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Friday, December 11, 2015

Capital Idea! DayTrip to GrassLands Brewing Company's Grand(er) Opening

Sure, it's the State Capital, and home to Florida State University. And, the way things are looking, Tallahassee just may be taking form to be another beer destination in Florida.  

I've only been to Tally once, that being in 2013 for the Brewfest Tallahassee beer fest.  One of the Florida breweries-in-planning at the time was GrassLands Brewing Company, looking to set down its roots in Tallahassee.  Starting around that time, I struck up a friendly beer-centric relationship with three of the principals of GrassLands: co-founder and head brewer Gabe Grass, co-founder and general manager Saralyn Grass, and co-brewer Thomas Crawford.  (There's even a photo of me and Thomas from that fest somewhere). When Gabe made a local visit to the First Coast over a year ago, I was thrilled to see him and the whole family.  Of course, we talked beer and the progress of GrassLands. The brewery has chronicled its steps toward becoming a reality through social media ... and, although it took a while ... fast forward to 2015:



GrassLands signed a lease for the current property at the "Garages on Gaines" District in February 2014. Somewhat of an L-shaped warehouse-type building with frontage along Gaines Street, one thing that Gabe needed was higher ceilings. So, to accommodate future planning and brewery equipment, the ceiling was extended to allow for more space and natural light in the brewhouse area.


GrassLands Brewing Company opened its doors to the public and had a "grand opening" in February 2015.  Because its permitting and licensing were still in process (these things take time), the brewery could not sell any of its own beer, but offered beers brewed by other Florida breweries. Once the licensing became finalized, GrassLands began brewing its own beer in July. This was a trip I knew I had to make!

GrassLands made it easy to take that daytrip on December 5, when it sponsored a coach bus from Jacksonville to Tally to bring thirsty riders out for its "Grand(er)Opening" of the brewery. A celebration with 19 of its own beers on tap inside and outside, food trucks and live music.  


Go West!  On I-10 to Tally

The bus ride featured a keg of GrassLands Robust Porter on board and some beer trivia, emcee'd by Saralyn's mom, Debbie (now, Debbie is an enthusiastic type, and she made for a great hostess).  By the way, the Robust Porter is a hearty, roasty brew that drinks easy, which is why I enjoyed a couple of them!




Upon arrival around 1pm, Gabe and Saralyn greeted us, and Saralyn distributed maps of the area, in case we wanted to wander around a bit. The place was already rockin', with a good crowd enjoying the beautiful day outside in the parking area, which featured a band, food truck, and an outside beer garden. The brewery is in an area that's a mix of quaint and the eclectic. There's a coffee shop and pizza place in the same complex, and several bars are located within walking distance.  The Railroad Square Art Park is also walkable from the brewery. 

I had seen photos of the tap room, and I had to see what all that industrial lighting was all about, so onward inside!


This way........

The tap room is a nice size with ample seating at the bar and tables, and a long wall shelf which also features outlets.  It's a cool vibe, kind of a mix between industrial and comfort. 


Even the Tallahassee Mayor was here!

And, when you have a last name like "Grass," you might as well use that, too.  Check out the beer education art on the walls:


From "Grass"  ......


.... to Glass



And, what's that about 19 house beers on tap for the day?  The brewery offers five "core" beers: Groundation Amber Ale, Rising Embers American IPA, G-Street Kolsch, Catalina Stout Coffee Stout, and Horizon Line Saison. The lineup for the day included a few timed tappings in the outside beer garden, including a coconut porter, berliner weisse, and a pale coffee stout. 

The pours for the day were available in a smaller 10 oz size or the full pour. 

So, let's hop in to some beer, already!  I started with the G-Street Kolsch (5% ABV). I thought this one was true to form: crisp, light, easy-drinking with a very slight hint of fruit; very refreshing and perfect for any Florida day. Overall, I like this beer, and it's one that would go well with just about anything: food to football. 


G-Street Kolsch: perfect anytime!
You don't see too many English Mild beers around, but they have one here: the Dark Side English Mild (4.1% ABV). This is also a style that I like, where a lower ABV and low bitterness still gives you a large beer taste, with its malty and toasty characteristics. I also detected a bit of dark fruit notes in this one.  Another one I liked!


Dark Side English Mild Ale
Forgot to make this one a 10 oz. pour;
Oh well, guess I had to drink the full pour!
It was around this time that Thomas emerged from the brewhouse with a horn. Yes, you read that right: a horn. And, it was full of a new beer. After exchanging some "horny" banter (oh, come on, like you didn't see that), I tasted the brew inside.  It's a new Imperial Stout on the way.  I won't give away the ingredients and flavor, but it's pure heaven.


You can caption it, if you like;
I had fun with that one on social media.
If you know Thomas, well.......
So, as long as we're talking Stout.... the Catalina Coffee Stout (6% ABV) has a good, dark coffee flavor, with no acidity. Another one to jump on.


Catalina Coffee Stout.... mmmmm.... so good!
Yeah, I have a thing for coasters, too.
And, here's another one that's a must-have.  The Groundation Amber Ale (7% ABV) is an amber rye ale, and it packs a very good caramel and rye combination. OK, you guys are making it really tough to pick a favorite here!


Groundation Amber Rye Ale.
Pour me one anytime!

But, wait, there's more.  One of the special tappings was the Pale Stout/Coffee Stout (7% ABV). This is one of those that looks like a pale ale or lighter, but tastes like a stout. Go figure, and ..... there's coffee in this one. Deceiving. Yeah, they sure got this one right, too!


Probably should've taken the photo first
I didn't get to try the mint stout or the coconut porter.  I kinda ran out of time before the bus left -- you know the adage: time flies when you're having beer!  Next time I visit, I'll compare the two IPAs more in-depth, too: Rising Embers American IPA (7% ABV) and Tropical Storm Brett IPA with Brettanomyces (7.5% ABV). 



And, I "just" don't drink beer on visits like this, either. I also was able to get a backstage look at the brewhouse and some info on the current and future status of GrassLands Brewing. 


No, Gabe and I didn't have too much.  
GrassLands Brewing currently occupies around 5000 sf of space now, and there's room for expansion via the adjacent space in the future.  Right now,the brewery runs on a 2-1/2 barrel system, with 16 three-barrel fermenters (housed in a cooler). And, why did they need that higher ceiling? They will be installing a 15-barrel production system later this month, to  include four 15-barrel fermenters, two 30-barrel fermenters, and 30- and 15-barrel brite tanks.  That smaller system will be dedicated to sours or experimental brews once the new system is in place. GrassLands anticipates distributing its beers locally on draft around April 2016. Good news, Tally!   And, the next question that everyone asks: What about retail distribution?  The answer from Gabe?  About as refreshing as that Kolsch they brew: GrassLands wants to make sure that it is producing consistently good quality beer before retail happens,and doesn't want to rush into it, even if it's two years down the path. And, if you ask me, I think that's the way to build things from the grass up. 





There are a lot of good people out there in the brewing industry in Florida, and I love this community.  But, it'll be difficult to find nicer folks than Gabe and Saralyn, and I am so happy that they have made this journey and brought this brewery to life ... it's been in the works for a while. I know it's been a long road, but GrassLands Brewing is here, and that's good news for all of us!




GrassLands Brewing is located at 603 West Gaines St., Tallahassee. It also lives its slogan "Earth First Ales," as it believes in conservation of the environment and habitat, and environmentally-friendly and sustainable business practices. GrassLands' supporters are known as "GrassHoppers." 

Feel like a daytrip sometime? If you're not already in Tally, jump in your car, and hop over to GrassLands Brewing. You'll be glad you did!

And, hey, GrassLands Brewing, thanks for the ride! It was a capital idea!


And, that's another brewery visit!  Til next time, enjoy good beer!  And, I'll see you around Florida somewhere..... at a brewery or event......


Peace, Love, Pints®

Linda