Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Beer Flowed Along the River at Riverside Craft Beer Fest, Jax

Jacksonville's Riverside Arts Market hosted the Fourth Annual Riverside Craft Beer Festival last Saturday, and it was a spectacular day for beer and music under the Fuller-Warren Bridge. The family- and dog-friendly event took place under a crisp blue sky with the St. Johns River and downtown Jax providing a magnificent backdrop. Once again, the Riverside Rotary Club presented the beer fest, with proceeds benefitting Community Peds Care and Riverside Rotary Foundation (see preview story).

The Fest featured over 70 breweries, from Jacksonville and across Florida, along with regional, national and international breweries. Over 100 craft beers were available for unlimited sampling. The lineup included a number of new breweries and new or recent additions to the Jacksonville market. Brewery tents and tables were set up in rows throughout the grounds, alongside a few distributor trucks and brewery vans. All afternoon, food trucks produced mouth-watering aromas from one end of the venue. Local favorite band Grandpa's Cough Medicine entertained the crowd with foot-stomping lively music. Organizers were anticipating attendance around 3000, according to a pre-fest interview with Fest Director Matt McLauchlin. Last year, Rotary raised around $95,000, and presented a check for $75,000 to Peds Care. While the fundraising figures aren't available at this time, here's hoping that this year's fest surpassed those numbers!

Overall, the setup was friendly and easy to maneuver, with ample space between brewery tents. Lines were manageable and non-stressful (at least from the attendee standpoint; there were a few noticeable crowds at a few breweries), and from all observations, a good time was had by all!

Like last year, I volunteered to pour beer during the second shift, and I was able to wander around the venue before taking on that assignment. Although VIP entry wasn't until 3pm, things were coming together around the Fest grounds well before then. By 2pm, the place was humming with brewery tents, beer trucks and food trucks. 

Juts look at this scenery!   Beautiful day on the river for a beerfest!

The fest layout was a breeze, even with the larger crowds later in the day.

Grandpa's Cough Medicine with the tunes.  Tables and chairs were set up near the stage. 

Local Jax brewery Wicked Barley Brewing Company, which opened last summer (see prior stories on this website), made its first Fest appearance. Things at the Wicked Barley tent may have started off a bit on the slow side ..... but that didn't last long, 

and, this writer observed a steady stream of foot traffic there all afternoon (obviously a popular choice)! The guys were prepared, too, as they even brought a water rinse station.

Brooklyn Brewery had the tropical theme, complete with flamingos!

Funky Buddha Brewery, from South Florida, brought the goods in its own brewery van! Another fest favorite all afternoon....

Local Jax brewery Intuition Ale Works was ready for a good time (no surprise there). Well, they brought Underdark ....

And, if you're not familiar with two of the  904 area's up-n-coming breweries in-planning, you were able to meet the owners and sample some of their beers. 

Hyperion Brewing owners Alex McKeown and Troy Orton were on hand to talk all things beer and construction, while pouring four of their beers. Keep an eye out for more sampling from this brewery, and you're likely to find new beers every time - in fact, that's just what they're looking to do when they open. I've sampled a number of the beers, and they're on point. Alex and Troy are looking to open their brewery and tap room at 1740 N. Main St. in the Springfield area of Jax this year. (See pre-construction story from earlier this year for additional info). 

Troy (head brewer) with new Operations Manager Chris Rucker
and Owner Alex

And, we were at a beer fest, after all, so there has to be a beer picture! This Peanut Butter Porter from Hyperion Brewing was a PB and chocolate dream. 

At the next table, another new brewery coming to the Springfield area of Jax also met the crowd and poured two of their beers. Say Hello to Dennis and Danielle Espinosa of Main & Six Brewing Company, which is setting up at 1636 N. Main St. I had a great time talking to them!  And, check out those cool growlers on the table!

And, I can say this even at this early stage: the Black IPA from Main and Six Brewing is already one of my favorites....

The fest was family- and pet-friendly, and this family had both bases covered! Everyone had a good time under the Bridge!

and, yes, it was warm enough for flip-flops!

And then, it was time for me to get behind the jockey box and pour some beer! I was thrilled to pour an IPA and an Imperial Stout for Playalinda Brewing Company (Titusville). I've been there a time or few! (Find several stories on this site about Playalinda Brewing). 

Back in a happy place...
pouring beer at a beerfest!

Great work by the organizers of the Fest! It doesn't get much better than drinking good beer for a great cause at an awesome setting!  See you next year.....

And, that's another beerfest in the books! It's been a great beerfest season around Florida so far, and it ain't done yet! 

Thanks to Riverside Rotary, Cavalier Distributing, Playalinda Brewing, and everyone who took the time to talk and take a few photos! That's what it's all about ...... See ya next time around a beer in Florida Somewhere!  If you take a look at the two Events pages on this site, you're likely to find me at a few more over the next couple of months.

Til next time,


Linda Johnson, Certified Cicerone®

© 2017 BrewNymph, LLC. All text and photos. All rights reserved. BrewNymph; Peace, Love, Pints; Where the Beer Meets the Beach, and Beer is my Trademark are federally-registered trademarks of BrewNymph, LLC; BeerSphere and I'm Fun; Deal With It! are trademarks of BrewNymph, LLC

Friday, February 24, 2017

Riverside Craft Beer Fest: Beer Over the River and Under the Bridge, Saturday, February 25

Just a friendly reminder to everyone in the North Florida area: the Fourth Annual Riverside Craft Beer Festival presented by Rotary Club of Riverside returns to the Riverside Arts Market in Jacksonville under the Fuller-Warren Bridge on Saturday, February 25. See my earlier preview story for the lowdown on the Who, What, Where, When, How and Why, which is stuff you probably already know by now. (But, I don't think we really need to ask "why" -- it's a beerfest, for one thing, and it's for a good cause, after all!) General fest hours are 4-7pm, with a one-hour early VIP entry beginning at 3pm. Tickets (unlimited beer sampling) are still available online, and a limited number of additional VIP tickets have recently been released. Otherwise, tickets may be purchased at the gate on Saturday.

Beer sampling along the River in Jax...
volunteer shirt and beer from last year
Look for a "more intimate" fest this year, according to Fest Director Matt McLauchlin. Because of the size of the Riverside Arts Market venue, the fest organizers focused on "aesthetics and logistics" by bringing the components of the fest closer together this year, while still allowing for a relaxed ambience with plenty of space to move around. The fest will feature a more formal entrance. Generally, breweries will be grouped by distributor and will serve beer under tents and via small distributor trucks and several brewery vans. Over 100 craft beers will be available from over 70 local, Florida, regional, national and international breweries. A brewery list can be found on the fest website. To help fest attendees sort through the many beers, a list of breweries and beers is expected to be available for patrons as they enter the site.

Local beer from Intuition Ale Works 

Rather than a separate VIP area, the fest allows holders of VIP tickets access to beer sampling throughout the grounds an hour earlier than the general admission ticket. Many of the beers available at the early 3pm time will be "specialty" beers poured while supplies last. In other words, once those run out, they're gone!

Music will be provided by Grandpa's Cough Medicine, from 3-7pm. Food will be available for purchase on site from at least 10 local food trucks. The organizers also increased the number of tables and seating options this year, says Matt McLauchlin. Commemorative shirts will be printed on site and available for purchase from local screenprinter Shipyard Dog (St. Augustine). 

Proceeds from the event benefit Community Peds Care and the Riverside Rotary Foundation, which disburses funds to charitable causes. Last year, the fest raised roughly $95,000, and Rotary hopes to pass that figure this time around. This fest has become an "established event" throughout the beer industry and among the beer crowd, adds Matt, and it's been "gaining interest over the years." Fest organizers encourage everyone to try new beers and "enjoy Jacksonville."

And, it should be a great day for doing just that! See you Saturday!

Riverside Arts Market, the site of the Riverside Craft Beer Fest, is located at 715 Riverside Ave., Jacksonville, directly under the Fuller-Warren Bridge. 

Just like last year, after Saturday, I will have attended two beerfests presented by two different Florida Rotary chapters over back-to-back weekends! Rotary chapters are really into charity events (and, I think they like a beer or two also!). 

I'll be pouring some beer at Riverside Craft Beer Fest during the second shift and wandering around before then, so find me and say Hi! See ya there!


Til next time,


Linda Johnson, Certified Cicerone®

© 2017 BrewNymph, LLC. All text and photos. All rights reserved. BrewNymph; Peace, Love, Pints; Where the Beer Meets the Beach, and Beer is my Trademark are federally-registered trademarks of BrewNymph, LLC; BeerSphere and I'm Fun; Deal With It! are trademarks of BrewNymph, LLC

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Beer (and Wings) to the East; Wings (and Beer) to the West: Time Flew By at Florida Craft Brew and Wing Fest

February 17 ... 2018. That's the date for the 7th Annual Florida Craft Brew and Wing Fest, and it will be here before you know it. But, wait a minute ....  let's take a look at THIS year's fest first:

The 6th Annual Florida Craft Brew and Wing Fest, presented by Sunrise Rotary, again took place at the Royal Palm Pointe Park in Vero Beach, Saturday, February 18. As in years past, being a family-friendly event, this fest had something for everyone, from barbecue wing vendors to craft beer tents to two stages of continuous foot-stomping-sing-along live music. Check out this site's preview story from last week. 

Attendance at this fest, which has steadily increased by thousands each year, may be just as newsworthy as the winners of the wing and homebrew competitions. According to Fest Spokesperson Debbie Avery, this year's Fest attracted an estimated 14,000 attendees. Admission to the fest grounds is free of charge. 

A few of the attendees at Florida Craft Brew & Wing Fest 2016

The Fest experience actually began off-site. A shout-out to Sunrise Rotary for providing a complimentary shuttle bus from the nearby parking garage direct to the check-in tent!

Although the Fest venue consisted of one long stretch, it was divided into East and West Ends. Wings? Beer? Music? Go East or Go West: food and beer everywhere!

You could go East.... or you could go West...

...Or you could go both ways ....

About 17 wing vendors filled the air with tantalizing barbecue aromas. In addition, pizza and seafood vendors were cookin' to the delight of the crowd. Beer tents from local Florida breweries, home brew clubs, and a number of regional and national breweries lined both sides of the park. Banquet tables and seats were set up along the middle, and most tables were equipped with water rinsing stations for fest beer glasses. Beer was available by separate pay-per-cup pour at several stations, or through the unlimited wristband sampling option. Each end of the park featured a music stage, with continuous live music all afternoon, and tall tables for enjoying the food, beer and music. 

I caught up with the Judges of the Wing competition after the judging, and they were a happy bunch. The judging panel consisted of various city officials. 

The Judges' table after the judging...
And, yes, it was serious stuff before that:

Judging table at work.
(photo provided by Florida Craft Brew & Wing Fest)

The Wings Competition was divided into two groups of anonymous tastings: Chef's Division (local groups) and Restaurant Division (professional). After digging into the wings (and using those paper towels in the photos), the judges' tasting scores were tallied by a separate group. The results in the Chef's Division: 3rd, Dyer Chevrolet; 2nd, Creative Pest Control; and 1st Place to Rick's Chicks. And, for the Restaurant Division: 3rd, So Flo Bistro; 2nd, Nick's Family Restaurant; and 1st Place to Hurricane's Grill & Wings. The winner of the Spirit Award was Hodge Podge. The People's Choice Award went to the Creative Pest Control Team. Congratulations!

The Creative Pest Control Winning Wings Team
(photo provided by Florida Craft Brew & Wing Fest)
And, while all of that was going on, the music played:

And, then, there's the beer! I made a stop at Brevard Ale Works, a brewery-in-planning looking to open in Rockledge later this year. It's always a fun time hanging out with this group, and I was able to sample four of the five beers they brought to the fest: Coffee IPA (made with Kenyan coffee), Sweet Stout (made with Jamaican coffee), Baltic Porter, and Doppelbock. Another solid round of beers from these guys!  Continue to look for them at upcoming local events around the Melbourne area.

Another fun visit with the guys from Brevard Ale Works!
With so many people attending this fest, the fest venue was generally pretty easy to navigate and move around. Beer tends to be a good conversation piece, and, among others, I enjoyed talking with a fellow Midwesterner:

... this dude in the Three Floyds shirt!
Yeah, I had to move to Florida and go back to Indiana
before I got to Three Floyds... we know the story...

Local area Vero Beach breweries Walking Tree Brewery and Orchid Island Brewery had a steady stream of traffic at their tents all afternoon. 

Walking Tree Brewery tent. The Sandy Feet Wheat Ale
is a refreshing lighter beer great for a Florida day.
And, that's the subject of another story....

Neighboring breweries Sailfish Brewing (Fort Pierce) and Side Door Brewing (Port St. Lucie) also were popular places. 

Tag and Release Amber Ale from Sailfish Brewing:
easy-drinking ale with caramel notes.
The afternoon really flew by: that happens when sampling beers and talking beer! It was cool chatting with Kym, Director of Sales at Big Storm Brewing (Tampa), and getting a taste of the Tropic Pressure Florida Ale (hibiscus, floral, a bit sweet, and oh, so tasty). 

With Kym, and a very flavorful ale!

Sampling beers at beerfests is a great way to try new beers or beer styles. And, sometimes breweries bring beers that are only available in their local area or in their tap rooms or that haven't made their way into statewide distribution. That was the case with the "Decklin's Indulgence" from Big Top Brewing (Sarasota). I haven't visited Big Top Brewing yet, but it's another one on that infamous "list!"

Yeah, this was a good one: Chocolate Peanut Butter Brown Ale.
Brewed once a year. Name inspired by a customer's kid.
And, while we're at it, let's get a behind-the-jockey-box-photo with the guy behind the brewery....

Thanks, Seth!
In addition to the commercial brewers, Florida Craft Brew & Wing Fest also provides local homebrewers with the opportunity to share their beers and earn awards in the homebrew competition. Judging took place a week earlier at the VIP Party at Walking Tree Brewery. (Although I was a judge in the homebrew contest at last year's fest, I wasn't able to attend the pre-fest party and judging last week.) Here's a shout-out and Congratulations to this year's homebrew contest winners (drum roll, please): 3rd place: Chris Ellison (Red Buoy Brewers) for "Shore lb." IPA; 2nd place: George Bailey (Boil Over Boys) for "Winter Spiceamon"; and 1st place: Eric Carson (Red Buoy Brewers) for "Sea Glass Helles." And, you can catch these homebrew guys at Shrimpfest on Saturday, February 25. 

The banner of the homebrew contest winners.
(photo from Red Buoy Brewers Facebook page)

What an afternoon! From what I observed, everyone from young and small to young-at-heart and everywhere in between (even including a few friendly pets who had their owners on leashes) had another fun day at Florida Craft Brew & Wing Fest 2016. 

Awesome afternoon with a few thousand friendly folks. 

And, what was that about February 17, 2018?  See you there!

Another great time at Florida Craft Brew & Wing Fest! Thanks to the Rotary Club for the hospitality!

And, Florida Beerfest Season is still truckin' along, y'know! Check out the events pages on this site and check out some beer! See you in Florida Somewhere!

Til next time,


Linda Johnson, Certified Cicerone®   

©2017 BrewNymph, LLC.  All rights reserved. BrewNymph; Peace, Love, Pints; Where the Beer Meets the Beach, and Beer is my Trademark are federally-registered trademarks of BrewNymph, LLC; BeerSphere and I'm Fun; Deal With It! are trademarks of BrewNymph, LLC

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

That's a First: Bog Brewing Company To Celebrate First Anniversary March 4 With First Bottle Release

[UPDATE, 2/26/2017:  The Anniversary Ale referenced below will be subject to a two-bottle limit, at $15 each. Sales of bottles will begin at the back door of the tap room on March 4, 2017.  Cheers!]

On March 4, 2016, brothers Steve Mendoza and John French quietly opened Bog Brewing Company on West King St. just off of US 1 and downtown St. Augustine (see pre-opening story from this site here).  The brothers opened the 3.5 barrel brewery and tap room in a building that housed a former drugstore and a pawn shop with the intention of bringing a neighborhood brewery to the area. Over the course of the first year in its young existence, they have done just that. Walk into Bog Brewing anytime, and guests are immediately made to feel welcome while enjoying a glass of house-made craft beer (and, yes, this writer speaks from experience).  

Photo by Linda Johnson
Since its opening day 2016, the brewery has brewed more than 30 different types of beers, served on its ten rotating taps. Signature beers include the brewery's Cream Ale, Amber Rye, Session IPA, IPA and Chipotle Porter. In addition, the brewery serves up a few very creative beers, such as  the Smoked Datil Cream Ale. One of this writer's favorite Bog beers is the Oatmeal Coffee Stout, made with local coffee beans. 

Photo provided by Bog Brewing Company
On Saturday, March 4, 2017, Bog Brewing celebrates its One-Year Anniversary to the day in grand style, as it releases its first bottled beer, a limited edition Anniversary Ale, available in 22 oz. bottles. The special beer (9.1%) is a barrel-aged combination of Barleywine and Belgian Brown styles, with a deep ruby color, a vibrant bourbon aroma, and an "assertive, yet balanced" bitterness, according to a statement by the brewery. As if an Anniversary ale weren't enough, why did Bog Brewing decide to take the added step of making that beer the first barrel-aged beer it produces? Says Steve, "we have a good reason to celebrate and only have one chance at a first anniversary." The Anniversary Ale was aged about six months in Barton bourbon barrels and Templeton Rye Barrels and will be blended together. "We did some sampling, and the beer turned out be a very nice balance," says Steve. In addition to  hand-labelling and hand-bottling around 400-450 bottles of the Ale which will be available for purchase at the Anniversary, the brewery is also planning to offer it on tap for the special day. Steve further adds that the brewery is looking to retain some bottles to do vertical tastings in future years. 

When asked what has been most challenging during the first year, Steve replied, "What hasn't been?" "We want to give 110% effort and never rest on one good batch or get complacent." Says Steve, he and John have "not let up" since opening last year and have been going non-stop.

So, what does Year Two hold for the brothers and Bog Brewing? "We are looking to continue to hone our craft and at small growth," adds Steve. There's a possibility of adding several new styles of beer to the menu board, such as German beers. With respect to growth, the brewery is looking at possibly acquiring another fermentation tank. 

The public is invited to stop by the brewery on March 4, beginning at noon, to meet co-owners/brewers Steve and John. Pie 95 food truck will serve wood-fired pizza starting at 12:30pm. 

Photo by Linda Johnson
Bog Brewing, or simply "The Bog," as it is called, serves only craft beers brewed on site, along with wine. Patrons may purchase glass growlers of Bog beer in quart and half-gallon sizes.  The tap room is family and pet-friendly, and the venue also features a beach-like picnic area (complete with sand) at the back of the tap room.  Food trucks are on site regularly.  

Bog Brewing is located at 218 West King St., St. Augustine, and is open six days a week, beginning at 4pm Tuesday-Thursday, and at noon, Friday thru Sunday.

Yes, you can find this writer at Bog Brewing frequently! The tap room is cozy, the staff is friendly, the beers are solid, and there's always someone willing to strike up a conversation! Congratulations to Bog Brewing, and Cheers to many more years!

As Florida beerfest season continues to rock along, and many more special events continue to find their way onto events calendars, I'll see you around a beer in Florida Somewhere! Thanks for reading!

Til next time,


Linda Johnson, Certified Cicerone®

original posting date: 2/21/2017

©2017 BrewNymph, LLC. All text and photos. All rights reserved. BrewNymph; Peace, Love, Pints; Where the Beer Meets the Beach, and Beer is my Trademark are federally-registered trademarks of BrewNymph, LLC; BeerSphere and I'm Fun; Deal With It! are trademarks of BrewNymph, LLC