Monday, June 29, 2015

All Aboard! Two Henrys Brewing Company: Don't Miss This Stop!

I've been spending a lot of time recently travelling between North Florida and Tampa for various events (things just worked out that way, and it hasn't been strictly beer-related!). Have you ever driven by a particular exit or place and thought: "I really have to stop there one of these times"?  There's a brewery just off of I-4 in Plant City, between Lakeland and Tampa that's been one of those places for me.  Last week, I finally made the stop at Two Henrys Brewing Company.  

I'd previously had two of the brewery's beers, The Gilded Age Lager and 7 Mile Bridge IPA, in cans, and like both. So, this one has been on "the list" for a while. If you haven't been here yet, you'll want to put this place on your itinerary. Whether you're travelling between the east coast and west coast of Florida, or going from Orlando to Tampa or points in between, it's a stop you want to make. 

Exit I-4 at the Dinosaur World exit, and head north for a couple of miles. It's rural, and you wonder where you're going to end up. I've seen all kinds of breweries, from the warehouses to the strip malls, and this one is unique. What are those, grapes and berries growing around here?

Watch for the sign on the corner, and yep, you're here.  It's a quaint country-style place in the middle of farmland. Two Henrys Brewing shares the space with  Keel & Curley Winery.  The winery was founded in 2003 by Joe Keel, a blueberry farmer. The brewery opened in October 2013, and brews small-batch beers.  The beer is available in the tasting room and at local bars and restaurants. As mentioned above, its lager and IPA are distributed in cans around Tampa. 

Walk in, and you feel like you're in a country store: no chicken n biscuits and gravy, but there's plenty of beer and wine!  

And, what about the bar?  Well, for starters, there are two bars on the inside.  On this day, one side was open. Sit at the bar, or sit at tables in the large, open space. Beer and cider are available at the bar. If you have a wine-lover with you, no problem...there's a lot of wine here!

The Wall for Club Members
For some reason, I wanted to start playing with trains.  Check out the replica locomotive at the top of the bar.  Also, at either end of the bar are caboose lights. The tasting room has a rustic/country feel, which is very welcoming and relaxing. I just kept thinking how cool this place is; really different from anywhere else I've been. 

The brewery is named after, well, two "Henrys" who were influential in the commercial and industrial development of Florida in the late 1800s. And, yes, I did some additional research on this point. Henry M. Flagler, was the founder of Standard Oil, as well as the founder of Florida East Coast Railway, from Biscayne Bay to Key West.  He also built resort hotels in St. Augustine and Palm Beach.  The "Overseas Railroad," also known as the "Key West Extension" of the Railway, ran through the Florida Keys. Pay attention, because this is some good stuff, as you'll see below. (And, yes, there will be a quiz or, no beer for you.)  The other Henry, Henry B. Plant, purchased railroads along the Florida west coast, with a hub in Tampa, and created the Plant System of Railroads and Steamboats, which became part of the Atlantic Coast Line RR.  And, yeah, you guessed it, Plant City was named after him.  So, there you have it, "Two Henrys."  According to the brewery website, the brewery was/is "inspired by two of Florida's greatest pioneers. Two Henrys."  

Two Henrys Brewing Company webpage.
That's some cool stuff.....
So, now you know!  (how about that, reading my blog really is educational!)

But, isn't there some beer to drink around here?  Glad you asked that.  The brewery has five "signature" beers, plus rotating seasonal selections.  For a complete list, take a look at the brewery website. It really is quite a list for a small-batch operation.  I see a Runaway Locomotive Black IPA that has my name on it one of these times......

My flight..Five beers, and check out the flight sheet.
Just tell the bartender what you want.
Of course, I started with The Gilded Age Lager (4.5 ABV). I've had it before, but it's very, very good right from the source!  It's clear gold in color, and is smooth and crisp, as you'd expect from a Helles Lager. You get the Noble hops aroma/flavor and the slight sweetness from the malts. Just a very pleasant, easy drinking brew. And, of course, the name reflects that period (late 1800's) in American history when industrialization, especially railroad, was flourishing.

The Belleville Biltmore Vanilla Blueberry Wheat Ale (5.3 ABV) sounds as refreshing as it tastes. Although the blueberry is obvious on the aroma and flavor, it is not overpowering, but complementary, and the vanilla lends a nice touch. Nicely blended. 

See what I did there?

The brewery currently has two IPAs on tap, which are variations of each other.   The 12K IPA (6 ABV), an American IPA, has an English yeast for a slight fruitiness, but isn't citrusy.  I thought there was a hint of nutty.  It's dry-hopped with Ahtanum and Amarillo. A good, all-around IPA. 

The 7 Mile Bridge IPA English IPA (6.5 ABV) is an amber color, a bit more malty, has English hops, and is dry-hopped with Simcoe. I could really tell the Simcoe, and the herbal notes from the English hops are apparent. Overall, this is a good, solid IPA. There's a lot goin' on here, but it drinks smooth. And, the name (remember the quiz?), that's the old Seven Mile Bridge railway in the Keys. I've driven over Seven Mile Bridge a few times, and the next time, I'll be thinking about this beer, for sure.

History lesson.  7 Mile Bridge IPA
And, last but not least, I also had the Roasted Jalapeno Blueberry Porter (5.5 ABV).  Say what; that's a mouthful right there. I was very hesitant on this one, because spicy and peppery type foods and beers aren't usually something my taste buds appreciate. This porter is made with roasted jalapenos and fresh blueberry puree. Intriguing.  I found the aroma was mostly blueberry, with a hint of pepper.  The flavor is both, with the peppers more pronounced. That's really different. But, this one works: the sweet balances the heat!

It's a mouthful: Roasted Jalapeno Blueberry Porter
Also on the menu was the HopTycoon Double IPA (8.5 ABV).  I didn't have this one, but the description indicates that it's more malty and bitter, amber color, and hopped with Amarillo and Galaxy. 

Not done yet...That's a full pint of The Gilded Age Lager
But, wait, I ain't done yet.  That's not all.  There's an entire outside area to be explored: it's a big place.  Outside is a covered deck, with a stage and, you got it, another bar.  There's also a gazebo, and what's this...a Party Barn!  How cool is this. 

I don't make this up, that's what the sign says!
I found a true PARTY BARN!
Enjoying my lager on the deck

Real grapevines out here in the back
And, a view of the pond and fountain off the deck
Two Henrys Brewing Company and Keel & Curley Winery, as a unit, provides a unique venue for enjoying a pint of well-crafted beer or a glass of wine.  It's open 7 days, with live music on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights.  I suspect there's a wedding or party every so often, too.  The property is quite picturesque and it's set up to accommodate large functions. Tours are offered on the weekends. 

So, what's not to like? Make a visit here, and you'll have some very good beer in an environment that'll make you feel like you're in a bed and breakfast somewhere and away from it all. And, there are some friendly locals around, too:

You can even take some beer home with you, too!  Where else can you get a brewery engineer hat?

Two Henrys Brewing Company/Keel & Curley Winery is located at 5210 W. Thonotosassa Rd., in Plant City, Florida, just outside of Tampa, off of I-4. I don't know if the "Two Henrys" drank beer back in the day, but somethin' tells me they'd be pretty stoked about what's going on here.  Get on board, and don't miss this stop!

See you next time!  Cheers!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Freedom for the 64 oz Growler!

When I moved here four years ago, I tried to get a refill on a half-gallon (64 oz.) growler that relocated here with me from Northwest Indiana, just outside of Chicago. I mean, what's the big deal; they're everywhere in the Midwest and elsewhere.  No, I was told, can't do that. At first I thought it was because the growler was some kind of out-of-state alien, that needed proof of state residency. Well, we all know the story.....

On July 1, 2015, the half-gallon growler will be legal in the state of Florida.  WooHoo! Independence Day of sorts...

Where will you be on July 1 at 6:40 pm?  According to the Florida Brewers Guild, this is the time that there will be statewide toasts cheering the 64 oz growler in Florida. I'm not sure what the other states think of all of this, but, hey, it's another reason to party here in the Sunshine State, and what a way to kick off the Independence Day weekend.  

For us here in the Jacksonville area, as of this writing, I am aware of these Growler Independence events on Wednesday, July 1:

Engine 15 Brewing Company, Jacksonville Beach, will be offering its new 64 oz. growler for sale for $6 (that's $2 off the normal price). And, you can get a free pint of E15 beer while you wait for the fill. 

And, of course, say Cheers at 6:40 pm for the statewide toast! 

Intuition Ale Works, in the Riverside area of Jax, will also be hoisting the pint glasses at 6:40pm for the statewide toast.

What's more, bring in your Intuition gallon growler between July 1 and July 4, for a trade-in for a free half-gallon Intuition growler, which the good folks there will fill for free (regular release Intuition beers only).

Green Room Brewing, Jax  Beach, is tapping a new brew on July 1, starting at 4pm: Citrus Paradisi Pale Ale.  This is an American Pale Ale with Amarillo, aged on fresh Florida grapefruit. And, here's the deal: buy a new Green Room 64 oz growler for $6, and get it filled with the new beer for only $5. 


Commemorating the occasion for perpetuity on social media?  #FL64 #growlerindependenceday #FLBrewersGuild

See you on July 1!  CHEERS! Here's to ya!

Know of any additional Growler Freedom events in the Jax area?  Let me know about 'em!  I can be reached by email at, or through the handy yankee-doodle-dandy contact box on my website

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ready to "Flip Flop Til You Drop"?

Walk it or ride it.  Enjoy food and drink specials. Support local St. Augustine Beach businesses.  And, last but not least, support a local charity.  Grab your special t-shirt -- then put your creative touches on it -- put on your flip-flops, and get ready to "Flip Flop Til You Drop"!

The 2015 "Flip Flop Til You Drop" will take place on Saturday, July 11, 2015, starting at 1pm, at Jack's Bar-B-Q, 691 A1A Beach Blvd, St. Augustine Beach.   But, here's what you need to know ahead of time so you can get in on this fun event:

First of all, you need to get your hands on one of this year's special t-shirts, because that's your admission ticket to the event and food/drink specials:

The 2015 Flip Flop Til You Drop official shirt
Just go to one of these places on A1A Beach Blvd., St. Augustine Beach, and purchase your shirt for $15:  Jack's Bar-B-Q, Original Cafe 11, LYMI Oddities, FA Cafe, and The Sunshine Shop.

Just a friendly hint, though, the shirts are selling quickly, and you may have to visit a couple of these locations to get the size you want.  But, that's OK, have a beer, sandwich, or look around at the cool stuff while you're there!

So, what's this all about, you ask?  It's been dubbed a "pleasant walk for charity." Proceeds from the event benefit Kids Bridge Supervised Family Visitation Center, located at 238 San Marco Ave., in St. Augustine. Kids Bridge is a safe venue which provides on-site supervised visits between parents and kids (who may be estranged and/or going through difficult times), and offers educational and community services to strengthen families. I've visited the venue, and it offers a warm and welcoming environment for families in need of these services. Check out the above link for more information. 

And, here's how it works:  First, the t-shirt. You gotta wear it.  The shirt is your "admission ticket" to various participating businesses all along A1A Beach Blvd. Start at Jack's Bar-B-Q, and then simply walk up and down Beach Blvd. and stop at the places who have the sponsor signs, where you'll get discounted prices on food and drinks.  So, yeah, that means there's some drinking involved -- in case you didn't pick up on that. And, you get to meet some really cool people who also like to contribute to charitable causes and have a really fun time while doing it (really).

Last year's t-shirt
Participating in this year's event are: 
Jack's Bar-B-Q
Dunes Cracker House 
The Taco Shop 
Original Cafe 11
Coquina Beach Surf Club
 Panama Hattie's
 LYMI Oddities
 FA Cafe
 Holiday Isles Resort, and 
The Sunshine Shop. 

 And, there's more to that t-shirt thing, too. Get your creativity in gear, and cut up that shirt, put beads on it, put feathers on it, whatever else you can think of to make it crazy (tastefulness may be optional).  There were some pretty innovative designs last year. That's me in the photo from last year's event.  I didn't know what to expect, so I just made a tank top. I have some work cut out for me this year. 

Don't want to walk the full route?  Fear not, because Old Town Trolley Tours is once again providing transportation of the wheeled kind for those of you who either want to save your energy for the big finish at Jack's, are too dainty for sweating, or are afraid of crashing your pedometer (sure, that's legit).  We had an excuse last year because we endured torrential rains (but we persevered).

The event ends back at Jack's for a party with music, contests (remember that t-shirt thing?), raffle prizes generously donated by local businesses, and a 50/50 raffle. 

This the 13th year for Flip Flop Til You Drop, which has raised over $140,000 for various local charities. Monies are generated through the sale of the shirts and raffles. 

So, hey, St. Augustine, get ready to Flip Flop Til You Drop 2015-style.  You never know who you might meet along the way.....

I think the dude has seen better days..
Hmmm, now what was in that cup?

Hey, I'm always looking for info on events that involve beer/refeshments, community, beach, and the like. So, if you are hosting or organizing an event,  please let me know by sending an e-mail to, or by contacting me on my website, (there's even a box to do that). I really want to know about it.  One rule, though, it's got to be fun!  Because like I wrote on my site:  I'm fun, deal with it!  


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Point Ybel Brewing: Head to the "Hurricane Hole" After a Tough Day at the Beach (or, anytime)

As you might know, I recently spent a few days on Sanibel Island in Southwest Florida, just over the causeway from Fort Myers. I had heard about the beaches and the seashells and the gorgeous color of the water on the gulf side. And, lately, we have been hearing more and more about the beer and new breweries in this part of the state. So, in true journalistic fashion, this beachgirl did some research: Yes, I had some "tough" days at the beach looking at that water and walking the seemingly endless stretches, all while watching the shorebirds and investigating the abundance of seashells. I even came up with some beach-and-beer photos that I posted on social media sites (that all takes work, y'know). But, at the end of the day, you just need a beer! So, on one particular day, I headed over the causeway toward Fort Myers and onward to Point Ybel Brewing Company. It was a fairly easy drive (hey, I'm on vacation).  The brewery is located in a small shopping center and is visible from the street.  

So, enter the tasting room, nicknamed the "Hurricane Hole."

Here you'll find a large open room, with a bar along one wall and picnic tables for seating. The large chalkboard on the opposite wall lists the beers on tap. There's a stage for live music and a few bar games. On the walls are photos and artwork about fishing or island life.  In fact, the theme of the brewery is tropical, revolving around the islands, from the names of the beers to their flavors and ingredients.

Although the brewery offers seasonal and rotating beers, it also has a set of core beers that you are likely to find on tap most of the time: Black Mangrove American Dark Ale (7.2%), Endless Summer Pale Ale (5.5%), Sanibel Red Island Ale (5.6%), Snook Bite IPA (7.0%) and Yay Sanibel Saison (6.5%). 

There were a few additional brews on tap this time around: Captiva Cream Ale (5.5%), White Mangrove White Ale with orange zest and galaxy hops (5.2%), and Noseeum Session IPA (4.7%).

Point Ybel Brewing is a small-batch system, having a 4-bbl brewing system, with five 8-bbl fermenters. That's a pretty good amount of beer to be brewing!  And, this is a young brewery, only having opened in December 2013. The owner, Walt Costello, is a former fishing guide and homebrewer. That's a pretty interesting combination of a background, which explains the theme here. Apparently, the initial thought was to open the brewery on Sanibel Island (named after Point Ybel), but because the local ordinance doesn't permit producing beer for distribution there, the current site in Fort Myers was selected. 

Let's take flight
And, what's the beer taste like? As usual, I started off with a flight so that I could taste more than one! First up:  Captiva Cream Ale. I like cream ales, generally, as they are easy-drinking and crisp. Well, whaddaya know, the board says "crisp and refreshing." And, this one is just that.  It's clear, light gold in color, with slight malt on the front; a cream ale with some substance. Just a good-drinking beer that I liked quite a bit. 

The Sanibel Red Island Ale (Irish red ale) is a definite winner in my book. You get it all in this one: malty, caramel, toffee, with some nuttiness; very smooth.  I thought this one is one of the best red ales out there. Indeed, I got a full pint of this one too!

it's even on the wall

Yes, I take notes; but I don't know how I write
with a beer in my hand

The Snook Bite IPA was brewed with mosaic hops, and the citrus/pine notes really come through. It has a fair amount of hoppy bite.  Although this isn't a west-coast style, you IPA hopheads who like the hoppy citrus will want this one. 

and, note the creativity in this photo....

Which brings me to the Black Mangrove Dark Ale, this one also with mosaic hops. This is one of my favorite styles typically, and this one delivers. It's roasty with a bite.  I liked it so much, I got a growler of this one to take back.

Actually, two growlers made the trip back;
the IPA is in the other one
So, as you can tell, I liked the beers here. If you live here, are on vacation, or just traveling through the area, it's a definite stop.  

And, the Point Ybel Brewing beers are in distribution to local bars and restaurants.
That's true...restaurants even have the signs out
The brewery/ tap room is located at 16120 San Carlos Blvd. in Fort Myers. The tap room is open 7 days, and live music is featured. Check it all out and get updated information via website, or on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social media sites.

And, that's it for this time around.  You never know where I'll show up, so I'll see you at the next bar, restaurant, brewery or social event, likely with a beer in hand, or on social media (probably with a beer in hand there, too).  

Cheers, til next time!

Monday, June 8, 2015

It's June: Time for the Stanley Cup Final. Or, This Blackhawks Fan Goes to Tampa For More Than Beer!

Stanley Cup Final 2015
I've been a Chicago Blackhawks hockey fan since I was a kid.  I grew up in Northwest Indiana, just outside of Chicago and made the work commute (Metra and South Shore train lines) into the city for a number of years.  I lived in the area until four years ago, when the "Indiana Snowbelt" got the better of me, and the long-contemplated move-to-the-Sunshine-State eventually happened. 

A few weeks ago, over a few beers (you knew I would throw that in sooner rather than later, c'mon), thoughts turned to "what if the Blackhawks played the Lightning in the Stanley Cup; could that happen?" If so, a definite trip to Tampa, no question! (Not like I really need an excuse -- other than beer -- to make the relatively short 3.5 hour drive over here).  Well, the Playoffs produced a series of close games and OT games, with the end result being Lightning v. Blackhawks in the Final. Really? WooHoo! Tampa, here we come!   Another trip from North Florida on the east coast to the gulf coast....

And, that's what happened.  I hadn't been to the Cup before (somewhat surprisingly), so this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing.  Last Saturday, I took it all in and experienced my first Stanley Cup final at Amalie Arena in Tampa -- as a Blackhawks fan. Yeah, we know how the game ended (not what we Blackhawks fans had hoped), but what I really want to talk about is the experience.  Of course, I start with some beer!  Hey, even the respective city mayors got into the beer scene, with some bets that included beer!

First up....pre-game:

That's a "True Blonde"....ale, that is
Let's start with the stop at Tampa Bay Brewing Company, in the heart of Ybor City at Centro Ybor. I've been here before (most recently, just a few weeks ago), and I like the beer, the food, and the people.  Did I mention I like the beer? If you haven't been here, it's a must-stop.  It's a full production brewery and brewpub.  

Fish N Chips at Tampa Bay Brewing. Awesome!
They're even "thisclose" to opening a brand spankin' new place in the Westchase area of Tampa in about a month. You can find their Reef Donkey Pale Ale and Old Elephant Foot IPA in cans and on tap at other places, too.  I like the True Blonde Ale, a 5% ABV Blonde Ale that's crisp and clean, with a hint of hops.  It's just an all around easy-drinking lighter-flavor ale. You might also want to check out their Red Eye Amber Ale, a caramel/toffee red ale, with a good maltiness, at 6% ABV. The Reef Donkey Pale Ale is a good reliable beer, that's hoppy and citrusy, yet easily made to have more than one coming in at 5.5% ABV.  Last time there, I think I swooned over the Iron Rat Imperial Stout, a 10% ABV, 80 IBU dark roasty blend of chocolate and coffee, that's smooth and decadent. Check out some of their seasonal brews, too!

By the way, that paper I'm holding in the photo above is one of the local free weekly entertainment publications, Creative Loafing Tampa.  The cover story featured a well-written look at the "divided loyalties" of Chicago Blackhawks fans now living in the Tampa area.  I must say, that, I'd be pulling for the Lightning, if it were any other team other than the Blackhawks!

And, this is a growler of Old Elephant Foot IPA (7% ABV) that's gonna get opened tonite for Game 3:

Now, one of the other cool things about Tampa Bay Brewing Company and its location in Centro Ybor is that the trolley system has a stop right in front of the brewpub.  And, that's the way to travel to Amalie Arena for the Stanley Cup!

In prior visits, I thought that the TECO Streetcar trolley system that runs through the downtown and Ybor districts looked like a convenient and fun way to get around.  The route includes two stops at Amalie Arena. And, whaddaya know, there were even a few other Blackhawks fans on the trolley, too:

These guys were good sports.  Thanks!
Everyone was having a good time on the trolley!
(even though some of them didn't know what a
"beer blogger" is......)

Jump off the trolley, and it's just a short walk up to the arena.  And, look who else was there -- WGN TV from Chicago!

Not too surprisingly, there were quite a few fans wandering around the outside of the arena.  Many were getting set up to watch the telecast on a huge outdoor screen. Now, that's a cool thing to do!  Here are a few of the friendly Lightning fans who even took a picture for me:

I don't know who they are, but Thanks!  Really, all the fans -- no matter what jersey or color being worn -- were pretty friendly. The arena provides a fan "experience," including live music.  This is a great venue for a hockey game!
The inside of the arena is also fan-friendly, I thought, providing good choices for food and drinks.  There's even a World of Beer!  

Stanley Cup Koozie
And, it was also Belmont Stakes Saturday.  The race was broadcast on the big screen and on smaller screens throughout.  We saw Triple Crown history, with American Pharoah getting it done:

The Belmont Stakes at the Stanley Cup:
Is this cool or what?
And, all of that was even before setting foot inside the arena!  There were plenty of "Let's Go Blackhawks" chants, and the Hawks fans were out in force. Again, everyone was just having a good time! Our seats were in Section 318, upper level, but in Row A.  Had great views sitting right on the rail! The following photos pretty much sum it up. The National Anthem is always stirring, and the game was exciting until the last second.  All in all, yeah, deserving of a once-in-a-lifetime designation!  After the game, the trolley ride was still lively, and, then it was back to Tampa Bay Brewing Company.  As a Hawks fan, I wish the outcome of Game 2 had been different, but we all knew this is going to be a tough Final. 

So, this girl from Northwest Indiana/Chicago finally made it to a Stanley Cup final with the Blackhawks... via Tampa!  And, yeah, when I said once-in-a-lifetime, I guess we can make that twice-in-a-lifetime, because, hey, Tampa, I'll see you again this coming Saturday for Game 5!

The Arena is electric, with lightning and thunder.

National Anthem tribute to D-Day 1944


Check out these guys in the "suits"!
Did they just fly in?

Corey Crawford

O Captain

Hey, that's it for now.  Gotta get ready to make some Chicago-style Italian Beef sandwiches and get the gear on for Game 3.  Wish I could be at the Madhouse tonight!  Let's Go Blackhawks!

Til next time!