Showing posts with label Space Coast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Space Coast. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cocoa Beach Uncorked Launches Food and Beverage Festival on the Beach

Catching some sunshine, along with colorful food and a craft beer ...
on the beach at Cocoa Beach Uncorked
Setup for the inaugural Cocoa Beach Uncorked food and beverage fest began under dark skies last Saturday morning. By noon, and almost as if by cue, Mother Nature turned the gray skies into blue, and the rain clouds gave way to sunshine, just as the Grand Tasting Village on the beach prepared to open. 

Held June 3-4 at Alan Shepard Park, the fest featured a 20,000-square-foot tent packed with chef-prepared gastronomic delights and liquid libations against a beautiful background courtesy of the Atlantic Ocean. Pre-fest info sounded pretty sweet -- picture it: culinary dishes along with an assortment of beverages on the beach -- what's not to like? And, yes, it was also apparent that the weekend would require some exercise.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Countdown: Cocoa Beach Uncorked Takes Off This Weekend

Beach? Check.
Ocean views? Check.
Food? Check.
Craft beer? Check.
Wine and spirits? Check.
More Food? Check. 

Hungry and thirsty yet? Yeah, check that.

The inaugural Cocoa Beach Uncorked two-day food and beverage festival takes off June 3-4 at Alan Shepard Park -- on the beach -- in Cocoa Beach. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All decked out: Surfing Santas at Brix Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Til next time,


Linda Johnson,
Certified Cicerone®

© 2016 BrewNymph, LLC. All photos and text. 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

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!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Navigating Through History: Hell 'n Blazes Brewing Charting Out on Course in Melbourne, Fla

[Ed. Note:  Hell 'N Blazes Brewing will open its doors on June 24, 2016, 5pm. This story is based on my "during-construction" visit in March. I'm pretty excited to see the place!]

It was a hardware store back in the late 1800's. It also was home to a mortician, a furniture store, a bank, another hardware store, the "Christmas Cottage," and the "Petite Boutique" boutique and antique store. It even once housed a TV studio. And, now, the building at 1002 E. New Haven Ave. in historic downtown Melbourne, Florida is the new home to Hell 'n Blazes Brewing Company.

Follow the sign .... Downtown Melbourne street directory
Owner Don DiFrisco, a local real estate investor and entrepreneur, purchased the building in June 2015, and almost immediately, crews began renovations and haven't stopped since. I visited the new soon-to-open brewery recently, and while it's still a work-in-progress, all signs point to an impressive finished product.  

Under construction 
Before talking about my tour around the inside of the brewery and tasting room, let's get to the first question that's probably on everyone's minds: Where did the name come from?

A local lake, Lake Hell 'n Blazes, inspired the name for the brewery. Local lore has it that early 20th century boaters had a "difficult," that is, a "hell and blazes" of a time navigating the "floating islands" of the lake. It's also been known as "Hellen Blazes" and, a nearby archaeological site, known as "Helen Blazes" (tempering down the term "hell" for those offended by it), has produced historic artifacts from the Archaic Period. The lake sits at the upper end of the northward-flowing St. Johns River in Brevard County, approximately 10 miles southwest of Melbourne. 

The name resonated with the brewery crew. There's also a sense of determination with the name, which became apparent during my tour of the brewery. 

Through the double doors of the brewery main entrance sits the large tasting room, which can accommodate around 300 guests. The first thing you'll notice is the large wraparound bar straight ahead, with a sightline view of the brewhouse behind a large glass window. The bar is embellished with cut wood logs, which is a tribute to the natural elements of Florida. The tasting room will include couches, tables and chairs, a standing bar rail, track lighting and TVs. And, thanks to General Manager Andy Pinkerton, I was able to get a "getting-closer-to-the-end-of-construction-are-we-there-yet" look at things.

Thanks, Andy! Hey, Space Coast, you're gonna love this!
Note the split wood log themed bar. Room with a brewhouse view.

During my visit, contractors were still bustling around the building at the end of the day, and the brewery crew was busy working on the placement of the brewhouse equipment. There's a lot going on in here! The place is big: it's a 16,000 square-foot two-story building, with 8000 sf on each floor. The lower level is home to the brewhouse and tasting room. Administrative offices will be located on the second floor. They're going to have an awesome view of the brewhouse from up there, too, because the layout features a wraparound window design. 

There are quite a few engaging features in the decor. The brewery is keeping the history of the building alive with story-telling artwork along the back hallway (see upper right part of the above photo). Now, I couldn't give that story away by taking photos, but it's pretty cool. There are also photos of the Lake on the wall. During renovations, the crew found a number of artifacts from the days-gone-by, including morticians' tools. Right now, those are sitting in a glass cabinet upstairs, but it will be interesting to see where those land. Behind the tasting room is a 25x15 private tasting room/conference room, which includes the authentic safe from the bank era. Even the ceiling in the tasting room is the old tin ceiling from prior days. And, there's even a separate gameroom, where patrons will be able to enjoy table and arcade games and darts. Overall, what they've done here is mesh the industrial and historical past with a natural and modern vibe. 

All of that, and I haven't even mentioned the beer yet!  You'll get your beer from the bar which will feature a poured concrete bar top and 10 draft line taps. Add in kegerators. The bar will also offer several guest beers.  

And, the beer?  Sounds like there's going to be plenty. A 10-barrel oversized brewhouse anchors the brewery. And, here's what else is in there, along with a grain miller: six 20-bbl fermenters, five 10-bbl fermenters (170 barrel capacity); six 10-bbl brite tanks and three 20-bbl brite tanks (120 bbl capacity). And, for experimental brews, the guys have a half-barrel pilot system to try out some new stuff. It's a bright space, too, with skylights letting in the natural light. 

At the helm of the brewhouse is Brewmaster Todd Furbeck, assisted by Associate Brewmaster Jimmy DiFrisco. Todd is an award-winning brewmaster who worked at a local brewery for over 8 years. He's definitely ready to get brewing on this new equipment, anticipating a first brew date in April. Hell 'n Blazes Brewing expects to offer around six core beers, with additional seasonals throughout the year. When asked what the first brew might be, Todd indicated it could be a pale ale, but, hey, brewer's discretion! Guess we'll have to wait and see......

Orange Blossom Honey Wheat, a nice,
lighter beer with a good balance of citrus and wheat:

at Rocky Water Brew Fest 2015

Not only has the crew at Hell 'n Blazes Brewing been busy with the construction phase of things, they have already offered their beer at several local beerfests, including Rocky Water Brew Fest (see my two prior blog posts about that one, by the way) and Space Coast Beer Fest (love this fest, even though I missed it this year). They have also participated in various open house events and beer tastings to let folks taste their brew. Coming up in November, the brewery will be featured at the first Downtown Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, in which it is also an event partner. 

The tap room is the focal point for the brewery, and while the door remains open to distribution down the (canning) line, for right now, it's all about the quality, getting it right the first time, and serving up some "helluva good beer" in what promises to be an amazing tasting room. The bar will also offer munchie-type and smaller food items, with local food delivery options.  Growlers will be available, and they're even working on stainless growlers. The brewery is anticipating an opening in May, so stay tuned. 

One helluva cool ride
Hell 'n Blazes Brewing Company is located at the end of the historic downtown Melbourne district, just over the railroad tracks. I don't think you'll have too much trouble navigating your way here ... just follow what's sure to be a crowd, or look for that truck (above). See you guys in May!

Yeah, I had a great time getting the tour of Hell 'n Blazes Brewing. Thanks again to the guys, especially Andy and Todd. And, I even ran into Jimmy the next day at Intracoastal Brewing Company in the Eau Gallie District! Looking forward to my next visit to Melbourne and the Space Coast, so see you soon!

In the meantime, you guys reading this know what to do: keep up with beer events via the Events page on this website, and, for those of you in North Florida, take a look at that daily beer calendar of events. I'll see you at a brewery, bar, restaurant, or event, so say Hi... but you might have to put up with a photo or two!


Til next time,


(credit: Wikipedia, additional source for Lake Hell 'n Blazes information)

Monday, January 25, 2016

Hello, Florida BeerFest Season 2016!

It's the last week in January.  While that might be equated with the usual two-week cold snap (Florida chill - who else has needed a big ol' blanket recently?), it also means that BeerFest Season is here in Florida!  The new year started off with Key Largo Brew on the Bay and Funky Buddha Brewing's Maple Bacon Coffee Porter Day (see my MBCPDay blog post!). 

Check out my BeerSphere Events page for beerfests and other special events throughout the year (it's constantly updated; I even put links in to make it easy for ya). Include beerfests in your travel plans! (along with golf, scuba, beach bumming, birdwatching, concerts, etc. - but somehow I always find time for the beer!)

So, get ready for a wild beer ride (and warmer temperatures) over the next few months, baby, because we're getting this party going:

SOUTH FLORIDA BEER WEEK.... It's happening NOW.  Started Saturday, Jan. 23.  And, there was an all-out big #TrenchDay party at Due South Brewing in Boynton Beach to celebrate the release of Mariana Trench Imperial Stout (which I've had, and hoping to find).  #SFBW2016 has events taking place all around South Florida: Martin County, Palm Beach County, Broward, Miami-Dade. And, it caps off with Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival, Jan. 30, and, Miami Beer Festival, Jan. 30. Great SoFla weather (I'm optimistic), awesome beer, awesome people!  Hey, that SoFla brewery list has grown with MORE great brews! Be sure to check the SFBW site for calendar of events -- because it's packed!  Beer, beaches, SoFla.  By the way, I'll be shooting some video and taking tons of photos at Jupiter Craft Brewers Fest on Saturday -- if you see me, say hi!  I'll also be around Jupiter on Friday sipping some suds and checking out one of my favorite burger places closeby!

ONLINE TICKETS ARE SOLD OUT! Limited tickets at gate; cash only. JUPITER CRAFT BREWERS FESTIVAL, Roger Dean Stadium, Abacoa at Jupiter, 1-5pm. I've been a vendor at this one a couple of times. One of my favorites!  Over 60 brewers from Florida and elsewhere.  Online tix are sold out (I told ya so), but there will be 1000 tix available at the gate (cash only).  I missed it last year, but I'll be there this time around!  Beertrip to South Florida -- in January -- if you're into that kind of thing.....  Uh, yeah..... See you there! And, by the way, there's a great golf course here at Abacoa, too (lots of birds to watch, but there's a lot of water to watch out for, too)


MIAMI BEER FESTIVAL, Marlins Park, Miami, 5-9pm. It's a kickass beer list: South FL and more!  Sounds like a fun time!

1/29 thru 2/7:

VOLUSIA BEER WEEK, all around Volusia County; includes BREWS & BOWTIES Beer Dinner on 2/4; and DELAND CRAFT BEER FEST on 2/6.  Some really good breweries over in Volusia County! I have been to a few:  See my posts about Tomoka Brewing Co. (read it here) and Persimmon Hollow Brewing Co. (blog post here) #drinkvolusia


DELAND CRAFT BEER FEST, Downtown DeLand, 1-5pm. Part of Volusia Beer Week (see above). Over 100 breweries, over 350 beers; including Florida breweries and homebrew clubs.


UNDERDARK RELEASE DAY at INTUITION ALE WORKS, Jacksonville, BIG Block Party starts at 12 noon. $15 per bottle, limit 2. Food trucks on site. And, they'll have some earlier vintages on tap, too. Special snifter glasses will be available, too. And, I like that chick..... 


WE WANT BREW! FEST, at Brewers Tasting Room, St. Pete, 6-8pm. Benefits USO Central Florida. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, too: advance tickets only $20, and includes unlimited pours of 20+ homebrews.  Local homebrew clubs and military teams brewing beers in a competition! If you're around Tampa/St. Pete, check it out!  It's your duty to drink beer! Hey, I was just at Brewers Tasting Room last week!  Cool place with outdoor patio area. 


FLORIDA CRAFT BREW & WING FEST, Royal Palm Pointe, Vero Beach, 11:30-4pm. I've been to this one --- it's a blast! Attendance growing each year. Two music stages. Homebrewers competition with cash prizes. And, I'm going to be one of the judges! I might have to practice drinking more beer styles between now and then. Do you like wings?  Do you like beer? OK, then. You'll LOVE this! Proceeds benefit Vero Beach Sunrise Rotary Club. 


RIVERSIDE CRAFT BEER FEST, under the Fuller Warren Bridge at Riverside Arts Market, Jacksonville, 3-7pm. Yeah, I've been to this one, too!  Right along the river in Jax.  Food trucks, lots of beer. Benefits Riverside Rotary Club. Let's hope for better weather this year!  


SPACE COAST CRAFT BEER FESTIVAL, Palm Bay, 2-5pm (1pm VIP entry). I loved this fest last year! Presented by Broken Barrel Tavern (which, by the way, is a kickass place with great food and a killer beer list). Fest is right along the interstate. Tickets are on sale now......

Read the sign>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


BONITA BREW FEST, Riverside Park, Bonita Springs, 4-7:30pm. This sounds like a cool beerfest in Southwest Florida!  Tickets limited to 900 General Admission and 100 VIP. Benefits Northside Naples Kiwanis. Live reggae music by SowFlo. Unlimited brew samples, food trucks. Local Southwest FL brewers and more! This looks like a pretty good brewery list. Over 100 beers, plus ciders. (By the way, check out my blog posts about Fort Myers Brewing and Point Ybel Brewing from last year!) #bonitabrewfest. I need to get over this way more often. 

NO, THAT'S NOT ALL! (c'mon, really?) THAT'S JUST THE START! .... CHECK OUT THE BEERSPHERE EVENTS PAGE ON THIS BLOG FOR MORE BEER FESTS AND SPECIAL EVENTS - I ALREADY HAVE 'EM ON THERE! (I like to plan these things out, y'know). And, I just started a NEW PAGE: the TAP THIS calendar page, which features local one-liner/one-nighter tappings and such around Jax/North Florida (the current home base). 



Peace, Love, Pints®