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Monday, November 30, 2015

Now Twinkling and Dazzling in St. Augustine: Nights of Lights!

'Tis the Season..... for lots of things, including the acclaimed "Nights of Lights" celebration in Downtown St. Augustine.  On Nov. 21, the downtown came alive with the illumination of 3 million+ tiny white lights and a dazzling Christmas tree in the Plaza. After some early rain, the ponchos came off.  A few thousand other folks also witnessed the holiday spectacular.  I worked my way through the crowd right there in front of the tree. Check out one of my YouTube videos here:




Headed to St. Augustine this holiday season?  Take in the Nights of Lights and at least one trolley ride. Visit Santa. And, I don't have to remind you of this, but be sure to grab a good, cold beer and some awesome food at the local downtown establishments.  

Not sure where to go? I got ya covered: READ MY LATEST BLOG POST RIGHT HERE!

And, I'll see you around St. Augustine this December!  After all, I have trolleys to ride!

Peace, Love, Pints® ...

Linda


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Twinkle, Twinkle.... Hey, Lighten Up! St. Augustine Switches on Nights of Lights Nov. 21 (From the Perspective of A Holiday-Frenzied Local Beer Blogger)

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I'm a bit festive, especially at this time of year. I'm the the midst of Holiday decorating at my house, and there haven't been any casualties involving ladders, snowmen, reindeer or Santas.  The Pilgrims and turkeys are getting along nicely with the elves and string lights waiting patiently in the background for their turn to shine. 

Given my fascination (or obsession) with Holiday lights, it's no wonder that I'll be among the other twinkle-gazers this Saturday night, November 21, at 6:30pm, as St. Augustine turns it on for Light-Up Night, which gets the famed NIGHTS OF LIGHTS and the Holiday Tree in the Plaza flickering. Over three million lights will dance and shimmer along the businesses of downtown St. Augustine and around the Matanzas Bay through January 31.  Truly a wonderland (not to mention an electrical phenomenon). 

Last year, I also attended the Light-Up Night, and then spent more nights wandering around the brilliance of little white light bulbs and engaging in boisterous singing on the holiday trolleys that make their way around town. See my post from last year HERE



My Santa Hat! How I've missed you!
Now, I know what you're thinking:  it's been three paragraphs, and I haven't once mentioned beer.  Pretty intuitive, because there's a whole new meaning to "getting lit," so to speak, and that's where I'm going next. In last year's post, I mentioned some of the places in downtown St. Augustine where you can enjoy a cold pint of suds (or, snifter, if you're into the higher ABV stuff -- in which case, I may want to hang with you!).  Trust me, you'll need the beer break after walking around (or will you need the wandering around break after the beer?).  And, say (let's just say) that maybe, just maybe, you're into singing Holiday songs and loudly proclaiming "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" to passers-by while on a trolley (emphasis on "loudly"), you'll need the sustenance. All of this celebrating is exhausting, to be sure!

So here goes. The usual suspects are back on my list from last year, and there are few new entries this time around, too.  Do your best "Run, Run Rudolph," and get ready to "Rock Around the Christmas Tree" and other parts of downtown. Check 'em out:

By the Plaza:

J.P. Henley's, just around the corner from the Plaza. The place has 70 taps, plus bottles, wine, and pub menu. (see photo above). There's a high probability that I'll find my way here sooner or later. 


A1A Ale Works, just across from the Plaza. Beer brewed on site; bar, table and balcony seating; full menu and liquor.  Could be the best view in the city. Good food, good beer.  


Around Middle of Downtown:


Barley Republic Public House and Irish Pub, just a short walk away on Spanish Street. 70 beers, give or take a few, including 10 on draft, liquor bar; really good burgers and fish and chips 


Henley's Steak and Seafood, in the middle of St. George Street, upstairs at the corner of St. George and Hypolita. Sister to JP Henley's, this upscale restaurant features a separate bar with 100 taps, wine, full liquor bar and HDTV's. Awesome views.  Delectable culinary creations. Opened last year during Nights of Lights; see my blog post HERE.


Rendezvous Beer Bar, located on St. George St. Large selection of bottled beers from around the world and a few taps, too. Cool little place in the back of St. George's Row street mall. 

By the Parking Garage:


Mojo Old City BBQ, on Cordova Street. Nice craft beer tap list with Florida brews.  Looking for BBQ? This is it. Very popular; you might have to wait, but there's a bar! Nice outdoor seating area, too. Close to the parking garage.  See my blog post HERE.


Ann O'Malley's Deli & Pub ("St. Augustine's Oldest Irish Pub"). Sandwiches, music, lots of soccer, Buffalo Bills games, beer specials including craft beers on draft and bottles/cans. There's always a lot of activity here; and between John, Sherri, Dee and Kelli, you might get a little saucy or salty. The porch is great for people watching, hanging out and watching those trolley-riders go by (ahem).



The scintillating Tini Martini Bar

And, although this isn't a spot for beer, make sure you stop by Tini Martini Bar at Casablanca Inn, on the Bayfront. The light display is nothing short of dazzling.  Enjoy martinis and drinks on the heated patio and porch, and make sure your camera's battery is fully charged. 





No Name Bar/The Bar With No Name, across from the Fort. This is an awesome place to hang and watch people.  Full liquor bar.  Small selection of beer and food; it's fun, and a pretty happening place the later it gets. See my blog post HERE


Over the Bridge of Lions:

Get your cushioned insoles in your shoes, because you'll want to walk over the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Blvd., too.  Not only is the scenery breathtaking along the Bridge as the downtown sparkles across the bayfront, but there's more beer over the Bridge!

Candlelight South, sports bar with wraparound outside deck. Nice craft beer menu; awesome wings that are prepared in various ways (the garlic parmesan is my favorite). Comfort food that is always delicious (I love the mahi tacos!)

Hoptinger, just opened a couple of weeks ago.  This is the second location, with the original in Jax Beach. Long bar with 86 taps (81 beer, 2 wines, 2 batch cocktails, 1 root beer); full liquor bar.  Nice indoor/outdoor seating.  Menu is larger than Jax Beach.  Features "The Wurst" brats, sausages, along with veggie options, burgers. Music, lots of TVs. Fun place. 

Mellow Mushroom, pizza place with 48 taps, full liquor bar. Sandwiches, calzones. Creative pizzas, or create your own.  I like the meatball sandwich!

GAS Full Service Restaurant, diner-style restaurant that features outstanding cuisine.  Daily specials can include seafood or steak. Runs the spectrum of comfort food to culinary artistry. Small indoor seating area, so you might have to wait, but there's a large outdoor deck.  And, there's a very, very good beer list here. Lindy and Ben are local favorites. Extreme burgers. No website, but find em on Facebook. 

And, I gotta mention:

Brewz N Dawgz, when you're ready to exit the downtown (because let's face it, all of that is a lot of work), head over to the intersection of US1/Route 312.  24 Florida taps, plus 99 bottles.  Drink all 99 bottles (not at one time), and get your name on the wall.  Features organic brats and fries, veggie items.  Very chill place, with its own parking lot! (Cheers to that). A really nice draft selection, with various styles. Always friendly types around here, including owners Roger and Samantha. Hosts monthly fundraising events for local charities.  Just opened in July. See my blog post HERE.

Old Coast Ales, Anastasia Blvd. just over the Bridge of Lions. Ok, this one's under construction, with a projected opening date of Spring 2016, but it'll be there for next year's Nights of Lights!  Local-inspired tap room with beers brewed on site. Not to mention some very cool guys! 


ALRIGHT, WHO ELSE IS READY TO GET TURNED ON BY NIGHTS OF LIGHTS?!  All hands up!  And, be sure to stroll by the many bed-and-breakfasts around the downtown for their dazzling light displays.  

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THIS BLOGGER AROUND ST. AUGUSTINE DURING DECEMBER IN A SANTA HAT, LARGE HOLIDAY EARRINGS, LIGHTED NECKLACE, AND VARIOUS ITEMS OF HOLIDAY APPAREL; COULD BE SOMEWHAT LOUD; PROBABLY EXUBERANTLY WISHING EVERYONE MERRY CHRISTMAS; ALMOST ALWAYS HAS ONE OR TWO CAMERAS ON PERSON; USUALLY HEADING TO A BEER ESTABLISHMENT, OR HAS A BEER IN HAND ........ IF YOU SEE SOMEONE WHO FITS THAT DESCRIPTION, EITHER HEAD THE OTHER WAY, OR TAKE YOUR CHANCES AND SAY HI!  

PEACE, LOVE, PINTS

Holiday Cheers!


Linda

Sunday, November 8, 2015

It's Jax Beer Week!

Jax Beer Week......... is here!


Jax Beer Week officially started yesterday, Nov. 7, with the "Mash In" Kickoff Event at the Engine 15 Brewing Co. Downtown Jacksonville Production Facility. Presented by the Jax Beer Society, this party set the stage for the upcoming week of beer events all around Jacksonville.  Check out some of my photos here.

It was a beer tasting event, featuring the eight Jax breweries (Founding Members of the Jax Beer Society: Aardwolf Brewing, Bold City Brewery, Engine 15 Brewing Co., Green Room Brewing, Intuition Ale Works, Pinglehead Brewing, Veterans United Craft Brewery, Zeta Brewing) and more.  With food, music, and a Blind IPA tasting of 8 Jax brewery IPAs, it was a great way to get the Week going!  

See my blog post of Oct. 28, and be sure to check out all of the #JBW2015 events happening around Jax thru Nov. 14!  All the events are listed on the BeerSphere Events tab at the top of this page! ↑↑↑↑↑↑

Hope to see you at more than one of the events.....

Cheers!

Peace, Love, Pints


Monday, November 2, 2015

You Really Can Take it with You ... at Really Good Beer Stop in Jax Beach

Have you ever visited a bar or restaurant where you found a beer that you had been waiting to try, and, after your tastebuds were deliriously happy from that pour in the pint glass, you then wished that you could take some of that draft beer back home with you? (in an appropriate sealed container, of course).  What if there were a  place where you could not only get "really good" craft beer "to-go," but you could also try it before you buy it? 


Say Hello to Really Good Beer Stop in Jacksonville Beach.  One look at the exterior of the storefront, and you know that you've come to the right place.  




Walk inside the store, and you might first notice that there's a contemporary functionality to the place.  The artwork and decor incorporate different beer labels and beer terms in a fun, edgy way.  It's a large space with a bar straight ahead that features 20 taps. What's on tap, you ask?  Check out the chalkboard -- different styles of beer for whatever suits your taste, from lighter to hoppy to dark.  You'll also notice that the selection includes beer from local Jacksonville and other Florida breweries, in addition to those which distribute regionally and nationally.  That tap list changes, and it's also on the store's website. 




Packaged beer is waiting for you on the shelves along with some that are already cold. The store also features merchandise, such as shirts and pint glasses (actually they're 20 oz glasses), for sale.






It's a craft beer retail store that not only offers its customers choices of really good (see what I did there?) popular beer in pre-packaged bottles and cans, but owners Tim and Angie Brack are looking to provide a craft beer "experience."  Well, what does that mean?

I don't know about you, but I'm thirsty just thinking about all of this.  Remember those 20 taps? For starters, you can order a flight of three 4-ounce pours for $5. Then, you can decide which one (or more) to take back with you in a 32-ounce or 64-ounce growler, or a 32-ounce "Crowler®" (more on that later).  

Just look at this rainbow of beers in my flight...
(l to r): Bold City Brewery (Jax) Killer Whale,
Green Bench Brewing (Florida) Sunshine City IPA,
Stone Brewing (California) Smoke Porter With Vanilla
Got a growler already?  Bring it in, and get it filled. Yes, they will fill growlers from other breweries, too.


So, what's in my growler (photo above)?  How does 64 ounces of fresh-from-the-tap Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA sound? (No drooling on your computer or phone, ok?)  You can probably see what's going on here now. Sure, it's a retail craft beer package store, but it's also got really good draft beer TO-GO .... so you will be able to enjoy it at home, or wherever.

Daniel and Matt work the bar...
here's Daniel filling it up!

But, wouldn't it be awesome if you could get that really good beer in, say, a big can, to take with you to places where glass might not be the best choice?  Yeah, Tim and Angie thought so, too. And, here you go .... introducing to Jacksonville.... the "Crowler®."  It's a 32-ounce can of freshly tapped beer, sealed right there before your eyes.  And, the beer will stay fresh for about 30 days before opened.


I had seen the Crowler cans in the tap rooms of a couple of Florida breweries before: Due South Brewing in Boynton Beach and Playalinda Brewing in Titusville; and Cigar City Brewing in Tampa also fills them.  The sealing machine is the brainchild of Oskar Blues Brewery (Colorado), which sells it to other breweries and establishments, such as Really Good Beer Stop. The can itself is manufactured and produced by Ball Packaging, which owns a federal trademark registration for "Crowler" for the cans. The beer is dispensed into the can from the tap, and oxygen is removed by injecting CO2 into the can through a tube.  The metal lid is then sealed to the can by the table-top seamer machine. And, that's how you get a can of beer filled right from the tap. 

When you visit Really Good Beer Stop, you will notice a repeated sound like air being pumped .... you guessed it...someone's getting a Crowler can filled.  Unlike the glass "growlers," the Crowler can is only used once and is not refillable.  So, do the responsible thing, and recycle it when you're done with it.  In fact, Tim and Angie said that they have heard reports of many Crowler cans filling the recycling receptacles in Jax Beach!

You have choices!
So, yes, you "really" CAN take it with you when you leave Really Good Beer Stop.  In fact, they really want you to do just that! (and, let's face it, that's one reason you came here). 

I had a "really good" time meeting Tim and Angie, and one of the other co-owners, Taylor Harkey, last week.  There's usually a backstory when it comes to owners of breweries or beer-related businesses.  In Tim and Angie's case, they are "just" a couple who are fans of craft beer. The creating, brainstorming and planning for Really Good Beer Stop took about 2-1/2 years. Tim says that he "crossed over" from macro beers after college, and he even experimented with some homebrews. Not only does he have a "regular" day job in the world of medical equipment sales, he's also responsible for ordering the beer, and he even works the bar at night. Tim and some friends built the bar and the shelves. What used to be a t-shirt shop has now been transformed into craft beer shop.  Angie has a background in retail, and she also has a full-time job watching two kids, ages 3 and 1-1/2. She's also around the store during the day. Tim and Angie partnered up with co-owners Autumn Berrang and Taylor Harkey, both of Adjective & Co., an advertising and branding agency located in Jax Beach. Tim and Angie handle the operations, and Autumn and Taylor are the ones bringing you the marketing and social media posts. In speaking with Tim, Angie and Taylor, one thing is immediately apparent: they are really excited to bring this concept to the community of Jax Beach and Jacksonville.  They were very thankful to the community and Jax breweries for being supportive. You'll notice that they use "really good" a lot around here; and they don't take themselves too seriously!  

They have additional plans in the works to bring events, such as yoga and beer classes to the store.  They want to focus on the community and education, and a membership/loyalty program is in the works, too. You'll probably even see some music and local bands performing here in the future. They're looking at purchasing some additional seating to run along the glass window.  And, that big wooden table in the store where you can sit and enjoy your beer? That's Angie's dining room table from their prior residence in Atlanta (they're from Florida, but moved to Atlanta for a time, and now they're back). And, look out for some really good Holiday ideas, too. 

Really Good Beer Stop has only been open about a week -- the Grand Opening was Saturday, October 24 at 11am, following a soft opening the Wednesday before.  



Really Good Beer Stop is located at 323 - 10th Ave N., in Jax Beach, right along 3rd St., and there's even a parking lot.  Its hours are Tuesday-Thursday, 11am-9pm; Friday/Saturday, 11am-10pm; and Sunday, 12-5pm; the shop is closed on Mondays. Follow the store on social media and sign up for its newsletter to stay in the know on upcoming events. 

I think there's going to be a lot of really good stuff on tap and in store for this place and the local craft beer community. 


Bathroom humor....

And, that's it this time around..... See you around the Jax and North Florida area somewhere ..... Til next time, Cheers!

Peace, Love, Pints