Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Jax Beer Week: Tapping a Week of Beer Nov. 7-14, 2015

JAX BEER WEEK is comin' at ya Nov. 7-14 this year.  Where?  All over Jax and Jax Beach, at breweries, bars, restaurants.  It's big, really big.

It's the culmination of lots of planning by the Jax Beer Society, a dedicated group of craft beer industry folks and enthusiasts who thought it's time for a week-long celebration of the local beer scene in Jax. It starts with the "Mash-In" Kickoff Event at Engine 15 Brewing's downtown Jax production facility on Nov. 7, and ends with the Florida Brewers Guild Barrel-Aged and Sour Festival at Intuition Ale Works on Nov. 14.

SO WHAT'S THIS ALL ABOUT?  Check out my BeerSphere Events page for a list (and, it's still not done! Events just keep rollin' in, and I'm putting in links to help you guys out). And, you just might find another beer event that you won't want to miss along the way, too. 

So, see ya around Jax Beer Week ..... somewhere in Jax.

Peace, Love, Pints

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Even Mother Nature Had a Beer This Year ... at Rocky Water Brew Fest

Time flies when you're here for the beer!  

About a year ago, I made my way to Melbourne (Florida) for the inaugural Rocky Water Brew Fest, held in the Eau Gallie Arts District. I had visited the Space Coast area a couple of months earlier, including stops at local breweries (See Blog Posts Episode 1 and Episode 2), and this fest sounded like a cool little event with all Florida breweries. It rained, but the beer still poured, and we didn't let Mother Nature put the damper on things .... read about it here.  I love beerfests, and this one definitely made an impression right out of the gate.  So, of course it was on my radar for Year Two.  

Last Saturday, the Eau Gallie Rotary Club presented the 2nd Annual Rocky Water Brew Fest, again at the Eau Gallie Arts District.  Leading up to the event, the organizers tempted us with some new breweries added to the mix this time. Still, all Florida, and now, a few more!

And, it looked like Mother Nature may have had a beer or two, because she was in a good mood this time around, as we soaked up the perfect sunny weather while wandering around the beer booths, drinking all that Florida beer and engaging in intellectual beer discussions!

Somewhere along the way -- in between a few beer samples -- I was able to catch up with the guys from Rotary Club and Intracoastal Brewing Company, the event's partner brewery, located a couple of blocks away. The excitement that these guys have for this event is not only immediately apparent, but it's contagious! Not only did I enjoy talking with them in person here, but even our email and messages have been fun. 

From l to r: David Spector, past President Eau Gallie Rotary Club, and
in charge of issuing the event proceeds (was also wearing a kilt);
Kyle Smith and John Curtis, owners of Intracoastal Brewing;
and that wacky blonde blogger just having an awesome time

This isn't the biggest beerfest that you'll attend in terms of number of breweries or gate attendance, but that's part of the draw, and it has that welcoming feel.  Situated along Highland Ave., this year's fest featured 28 Florida breweries, one meadery, and one winery, with each offering between 2 to 4 different selections. There were even some timed tappings. Beer enthusiasts were able to talk to the brewers and reps one-on-one about the beer and the breweries. This fest is built to be beergeek-friendly: the set-up and number of breweries and attendees allows for quality interactions; so whether you're a homebrewer, beernerd or someone who just likes to drink beer (maybe all of those), you're sure to enjoy this one. 

Local Melbourne under-construction brewery-in-planning Hell 'N Blazes Brewing had a steady line of traffic all afternoon, as you might expect. Anticipated opening date is January 2016.  

Orange Blossom Honey Wheat, a nice,
lighter beer with a good balance of citrus and wheat

Another newcomer to the Florida brewery list is Walking Tree Brewery, under construction in Vero Beach. I really enjoyed their Root Fort Almond Brown Ale -- mild with a touch of almond flavor.

One brewery that I haven't physically visited yet is Ten 10 Brewing, which opened about 3 months ago just outside of downtown Orlando. Their tap room features around 15 of their own beers. Yeah, that's another one on "the list" (it just keeps growing; I'm gonna need to win the lottery or stop spending money on food to keep making all these brewery visits). 

Altbier from Ten10 Brewing. One of those styles that
you don't see too much. A malty, easy-drinking brew.  

I won't list all of the beers that I tested/tasted/drank (that's what Untappd is for), but I have to give a shout-out to my friends at New Smyrna Beach Brewing, because I finally, finally got my hands on the elusive Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter (finally).  It seems that every time I make it to the tap room, I just miss that one. I wasn't disappointed with the beer; some things are worth the wait, I guess.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter: tastes just as good as it sounds--
maybe even better.
And, the new recipe Black IPA was awesome, too!
I even caught up with a couple of Jacksonville favorites -- breweries with which I've become very familiar, since I'm there almost every other weekend with The Brew Bus: Engine 15 Brewing and Green Room Brewing. Always a pleasure! 

I'm ok with photobombs, but we took a better one!
With Engine 15

Mark with the Green Room brews.  That Shovelhead Dubbel
was a new one on me, and I really liked its sweet caramel. 

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention event partner Intracoastal Brewing, which had the popular lines all afternoon. And, not only is it local, but with beers like these, no wonder!  By the way, that "S'mores Pout" (yes, you read that right) is a 6.8% ABV porter-stout hybrid, overflowing with flavors of graham cracker, chocolate and marshmallow.  That was some ridiculously crazy goodness right there!

And, right next to that, Sailfish Brewing offered its Barista-Fish Porter, an 8.1% ABV delicious concoction with coffee, cocoa nibs and hazelnut; some heavy chocolate here. 

All styles of beer were represented here, and if you were looking for sours and Berliner Weisses, there was an ample supply. For the most part, the breweries participating in this event are smaller, and they came from all over the state. Although there were "only" 28 breweries (and one meadery and one winery) here, I didn't make it to a few of them, mostly because I eventually ran out of time-- every beer fest must come to an end -- and, I was probably talking too much, since I kept running into people ... who, me? imagine that!  I love talking to all of you. And, I had a really great time chatting and hanging with the guys from brewery-in-planning Brevard Ale Works again.

But, like I wrote last year, this fest isn't "just" about the Florida beer!  There's some serious money raised for charity here -- thanks to the sponsors, volunteers, and you beer enthusiasts. David Spector (the guy in the above photo who took his fashion chances by wearing a kilt, but liked the freedom), the past president of the Rotary Club who's responsible for disbursing the charity funds, informed me that last year's fest raised over $22,000 for international and local charities.  Rotary Club expected to exceed that number this year. They're already planning for next year, and I already have a notation on my events calendar for Fall 2016. 

Thanks again to Mother Nature, and whoever served her that beer that kept her in a happy place all day. 

And, hey, if any of you were at Rocky Water Brew Fest, send me an email or comment via website, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook (I think that covers it)! I love hearing from you. I always like talking beer, beerfests, events, and the like.  

So, that's it this time around!  Thanks for reading my blog and social media (I know, it's the photos).  And, thanks to those of you who said Hi at Rocky Water Brew Fest.  As always, see you around a beer.

Til next time!

Peace, Love, Pints TM

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Believe It .... Coppertail (Brewing) Is For Real

As many of you know, I haven't been a stranger to the Tampa area this year.  Between a number of concerts and the Stanley Cup Finals, I think I'm getting to know every bump and construction barricade along I-4 from I-95 pretty well. And, then, there's all that beer over there!  So, last weekend, I headed to Tampa once again, this time for the Jaguars-Buccaneers game and pre-game Bold City Brigade tailgate party (there are photos on social media about that).  

Prost! Gsuffa! Coppertail Brewing's Dunkel
I rolled into Ybor City late Friday afternoon, armed with tickets to Oktoberfest Tampa. I love Oktoberfest and the beers (see blog post of September 10), and the event sounded like an oompah of a good time. But, I have to admit, I was almost overly excited about the news that Coppertail Brewing would be releasing a new Dunkel specially for the Oktoberfest. (Yeah, I really do get excited about things like that! I even mentioned it in my Events listing.)  

Like I said on social media:
The sign doesn't lie!
After entering the festival grounds and obtaining drink tickets, it was on to the Beer Tent.  Several Oktoberfest and German beers were served on tap via refrigerated trucks, including the Dunkel (4.8 ABV). Yes, it lived up to my expectations:  nice traditional German dark lager, toasty and malty. Not surprisingly, I continued to "research" this beer during the night by filling a stein and maybe (?) another pint. There was even a firkin of it as well!

And, what the firkin...
 Coppertail Dunkel!

Ein Prosit, Der Gemutlichkeit
The Oktoberfest itself was a fun event, filled with the sounds of German music and a number of renditions of "Ein Prosit" -- I think I heard the song in my sleep that night. German brats and schnitzel were served.  I loved the chicken schnitzel, with a hint of lemon. Situated along the water at the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, the fest also featured a troupe of German dancers who performed several authentic dances. 

German Dancers were entertaining,
even a little slap-happy

As seems to happen on every visit to Tampa, the rain came down for a while (postponing the stein-hoisting competition), but the large tents provided cover to enjoy those beers! A fun night of German beer, various Oktoberfest beers and German food offerings.
You can't take it with you when you leave.....
The plans for Saturday called for lunch at the new Ford's Garage - Brandon (I was there the day it opened a few months ago, too) for a burger and one of the many beers offered. Also, as long as I'm over in Brandon, there's the obligatory stop at Craft Beer Cellar - Brandon, where I always find beer I can't find anywhere else to bring back. 

And, then ... I headed over to Coppertail Brewing, located in Ybor City, where I spent the rest of the afternoon. This wasn't my first visit to Coppertail, having braved the crowds after FBG Fest back in March on opening weekend of the big, new tap room, which was moved from the original small adjacent office space.  As you'd expect, that opening weekend was just a bit on the crazy side, and I was looking forward to spending some time here under more "normal" circumstances.  Zeus, the tap room manager, is a personable guy, so be sure to talk some beer with him, too. 

Photo from opening weekend, March 7, 2015

Went for a Night Swim at
FBG Fest
By now, everyone is likely pretty familiar with Coppertail's four core brews: Free Dive IPA (5.9 ABV), hoppy with citrus and pine, but well-balanced (also my 700th new beer check-in on Untappd -- WooHoo! Yikes, I've had how many new ones since then?); Unholy American Trippel (9.0 ABV), brewed with Belgian yeast and American hops; Wheat Stroke American Wheat (5.0 ABV), brewed with citrus peel, a refreshing wheat beer for warm days; and, my personal favorite of the bunch, Night Swim Porter (6.2 ABV), a rich, roasty, chocolaty, and damn tasty libation.   All of the core beers are available in bottles at retail.  Coppertail brews its beers onsite and also bottles them right there.

The tap room is large, with a bar that faces the brewhouse, and a number of tables throughout. 

And, tours are offered, too. The price of the tour includes a logo pint glass, a full pint of beer, and a few samples along the way. So, let's check this place out:

View from the bar, through the windows.....

Tyler, one of the bartenders, was our tour guide, and he knew his stuff. Did you know that this place used to be a Hellmann's mayo factory?  Personally, I think it's put to better use now. The first stop took us to two 60-bbl french oak barrels, or foeders (foedre, foudre; pronounced "food"-er), which are wooden barrels for fermentation, usually used to age wine. The term translates roughly to "giant oak barrel." Yes, they are making sours and lactobacillus beers here. 

Foeders: From Coppertail Facebook page
This beer is a Belgian
From there, we went to the brewhouse, which is quite the impressive sight. A 50-bbl brewhouse (mash tun, lauter tun, boil kettle, whirlpool), fully automated; four 50-bbl fermenters; four 150-bbl fermenters; a 150-bbl brite tank, and a 50-bbl brite tank; also cold and hot liquor tanks and a carbon filter. There's also a 15-gal pilot system (the little homebrew system). Two grain silos provide the grains to the mash tun. Whew!

Look up!

Coppertail was founded in 2014 by owner Kent Bailey, a "reformed" business attorney and homebrewer (according to the brewery website), and I think he's having a lot more fun in the beer biz. I also had a great time visiting with Kent in the tap room, talking about the bar (as in law) and the bar (as in beer).  I can relate to that! Casey Hughes is the head brewer. These guys are doing some great things with beer, and they are brewing something sure to please every palate. The idea behind the Coppertail brewery was to bring more "hop-forward" and Belgian-inspired beer to Tampa and Florida. 

Along the tour, we were able to sample a couple of rather unique beers.  First, the Elder Mother, a collaboration with M.I.A. Brewing, another relatively new brewery out of the Doral area of Miami, Florida (I haven't been there yet, but it's on my list). This beer is a "tart saison"(6.8 ABV), a sour beer made with elderflower and French farmhouse yeast.  Typically, I'm not partial to saisons, farmhouse ales, or sours, but I found this one to be true to the description, and you can really taste the flowery nature.  This style is becoming more and more popular, so I'd suggest giving it a try. 

We also tasted the Captain Jack's Stone Crab Stout, this a collaboration with a South Florida brewery that I have visited several times, Tequesta Brewing Co., (located in Tequesta, in the Jupiter area, in case you didn't know). Yes, it's made with stone crab, which I do like.  I got a hint of the stone crab flavor, and overall, it's a chocolaty goodness, that I really liked. 

Oktoberfest bier
Alright, back to the tap room, for more beer!  I already mentioned the Dunkel, which was also on tap (if it's still on, I recommend it). You don't see too many dunkels, but it's one of my favorite styles.  In addition, there's an Oktoberfest beer (6.0 ABV), an amber marzen lager: a malty, full body beer with a nice amount of sweetness. I really enjoy Oktoberfest beers, and this one stands up to any of the other big commercial seasonals. 

Did I say Dunkel?  Well, not only did they brew a traditional Dunkel, but they also put coffee in it!  The Coffee Dunkel (4.8  ABV), made with local coffee, gives your taste buds a dark/bitter coffee alongside the dark, toasty lager.  This is a good tasting beer, and I found that the strong coffee was tempered by the toastiness. Highly recommend it. 

I really don't drink coffee...unless it's in my beer!
And, as long as we're talking about coffee..... Try the Hoppuccino (5.9 ABV), an IPA aged on local coffee.  the citrus in this IPA turned on its head by the coffee.  It's a bit different, but I thought that the flavor combination really works. 

Hoppuccino IPA: Came back in the growler, too...
Now about that "Go Bucs" note.....
In addition to the four core beers, the dunkels, the Oktoberfest, and the Elder Mother, there are also other beers to explore on the tap list: Dangerous Frank's Berliner, a sour berlinerweisse (3.5 ABV); Delta 83, a dry-hopped wheat ale (5.5 ABV); Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (3.5 ABV), a Floridaweisse with rhubarb and strawberries; The Realist (4.8 ABV), a birch-aged sour pale ale; and Whoops (3.5 ABV), a floridaweisse with cranberry and hibiscus. 

Glassware from the weekend...
The growler was full at the time
You don't have to pray for a full beer:
take home a growler.
Yes, that's a confessional in the tap room...
Nice lighting, too, eh?
Not only does Coppertail Brewing serve up some great beer, it also sells some pretty cool merch.  Check out the brand spankin' new online store on its website.

Last but not least, what's up with the name and the logo?  Is it mythical?  Apparently, Kent's daughter is a scholar ahead of her time, because she knew of the elusive and mysterious sea creature that roams Tampa Bay ... something to believe in ... like Kent and Casey following an idea.  And, that's how Coppertail Brewing came to be.  

And, yeah, Coppertail is definitely for real .... believe it.  

It was another great trip to Tampa, and, needless to say, I'll be back.  In the meantime, enjoy the Florida beer!  And, if you see me at an event, bar or restaurant, be sure to say Hi .... really, what could happen?

Til next time,