Sunday, June 26, 2016

I've Been to Hell'n Blazes Brewing and Back

What a difference three months makes! I visited Hell ‘n Blazes Brewing Company  (Melbourne, Florida) in March when the brewery was still under construction, but beginning to take on its personality (check out that preview post HERE for all the background info). Fermenters were being moved around in the brewhouse, the bar didn’t have a top yet, and the construction dust was far from settled. It was obvious, though, that when finished, this would be a pretty impressive place, and that a substantial amount of manhours (along with blood, sweat and tears) had been poured into this project over the past year. A few weeks ago, the brewery announced its Opening Day as Friday, June 24 (5pm), and I’m fairly sure (oh, just a wild guess) that there were quite a few others besides me who marked that date on their calendars. 

Good-natured bunch waiting for the doors to open.
These guys were in the shade. Hey, it was over 90°
out here!

The crowd wrapped around the building before 5pm,
and awaited the clock to strike at 5. Highly anticipated opening.
Hell ‘n Blazes Brewing opened its doors to the general public Friday evening with a Grand Opening party that not only introduced the beer and showcased its beautiful tap room, but also included an outside beer garden with music and two food trucks. It didn’t take too long before the tap room reached its capacity of 300, which was standing-room-only. 

As reported in the earlier post, the brewery building spans two floors, each with about 8000 sf of space. The tap room and brewhouse sits on the main floor, with offices upstairs. The tap room is large and features a wraparound bar and additional seating at tables and sofas. The oversize 10-barrel brewhouse is visible through a glass wall behind the bar and along two hallways on either side that lead to two additional rooms: a game room on one side, and a cozy event/meeting room on the other. The brewery retained the old tin ceiling in the tap room, and the décor is mostly woodsy, from the wood logs under the bar to the walls. Add in an industrial flair, and it's an inviting place to enjoy your beer and watch some TV (and there are plenty of them). 

So, let's take a look inside Florida's newest brewery!

And, the pictures on the wall tell the story of the building’s history (hey, gotta read that prior post), the brewing process, and the HnB crew: some pretty cool stuff.

Inside the events/meeting room...

There was an old safe here....

It's an understatement to say that the HnB crew worked "like hell" Friday night to accommodate the packed house. General Manager Andy Pinkerton was all over the place, and I at least managed to briefly talk to  him a couple of times. Brewmaster Todd Furbeck checked on guests and asked for comments about the beer (thumbs up, Todd). Even the air conditioning system probably thought it was "hot as hell," as it had a bit of a tough time keeping up with the capacity crowd (they added some fans on Saturday). Oh, well, drink more beer!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

It's Getting Hot Around Here .. June/July Events

Palm Beach Summer Beer Fest, July 23
WHEW! Summer officially started only a few days ago, but temperatures are climbing, it's almost July already, and things are really heating up! Time to grab a cold Florida brew? Yeah. 

So, take a look at the Tap This Calendar Page for local beer tappings and such around North Florida, AND, check out the BeerSphere Page for beer fests and special events around Florida (both are constantly updated).  

Where? North Florida, Daytona, Space Coast, South Florida, and I even have an Orlando event listed right now. Here's a sampling of what your next road trip (or two) might look like. And, hey, like you haven't heard this before: get a room (so you don't have to drive back). 

Here ya go: excerpt from the BeerSphere Page (and, there could be more added at any time, so don't be a stranger, and check it often):

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Catch the Wave: Green Room Brewing in Jax Beach

Five years ago: After moving to North Florida from the Midwest (five years ago this past April), I began reading about Green Room Brewing, a new microbrewery opening in Jacksonville Beach. Not too surprisingly, this sounded like a pretty cool place! It ended up being the first craft brewery in the area that I visited, and, five years later, I'm drawn to the surf-and-beach-inspired tap room and some of the most creative beers you will find anywhere.

On Saturday, June 18, Green Room Brewing will celebrate its 5th Anniversary, with its annual 
Photo by Green Room Brewing
bottle release of the "Secret Spot" Imperial Stout. This year's version of the special brew (11% ABV) has been aged in Dominican Republic rum barrels for six months. And, as if that weren't enough to tempt your taste buds, the brewery will also have several other treatments of the stout on tap, including variations with coconut, vanilla and coffee. In addition, a small batch of the brew was also aged a second time in Palm Ridge Reserve whisky barrels (the "Double Barrel Secret Spot"). And, while Green Room's anniversary has become synonymous with the Secret Spot stout, that's not all that awaits. The brewery will also release bottles of its 1000th batch, appropriately named "Thousand Beer Storm," a triple IPA with gallberry honey and dry-hopped with Citra hops. Also on tap will be the Tequila Barrel Quetzalcoatl, Green Room's imperial Mayan red ale (11% ABV) and the Triple Overhead triple IPA (13% ABV). About 600 bottles each of the Secret Spot and Thousand Beer Storm will be available, and Mug Club members get first dibs on it on Friday night. If you're looking to purchase one of these prized bottles, history suggests that you get over to Green Room early on Saturday, because the supply is highly likely to be wiped out quickly. The anniversary party starts at noon, and the food truck Just Doggin' It will be onsite all day. Popular local band Firewater Tent Revival takes the stage Saturday night. Whew, that sounds like a party!

Haven't been to Green Room Brewing? Walk in the front door, and you'll immediately sense the laid-back, chill, surfing vibe. The brewery takes its name from the barrel of the wave that surfers strive to find. And that "Secret Spot" name? According to co-owner and Director of Brewing Operations, Eric Luman, the name for the annual beer is a reference to one of the most popular local surfing spots, The Poles (well, it might not be so secret any more). Eric runs Green Room Brewing along with co-owner/President and uncle Mark Stillman. Before they opened the brewery in 2011, each of them had hands-on experience in breweries, with Mark on the business side, and Eric on the brewing side.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Back Again ... Another Weekend in Tampa for Concerts and Beer!

When you visit Tampa two weekends in a row, life can't be all that bad! If you follow this blog, you know that I attended the opening fest of the six-city Beer Camp tour last week (check out the story on the home page). It just so happened that a while ago, the rock band Journey scheduled a concert in Tampa, along with The Doobie Bros and Dave Mason, for this past weekend at the Amphitheatre, and that meant back-to-back trips to the "city by the bay" on Florida's Gulf Coast. (Some of you might even get that reference to Journey's song Lights. And, yes, I know it was actually written about California).


Bad hair day once that rain started....
The drive to Tampa was somewhat chaotic this time around (preceded by lost emails, followed by the discovery enroute that this writer had no shoes in the car, with an ensuing stop at the outlet mall at Vineland, further followed by traffic and detours, and then rain...). But, there was nonetheless a timely arrival for the concert meet-n-greet at the Amphitheatre, after what seemed like a 5k from the car to the entry (but, I did manage to have a beer along the hike). I've attended concerts at the venue previously, so I'm no stranger to the parking lot there. All in all, a great night of music (8th row seats help). I didn't sit much, and I took some awesome concert photos!

Because last weekend was an in-and-out trip, there was no doubt that this time around, there would be some beer exploration on Saturday! A couple of good beer friends from Tampa let me know that they were heading to Brew Bus Brewing and Hidden Springs Ale Works, so I decided to switch up some initial brewery visit plans and meet them there. Two new brewery visits for the list!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Beer Camp Across America: Happy Campers in Tampa!

I never looked forward to camp this much when I was in grade school. When Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. announced the 2016 Beer Camp Across America lineup and fest schedule earlier in the year, I let out a big "WooHoo!" because the first stop identified on the six-city nationwide tour was none other than Tampa on June 4. As more information continued to stream over the Beer Camp website, and the brewery list grew (and grew), this camper eagerly anticipated the collaborative festival in celebration of the spirit of craft beer. 

Last week, I took a look at the six-beer Beer Camp set released in May and previewed the fest (see my pre-fest story here). 

After trolling the Beer Camp mobile app (yes, that does exist) all last week, Saturday arrived, and it was time to head west on I-4 through theme-park land to the land of craft beer by the bay. This was an evening fest (scheduled that way to beat the heat, I presume; more on that later), with VIP hour-early entrance slated for 5pm. General fest hours were 6-10pm otherwise. The location was Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa, along the Hillsborough River. I attended Tampa's Oktoberfest at this same location last fall, and it's a scenic setting with the river on one side and downtown skyline on the other. 

And, what a pretty cool thing to see my pre-fest story tweet retweeted as the lead tweet on the Sierra Nevada Twitter page during the afternoon. (I may have said "tweet" one too many, but, hey, that doesn't happen everyday).

Hoppy Pilsner at Coppertail
I had just under two hours before festing, so what's a beerblogger to do?  Answer: Make a pre-beerfest stop at a local brewery, naturally! And, how convenient that Coppertail Brewing Co. was just a mile or so away from the hotel in Ybor City (almost like it was planned that way, ahem). It wasn't my first time at Coppertail, having been there several times before (in fact, I even wrote about the place last year). So, one beer (hey, I'm going to a beerfest) and out the door to Beer Camp!

Following a quick shuttle ride from Ybor to downtown, destination Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park! By the way, it was HOT out there! Temps were in the low to mid 90's even just before 5pm, but VIP-campers were already mulling around and trying to find some shade while waiting for the 5pm entry. Shortly before 5, one of the Camp staffers announced that the first gate was open for scanning of tickets and picking up the Beer Camp glass. We patiently waited in an area just outside of the beer tents, and then, well, it was 5 o'clock somewhere, and ...Welcome to Beer Camp! 

Five o'clock ....wait for it 

Nice glass!

Nice ride. I need one of these.
I'm going to let the photos do the rest of the talking, but I thought that this was a very-well organized fest. There were roughly 100 breweries -- from Florida and across the country -- under three large tents, with each brewery offering two beers. I have to say that the beer list was impressive, too. A fourth tent housed the Beer Camp collaborator breweries. There were a number of food trucks on site, and a stage with live music. There was plenty of space to move around, even after the General Admission at 6pm. Hey, what's more fun than hanging around drinking all these craft beers with a couple thousand other craft beer enthusiasts.  We were hot and sweaty, but it really didn't seem to bother anyone. Hugs all around! Kudos to the fest for providing water stations and encouraging attendees ahead of time to bring their own water bottles for free refills and to avoid plastic bottle waste. I'm all for that!

Here they come! 6pm entry

I had used the mobile app to tag a number of beers that I wanted to try. No, this isn't a beer review article, but here are some highlights (although it's tough not to mention every beer, because each one I had was quite good). 

Saltwater Brewery's Coffee Screamin Reels IPA...
finally reeled that one in. That's the way to start.
So, the first beer on my list?  Saltwater Brewery's Coffee Screamin' Reels IPA, which I missed at the Anniversary Party in December (yeah, there's a blog post for that, too). It was worth the wait!

Yeah, really, Hunahpu's 2016! Worth the hype. 
And, hey, there's Cigar City Brewing's Hunahpu's Imperial Stout 2016!  After an initial long line, I was able to sneak right in and grab one.

I don't usually start off a beerfest with an IPA and an Imperial Stout back-to-back, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow. I tried a number of beers of different styles throughout the evening, and really, I loved each one! I also sampled beer from a couple of new(er) breweries, and you know that means more brewery visits around Florida! And, I met some really cool beer people, too (go figure)....... 

Chatted with Pinellas Ale Works.
Milk Bone Sweet Stout and Harold's St. Pete Lager.
And, is that a photobomb by Ken of Pair O'Dice Brewing?
Stopped by to see Ken and Julia from Pair O'Dice Brewing:
Love these guys. Stocked up on Clearwater Honey Cream and
Hop Bet Red on the way back. The MoGuava IPA is tasty:
mosaic and fresh guava. 

Always fun visiting with Tom from Barley Mow Brewing
at a beerfest. That's the Americana with Lime (thirst quencher)
But, there's more...
And, yeah, that's Ken from Pair O' Dice Brewing...
another would-be photobomb, so we let him in....

And, it really is a craft beer community out there!
Ran into Doug Fairall from South Florida (left), and
Dennis (aka @craftbeerz on Instagram)

And, reppin' from Jax: Intuition Ale Works!
Oh, I think we can do better than that:
Beerfests can be tiring sometimes: Wake up!
Here's Barry from Motorworks Brewing, too!
A little fun with some 2 Stroke DIPA...

Ed (Volusia Beer Guy) from S.R. Perrott made it
after thinking the day before that he wouldn't.
Glad to see him again!
More social media beer community types.
Before things got a bit crazy:
That's @beertimez fromTampa!
And, @thisgirlneedsabeer and @craftbeerz
from Orlando. Had some fun with this bunch.
Those photos are on IG.
Hello, again, Gabe and Saralyn from GrassLands Brewing!
Always love seeing these two.
That's a Hopline Bling IPA; you should get one...

This is a brewery I still need to visit in SoFla:
°Brewing Co.  Ziko's Rage Imperial Stout:
roasty and chocolaty; yeah, I like that! ...
And, they seem like pretty cool guys.
And, who wouldn't want to Get Falked with
Tampa Beer Works? Hey, I'm talking DIPA, alright?
(they're located on Falkenburg Rd.)
That's a pretty smooth DIPA right there.

Yeah, that was one amazing beerfest!  Thanks to Sierra Nevada for a great time. And, you should try the beer box! Hey: Milwaukee, Seattle, San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles, you're gonna be happy campers when Beer Camp rolls into your town later this month!

Til next time, 
See you out and about somewhere in Florida... you never know where, but there will be a Florida beer in hand... Cheers!


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