there on the Bayfront, for a dazzling light display and drinks on the heated outside patio (it's always one of the focal points; just look at those stunning lights!  Say "photo op").

Tini Martini Bar at Casablanca Inn Dazzles
And, one of my favorite things is getting a little jolly with the passengers on the Holiday Trolleys.  They really are a spirited bunch (or maybe they've had a bunch of spirits by then).  Just put on your Santa hat and chime in!

And, take the short walk down Avenida Menendez across from the Marina, to check out the display at Bayfront Marin House ....

...and Westcott House.

So, lighten up, everyone, and enjoy the Holiday Season in downtown St. Augustine!  See you downtown .... and ..... in the pubs!

Ponce has to like what he sees...

I think he likes it, too!

So does he....
Til the next time!  And, if you see a pedestrian in a Santa hat gettin' jingly with the Trolley riders as they pass by..... Say Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Surfin' for Cool Brews? Line-Up at New Smyrna Beach Brewing and Catch 'Em....

Turn here for beer! To the East...
One of the cool things about having easy access to I-95 is that it's pretty convenient for short or long trips covering Florida's Atlantic coastal corridor.  So, when I first visited New Smyrna Beach Brewing ("NSB Brewing") on my way back from Palm Beach Summer Beer Fest in August, I knew right away that I'd be back for another visit.  A flat tire nixed an intended visit a couple of weeks ago, but mission accomplished last weekend. 

Surfin' City...
If you don't know where this is, New Smyrna Beach is located between Daytona Beach to the north, and Titusville to the South. It was named one of the "World's Coolest Surf Towns" by Travel and Leisure Magazine last November (2013), and one of the "World's Top 20 Surf Towns" by National Geographic in 2012.  So, I guess there's something to that eye-catching brewery Logo besides good looks.

Not only is NSB Brewing located in a "surf town," but the Owner/Brewmaster, Chris Coyle, also has a background with surfing, as he was a sales rep for a surf company before realizing his true calling and passion for craft beer and making it happen. Hey, Chris, I don't know much about your surfing, but I sure am glad you're making beer!

Like many others, Chris started out as a homebrewer, and after hearing a bunch of compliments about his brews, he decided to take the plunge and set out in the brewery business.  He and wife Sara own the place, or, as Chris pointed out, "She's the owner, and she lets me play with beer."  Well, that seems to be working out pretty nicely, and I think Sara knows what she's doing.  Chris is the only brewer, so let's talk about his beer.

The Line-Up....
First things first... Last Friday was "Black Friday," and NSB Brewing tapped a Black Friday Black IPA for the occasion.  Yeah, that had my eye when I saw the social media post ahead of time, so I kinda knew what I was doing on Saturday.  Didn't need a sample, I just went for it.  Coming in at 7.7 ABV and 52 IBU, the Black IPA, brewed with Cascade hops, has a roasty nose, awesome dark color, "awesome-er" flavor, and a just-right hoppiness, with slight bittering on the end.  Generally, I like this style, and this one is a good one -- a really good one. And, for you hopheads who like the really hoppy stuff, I think this one will appeal to you, too. 

Black Friday Black IPA
Why go to a mall
when you can drink this?
And, check out this beer-board for the other tap treats:

The first time I was here, I only had a Coronado Beach Cream Ale, which I loved. With an ABV of 5.5, it's got more body and flavor than the lighter macros (obvious, yes, but true). It's just an overall good, easy-drinking brew.  Yeah, I enjoyed it again Saturday. This is a beer that you just can't go wrong with.
Coronado Beach Cream Ale..
Drinkable, Fresh and Tasty
Next, I decided to do something a bit different and went for the Beach Bum Brown Ale. I have to admit that this is a style that I don't do regularly, as I usually go for stouts or porters for my darker beer cravings.  This one starts off smooth, but brings a unique twist, having a bit of a kick at the end.  Nice color, slightly nutty.  Give this one a try.
Beach Bum Brown Ale
NSB Brewing also brews specialty beers on a rotating basis. It brewed an Oktoberfest (they had an Oktoberfest party that made for some good photos, too).  I heard that one of the best specialty brews is the Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter, which was described as being well-balanced on the flavors.  Well, lucky for all of us, that one's in the tank, and it's scheduled to tap on December 10, along with a Christmas Stout (I-95, here I come). Hey, I don't make this stuff up; it's on the surfboard, it must be true:

Wait for it.......

Hangin' Out Here...
NSB Brewing is located at 112 Sams Ave. in downtown New Smyrna Beach, east of US 1, and just off Canal St. It's about a block from the intracoastal waterway and marinas. Cool, little-town feel.  The inside features a bar, a couple of tables, photos of "old" New Smyrna Beach, and the 3-barrel brewhouse. Yep, you can see the whole brewery right there. There are a couple of tables set up outside, too. And, you can get some souvenirs to take with ya (shirts, pint glasses, koozies).

Chris isn't only the brewer, he's also the keg cleaner, marketing guy, janitor, mechanic, accountant, QC control guy, and, a bartender.  He doesn't usually work that bartending shift, but he just happened to be there last Saturday.  I was glad he was, as it was fun talking with him again.  I had also seen him at the Rocky Waters Brew Fest in Melbourne in September.  Great guy, stop in and say hello to him sometime (as long as he's not too busy!)

This is a fun place to hang out, and there's a definite thumbs-up for the beer!  There were some friendly regulars in the bar, and that always make for good conversation.  I had asked if this part of the state had a "coastal" nickname, and I learned that it's called the "Fun Coast."  Heck, they even got the "386" area code -- that spells "FUN" on your keypad!

Now, Jeff, the bartender and general manager of the front, is another fun guy.  And, then there's Holly, who's also quite personable.  Yeah, it's a fun place, with cool bartenders who actually talk to you, if you're into that kind of thing! (Don't know about you, but I always like that!)  

Hangin' with Jeff and Chris...
And, got a pup that likes to hang around with you at breweries?  The little guy even gets his own special water dish, a doggie-surfboard bowl, designed by a customer:

Last year and earlier this year, I remember seeing the status updates on the brewery during its pre-opening stages. Although the build-out began during the Summer of 2013, NSB Brewing started brewing January 2014, following TTB approval.  The brewery opened January 11, 2014 (although it didn't have any of its beers).  So, guess what that means?  A one-year Anniversary Party is in the works!  Stay tuned for that!  And, take the drive to New Smyrna Beach to visit this brewery-- you'll be happy you did.

Well, guess that's it this time around. I'm gonna go pour myself some of that Black IPA that I brought back with me:  

Til next time!  Catch ya later!