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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Get On Board: Surfing Santas and Playalinda Brewing Brix Project Get Crafty

Last month, Titusville's Playalinda Brewing Company and Cavalier Distributing announced that they had teamed up to distribute the Playalinda beers across Florida. The beer began to appear in Central and North Florida bars and restaurants in mid-November, coinciding with a series of official launch events that took off in Orlando and Melbourne, before heading north to Jacksonville and St. Augustine. Playalinda Brewing recently celebrated its Two-Year Anniversary at its original downtown Titusville brewery (see story here). The release events are introducing many outside of Space Coast to the brewery's core beers, including the Bottomless Blonde Ale, Robonaut Red Ale, and Pleasure Chest IPA. As the launch events enter the final week, one beer that is splashing its way across the menu boards is Playalinda's special-release "Surfing Santas" Cranberry Blonde Ale. You'll want to get "on board" with it! And, here's why.

Cocoa Beach is known as a surfing town. It's also home to the Surfing Santas of Cocoa Beach. At first glance, it sounds like a bunch of surfer dudes riding some waves in Santa suits. And, that's exactly how it got started. On December 24, 2009, George Trosset hit the waves dressed as Santa, along with two elves (aka his son and daughter). Following a published photo, more locals asked about joining him, and on Christmas Eve 2010, there were 19 "Surfing Santas."  Each year, interest grew, and so did the number of jolly red-suited participants. In 2012, the spectacle caught the attention of local news media, and the group asked the City of Cocoa Beach about moving the event to a downtown spot. Santa participation steadily increased, as did the crowds on hand. Well-known local businesses began to sponsor the annual gathering. On Christmas Eve 2015, over 600 Surfing Santas took to the waves, while 8000+ spectators cheered them on and watched from the shore. 

But, it's not just "a bunch of surfer dudes riding some waves in Santa suits." The Surfing Santas use the event to raise funds for Grind for Life, a local cancer support group whose mission is to help cancer patients with travel expenses for treatment, along with offering support and awareness. The Surfing Santas event also helps to support the Florida Surf Museum in its quest to preserve and explore Florida's surfing history. In addition to donations and sponsorships, the Surfing Santas sell t-shirts and other accessories to raise funds for the organizations that they support. Last year, the group sold over 2000 shirts. 

On Christmas Eve 2016 at 8 a.m., the Surfing Santas will once again convene at 2 Minutemen Causeway in downtown Cocoa Beach and ride the surf to shore. The festivities run til 1 p.m., and also feature hula dancers and ukelele music. This year, the event includes  a costume contest, and the attire can be anything Winter or Holiday related. Apparently, there are no real rules, but keep in mind that it is a family-friendly event. A custom surfboard will be awarded to the costume contest grand prize winner.

Of course, an event of such proportions that highlights Holiday merriment and revelry with a charitable cause deserves an official beer! Playalinda Brewing got on board with the group, and Brewmaster Ron Raike brewed up a beer that blends a dose of Holiday cheer with a thirst-quenching Florida character at the same time: the "Surfing Santas" Cranberry Blonde Ale with Orange Zest. 

But, there's also a backstory. A few weeks ago, the Surfing Santas arrived at Playalinda Brewing's production facility and brewpub, the Brix Project, to celebrate the holiday season with a special tasting of the holiday beer and a tour of the new 16,000 s.f. brewery that opened in late September of this year. After having visited both Playalinda Brewing locations the prior weekend for the anniversary party, this writer grabbed her Santa hat and headed back in her red sleigh to the Space Coast for what was a holiday party like no other.

All decked out: Surfing Santas at Brix Project

Brewmaster Ron Raike with
Surfing Santa Clifford Keuhner
on the brewhouse deck

The group even staged a  "Mannequin Challenge," which was festive in its own right (think Surfing Santas and beer), and I was thrilled to be part of it (video by Visit Space Coast).

"Surfing Santas" Cranberry Blonde Ale with
Orange Zest: Easy to drink, perfect for beach!
Holiday with a bit of tart.


The Brix Project is the new production home to Playalinda's 30-barrel brewhouse. In addition to a bar that offers 20 taps of house beer, guest beers and ciders, the venue features a full kitchen. Menu items range from appetizers, soups and salads, flatbreads, sandwiches and burgers, to entrees such as seafood, steak and pasta. The brewpub is housed in a former lumberyard and manufacturing building, and all of the furniture in the new bar/dining area is made from repurposed wood from the original building. 




The impressive brewhouse is visible through a window behind the bar. And, this is a brewhouse destined to produce a large amount of beer for thirsty Floridians: three 60-barrel fermenters, two 120-barrel fermenters, two 60-barrel brite tanks, and one 120-barrel brite tank -- with space for additional capacity. As Brewmaster Ron Raike explained, the large-scale Brix Project was conceived at the same time as the original small brewery at the downtown Hardware Store location. (That's advance planning at its finest.) One of the beers on tap at the brewpub and in distribution is the "Inaugurale," an Imperial Red Ale (8.4%) that represents the first batch brewed in the new brewhouse. For a look at some of the beers that Playalinda offers, see my earlier stories. The beers are "on point."











The special-release Surfing Santas beer is available at both Playalinda Brewing locations in Titusville, and at establishments along the Space Coast.


Playalinda Brewing's original downtown "Hardware Store" brewery is located at 305 S. Washington St. The Brix Project brewpub and production facility is several miles away, at 5220 S. Washington St., Titusville. Both locations are a short drive off of I-95, near the Kennedy Space Center (which means that if you're in the area for a rocket launch, you can take off to one or both of the Playalinda Brewing locations for beer and food). 

In the meantime, get on board with the Surfing Santas and have Rudolph take you to the Space Coast for what looks to be a wild ride on Christmas Eve! 

I had an awesome time hanging out with the Surfing Santas and getting the behind-the-scenes look at Playalinda Brewing's Brix Project. And, another shout-out to Playalinda Brewing for the invite. I'll be back as I visit Space Coast regularly for brewery visits and other events ... In fact, the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Fest celebrates its 20th year January 25-30, 2017 in Titusville. I attended the Fest in 2016 (and, yes I stopped at Playalinda Brewing). 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone! And, I'll see you around "Florida somewhere" with a beer!   

Til next time,
Cheers,


Linda





Linda Johnson,
Certified Cicerone®

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