Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year!


Here's to a Beachin' New Year .....

See you at a beer event around Florida .....


Peace, Love, Pints®


Engine 15 Brewing Company to Introduce Engine 15 Ciders and Meads

The big macro guys aren't the only ones making some news and shaking things up in the brewery world in the latter days of 2015.  

Big, breaking news from ENGINE 15 BREWING COMPANY in Jacksonville Beach hit social media last night in a short statement asking if anyone is ready for something new in 2016, accompanied by a new logo:

According to Kara Scremin, Marketing Manager at Engine 15, the company will begin production of ciders and meads in 2016 at the company's newly acquired production facility, 601 N. Myrtle Ave., downtown Jacksonville. At the outset, E15 will first produce a dry cider, and flavored ciders will follow. After the initial operations are underway, and to allow for aging of product, E15 will begin offering mead. The anticipated timeframe for the mead is about 6-9 months following startup of the new operations. 

Engine 15's spacious production facility in Jacksonville opened in 2015, and houses the company's new 20-barrel brewhouse, along with a separate building for events.  It provides much needed expansion for the brewery's core beers, and will also feature a biergarten when it's all said and done (in other words, permitting).  The venue was the site of the "Tacos for Tatas" charity event for 26.2 With Donna in October (see blog post), and also was the home of the "Mash-In" opening event for Jax Beer Week in November (see blog post). 

Engine 15 Production Facility brewhouse

Under applicable laws, cider and mead require additional licensing, and E15 is awaiting federal approval. Once it receives the go-ahead, E15 will begin cider production, with an anticipated product release in February 2016. The new products will be available on tap and in bottles at the Jax Beach brewpub, along with distribution in kegs around the area through Champion Brands. 

In addition to the production facility, Engine 15 Brewing Company continues to brew beer on its 5-barrel system at the original Jax Beach brewpub.  The brewpub offers a pub-style food menu and 50 taps, which typically feature around 15-20 of E15's own beers on tap, in addition to regional, national and international beer. Pretty much whatever style of beer you're looking for, you'll find it here (trust me, I've been there once or twice, or .....). 

Sounds like Engine 15 will be off to a roaring start in 2016, but I'm not surprised.  The home of Nutsack Double Brown Ale, J'Ville Lager, (904) Weiss Guy, and Old Battle Axe IPA will be getting a little bigger. Hey, Engine 15, what names can we look forward to now?

Cheers!  See you around Florida somewhere, with a beer in hand.......

Peace, Love, Pints®


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

May your pint glasses, steins and mugs be full of Christmas cheer!

Thank you!

Peace, Love, Pints®


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It Was Cookin' at Brewz n Dawgz' First Beer Dinner with Cigar City Brewing

When I first found out a couple of months ago about the first Beer Dinner being planned at Brewz n Dawgz in St. Augustine (December 22), I was intrigued.  After all, how does a menu featuring brats/hot dogs offer the culinary variety and flair usually associated with these pairings?  As I saw the food menu come together, my interest was further piqued (not to mention that it really sounded good). And, then I got the lowdown from owner Roger Lim on the beer menu (exclusive, I might add).  Nothing like a new place hosting its first beer dinner with some creative brews from the most recognizable craft brewery in the state of Florida, Cigar City Brewing.  

If you aren't yet familiar with Brewz n Dawgz, first of all, go back and read my earlier story here. It's a new craft beer bar that opened in July of this year at the southeast corner of US 1 and SR 312.  It features 24 rotating drafts of Florida craft beer, along with a large selection of bottled beers, and you can earn your name on the prestigious "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" list if you drink 'em. Moreover, there's a kitchen that serves up organic, non-GMO, humane food items in the nature of brats, hot dogs, fries and chips. It's not a "typical" "hot dog place," however, because this menu offers items such as a Breakfast Dawg, Cuban Dawg (my favorite), Cali Dawg, Spicy Dragon Dawg, Slaw Dawg, and Veggie Dawg options, along with organic chips and fries (with toppings, too) (see their online menu). 

So, how did they do?  With each food and beer pairing, Roger explained the food item, and Kyle, the local Cigar City Brewing rep, provided info on the beer. I hadn't heard of some of these beers before, as they are limited releases or only available in Tampa. Take a look:

Irish Cheddar Cheese Appetizer & Raspberry Wit/White Ale: three types of cheddar (whiskey, stout [smoked], aged white cheddar) with roasted sunflower seeds. Flavorful with a mild sharpness. Sunflower seeds a crunchy contrast. Beer: Florida Cracker Wit with raspberry puree (6%).  I'll be honest: I'm not usually a fan of wit beers, but the raspberry toned down the coriander/citrus of the wit enough for me, and the pink-colored beer was a delicious raspberry beer without too much sweetness. Good pairing, neither overpowering the other. 

3-Bean Organic Chili & Slow as Molasses Old Ale: Corn chips over hearty bean chili. Chili with robust flavor, not overly spicy. Beer: collaboration beer with SwampHead Brewery (Gainesville), poured from the bottle (10.4%). Dark amber color; sweet with a slight warming; alcohol became apparent following warming; no dark fruit flavors; very tasty. Good complementary pairing on strengths of flavors, yet the sweetness of the beer contrasted with the hearty chili.

The dinner was a sold-out event

Roger behind the bar...

Italian Spicy Beef Dog Bites & Hard Cider: Battered nuggets filled with organic pepper jack, jalapenos, and meat. Lots of heat on this one, and if you like spicy, this was for you. Good coating on the bites. Drink: Hard Cider (5.5%) made with apples from Pacific Northwest; sweet and slightly dry. As one who doesn't usually drink ciders, I was pleasantly surprised on the flavor. Good pairing of contrasting flavors: spicy against sweet.

Black Bean Burger & Blueberry Ginger IPA: Black bean patty with hint of datil peppers; the spice from the datils came at the end; a different flavor that meshed well.  Beer: Jai Alai IPA treated with ginger and blueberry (7.5%); slight ginger on the nose; more pine on taste with background of blueberry; different mix of flavors with subtle but noticeable hoppiness. Contrasting pairing of bean and spice in the dish, with cooling of the blueberry and different spice in the ginger.

Cheeze Dawger with chili, fries and cheddar & Lue Gim Gong Pale Ale: Grass-fed organic ground beef with fries, chili and cheese wrapped up in a bun. Comfort food meets upscale; a hearty and palate-pleasing dish. This was a favorite. Beer: Invasion Pale Ale with orange peel aged on white oak and orange peel (5%).  Less hop taste than the base Invasion pale ale, notes of vanilla from the oak; packs a punch of flavor from the orange and oak, very easy-drinking.  Named after Florida horticulturist, circa 1700s, known for working on the growth of the state's orange industry. Heartiness of the dish contrasts with the less-hoppy drinkability of the beer. 

Leftover Turkey Dawg & Peach White Oak IPA: Turkey provolone sausage, organic mashed potato fries, croutons from buns, topped with turkey gravy on a roll, with a side of cranberries. Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner on a bun! Tender turkey with subtle seasonings, and hearty gravy. Savory, wonderful flavor. Beer: Jai Alai IPA treated with peach (7.5%) on white oak; sweetness of peach with vanilla notes with slight bitterness on the back end, good balance with hoppiness; ridiculously good treatment.  Seamless complementary pairing here, as the lighter flavors of the turkey balanced perfectly with the slightly sweet but light peach beer. 

Brewz n Dawgz' first beer dinner sold out last week, and from my observations of everyone there, it was a definite success!  So, that's how you craft artisan dawgz!  Pair that with the creativity that Cigar City Brewing always brings to the keg and bottle, and it was an impressive combination. 

And, of course, there's an obligatory photo with this blogger:

With Kyle (left) and Roger (right), and...
a bottle of Slow as Molasses
Thumbs Up to Brewz n Dawgz and Cigar City Brewing on a fun, tasty, and even educational evening.  You cooked it up right!

Til next time, I'll see you around St. Augustine, Jax, or somewhere in North Florida. And, keep track of the events listed on the BeerSphere page of this site, because 2016 is pretty much here.... 


Peace, Love, Pints®


Monday, December 21, 2015

SaltWater Brewery Celebrates Two Years: Get Reeled In

Vanilla Sea Cow, tapped at 1pm;
Sea Cow Milk Stout, with, well,
vanilla ... As good as it sounds
What do you get when you combine 40 house beers, plus beers from other Florida breweries and three breweries-in-planning, three food trucks, all day music, timed beer tappings, an inside tap room bar, an outside beer truck, a souvenir glass and 70+ degree weather ... not to mention it's December? Pretty much everything you need for a rockin' Two-Year Anniversary Party at South Florida's SaltWater Brewery in Delray Beach. 

This past Saturday, December 19, SaltWater Brewery celebrated two-years young with an all-day Block Party. For several weeks leading up to the epic event, the brewery announced its taplist on social media -- and with each new post, the taplist grew.  There were four timed releases throughout the day, and at least 10 beers were on tap continously.  And, having simply one or two brews for each timed release just wouldn't be enough, so we're talking about ten beers for each tapping at 1pm, 3pm (Sour Hour), 5pm and 7pm. Following that, at 9pm, the taps rotated to "kick" those kegs!

Looking for a particular style of beer?  They had you covered: Belgian styles, IPAs, porters, stouts, wheat beers, blonde ales, sours, imperials and even a collab brew. Some of the timed releases were special treatments of several of the core favorites. 

Let's just get right to the beer!  Upon entry, for a $5 admission fee, you received a souvenir anniversary tulip glass and a raffle ticket. Beers were served per ticket. With a beer list like this, one has to wonder where to start. I had my eye on that Vanilla Sea Cow (6% ABV; 38 IBU) since I saw it posted, so I made my way to the outside truck first. If you haven't had the Sea Cow Milk Stout, you simply must. Of course, add one of my favorite flavors -- vanilla -- and, well, you get the idea. It's chocolate milk stout with vanilla - no way to go wrong with this one!

Truckin' .......
And, as long as I started with the dark beer, I decided to stay on that track with the Pop's Salty Sea Cow (5.9% ABV), a collaboration between SaltWater and Wynwood Brewing: combine last year's GABF Gold Medal winner Pop's Porter with Sea Cow, and you get a delicious roasty concoction with just enough saltiness to make your taste buds take notice. 
Let's get salty.... Pop's Salty Sea Cow
If you haven't been to SaltWater Brewery yet, put this one on your beertrip list if you're outside of the Delray/Boynton area -- I mean, it's South Florida -- just another reason to go here.  I've been to SaltWater Brewery a few times on my way back and forth from scuba diving in the Keys  -- I even still have my notes from my visit in November 2014. I love the ocean theme (naturally), and the beers are definitely worth a trip - you'll find a good variety of styles in their "core" beers, and there are usually some special ones on tap as well.  Inside, the tap room is spacious, with some comfy couch and table seating.  Or, take it outside, and enjoy the South Florida temps at one of the many sturdy wooden picnic tables just outside the main entrance along Atlantic Ave.  There are even a couple of cornhole boards. And, there's a well-stocked merchandise booth so you can take back some shirts, glasses and other stuff with that cool ocean wave logo. 

And, just to get your mouth watering, some of the beers you will usually find on tap here are: Bone-A-Fied Blonde (6% ABV; Belgian Style Blonde Ale); Raspberry Reef Ale (6% ABV; Fruit Beer with raspberries); Spiny Tail Pale Ale (6% ABV; English Style Pale Ale); Tides of the Reef Room (5.4% Pale Ale); Screamin' Reels IPA (7% ABV; hoppy, tropical IPA); and Sea Cow Milk Stout (see above). One of my favorite beers of all time was a coffee version of the Sea Cow, the Sea Rhino Vanilla Coffee Milk Stout (7.1% ABV) that I had in 2014.  At a recent beerfest, I ran into the brewery guys, and I learned that the Sea Rhino is out of production on that recipe due to a change in the particular coffee that was used. Ah, memories...... 

Sex on the Beach: got some...
Now, back to the Anniversary Party!  No, I'm not going to go through each beer on this amazing tap list (read the tap list above).  Still, some of these are worth mentioning. I would be remiss in my reporting duties if I didn't have a glass of the Sex on the Beach, which is the South End Session Ale specially treated to taste like, well.... you get it. So, just add an umbrella to this one and pucker up for the tropical fruitiness. Where's my beach chair?  

The core IPA here is the Screamin' Reels IPA (7% ABV), a hoppy IPA with tropical fruit and citrus flavors. More on that below, but they did some creative things with this beer.  Unfortunately, I missed the timed tapping of the Fruity Pebbles Screamin' Reels.  Yes, that's no typo -- IPA aged on Fruity Pebbles.  Might make a good breakfast drink!  And, Grapefruit is a thing right now, so, of course: Grapefruit Screamin' Reels. Yep, no mistaking that one: grapefruit on the nose and the flavor -- highly citrusy, and able to stand up to the other grapefruit beers out there.  But, there's more: a Coconut Screamin' Reels (IPA aged on coconut flakes) tapped at 7pm (missed that; I had to leave sometime, I suppose).

Juicy:  Grapefruit Screamin' Reels IPA
There were guest taps, too, from South Florida favorites Due South Brewing, J. Wakefield Brewing, Funky Buddha Brewery, Devour Brewing, Twisted Trunk Brewing, Wynwood Brewing, Sailfish Brewing, and Accomplice Cider. There were also a couple of brews from Cigar City Brewing, including a surprise tapping of Coffee Jai Alai. Under the tents outside were three breweries-in-planning: 3 Sons Brewing, Micro Mammoth Brewing, and Odd Breed Wild Ales.  Stay tuned for those names soon. 

Even Santa got into things!

SaltWater Brewery is located in an old red barn, which also used to be an antique/ furniture store, the Rustic Rooster.  The brewhouse is comprised of a 20-barrel brewing system, with six 40-barrel fermenters, two 20-barrel fermenters and two 10-barrel tanks. The brewery started canning its Screamin' Reels IPA in August following installation of its canning line in July. Distribution of its beers runs from Sebastian to Key West, with expansion to Orlando and North Florida on the way.  You can take home some of that IPA goodness in cans from the tap room, or get certain draft beers in growlers. Or, look for the cans at retail. These are some of the coolest cans this side of the ocean:

Hook a couple, or more.... I did.....
I brought a few back....

Already had two growlers and one pint glass...
Added an Anniversary souvenir glass and cans...
and a special anniversary t-shirt, too

SaltWater Brewery was inspired by the ocean, and the brewery works with ocean-based charities to give back to the ocean.  I can get on board with that!

As you'd expect, the tap room is ocean-themed, and it's very laid back and warmly inviting. 

Three "series" of beers: Coastal (<7%); Reef (7-9%);
Offshore (9+%)

Photo from 2014
Can't remember if that was before, or after, the Keys 2014
The brewhouse is visible through the glass from the tap room:


SaltWater Brewery is located at 1701 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach, just off I-95 (Exit 52), so it's easy to get there. Next time you're in South Florida, reel yourself in. The tap room is open seven days a week, at noon. The slogan here is "Explore the Depths of Beer," and there's a good variety to let you do that. These are quality beers, and I like the different styles that are always on tap. SaltWater Brewery is a a main sponsor of the Palm Beach Summer Beer Fest in West Palm Beach. I've been to that fest a couple of times (read the 2015 post here), and if you go in 2016, be sure to stop over here. 

Happy Two to SaltWater Brewery.  I'll see you again in 2016.  But, for now, I think I have some Screamin' Reels calling me....

That's another brewery visit!  Be sure to check out the Events page of this blog for upcoming Florida beerfests .... I'll be at a few of those in early 2016! Don't be shy: Say Hi!  Til next time,

Peace, Love, Pints®


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®