Thursday, October 27, 2016

PHobia PHest: Six Years of "Beer With Attitude" at Pinglehead Brewing Company & Brewers Pizza

[Ed. Note: 10/28/2016: Tap list just released.... see the list at the bottom of this post]

With all the attention that clowns have been getting in the news lately, there's one that
you should really get to know, if you haven't already. You might not see it all around the state, but those in the "know," especially in the Jacksonville/North Florida area, recognize that it represents "Beer With Attitude" and some of the "biggest" beers to tease tastebuds. With Halloween hauntings lurking around the corner, on Saturday, October 29, the aptly named "PHobia PHest" celebrates six years of the beers of Pinglehead Brewing Company, along with its partner-in-pizza, Brewer's Pizza. 

Now in its third year, PHobia PHest is Pinglehead Brewing's and Brewer's Pizza's way of saying "Thank You" to their customers, through a celebration of food and beer, alongside a Halloween-inspired theme. This time around, Pinglehead Brewing will unleash two new bottle releases of beers that haven't even been served yet: Baba Yaga Imperial Stout and Spring Heeled Jack Barrel-Aged Barleywine. Frighteningly intriguing!

Wear your costumes for a chance to win the costume contest (popular vote). The party features music by Go Get Gone (Rockabilly) from 1-3pm, followed by Raggedy Man (contemporary) from 3-5pm. The tap list will include Pinglehead beers, along with special releases and treatments, and a limited guest tap from Harris Meadery, a new brewer of meads and honey wines in Orange Park. 

Is it a pizzeria, or is it a brewery?  Brewer's Pizza is located in a shopping center in Orange Park, just outside of Jacksonville. Make your way inside, and there's a small bar area, with 25 beer taps, and a cooler full of additional bottles and cans. Seat yourself at one of the tables or booths, and look over the pizza and sandwich menu. Casual pizza place, right? And, somewhere along the way, you'll notice it, on a banner or on the tap handles - the Pinglehead clown - almost looking back at you. Lore has it (or at least according to the guys over here) that Pinglehead is the mythical god of "Big Beer." Indeed, the beers brewed here are not for the faint of heart, as most are upwards of the 7% ABV range. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Grand Slam for Beer Events in Jacksonville

With three breweries holding major events, and one popular food and craft beer market hosting an Oktoberfest celebration, it was a Grand Slam for beer around Jacksonville, Florida this past weekend! October 22 had been looming large on the brew calendar, as there were at least four other beerfests around the Sunshine State on the same day. 

While it may have seemed a daunting endeavor to attend four events in one day, this writer was up to the task, armed with a carefully-planned itinerary, camera, and refillable water bottle. 

Lead-Off: Intuition Ale Works. Against a sunny sky, I headed north into downtown Jax to the new Intuition Ale Works location on Bay Street, in the Sports Complex vicinity. The amazing venue opened on September 6. If you haven't visited yet, take a look at my preview story, and you'll see why it's a must-do for your brewery-visit list. I've been here several times already, and I love the open-air seating, spacious tap room and rooftop, and the views-- and, hey the beer is worth the trip, too! Which brings me to the "Backyard Brawl" and the reason for the visit (not that I really need a "reason"). 

As you already likely know, each year, at the end of October, the University of Florida plays the University of Georgia at EverBank Field in a college football showdown that's known simply as "Florida-Georgia" (or, I suppose "Georgia-Florida", and indeed there are signs around the city using both names). It's a spectacle that has its own weekend, including RV City and a party that's been dubbed "The World's Largest Cocktail Party." Of course, such a mega event has to have a related beer theme, especially when there's the likes of Swamp Head Brewery in Gainesville and Terrapin Beer Co. of Athens GA. Previously, these two collaborated on the "Bitter Rivalry" beer. This time around, with the new Intuition Ale Works location, the game takes place literally in Intuition's "Backyard." With brewers being the creative types they are, Intuition, Swamp Head and Terrapin got together and brewed up the "Backyard Brawl" Berliner Weisse for the occasion. With a certain amount of fanfare, on Saturday Intuition released the zesty brew made with none other than oranges and peaches, on tap, as well as in a bottle release. 

The "Backyard Brawl" at Intuition Ale Works
The 4.5% ABV beer is refreshing with just the right amount of tartness that keeps the pucker factor in check, while allowing the fruit flavors to shine through. Grab one and sit outside! If you're heading to the game, be sure to give this collaboration brew a try. The beer will also be released around Jax at Mellow Mushroom (Avondale) on Thursday and then at Fionn MacCool's on Friday. And, don't worry, Gainesville, Swamp Head is also tapping it, too!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bringin' the Naughty Ales to the Public: House Beers on Tap at Wicked Barley Brewing Company, Jax

[Ed. Note 10/22/2016: Further to below initial tap list, see the updated tap list HERE. Cheers!]

It's the day that Philip Maple, Tobin Turney, Brett Baker, Bob Maple, Bradley Sueflohn and Fred Thibodeaux have waited for --- for a while. If you follow craft beer in Florida, you know that Wicked Barley Brewing Company opened the doors of its beautiful, brand-spankin'-new brewpub on the banks of Goodby's Creek in Jacksonville in late July. Right around that time, the brewery's federal Brewer's Notice issued, giving the crew the green light to start brewing its own beer for sale. Since opening, the brewpub has served guest beers on its 20 taps (an impressive list, by the way), but that's about to change.

On Saturday, Wicked Barley will takeover its own taps and offer its "Naughty Ales" for sale to the public for the first time. I'm not sure who's waiting more for this -- the Wicked Barley guys or the local Jax craft beer crowd. After tasting a number of the beers at the two preview/free sampling events earlier in the Spring, this writer is anxiously anticipating what promises to be an epic tap takeover (yes, "epic"). 

Not only has Wicked Barley been brewing its beers, ciders, and meads in-house, it also has begun operation of its canning line. So, what do you do once you get to this point?  Well, throw a huge Release Party, of course!

Celebrate with Wicked Barley, starting at 11am on Saturday, October 22, when it taps its house beers, ciders and meads, and releases a new food menu. The brewery's Left Leg Lager and Drink Me Copper Pale Ale will be available in cans to-go. The beer garden grill will be fired up for food specials. Meet the brewers at the beer garden tent (they might even have some energy left, or they'll be running on pure adrenaline). Co-founder/Brewmaster Philip Maple summed it up: "Things are ridiculously busy, but we are excited to finally have our core business out in the open." 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Florida Beer Events Are Rockin' This Fall

Here we are mid-October (can you believe it?). Fall Beerfest season is rockin' along with
A visual look at a few events
happening around Florida
Oct. 14-16
Oktoberfest celebrations still oompah-ing their way through the calendar month, right there next to area beerfests and other special beer events. From the "biggest" beerfest in Florida happening in Miami to new brewery openings/Grand Openings to brewery anniversaries to Florida-Georgia weekend to Halloween, the next three weekends will see the suds flow. So far, it's been an "interesting" month, to say the least. Hurricane Matthew decided to take a daytrip along Florida's east coast late last week leaving behind a huge amount of damage, especially here in the North Florida area. Hopefully, most of those affected are on the recovery path (including the return of that taken-for-granted thing called electricity). Even the craft beer world was affected as several beerfests and other events already set in place for months were cancelled and/or rescheduled (take a look at the "Making Headlines" page). This writer's calendar included attending several events and/or other visits during the first weeks of October that didn't happen, but it's good to see the positive efforts toward repair and rebuilding. 

Back to beer! The annual mega-beer-event known as GABF also happened last weekend. I was perched at my laptop early Saturday afternoon watching as the medal winners were announced via live stream, anticipating medals coming back to Florida again this year. If you haven't made the trek to Denver for GABF, I have one word for you: GO! And then maybe two words: GO AGAIN! Take a look at my GABF story and mark your 2017 calendars for October 5-7. Huge Congrats to Coppertail Brewing (Tampa) for its Silver Medal in the Field Beer category for Slam Piece Berliner Weisse, and to Red Cypress Brewery (Orlando) for its Silver Medal for Deep Roots Amber in the German Altbier category! 

If you take a look at the two events pages on this website, BeerSPHERE (beerfests and special events in a text format with links and background info) and TAP THIS (calendar agenda list of beerfests also with smaller individual local nights and pint nights around Jax/North Florida), you'll find plenty of beer events to quench your thirst for all things hops and malt. Below are a few of the Florida beerfest and special events still heading your way in October (in chronological order). Some of my recent planned visits to Florida breweries and fests may have been put on the shelf for a while for various reasons due to weather and other things that even I can't control, but I'll be back on the local Florida beer trail just as quickly as you can say "water, malt, hops and yeast." In the meantime, take a look at what the remainder of October holds, and get yourself to one of these upcoming events! What are you waiting for... Christmas? (Yeah, I had to say that.)

Monday, October 3, 2016

GABF Boot Camp ... A Look Back From a Year Ago....

GABF. Ask any beer enthusiast what those four letters mean, and you'll likely hear words like "epic," "ultimate," "unbelievable." And, those words probably still don't convey the sheer magnitude of the three-day mega beerfest that takes place in downtown Denver each year. On Thursday evening, October 6, the masses will again converge upon the Colorado Convention Center for the first of four tasting and sampling sessions. After the bagpipes strike the opening notes, the 2016 GREAT AMERICAN BEER FESTIVAL will officially begin! 

This year, the mammoth fest features approximately 800 breweries and over 3800 beers from which to choose. Brewers entered their beers in the medal competition a while ago, and, after the judges taste all of the beers, GABF will announce the Gold, Silver and Bronze medalists in 96 beer categories (along with additional sub-categories). 

Last year was my first time attending GABF.  I had a game plan and did some early research.  Whether it's your first or tenth time, you know you can't drink all the beer (trust me), so whether you use the GABF mobile app, the online site, or the printed maps, it's best to have an agenda (at least start out with one).  Make sure your shoes are comfortable, you drink plenty of water, and you eat along the way. Other than that, soak it all in and enjoy! Although I won't be in Denver this weekend, I'll be following the competition results on Saturday, and all of us in Florida will be looking for some Florida beers to bring home the hardware! Two Florida breweries earned medals last year: AARDWOLF BREWING (Jacksonville; Bronze Medal for Belgian Pale Ale) and BREW BUS BREWING (Tampa; Silver Medal for You're My Boy Blue Blueberry Wheat). Based on the GABF website, 21 Florida breweries will be among those 800 breweries sampling beers at this year's fest.

Here's my excerpted recap from last year (Confessions of a GABF Virgin) when I attended the opening night Thursday session and the members Saturday afternoon session:

GABF is the pre-eminent beer festival in the country.  It's one of those "bucket list" or "wish list" things that you hope you get to do one day. Tickets sell out each year, generally within an hour or two.  Whaddaya know -- I scored tickets to the opening night Thursday session and members Saturday afternoon session. And, then the planning started....hotel, flight, rental car. About a week or so before the festival, it started getting real -- yes, I was actually going to GABF for the first time!

The GABF website is full of awesome information, including the festival map and a list of breweries.  There's also a "MyGABF app." Although the breweries were identified for a while, a list of the available beers was released the day before the Festival. Twenty Florida breweries were in attendance. 

If you don't believe how massive this event is, check out these stats: 750 breweries at the festival hall; 3800 different beers served; 60,000 attendees; 3400 volunteers. 

Breweries arranged by geographic location, Brewpub Pavilion,
Homebrew Marketplace, Beer Geek Bookstore, Merchandise, Brewers Guilds

So, how do you prepare for this?  Study the map and get familiar with the festival layout and schedule of events ahead of time. Review the schedule for the book signings at the Beer Geek Bookstore. Make sure that you have something to eat ahead of time, and make sure that you drink plenty of water during the sessions. I had a list of breweries that I wanted to target, and one particular book signing (more on that below). 

Fast Forward to Thursday night -- Yeah, there was a large crowd waiting to enter the festival hall at 5:30pm:

It moved rather smoothly, and you could hear the welcoming bagpipes playing just inside. And, the 2015 GABF was underway!  Once inside, the enormity of the festival was apparent.  I had a printed map in my pocket, and the regions were well-marked by overhead signage. I wanted to start with the Midwest (Indiana/Chicago) since that's where I'm from, but that didn't work. I got there eventually.  Usually my plan is to start with blonde ales, kolsches, helles lagers, and I pretty much stuck to that.....for a while.

So many breweries, so many beers. Overall, for as many people in attendance, the lines were generally very manageable, almost non-existent, and you were able to walk past the tables and read the beer descriptions. Of course, there were a few breweries that always seemed to have lines that spanned across the aisle, including Allagash, Wicked Weed, and one certain South Florida brewery:

Guess they wanted to Get Funky (Last Snow and more).
You would've thought they were giving it away.....
I sampled beers from everywhere during both sessions, and I especially liked talking to the Chicago brewers. My Untappd checkins really added up. There was just so much beer!

These guys took home a few medals....
Awesome setup!
Big crowds here
Randy Mosher, author of "Tasting Beer"

The highlight of my Thursday night, however, was meeting Randy Mosher, author of Tasting Beer, at the Bookstore.  I knew ahead of time (pre-planned!) when he would be there, and I had brought my copy of the book with me.  This book was instrumental in helping me study for -- and pass -- the Certified Cicerone exam this summer, and it's been through the study-wringer:  tabs and marked up.  I showed it to Randy, and he even took a photo of me!  Very cool talking with him.  He autographed my book, and that was pretty cool!  If you're planning on studying for the Certified Cicerone exam, this one's a must-read. Thanks, Randy!

That was pretty much Day 1 at GABF!  

Recognize them?  Florida Brewers Guild
It seemed like there were many more attendees waiting to get in for the Saturday afternoon session, but once the doors opened, it didn't take long to get in the Festival Hall.  The plan for today?  Visit state brewers guilds, and drink more beer!

The Brewers' Guilds were set up along a wall in the "Meet the Brewer Hall."  Not only could you talk to the reps, but they were pouring some beers that were not available in the Main Hall.  And, they did a really cool thing with a Brewers Guild Passport. Check-in to at least six, and you got a koozie!  I talked to a bunch of the Guild reps, and got my passport stamped by nine, including closest (Florida) and farthest (Hawaii).  It was fun talking to the rep from Indiana, and I got another Three Floyds beer there, too!


Wyoming had some interesting animal photos...and captions!

Passport stamps!

And, there probably aren't too many places where you can talk to Brewers Guilds, and then, just steps away, run into a character like the Yeti from Great Divide Brewing:

He's real...... Having a Chocolate Yeti with, well......
And, if you got a little turned around, there were signs to help you find your way. 

Hey, that's a Jax Ale Trail shirt!

And, then, seemingly "just like that," it was last call for the afternoon session. Where did the time go?

GABF is definitely something you need to least once.  

And, 2017 will be here before you know it, so put this on your calendars: October 5-7, 2017, because that's when GABF happens next year. Tickets will go on sale in early August.

I may not be in Denver this year, but I will be attending a couple of Florida fests. Cheers, everyone!  See you at a beerfest!

Til next time,


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