Sunday, February 28, 2016

A Tale of Two Weekends...And, Two Florida Beerfests

If you follow this blog and/or related social media sites, you know that I have a penchant for craft beer (yeah, it's true). And, what better way to get to know new breweries and new beers and enjoy already-known favorites than by attending beerfests! At the beginning of 2016, I posted a get-your-tastebuds-ready story about "Beerfest Season" in Florida. Well, here's the end of February, we're two months in, and it's been quite the whirlwind of beerfests! I've been to a few already (see prior posts). (You can also take a look at the "What Did You Miss" page on this site for a recap; and, ahem, plan better for next year.) 

The past two weekends found me at two different beerfests: Florida Craft Brew and Wing Fest in Vero Beach (February 20), and Riverside Craft Beer Festival in Jacksonville (February 27). I did more than sample new beer at each. I experienced my first venture into beer-judging, and then I was back in familiar territory behind the table pouring beer. Happy beergirl. 

Besides beer, there's one thing you might notice about each of these festival logos -- both festivals were presented (again) by local Rotary Club chapters. Rotary Chapters are no strangers to the beerfest scene, and the clubs organize beerfests to raise money for distribution to various local charitable organizations. I am pleased to have worked with Rotary Clubs in connection with setting up and/or reporting beer-related events, and I've met some pretty cool Rotarians as a result.

And, as far as these past two Saturdays go, not only did attendees at each fest drink some awesome beer, listen to some great music, and have a good time with friends (or met new ones), they also contributed to fundraising efforts for great causes. 

Headed to Vero Beach again...

It was still early...attendance grew....
The fifth annual Florida Craft Brew and Wing Fest, presented by Vero Beach Sunrise Rotary Club, was again held at the Royal Palm Pointe Park in Vero Beach. I was a beer vendor at this fest a couple of years ago, and that was my first visit here. One of the cool things about this fest is that it doubles as a competition for bragging rights for the best local wings. If you like wings, this is the place for you, as 18 or so wing vendors offered their versions of all types of wings. I saw some messy fingers and faces in wing sauce heaven. The competition featured two divisions: one for restaurants, and one for independent chefs. Read about a summary of the wing competition HERE (story by local news TCPalm). 

... As the afternoon went on, more fest attendees!
On the beerfest side, there were over 150 beers from which to sample, and the beer list included local breweries, Florida breweries, regional and national breweries. Several up-and-coming local breweries also offered attendees a chance to sample their beers. And, local homebrew clubs manned their own tents with a variety of beer styles available for tasting. All in all, quite a tasty lineup of food and beers!  Add in two music stages, and there was something for everyone. 

The homebrew competition featured 19 entries, including various beer styles, such as stouts, red ales, IPAs, among others. Some creative brews in the bunch! After sampling each beer for aroma, color, taste and off-flavors, ultimately, the three beer judges reached a consensus on the top three spots, in a best-of-show type competition: Brown Rye IPA, Chocolate Imperial Stout, and Sweet Stout. Yeah, it was a tough job, but I'm glad I got to do it! It was my first time judging a beer competition, and it may have put me on the road to pursuing judging further. Not only am I looking forward to doing this again, but I'm also always looking for additional ways to continue beer education!  

After judging, I was then able to wander around the fest: sample beer, talk to people, etc. etc. 

Saw the guys from Brevard Ale Works...
Look for them soon in Brevard County.
The Southern Breakfast Imperial Oatmeal Stout
was a combination of chocolate, coffee, maple, vanilla.
The beer was a hit!

Ran into Brian from Due South Brewing...
always a pleasure.... and, a precursor????
First Light Amber from Sailfish Brewing (Ft. Pierce):
coffee and cocoa nibs in an amber ale: a good one!
I visited there after the fest two years ago!
I'll be again back soon.

And how about this 3-Bean Espresso Coffee Milk Stout
from Side Door Brewing Co. (Port St. Lucie)?
Yeah, the name said it all: dark-roasty-smooth good!
And, another brewery visit for "the list"

Bubba Wee Heavy from Vero Beach brewery Orchid Island Brewery:
This was my 1600th new beer checkin on Untappd!
And, a good one it is: caramel taste in a 8.5% brew
And, another new local brewery in the works:
Coastal Karma Brewing (Stuart).
Chocolate Starfish: dark chocolate coffee stout:
they got this one right...awesome
I really enjoyed seeing the new local breweries coming on board in this part of Florida. So, yeah, now there are more breweries on "the list" of places to visit along the I-95 corridor. I'm always up for a beertrip, so I think I'll have plenty of places to go! 

The attendance at this fest has grown steadily each year, from 3000 to 5000 to 8000 to an estimated 10,000 this year. The venue space was increased from last year, and the additional stage was added. Look for some of those up-n-comers to be on the "commercial" side next year.  And, thanks again to Rotary Club for the beer-judge opportunity!

See you next year, Vero Beach!

Beerfest Under the Bridge in Jacksonville

Back for its third year, the Riverside Craft Beer Fest presented by Riverside Rotary Club of Jacksonville set up under the Fuller Warren Bridge at the Riverside Arts Market with the St. Johns River as a scenic backdrop. I think around 4000 people were giddy with excitement when the forecast for Saturday showed clear blue skies (if you attended last year, you know what I'm talking about! Neither wind, nor rain, nor monsoon, nor.... you get it).

See my earlier pre-event story about the what-who-where-when-why-how of the fest HERE.  

The format of this fest changed from the first two years from beer-per-ticket to wristband with unlimited sampling. The hour-early VIP ticket offered special-release beers. The venue is dog-friendly, and there were a number of pooches keeping their owners in tow. 

I was thrilled to have an assignment back behind the table again and part of the beer-pouring crew this year. Since I'd be on the late shift, I was able to sample some the beers ahead of time. I arrived early as final fest preparations and volunteer check-ins were underway, and the first thing I saw was that travelling behemoth of a semi-trailer, affectionately known as "Draftzilla," that houses kegs and craft beer taps on both sides for beer events. 
Brown Distributing's "Draftzilla" and Volunteers:
Before the clock hit 3: Ready, set, go!
Yeah, that's where I would be in a few hours! I think I was just as excited to be pouring beer as I was to sample it!  It had been a few years since I was up close and personal with Draftzilla. 

Sean from Engine 15 Brewing (Jacksonville Beach):
explaining the E15 brew pre-opening.
They all turned around for the photo.  Say cheers!

Walk a little further onto the grounds, and there were MORE beer tents in double rows and beer trailers covering quite a bit of space:

Intuition Ale Works (Jacksonville) brought its van.

A Twin Finn Lager from Zeta Brewing (Jacksonville Beach):
Like I said: Under the bridge, along the River!

I was able to get some:  El Bulli Imperial Stout
from new brewery Central 28 Beer Company (DeBary):
Bitter chocolate, sweet milk stout with good body:
I gave it a thumbs up!
I think he approved, too!

Jax Beer Society at the beerfest!
Have you joined? There's a member event at
Zeta Brewing, Feb. 29, 5-7pm!

Over 100 beers, 11 food trucks, and arts vendors were on hand. Two highly popular local bands, Grandpa's Cough Medicine and Fire Water Tent Revival, provided foot-stompin music at the riverfront stage. There were plenty of places to sit and eat or drink, along with a number of high-top tables for standing. The aroma of food from the food trucks was enough to drive anyone into a hunger frenzy. And, here, a shout-out to Delish Kebabs: those chicken-and-bacon wrapped kebabs with rice were a culinary delight! After that, it was ready to pour some beer!

The Florida beers on tap at Draftzilla

Thrilled to pour these tasty brews from Due South Brewing!
Yeah, I've been there once, or twice, or....
(Remember that picture of me and Brian from the week before?)

As always, the last half-hour, and especially the last 15 minutes, of a beerfest are crazy to say the least!  As everyone rushed to fill their glasses with more beer, the clock eventually did hit 7pm, and just like that..... another beerfest in the books!  

And, amid takedown and cleanup, Draftzilla headed out, back on the road:

As the beer scene in Jacksonville continues to grow, so will the Riverside Craft Beer Festival. The venue provides an easy-to-move-around setting, and the riverfront stage is a great place to enjoy some music!  The fest offers local beers as well as beer from elsewhere in the state and across the country. 

Mark it on your calendars!

Two more beerfests in two weekends!  But, hey, it's only March, and you know there are more beerfests down the road... literally - one near you somewhere.... check my BeerSphere™  Events tab for more beer fests and special events .... I'll even be at a few of those!


Til next time,


Monday, February 22, 2016

See You Under the Bridge: Riverside Craft Beer Fest Set for Saturday in Jacksonville

Get ready, Jacksonville! The area's first large-scale beer fest of the year is coming your way Saturday, February 27.  Here's the what, where, when, who, how and why. It's a big party along the river that you won't want to miss!

What is it?  Third Annual Riverside Craft Beer Fest presented by Riverside Rotary Club of Jacksonville.  

Where is it?  Under the Fuller-Warren Bridge at the home of the Riverside Arts Market, Jacksonville.

When is it? It's this Saturday, February 27. An early VIP entry starts at 3pm, with General Admission at 4pm. Fest runs til 7pm. 

Who is putting this together and who will benefit? The Riverside Rotary Club of Jacksonville is presenting the third annual fest. Proceeds will benefit Community Peds Care (a division of Community Hospice) and the Riverside Rotary Foundation. Community Peds Care is a program for children with life-threatening medical conditions and provides support for the kids and their families. The Riverside Rotary Foundation disburses funds to a number of various charitable organizations around the Jacksonville area, including schools, military service personnel, and other causes. Roughly 4000 people have attended each of the past two fests!

How do I get tickets? Get your tickets through the link above on the fest website, or through the fest Facebook page. But, you might not want to wait too long..... Advanced online tickets will be available through Wednesday, Feb. 24. The VIP ticket gets you tasting some special beers starting at 3pm (that's an hour early), cost: $50. The General Admission ticket admits you to the main beer sampling, starting at 4pm. Cost is $35 if purchased early. After that, GA ticket price is $40 (so, if you snooze on this, you end up paying an extra $5). This year the event is by wristband. For the one entry price, after you get your wristband, you'll be sampling unlimited beer (while they last!) in your festival beer cup. Oh, yeah, you have to be at least 21 years of age for that to happen. If you're a Dedicated Driver, you get in free (no beer for you, but your friends will thank you for it). 

Why do I want to go? Really? It's beer, for one thing! And, as of this writing, it looks like the weather is going be fantastic this year! (I take no responsibility for Mother Nature, however; or local weather forecasters). What I can tell you is that you'll be able to sample unlimited tastings of beer from local area breweries, Florida breweries, and other regional and national breweries, including some that you may not have had before or that have not been available in the Jax area. You'll be able to satisfy your munchies right there on site through the 11 food trucks who will  have a variety of eats available to purchase. How about music?  Grandpa's Cough Medicine will entertain from 3-4:30pm, and Fire Water Tent Revival takes the mic from 4:45-7pm. So, that'll get your feet stompin'. But what about the beer?  There will be quite a bit of beer. Take a look at the anticipated beer list HERE. Your ticket purchase will help out the local charities mentioned above. So, tell your friends, too. If you need a ride back afterwards, don't call me, but you can request an Uber ride: if it's your first time using Uber, use code "RCBF2016" for that first ride free (up to $15). You can also use the BrewNymph code "uberBrewNymph," too.

If you're new to craft beer, there's no better way to get your taste buds introduced than by attending a beerfest. And, if you're a beerfest regular (like the person writing this), you know that these events are fun, you'll get some beer you probably/likely haven't had before, and, you can talk beer with other beer nerds -- you don't even have to know them; beer people will pretty much talk to anyone about beer. Enjoy the music, and enjoy the awesome weather and scenery at the river. 

I think that about covers it, so there's one more thing you need to do: Get your tickets for the Third Annual Riverside Craft Beer Fest!  I'll see you there!

There's always an event going on somewhere that involves beer.  I have two calendars of events on this website (beer fest type events/special events; and local North Florida/904 tappings and the like), so take a look at 'em, and go to some!

Cheers!  Til next time,

Peace, Love, Pints®

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Shhhhh! ..... Bog Brewing Company Ready to Open in St. Augustine

See also: my follow-up story from March 5

Quietly, over on West King St. in St. Augustine, just west of the US 1/King St. intersection which leads to downtown, three guys who love beer have been hard at work converting a building which previously housed a former pawn shop and an old drugstore/soda shop into a craft brewery and community tap room. 

From the outside, you may not have noticed much going on at 218 W. King St., but inside, the transformation is just about complete, and within the next couple of weeks or so, you'll be able to visit and taste the small batch brews crafted by Bog Brewing Company

Brothers Steve Mendoza and John France, along with long-time friend Jeffery Hayes, are the partner/owners of the business.  While Steve and John are the head brewers, Jeffery will focus on running the bar. Each has a background in the hospitality business, and Steve has homebrewed for around eight years. 

Former drugstore-turned pawnshop is home to the new
Bog Brewing Company, at 218 W. King St.

Originally from South Florida, Steve later relocated to Washington, DC, where he developed an appreciation for, and knowledge of, craft beer as a bartender and manager of Pizzeria Paradiso, a restaurant that emphasized craft and import beer selections. He also lived in the beer-centric town of Asheville, NC for a while and was the General Manager of the Thirsty Monk, a beer bar with two locations. Likewise, Jeffery, from Central Florida, also worked in the same DC establishment, and most recently worked at the acclaimed local St. Augustine restaurant The Floridian. 

Somewhere along the way, Steve decided open a brewery and tap room, and enlisted the help of John and Jeffery. Jeffery had already been familiar with St. Augustine from various trips here. They searched around the East Coast of Florida for a brewery location, and ultimately determined that the small town nature and ambience of St. Augustine meshed with the "neighborhood bar" feel that they wanted to create. The pawnshop building had a certain feel that appealed to them, and the West King area is seeing a revitalization. So, in February of 2015, they started remodeling the 1500-square-foot building, basically starting from scratch. They did the framing and built the bar themselves. 

Large, open space is home to the tap room
and the brewhouse

From the street, you may not have seen what's been going on inside, but the end result of months of hard work is an openly warm and inviting tap room with a small-batch brewery providing the backdrop. I visited Bog Brewing yesterday, and the interior immediately reminded me of one of those bars "where people know your name." You get the idea. There were still tools and power cords around the place, as the "work-in-progress" winds down, but the bar is finished and the furniture is in place (there are even hooks under the bar for your jacket or handbag -- nice touch!). The buildout was pretty much finished about a month ago. See that entryway in the above photo?  That's the old wooden drugstore entrance, which still has the old cola sign in the upper window. Kind of a cool nostalgic character. 

Well, I guess you should meet these guys:
John, Steve, Jeffery (left to right)
(photo from Bog Brewing website)
I had not met Steve, John or Jeffery before this, but I felt like I had made some new friends just in the short time of this visit. They're really nice guys, pretty laid-back. In speaking with them one-on-one, it's obvious that they want to provide guests with a friendly experience, along with serving up some creative craft beer! You'll find each of them behind the bar at some point. 

The brewhouse consists of a 3.5 barrel brewing system, obtained from Brevard Brewing in North Carolina. Actually, Steve acquired the equipment in 2014 and held it in storage until the right time. In addition, there are two new 7-barrel fermenters. Steve pointed out that there have been "nice" 10-12 hour double-brewing days lately! And, when I arrived, they were indeed brewing up a new batch of their cream ale (yeah, it smelled good!). The brewhouse sits along one side of the open interior. 

What kind of beer can you expect?  The bar has 6 taps, and Bog Brewing will constantly rotate the beer styles. The beers will be ales (fermentation time takes longer for lagers), and you'll see different beer styles represented. This will also give Steve and John a chance to do some creative brewing, too. 

View from the bar
As of now, Bog Brewing has two IPAs ready to drink, in addition to the cream ale.  One is a Wheat IPA (6.6% ABV), and one is a Single Hop IPA. A chipotle porter might also be on the way soon. I sampled the Wheat IPA, which is a pale IPA (by the way, I found it very tasty). The late-addition of Cascade and Centennial hops provides citrus notes that make for an easy-drinking IPA (it's not along the lines of a citrusy session IPA). I'm already looking forward to another one of those! 

You'll be able to grab some branded merchandise, too: shirts, hats, sweatshirts.  

Although the brewery has quart growlers in stock, these aren't likely to be available for filling right away. But, hey, getting them filled for your fridge will give you something to look forward to!

And, check out that brewery graphic: a beer mug with a head of beer in the shape of the state of Florida (that was John's idea). The name Bog Brewing just fell into place, considering the nearby marshes and bogs that are found in the area, and the guys also love to go fishing. 

For now, Bog Brewing isn't looking to distribute its beer outside of the brewery. The focus is on the beer and the bar. All three of the guys have been doing whatever needs to be done (jack-of-all-trades kind of thing). Now that the buildout and initial planning stages are done, and the construction dust has settled, they can look ahead to getting down to the daily business of brewing beer and serving the thirsty public! They are still working on setting tap room hours, so stay tuned. Signage is also forthcoming. 

And, lastly, when does Bog Brewing anticipate opening? Look for a relatively quiet "soft opening" sometime in early March. 

Something tells me that this isn't going to stay quiet for too long.....

Welcome to St. Augustine, Bog Brewing Company! 

It was pretty cool getting a behind-the-scenes look at this new brewery before it opens, and thanks to the guys for the "sneak peek."  

Be sure to take a look at the BeerSphere Events page and "Tap This" calendar page (click on the tabs at the top) for events and things going on around the North Florida 904 area. I'm constantly updating those pages. In the meantime, you can usually find me around a brewery, bar, restaurant, or beer event somewhere, so don't be shy, and say Hi!


Til next time,

Peace, Love, Pints®

Friday, February 12, 2016

Beer vs. Wine ThrowDown: A Chocolate Pairing at Alewife Bottleshop; Oh, Sweetheart .... Love a Glass of Beer with that Chocolate

Indulgence. Decadence. Cupid. Love. Hearts. Flowers. Sensuality. Chocolates. Wine. Beer.  

Beer?  At first blush, one might not immediately include beer in such a list of provocative elements often reserved at this time of year for Valentine's Day and the extravagance of the holiday of love. It's probably not every day that your taste buds experience the (over)indulgence of delectable and almost sinful flavor combinations. Like chocolates with wine, right?  Hold that thought....

Lovely presentation: Peterbrooke chocolates!

Last night (Thursday), Alewife Craft Beer Bottle Shop and Tasting Room, located in the Five Points area of Jacksonville, hosted the "Beer vs. Wine Throw Down," a friendly (more on that below) competition to determine which libation -- beer or wine -- pairs better with chocolates. What better time of the calendar year to pose that question than a few days before Valentine's Day?  This was a ticketed event, which sold out a few days earlier, capping the attendance at 30. The group included some of the "usual suspects" around the Jax beer scene, and, generally, the attendees were all beer-and/or wine-loving enthusiasts, and maybe some who also wanted a chocolate fix. But, the group also had a job to do: vote on the beer vs. wine pairings, such that either Team Beer or Team Wine would emerge the winner.  

Recognize anyone?

In pairing food with beverages, three main concepts are generally considered: 1) Match Strengths or Intensities (delicate, strong/assertiveness, richness); 2) Find Harmonies or Commonalities (for example, nuttiness, roastiness, fruitiness); and 3) Find Contrasting Elements (sweet-bitter, spiciness-richness, balance-emphasis). The challenge here, then, was to decide which beverage ultimately paired better with the given chocolate.  Each chocolate was a Peterbrooke chocolate. (You're familiar with Peterbrooke; is your mouth watering yet?)

I have to admit at the outset that I'm partial to beer, and I was skeptical of the wine. Nonetheless, I kept an open mind. 

The event consisted of four rounds. And, here's how the Throw Down went down, round by round (no undercard, just the main event):

The Promoters: Representing Team Beer was Carolyn Graham of Brown Distributing Company.  On the other side, John McCarthy, from GOS Wines, repped for Team Wine. As each beverage was presented, Carolyn and John offered descriptions, including taste profiles. 

Friendly competition, remember?
The gloves were off. I think John has a height advantage.
But, I wouldn't dismiss Carolyn's reach.
(Photo from Alewife social media)
Round 1: 
The Contenders: Sunshine City IPA (Green Bench Brewing, Florida) v. Greenstone Point Sauvingnon Blanc (New Zealand). The Chocolate: Key Lime Chocolate (key lime and toasted coconut truffle covered in chocolate lime shell). The action: IPA - citrus, tropical, fruity flavors. Chocolate - quite tart (pucker up!). Wine - grapefruit, lemon lime, tropical, fruity. This was a close call. The wine was delicious (open mind!). Overall impression: the chocolate seemed to make the IPA sweeter; the chocolate dominated the wine, and the wine accentuated the already-tart chocolate. Vote: Beer.

The dark side: Round 2. Espresso beans in chocolate.
Round 2:
The Contenders: Imperial Coffee Milk Stout (Left Hand Brewing, Colorado) v. Boland Cellars Cappuccino Pinotage (South Africa). The Chocolate: Chocolate-covered espresso beans in a chocolate shell. These were intensely awesome ("chocolate fix"). The action: Stout - intense coffee aroma, but pleasant non-overpowering coffee flavor without acidity. Wine - dark fruit aroma and flavor. Overall impression: the chocolate stood out more against the wine; the chocolate blended in with the beer and was very complementary. Nonetheless, I went with the harmony here, as I thought the chocolate accentuated the dark fruit aspect of the wine too much for me. I absolutely loved the beer, but, then again, I tend to have an affinity to the dark side, especially coffee beer. Vote: Beer.

Round 3: Belgian Quad with
turtle truffle. Decadent.

Round 3:
The Contenders: Bourbon Barrel Belgian Quad (Boulevard Brewing, Missouri) v. Kenneth Volk Zinfandel (California). The Chocolate: Pecan Caramel Jag Paws (roasted pecans and caramel dipped in milk chocolate). The action: At 11%, the Quad was smooth and sweet, without an outrageous bourbon character. The wine was extremely sweet. Overall impression: the chocolate brought out the sweetness of the beer and tempered the bourbon somewhat. Vote: Beer.

Round 4: It's tough to go the distance (not)
Round 4:
The Contenders: Rosetta Flanders Oud Bruin (Ommegang, New York) v. St. Evasio Brachetto D'Aqui (Italy). The Chocolate: Dark Chocolate Truffle (chocolate truffle dusted in cacao powder). The action: Beer - low ABV (5.6%) fruit beer aged on cherries. Wine - cherry moscato; sweet; a buttery, sweet creaminess that I enjoyed. The chocolate was a very dark chocolate. Overall impression: the chocolate was a bit too sweet with the wine. Vote: Beer.  

The Decision: Following all four rounds, the participants marked individual ballots, voting for either the beer or the wine in each round. By a 3-1 Decision, Team Beer took the title, coming out on top in each round except Round 3, in very close overall judging. 

I was able to catch up with Kelly Pickard, co-owner of Alewife, after the event. Kelly selected the chocolates with the intention of presenting complicated and non-obvious flavors to the beverage reps. Noticeably absent: chocolate-covered cherry or raspberry. Nice creativity in the chocolate choices! I'm not sure how many chocolates Kelly taste-tested before narrowing the field, but she found a range of compelling flavors. Alewife limited the ticketing to 30, so that attendees could have an enjoyable experience with small numbers of people at each table, while keeping overall attendance and service manageable and personable. 

Guests had lively and thoughtful discussions about the beer, the wine, and the overall pairings. The voting was close, with two ballots choosing beer in all 4 rounds, and only one voting for wine across all rounds. The voting took Kelly for a bit of a surprise, because preliminary indications were that the crowd would mostly be wine enthusiasts. 

It didn't matter whether you considered yourself a beer-drinker or a wine-drinker or had a preference for one over the other coming into this event. I think everyone appreciated both. In fact, I was enlightened! 

Carolyn and John did a great job explaining the features of the beverages, and they sure had their work cut out for them in determining what turned out to be some amazing pairings for the chocolates. 

What a fun evening with a great concept ... Sweet event! So, the next time you might think that beer "won't go with that," give it another thought. With so many beer styles from which to choose, and the evolvement and creativity of beer, it goes with everything!

Taste the love. Who knows, your Sweetheart might even thank you for it...... 

If you're not familiar with Alewife, check the place out. Alewife opened last March in the Five Points area of Jacksonville. It's a retail craft beer shop featuring several hundred beers, and it's also a bar serving up six taps of craft beer selections on draft. You'll find additional seating in the back of the house, along with a couple of cornhole boards. And, if you're with someone who "isn't a beer drinker," Alewife offers wine by the glass and ciders/meads. The shop regularly hosts tappings and beer education events. New beers are continually added to both the tap lists and the retail shelves. Alewife is open six days a week, closed on Mondays. 

Lastly, if you're looking for something to do this weekend, being Valentine's Day after all, Alewife is hosting "Single & Bitter" all weekend. OK to bring your significant other. 

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Drink some beer and have some chocolate! (Yes, I did a 5k today).

Be sure to look at the beerfests and special events listed on the BeerSphere Page of this website, and, for those of you in the Jax area, take a look at the "Tap This" Calendar Page for tappings and such!

That'll do it for now..... See ya around a beer somewhere .... Probably soon .... 
Til next time,

Peace, Love, Pints®

Monday, February 8, 2016

DeLand Craft Beer Fest: Rain Didn't Dampen Our Spirits

Cloudy with a chance of rain ... later, after 5pm.  Saturday's early forecast for DeLand, Florida didn't include a postcard-perfect sunny Florida day from the get-go, but it looked like the rain would at least hold off until just about the time that Volusia Beer Week's DeLand Craft Beer Fest would wrap up.  Uh-uh. Around mid-day, Mother Nature decided to exercise her prerogative to change her mind for some reason, and she opened the clouds upon central Florida (sometimes I think she really needs a beer).  By this time, there was a line of patrons awaiting entry to the fest in downtown DeLand. Umbrellas popped up, and those stylish plastic rain ponchos became the wardrobe of the day (be prepared: always carry one).  But, hey, this was a beer fest.... and, a little rain wouldn't dampen the spirits of these beer-drinking fans. So, over 1000 of us picked up our fest mugs and made our way through the entry tent and proceeded onto Georgia Ave. 

Well, a drier Georgia may have been on our minds

The fest was set up in several sections: national/regional breweries along Georgia Ave., Florida breweries inside the "garage," and local central Florida/Volusia breweries in the courtyard next to Cafe DaVinci. The set-up was a little different this year. And, the hometown brewery, Persimmon Hollow Brewing Company, provided cover at the end of the street. If you're not familiar with DeLand and Persimmon Hollow, check out my blog post from just over a year ago, written a couple of months after the brewery opened. 

Over 60 breweries, meaderies and homebrewing shops participated in the Fest.  Take a look at the list and map on the fest website. This was only my second visit to DeLand, and I was attracted to this fest particularly because of the local breweries and the number of new breweries featured from around the Orlando area. After sampling several of the brews from some of these breweries and chatting it up with the brewers/staff, I know that I need to make some more brewery visits to central Florida!

Get under the roof! In the Courtyard
The Courtyard was ready with tables and chairs, but unfortunately, they didn't see much use.  The covered overhang areas, along with the adjacent Cafe DaVinci, were popular places to huddle up with your beer and stay out of the rain. Although I must admit the weather made it challenging to take photos --- and I'm not too fond of the rain poncho despite its functionality --- as the day progressed (and as the beers were consumed), it didn't matter too much, and it was all about having a good time. If anything, it gives us something else to talk about. In fact, I even ran into a few guys from social media who I beer banter with but had never met in person before! Yep, that's what happens at a beerfest!

Local Volusia brewery tents in the Courtyard area
(above; below)

There were familiar faces (Hello, again, Tomoka Brewing), and some new ones under the tents in the Courtyard, filled with locals Ormond Brewing, Persimmon Hollow, Musquito County, Central 28, New Smyrna Beach Brewing, Daytona Beach Brewing, Tomoka Brewing, Wop's Hops, Odd Elixir MeadWorks, Mermaid Juice, Sanford Brewing and City Island Aleworks. I searched out some new beers. The Twin Beach Double Brown Ale from Daytona Beach Brewing is a 9% ABV ale made with brown sugar and aged on oak -- that sounded like something I could not overlook.  It didn't drink like a 9-percenter, and I thought that the sweetness was complementary and not overdone. Another new one was Wop's Hops White Chocolate Amaretto Ale, which presented a combination of some savory tastes in a glass, as the name would suggest. Also, their Ode to Joy Winter Warmer tasted like a certain coconut-almond candy bar, but with more almond flavor, which I liked, too. (Bummer, no photos). 

Hey, it's Chris from New Smyrna Beach Brewing!
(see my blog post from shortly after NSB Brewing opened).
And, I've been known to stop there while
heading back from South Florida beertrips!
By the way...Nice ride, Chris!
Breweries have the coolest vehicles.

As you might expect, the "garage" area was heavily occupied all afternoon, as it was under roof. The building housed close to 30 Florida breweries from Orlando, Tampa, South Florida and more. 

Inside day drinking ... Hey, to the guy who waved:
I told you I would publish this!
Was on Instagram, too....

I was looking forward to trying the beers from Red Cypress Brewery, a new brewery that opened in Winter Springs last fall. 

Red Cypress poured four beers, and I started with the Subdivisions Pilsner, a good representative of the Pilsner style, with its spiciness and hoppiness. I didn't move much from that location for a while. The Devil's Chair IPA was a citrusy IPA without being overly citrusy, which I thought also had a hint of spiciness.  It's brewed with an experimental hop.  OK, they're two-for-two. The Born to Lose Hoppy Red Ale, is appropriately named, and, yes it's hoppy, but not a taste-bud killer. Lastly, the Robust Porter was roasty and smooth, and I had another one of those. OK, four-for-four for these guys. There's got to be a beertrip here in the future, and I'm looking forward to seeing these guys again!

I also spent some time meeting and talking with the guys from Broken Strings Brewery, a close-to-opening new brewery and tap room in Orlando, not too far from the Citrus Bowl. Their beers will have music-related referenced names. Really liked the Red Mosquito Red IPA (7.2% ABV).  Stay tuned for updates on their progress. 

With Charles and Adam from Broken Strings Brewery.
Looking forward to a visit!

There were others, too, and I see some more brewery visits down the road!  And, did anyone else have the Breakfast Porter from Green Bench Brewing from St. Pete? I think my comment after the first sip threw them a bit, but it was just so good! Made with maple syrup, lactose, oats, coffee and vanilla beans; smooth coffee taste and more. Yes, I'll have another one of those when I can!

And, a shout-out to Persimmon Hollow Brewing, which pretty much anchored the fest at the other end of Georgia Ave. Good thing that they have a large, spacious warehouse here -- it was packed all day!

Yeah, do what they say...
DeLand Craft Beer Fest is the premier event of Volusia Beer Week, which includes tastings all around Volusia during the preceding week. This was the sixth year for the Fest, which has enjoyed steady growth each year. The "Beer Week," started in 2013, also features the "Brews & Bow Ties" beer and food pairing dinner, which brings together dishes from popular area restaurants and rare beers. The Week also includes the "Mad Monk Mash-Up," a Belgian brew homebrew competition. There was even a sold-out Drink Volusia Bus Tour which visited local breweries (I saw some photos of that, and I think they really knew how to enjoy beer).  On this day, downtown DeLand was a bustling place; just earlier, the Mardi Gras Dog Parade was held on neighboring streets (in case you were wondering why there were dogs in tutus and such). 

Main Street DeLand handles the organization of the Fest, and proceeds benefit the association. The Fest Committee is comprised of local beer community proponents, including Ann-Marie Bays, Vin Morrissey, Ed Irvin and Blair Willacker.  Although the Fest started off as a local/import beer festival, it has grown into one which showcases local craft while also offering a wide variety of national brands. This was my first time attending this Fest, and I'm already planning to return next year.  

And, mark your calendars for February 11, 2017, when DeLand Craft Beer Fest returns. Hey, Mother Nature, get your sunscreen ready.....

Hey, that's another beerfest!  If you missed my post about Beerfest Season in Florida, check it out! And, take a look at the Events Page, because we're just getting started.......

See ya around a Florida brewery or event ...

Til next time,

Peace, Love, Pints®