5th Annual Florida Tap Invitational

As you may know, I’m on a quest to review every brewery in Florida. Unfortunately, a large portion of the Sunshine State isn’t exactly conducive for a day trip to check out a few breweries. Tallahassee, for example, has five breweries but is a five-hour and forty-five-minute drive for me. So when one of my favorite Florida breweries invited me up for the 5th Annual Florida Tap Invitational held in our state capital of Tallahassee, I was ecstatic! The Proof Brewing Company started the craft beer craze in Tallahassee when they opened their doors in 2012. A year later, the husband and wife team of Byron and Angela Burroughs came up with the brilliant idea to have a festival based solely around Florida breweries. Now that’s a great idea, but to push the envelope a bit further, each brewery in attendance is required to bring at least two beers that are either one-offs or don’t go into distribution. Basically, each brewery is bringing only the good stuff. I’m talking 45 breweries, two cideries, and 102 delicious alcoholic beverages.

Florida Tap Invitational

Tickets for this year’s festival, which was held on September 29th and 30th, fell into two levels. General admission tickets were $55 and included a food and beer pairing the night before the festival, entrance into the Florida Tap Invitational at 1:00pm, and unlimited samples at the festival. VIP Tickets were $100 and included everything above plus entrance into the festival an hour earlier, a 750ml bottle of ‘Royal Blood Line’ Imperial Stout (released to VIP ticket holders only), a plate of food at the festival, and a chance to try the ‘Coffee & Vanilla aged Royal Bloodline’. Either way, you look at it, both options are pretty amazing.

Florida Tap Invitational

My trip to Florida’s Panhandle started around 9:45 Thursday morning after dropping my son off at school. Thankfully I didn’t face a single issue and arrived at my hotel in Tallahassee at 3:00pm. After checking in to the hotel I headed over to the GrassLands Brewing Co. They were the first of five brewery reviews I had scheduled while I was in town for the festival. I spent the next three hours trying the beer, touring the facility and talking with Gabe Grass who owns the brewery with his wife Saralynn. Three hours are typically longer than I spend reviewing a brewery, but the folks of Grasslands made for great conversation. I headed back to the hotel grabbing food from Whataburger on the way before calling it a night.

Florida Tap Invitational

Friday morning I hit Denny’s before heading over to the Proof Brewing Company. I arrived at Proof around 12:15 to find a friend from Instagram already sitting at the bar. Lisa and I talked a bit about the upcoming festivities before I got to work on my review. Overall I could not have been more impressed with the beer and the facility. I asked around for Smitty who was my contact at the brewery and who had extended the invitation to me. After a quick hello, he headed back to business. All of the brewers and brewery reps were showing up for a pre-festival get-together and Smitty was running around preparing for the festival.

Florida Tap Invitational

Through the grapevine, I learned that the Ology Brewing Company was having a couple special releases. I wasn’t scheduled to pay them a visit until Sunday, but I mean come on. Special releases! I arrived at Ology around 3:30 to find another Instagram buddy holding down the fort. Bryan was in town for the festival with his brother from Panama City. I also met Matt who was there representing the Tallahassee Beer Society (@TLHBeerSociety on Twitter and Instagram). The TLH Beer Society knows anything and about the Tallahassee beer scene and they took it upon themselves to show me around town. If you’re ever heading to Tally they are absolutely the ones to talk to about what’s happening in town. The first of the special releases was a 5% marshmallow milk stout called ‘Quantum Mallow’. I’m picky when it comes to milk stouts, but I enjoyed Quantum Mallow and its hint of marshmallow. The next special release was a 4% abv Berliner Weisse called ‘Straw-Barb Wall’ that was brewed with strawberries and rhubarb. Like everywhere else in Florida the fruited Berliner Weisse is pretty popular in Tallahassee and the ‘Straw-Barb Wall’ was a good example of one.

Florida Tap Invitational

After a bit more small talk it was time to head over to the Lake Tribe Brewing Company. The brewery taproom is only open six and a half hours a week. That’s it! They focus on distribution more than serving in-house. Lake Tribe was definitely the smallest brewery in Tallahassee, but that doesn’t stop them from producing delicious beer. They brew a fantastic DIPA and seem to have their barrel aged sour game down pat. Lake Tribe is also where I met the founder of the TLH Beer Society, Danny. We had talked a bit about the Tallahassee beer scene before my trip up so it was nice to meet him.

Florida Tap Invitational

From there I followed Danny over to the Madison Social and Township, where the food and beer pairing was being held. On arrival, we were issued our cups and tickets for food and activities. On top of the beer and food pairings, the tickets were also used for the carnival-like beer games. After trying a sample of Proof’s gold-winning ‘Soci-Ale’ it was time for some food.

Florida Tap Invitational

The first pairing was a Chicken Pastor with Peach and Pineapple salsa paired with the Proof Madison ‘Soci-Ale’.

Florida Tap Invitational

Next up were jalapeno blackberry Buffalo wings paired with Proofs ‘Mango Wit’. After the wings came a Pork Belly Slider on a steamed bun with pickled veggies and hoisin glaze paired with Proof‘s ‘EightFive-O Pale Ale’.

Florida Tap Invitational

Last but not least were meatballs paired with Proof’s ‘Lager’. All of the food was delicious and the beers paired with them were spot on. After a few hours, I called it quits and headed back to the hotel for the night.

Florida Tap Invitational

Saturday morning, after another stop at Denny’s, I hopped a ride from Lyft and arrived at Proof at about 11:45 to get in the VIP line. After ID’s and wristbands were exchanged, tickets were scanned, and we were in the gates at noon with mini snifter in hand. My first stop was the Proof tent to try out the ‘Coffee Vanilla Royal Blood Line’ Imperial Stout. Coming in at 12% this bad boy had VIP written all over it. Coffee and vanilla for days!

Florida Tap Invitational

I spent the next 45 minutes or so at the Proof tent trying everything they had to offer. A number of which were absolutely delicious variants of their 4.5% ‘Evil Kiss Berliner Weisse’. The ‘Blood Orange Hibiscus’, ‘Blue Raspberry’, ‘Kiwi Wild Strawberry’ on cask, ‘Black Currant Aronia’, and ‘Key Lime’ were each better than the last.

Florida Tap Invitational

My favorite of the bunch was the Black Currant Aronia of which I had a couple of pours. It was almost chewy and reminded me a bit of a puree. The 6.4% ‘Peach Mango Coconut Tropical Uprising’ N.E. Style IPA was peach forward with a mango backing and just a hint of coconut. The 8% ‘Oaked Creatures in the Dark’ on Cask was a nice addition to the already tasty base version of Creatures.

Florida Tap Invitational

The last beer I tried from the Proof tent was the ‘Red Wine BA Litany of Angels’ aged on Cherries. It was a 9% Belgian Strong Ale with a hint of cherries and a lovely red wine backing. I’m always a sucker for a beer aged in wine barrels. In between just about every beer, I downed a snifter of water. Proof smartly placed kegs of water throughout the festival grounds. I really didn’t see anyone staggering during the fest, so the water certainly seemed to do its job.

Florida Tap Invitational

The Hidden Springs Ale Works table was my next stop for their ‘Brawndo, The Thirst Mutilator’ Gatorade Gose. If water isn’t your thing, this Key Lime Gose brewed with electrolytes will certainly help to hydrate you.

Florida Tap Invitational

JDub’s Brewing Co. was up next and it didn’t matter if I wanted to try their offerings or not because their Sales Rep Jorge is absolutely the most enthusiastic person I’ve ever met. There is no way to not get sucked into what he’s selling. The 11.1% ‘Siesta Key Rum Barrel Aged Imperial Stout’ he was hawking was damn good. A lot of times rum BA stouts taste ‘off’ to me, but this one had everything going right for it. It was like a sweet chocolatey rum ball. A quick slide to the right brought me to the J. Wakefield Brewing table. Alex and company were serving their fruit punch Berliner ‘Haterade’ and a lemon and lime Berliner called ‘Troll So Hard’. I had tried both before and just like in the past, they both hit their flavor profiles on point. I told myself I wouldn’t try anything I had already had before, but it’s hard to pass up a stout or Berliner from Wakefield. Even though I was scheduled to pay the Deep Brewing Company a visit the day after the festival I still wanted to see what they were all about. Owner and Head Brewer Ryan LaPete was manning the table next to a deep water dive helmet which had been turned into a tap beer dispenser.

Florida Tap Invitational

He was pouring his 10.2% Belgian Tripel, ‘Holy Spear It’ and ‘Sea Dragon Dragonfruit Gose’. The Gose was spot on with a delicious sweet tart mix of Passionfruit and Dragon fruit with a salty dry finish. The Tripel, on the other hand, seemed to be missing something for me. It just didn’t have that alcoholic spicy bite that I’ve come to love from the style. In saying that, I did enjoy it more the next day at the brewery, but it was still missing that special character for me. I have a feeling my palate had taken a wrecking from all of the Berliners I had tried to that point because I heard a number of times how much people really enjoyed the beer.

Florida Tap Invitational

Calusa Brewing was up next with their ‘Imperial Barrel Aged Dissonance Breakfast Brown’. Dissonance comes in at a very healthy 11.5% and gives off flavors of bourbon, vanilla, sweet chocolate, cinnamon, and coffee. It’s really a fantastic imperial breakfast brown ale that I need to find a bottle of somewhere. One thing you can always count on when it comes to Angry Chair Brewing is their ‘A’ game. The taps were manned by co-founder Ryan Dowdle, who brought along his 11% ‘Rocky Road Imperial Stout’ and 4% ‘Apricot Berliner Weisse’. Angry Chair, like Wakefield, is another one that stops traffic when it comes to Stouts and Berliners. Rocky Road is a sweet, chewy orgy of marshmallows, vanilla, and chocolate with a nutty finish. I love Apricots and the ‘Apricot Berliner Weisse’ did not let me down. There was an enjoyable amount of apricot with just enough tartness to even everything out.

Florida Tap Invitational

Arkane Aleworks was up next and I believe this was my first time trying anything from them. If their ‘Gimme Swelter Berliner Weisse’ is any indication of what they have to offer, I want more, please. It was slightly tart with juicy mango up front and a slight Habanero bite on the backend. I love when a beer has just the right amount of heat.

Florida Tap Invitational

My sleeper beer of the day came from the Swamp Head Brewery. They brought Peat Dunwoody’s Somoa Cookie Wee Heavy to the festival. The Scotch Ale is a favorite style of mine, so I was excited to see that a brewery actually brought one. This wasn’t just any Scotch Ale either. Swamp Head took their base beer, which is already aged in 20 y/o bourbon barrels, and threw in chocolate and coconut. Oh My God was this beer delicious! It tasted like the cookie, but with the malty bourbon sweetness of the base. From what I understand, this is brewed only in small batches. ‘Pete Dunwoody’s Samoa Cookie’ needs to be bottled and when that happens, I’ll be driving up to Gainesville for the release!

Florida Tap Invitational

The Saltwater Brewery and Head Brewer Dustin Jeffers brought ‘Hazelnut Coffee Mayday’ and ‘Swags Spa Day’. Spa Day was a 3.7% Golden Ale brewed with cucumber and mint. Think of the cucumber water you’ve had at the spa and throw in mint and you get the idea. The cucumber and mint played off each other quite well. ‘Hazelnut Coffee Mayday’ comes in at 9% and is a hazelnut coffee drinkers dream come true. This beer punches you in the face with hazelnut and coffee and yes, that’s a good thing!

Florida Tap Invitational

The Red Cypress Brewery brought a 7% Saison called Wild Ones: Foeder #1. It’s oak aged and fermented with Brettanomyces for a year. You get a nice earth and oaky funk with a slight tart.

Florida Tap Invitational

Oyster City Brewing was up next with their bourbon barrel aged Brown Ale, ‘Midnight at the Oasis’. There’s a smooth bourbon bite with roasty malts, coffee, and vanilla. It was an easy drinker at 11%.

Florida Tap Invitational

Odd Breed Wild Ales co-founders Matt Manthe and Daniel Naumko brought their ‘Prickly Pear Farmhouse Ale’ and ‘Viognier Barrel Aged Wild Gold’. The Prickly Pear is 6% and aged in French oak barrels before being refermented with Prickly Pears. There is some serious barnyard funk with a slight fruity tartness at the end. I wanted a bit more of the fruit to match up with the funk though. The Viognier is aged with their house wild yeast and souring bacteria for 11 months in Viognier wine barrels sourced out of California. The result is easily the sourest beer of the day. Oaky goodness bursting with flavors of tropical fruit and citrus. Odd Breed is scheduled to open later this year in Pompano Beach. They will be exclusively brewing fermented and oak aged ales. Currently, they still have openings in their bottle club. If you’re a fan of sours this is the club for you!

Florida Tap Invitational

One of four founders and Head Brewer, John Denny, was on hand to pour for the First Magnitude Brewing Co. John was pouring a ‘Vanilla Black Rye Ale’ and a ‘Passionfruit Sour Pale Ale’ with Mosaic hops. The ‘Vanilla Black’ was the perfect mix of chocolate, vanilla, roasty malts, and a spicy rye kick. I love what rye does to a beer when it’s used correctly. The ‘Passionfruit Sour’ played well with the fruitiness from the Mosaic hops with just enough of a sour character. I really loved First Magnitude when I reviewed them last year and I certainly enjoyed both of these offerings as well. If you haven’t checked out Gainesville’s craft beer scene, you’re definitely missing out!

Florida Tap Invitational

The Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s ‘Navin’s Sorrow’ was my last beer of the festival. At 12% Navin’s is a bourbon barrel aged split between an Imperial Stout and a Barleywine with raspberries and salted caramel added. Both the raspberries and caramel came through with a chewy roasty dark cocoa. It was a delicious way to end the 5th Annual Florida Tap Invitational.

Florida Tap Invitational

While finishing my last beer, a couple of waters, and a BBQ pork sandwich with mac and cheese (part of VIP ticket) I hung out in Proof’s taproom watching the Seminoles squeak out a win. I was supposed to join Bryan and a few others for a bottle share later that night, but I was still up in the air on whether I was going or not. I was scheduled to review Ology Brewing at noon on Sunday before heading over to Deep Brewing for their review. After the game was over I ordered a Lyft and headed back to the hotel. It didn’t take long to decide that I was going to grab Chick-fil-A for dinner and call it a night.

Florida Tap Invitational

I woke up Sunday morning and checked out of the hotel. I headed over to Denny’s once again for breakfast. What can I say? I’m easy. After eating and catching about an hour of my Miami Dolphins crapping it up in London, I headed over to the Ology Brewing Co. Being that it was noon on a Sunday, there were only a few other people at the brewery, which made knocking out my review pretty easy. It also helped to have the primary owner and Head Brewer, Nick Walker, on hand. I finished up in an hour and a half, which is record time for me to complete a review. Nick asked if I wanted to try the apricot and peach sour that is currently in barrels. That was an offer I could not refuse. Forty pounds of each fruit went into the beer. Forty pounds! It was delicious and luckily for you folks in Tally, Nick says it will be his first bottle release. Do not miss that release! Trust me.

Florida Tap Invitational

I finished up my flight and headed over to the Deep Brewing Company to review my 5th and final brewery on the trip. I knew that Deep was releasing ‘Holy Spear It’ for their first ever bottle release so I wasn’t surprised to see a line along the building when I pulled up. Come to find out the line wasn’t for the bottle release but for the Tally Mac Shack (@TallyMacShack on Instagram and Twitter) food truck grand opening. There were people who had been literally standing in line for two hours to get a taste. Unfortunately for a large portion of them, the Tally Mac Shack ran out of food. They literally went through 60 pounds of cheese!

Florida Tap Invitational

I found a spot at the bar, ordered my first flight and reintroduced myself to Owner and Head Brewer, Ryan LaPete. Oh, and did I mention that Deep was also having a Tap Invitational hangover party as well? Needless to say, the taproom was pretty much packed. After an hour or so, the crowd thinned out enough for Ryan to take some time out, from doing literally everything, to show me around the brewery. Dreading the fact that I had a five-hour drive ahead of me, I took my time sampling Ryan’s wares. For only being open a little over a year his beers were quite enjoyable.

Florida Tap Invitational

Around 6:30 or so I figured it was time to start thinking about heading home. I asked the gentlemen behind the bar (Clayton, Jesse, and Will) for a good place to catch a bite to eat before heading out-of-town and after commiserating for a few minutes they came up with the Grub Burger Bar.

Florida Tap Invitational

I headed over and had a pretty darn good burger and fries. By 8:30 I was on the road heading home. I took my time and hit a couple of thunderstorms on the way so I didn’t arrive till almost 2:30 in the morning. This was the longest I had been away from my wife and son so I was quite happy to be home and in my own bed again.

Florida Tap Invitational

Overall, I really enjoyed the Florida Tap Invitational. One of the great things about it being held in the panhandle of Florida is with no cities in the general vicinity, you don’t get a lot of people who travel to Tallahassee for the festival. With only about 800 people in attendance, I didn’t have to wait in a line longer than two minutes. The festival set up was spread out enough to where the event didn’t feel crowded at all. One of the many things I loved about the festival is that breweries either send brewery representatives, who know what they are talking about or the brewers/owners themselves. Part of the reason for this is Proof not only purchases the first two kegs a brewery brings, but they also purchase the hotel rooms for each breweries hotel stay. You can feel that everyone who is pouring wants to be there as part of the event. The one thing that stuck out above all else for me, regarding the festival, is that Florida has the Berliner (Florida) Weisse game on lock! If I had to dig up one complaint about the festival it would be that 31 of the 102 beers were either IPA’s or Pale Ales. That is quite a hefty chunk. There were plenty of beer styles to go around even if there wasn’t a single Barleywine in the bunch and only three Porters. But I digress. I really have to commend the Proof Brewing Company for putting on an A+ festival!

Florida Tap Invitational

Tallahassee has turned itself into a nice little craft beer town which I just love to see. I can’t wait to experience how the craft atmosphere changes by the time I head back up next year. I’ll see you then!

Cheers!

 

Here are a few crowd shots:

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PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash

I was invited to the 3rd annual PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash on Saturday, August 19th. Technically it’s the 6th annual, but the first three years were a combination of craft beer and burgers. I had the pleasure of attending one of those in the past, so I had an idea of what to expect this time around. The festival started at 1:00pm and continued until 4:00pm at which time festivalgoers were invited to an after-party at the iBar. Live entertainment was provided during the Bash by Sweet Justice and DJ/Electric Violinist Timothee Lovelock of Lovelock Music Group. Both acts played simultaneously in two different areas. Both had completely different vibes, but seemed to be enjoyed by all, myself included. There were a number of vendors hawking all sorts of craft beer related and unrelated swag and of course a number of food vendors as well. Tickets were $39.00 in advance and $49.00 at the door. For those looking to make a weekend out of it, there were room packages available. A single occupancy room, including ticket, started at $149.00 while double occupancy, with two tickets, started at $179.00. That’s certainly something to think about for next year.

PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash

A portion of the proceeds from this year’s festival went to Bluewater Babes Fish for a Cure, an all-female fishing tournament. The money raised by Bluewater Babes goes to local breast and ovarian cancer patients in financial need. The tournament is held October 6th and 7th out of Jupiter and boat registrations are still open. Since 2009, they have donated over $465,000 to long-standing local charities such as Cancer Alliance for Help and Hope, H.O.W. – Hearing the Ovarian Cancer Whisper and the Kristin Hoke Breast Health Program at Jupiter Medical Center.

PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash

I arrived at the PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash around 12:45pm to find parking to be a little tight. This was no surprise since I had been there before and the event page warned to arrive early, specifically due to parking. Valet was available for $15 if you didn’t want to fight for a spot. After a bit of wandering, I found the entrance to the Bash. A quick check in with my ticket and I was ready to see what the festival had to offer. The 50 or so breweries were split between two large rooms with the seven cideries and one meadery in a smaller room. My game plan was to only try the beer I hadn’t had before. My first stop was the Knee Deep Brewing table to try ‘Tanilla’ a 6.3% abv vanilla porter brewed with Tahitian vanilla beans. It was a pretty average offering with chocolate, vanilla and a slight coffee bite coming through.

PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash

Next up was ‘ReDANKulous’ a 9.5% abv imperial red IPA with Chinook, Mosaic and Simcoe hops from Founders Brewing. Typically Founders IPA’s are spot on but this beer was extremely malt forward. Having tried so many IPA’s from Founders I have to chalk this up to the distributor pouring an old bottle. ‘Passion Pit’ from Saltwater Brewery was the first beer poured via tap rather than a bottle. At 3.7% abv, this Golden Ale is perfect for summer with a very enjoyable bite from the passion fruit.

PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer BashUp next was ‘Lucille’ (The Walking Dead) from the Terrapin Beer Co. Lucille is a 9.4% abv Imperial Stout brewed with Blackstrap molasses and vanilla, then aged on Hickory, Maple, and White Ash wood. It was a little smokier than I care for but the molasses vanilla and maple came out nicely. It’s not a beer I would personally go back to though.

PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash

The Tomoka Brewing Co. and their ‘Oceanside White IPA’ were up next. Oceanside has a wheat base which cuts the hops down a touch, but both citrus and pine still came through well. Definitely an easy drinker! I took a break from beer for a few minutes in order to try a couple of things in the cider/mead room. That is where I found the biggest offering of the day. B. Nektar’s ‘Cherry Chipotle’ comes in at a hefty 14% abv with tart cherry up front, followed by honey and finishing off with a nice spicy heat from the chipotle which didn’t overpower the mead at all.

PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash

It really played nicely off of the cherries. I chatted with the folks from Accomplice Brewery and Ciderworks for a bit while trying their coffee cider, which was an interesting treat. Back to where the beer was flowing, I tried ‘Fruitlands’ from Modern Times, which is a 4.8% abv Gose brewed with guava and passionfruit. The salty, tart tropical fruit blend was a nice change of pace from everything else I had already tried. Copperpoint Brewing’s ‘Blood Orange Wit’ was another perfect example of a perfect summer beer. The orange came through pleasantly without overpowering the wheat base of the beer. One of the unannounced timed releases was Devour Brewing’s ‘Axman Brown Ale’. It’s 5.5% abv and aged on Bali coffee, Vietnamese cinnamon sticks, and Vermont maple syrup. The coffee and cinnamon come to the forefront with the maple syrup coming through on the back-end. Owner/Headbrewer Chip loves to play with adjuncts and thankfully he really knows what he’s doing.

This was one of the best beers of the day. Finally, my favorite beer of the day came from the LauderAle Brewery. ‘La Niña’ is a 5.2% abv Blonde Ale brewed with what had to be loads of mango and a decent helping of Habanero peppers. Each sip was juicy mango with a really enjoyable Habanero kick. This was the first beer I’ve had from LauderAle. I hope it leads to a great review once I make it down to check out the brewery.

PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash
Photography by: Dawn’s Photography

If you ever see Coastal Karma Brewing at an event make sure to stop in for a taste. Homebrewer Charles Chase is doing a number of tasty things in the name of beer. He brought four beers to the festival and my two favorites were his ‘Karma Hoptra IPA’ and ‘Ménage a Trois Saison’. ‘Karma Hoptra’ was an absolutely delicious 7.5% abv IPA with bursts of juicy citrus. The ‘Ménage a Trois Saison’ was an interesting take on the Saison. At 6.7% abv, the Saison is brewed with coriander, ginger, and apricot. Surprisingly or not, they go together splendidly. Coastal Karma Brewing is hoping to eventually call the Northwood Village section of northern West Palm Beach home.

PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash
Photography by: Dawn’s Photography

At the end of the festival, the People’s Choice Awards were given out for the best craft brewery and cidery. Festivalgoers placed votes throughout the day. The award for the best cidery went to the Accomplice Brewery and Ciderworks for the 2nd year in a row. The award for the best brewery went to (are you ready for this?) Alltech Lexington Brewing & Distilling. Yep, the brewery that makes the god-awful ‘Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale’ bested every other brewery according to the folks in attendance. I don’t know, maybe I need to revisit it? Who knows maybe, they’ve improved the recipe?

PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash

Next, the winners of the PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash Homebrew Competition were announced. The homebrews entered were reviewed by four judges certified by the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program). Unfortunately, the homebrews were only available to the judges. The prize for first place was estimated at $1,100 and consisted of a two-night stay at the legendary PGA National Resort & Spa including a golf twosome and dinner for two at Ironwood Steak & Seafood. Last but not least the winner takes home the King of Homebrews Trophy. Second place takes home a glass beer mug engraved trophy plus dinner for two at Ironwood Steak & Seafood. Finally, third place takes home a glass beer mug engraved trophy and a $50 iBar Gift Certificate. First place went to Jorge Quintana for his ‘Coconut Coma’ American Porter which uses all natural toasted coconut added after fermentation. Second place went to Fidel Navarrete for his ‘Citra Hopped Up’ Belgian IPA. Third place also went to Jorge Quintana for his ‘Maui Gold American Pale Ale’. Jorge added pineapple after fermentation to the ‘Maui Gold’. He has been Homebrewing for seven years and hopes to one day open Cayo Hueso Brewing. This wasn’t Coconut Coma’s first time tasting gold. Jorge also took first at the Funky Buddha Lounge and Brewery, Homebrew Competition Back in July. Part of that win had him going back to the Lounge in mid-August to brew ‘Coconut Coma’ on their system for release in-house.

PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash

The Craft Beer Bash is a great festival to attend if you aren’t looking to tick a bunch of different beers off your Untappd wants list. Grab your drinking buddies, put your drinking caps on, and go to town. The large majority of beers are poured directly from the bottle by distributors or in some cases employees of Total Wine. That was the only real problem I had with this festival. Thankfully though there were a number of local breweries that not only sent kegs but also brewery reps who knew their beer. Part of the fun of a festival is talking to the brewery representatives about the beer and the brewery. If I was to make a suggestion it would be to get away from the bottle pours and focus on kegs or at the very least have people pouring who are familiar with the brewery and beer they are representing. All in all, I had a great time and look forward to attending the PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash next year!

Cheers!

PGA National Resort & Spa Craft Beer Bash

Virginia’s Ocelot Brewing Company

Ocelot Brewing Company

Virginia Craft Brewery: Ocelot Brewing Company

Established: Grand Opening May 23rd, 2015

Location: 23600 Overland Drive #180, Dulles, VA 20166

Known For: The Ocelot Brewing Company is known for their highly rated IPA’s and Stouts. Amongst the crowd of IPA’s one stands out more than the others. The ‘Talking Backwards’ Triple IPA is released once a year in February. It is brewed with CTZ, Simcoe, Mosaic, and Citra hops and comes in at a hefty 10.8% abv. ‘Here Kitty Kitty’, a Russian Imperial Stout, is currently their highest rated stout that isn’t barrel aged. It was first brewed in collaboration with J. Wakefield Brewing, down in Miami, where I originally had a chance to try it. Luckily, Batch 2 was on tap for my visit to Ocelot and it was just as delicious as I had remembered.

Ocelot Brewing Company

Current Beer Menu: I ordered a flight of six beers the first of which was called the ‘Setting Sun’. An IPA coming in at 5.9% abv brewed with Amarillo hops. There was a lot of citrus, especially grapefruit, on the nose. While drinking, the grapefruit came through even more as it warmed. I enjoyed it, but I enjoyed the next IPA even more. ‘Street Lights’ is 6.7% abv and reminded me of an orange Creamsicle. The aroma was fantastic with sweet notes of citrus and peach. The taste was sweet with an almost creamy orange backed by a slight hoppy bitterness. ‘Honey’ Pie is 7.5% abv Saison brewed with honey. The scent brought herbal notes with a bit of sweetness from the honey. As I was drinking the honey came through well, but not enough to overpower the slight funk of the Saison. ‘My Heart’s Delight’, a smoky Red Ale, came in at 5% abv. The fragrance had a light smokiness with a bit of biscuit and citrus. Upon tasting the smoke and a hoppy bitterness play off of each other pleasantly followed by an enjoyable malt background. The smoke came out more as the beer warmed while the smoky bitterness lingered on the tongue. I’m not always the biggest fan of smoke in my beer because it can easily take over, but this one was done very well. ‘Electric Boots’ is a 5.3% abv fruit beer with black currants. The smell was ‘fantastic with berries on top of berries. It’s almost like a black currant and berry puree with a light tart. While I was working on the flight I had ordered a 4oz pour of both ‘Here Kitty Kitty’ and ‘Megaton Maple’. I slowly tasted both as they warmed. ‘Here Kitty Kitty’ is a 12% abv Russian Imperial Stout with notes of coffee, vanilla, and dark chocolate on the nose. The taste was much of the same combined with a sweetness that isn’t typically found in the style. I really enjoyed both the Ocelot and Wakefield brewed batches of this beer. ‘Megaton Maple’ is a 5.2% abv stout brewed with, you guessed it, maple. The aroma had a light smokiness with a bit of biscuit and citrus. The taste was much of the same combined with a sweetness that isn’t typically found in the style. The scent was almost entirely maple with just a bit of coffee coming through. Upon tasting the maple jumps out to the forefront, followed by coffee and brown sugar. Like smoke, maple can take over a beer as well, but once again this beer was done wonderfully and that wasn’t the case. Limited amounts of their IPA’s are bottled and available for purchase. Also, anytime a barrel aged beer is bottled it will also be available in the tasting room.

Ocelot Brewing Company

Price Range: A 4oz pour is $2.00 for everything outside of the big beers. A 4oz pour of ‘Here Kitty Kitty’ for example was $4.00. A 10oz pour will run you between $4.00 and $8.00. A 16oz pour is $6.00 and of course, doesn’t include the heavy hitters. Both 32oz and 64oz glass growlers are available for sale. The fill for a 32oz growler starts at $10.00 while the 64oz starts at $18.00. If you happen to be bringing in your own growler make sure it isn’t of the small neck flip top variety.

Wine Menu: Wine is not available.

Food Menu/Food Trucks: Rotating food trucks are available on site Thursday through Sunday. Outside food can also be brought in. Food can also be delivered using one of the many menus behind the bar.

Ambiance: Like a lot of breweries the Ocelot Brewing Company is tucked away in an industrial park. Walking into the rather large red brick building I found myself taking in multiple pieces of the song lyric inspired mural on the wall. After claiming a seat at the bar and ordering a flight I turned around to see The Barrel Wall. Clever to say the least. The brewery had a nice overall feel to it. The industrial background of the brewing system and masonry of The Barrel Wall paired well against the mural and bar.

Ocelot Brewing Company

Ocelot Brewing Company

Bar Seating: There are ten seats at the bar, three large tables with seating for eight, and numerous smaller settings for small parties. Outside there are two picnic tables on a canopy covered porch.

Ocelot Brewing Company

Staff: Jared was a bevy of information. He was more than happy to answer any and all questions brought to his attention by me or any of the other patrons. If he didn’t know the answer, the bar manager, Jess was quick on the recall. I happened to be visiting on the 4th of July so the bar was hopping, but you wouldn’t know that with how attentive the staff was to everyone. The staff can really make or break a brewery experience and Ocelot seems to only employ the best.

Ocelot Brewing Company

Brewing System: Ocelot brews on a three vessel system made up of a Mash/Lauter Tun combo, a Kettle, and a Whirlpool. The system is 15bbls in size and they currently have seven 30bbl fermenters.

Ocelot Brewing Company Ocelot Brewing Company

Merch: Hats were out of stock on the day I was on site, but they are typically available. T-shirts are $20.00, brewery logo tin tackers are $15.00, glasses range from $6.00 to $7.00, and stickers are a dollar a piece. When purchasing a glass you can have the glass filled for about half of the typical price. Glass growlers are $5.00 for the 32oz and $6.00 for the 64oz.

Ocelot Brewing Company

Membership offered: When asking about a membership/bottle club I received a positive response. It seems to be so secretive that no details could be given. That’s what happens when you don’t know the secret handshake.

Best days or time of year to go: It was a welcomed surprise to learn the brewery is open every day of the week. If you want to miss the hordes, focus on the hours before the rush hour crowd are released from their work related shackles.

Regular Hours: Monday – Friday: 1:00pm – 10:00pm, Saturday: 11:00am – 10:00pm, and Sunday: 11:00am – 6:00pm

Happy Hour: I mean really with prices this low every hour is Happy Hour!

Fun Facts: 

-Being a music intensive brewery it’s no surprise to learn all of Ocelot’s beer names are song lyrics from various artists. The only exception to this would be certain collaborations.

-The names of their favorite frontmen in music grace the brewing tanks.

Ocelot Brewing Company

-Ocelot’s logo is a guitar pick.

-100% of the beers Ocelot produces are gluten reduced.

-The name Ocelot comes not from the wild cat of the same name, but from a song title by the jam band, Phish.

-The wood in both the tables and base of the bar come from a 150 y/o house that was being torn down in Washington D.C. The bar top itself is Pine. It was purchased in Maryland from the Community Forklift. A reclaimed and surplus building materials thrift store.

Ocelot Brewing Company

Overall Rating (1-5): I really enjoyed Ocelot and look forward to visiting again the next time I’m in town to visit my sister. I am rating Ocelot a 4.5 out of 5.

What was missing: The beer available on tap covered a nice range of styles that were all presented quite well. The staff was attentive to not only my needs, but everyone around me and the brewery itself had a very welcoming feel. In saying all of that I can’t put my finger on a particular negative issue.

Ocelot Brewing Company

In closing, Virginia, like my home state of Florida has a very healthy craft beer scene and Ocelot seems to be making a name for themselves. On my next trip, I’ll have to check out a few of their neighbors and see how everyone stacks up.

Is there something else you would like to know about the Ocelot Brewing Company? Please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below.

Cheers!

Ocelot Brewing Company

 

Carnival Vista’s RedFrog Brewery Premiers New Beer

Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery

If a cruise is in your future and you love craft beer then the Carnival Vista is a great ship to call home for a week. As Carnival’s largest ship to date, it has everything you could possibly want, including a pedal-powered Skyride, the first IMAX Theater on a cruise ship, and its very own brewery. The Vista’s sister ship, the Horizon, is set to sail in 2018 and will also have a brewery on board. The RedFrog Pub & Brewery is the first brewery on a North American-based cruise ship and Master Brewer Colin Presby is the man in charge.

Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery

Colin began homebrewing in 2006 before beginning his career in beer with Weyerbacher Brewing as a cellarman. He then took a brewing position at Stoudts Brewing before accepting the head brewer’s job at the Golden Avalanche Brewing Co. He recently hired on Ronald as an assistant brewer from his home state of Pennsylvania.

Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery
Ronald and Colin

Colin had five beers on tap during my visit. One of those, the ‘ThirstyFrog Red’, is brewed off the ship by Anheuser-Busch specifically for Carnival. The profile suggestions for the other four were made by the Concrete Beach Brewery while recipe specifics and the implementation were done by Colin.

Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery

The ‘ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat’ is an unfiltered Hefeweizen with light notes of clove and oranges. The ’ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin’ IPA’ is brewed with Warrior, Citra, and Simcoe hops that impart hints of tropical fruits. The ‘ThirstyFrog American Pale Ale’ is brewed with Centennial and Cascade hops and has a balanced malt and hop profile. The fourth brew is the ‘FriskyFrog Java Stout’ with gentle notes of coffee and chocolate.

Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery

Colin refers to his beers as full flavored, but accessible. He brews them with the novice craft drinker in mind. Typically, Colin brews 3 days a week using a 3 bbl (barrel) Joh. Albrecht Brautechnik dual vessel glass Brewhouse. Across the hall sits a room containing eight 6 bbl fermenters as well as the brewery’s cold storage.

Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery
Photo used courtesy of the Beer Apostle.

To help celebrate American Craft Beer Week Colin brewed his ‘Miami Guava Wheat’ using 84 pounds of pink guava producing 100 gallons of tropical goodness. Carnival invited South Florida media and beer industry folks to the first ever tapping of the cask. Vista Hotel Director, Pierre Camilleri, had the honors of tapping the cask and did so flawlessly.

Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery

Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery

Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery

Also on hand for the festivities was the ship’s, Captain Andrea Catalani. The beer was an aromatic explosion of guava on the nose and thirst quenching deliciousness. It was easily my favorite beer of the day.

Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery

“I was drawing inspiration for this beer from the sort of tastes of Miami. We wanted something that spoke to our homeport. I’ve been really inspired by the Cuban pastries, the pastelitos, and the guava in that,” Colin said.

Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery

While on board a pint will run you $5.75, but Carnival has gone a step further and also sells growlers for $34.95. The 64oz stainless steel flip top growler comes from Brewsuit.com and is appropriately named the SS Growler. Purchasing the growler filled is $48.95 and a refill is $16.95. If you’re in a hurry to get back to the pool there are also self-service stations where you can get a 14oz pour for $4.00.

Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery

The pub is designed with Key West in mind and it certainly does have an island feel to it. There is plenty of seating and the folks handling the bar were as customer friendly as humanly possible. If sitting at the bar and listening to live music doesn’t do it for you there are also two foosball tables and two shuffleboard tables. You can also play Cornhole just outside of the brewery.

Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery

In closing, I would certainly look at the Carnival Vista for my next cruise. The brewery and the state of the art amenities would make for a wonderful vacation. So the next time the family brings up going on vacation show them everything that the Carnival Vista has to offer. There is literally something for everyone.

Carnival Vista RedFrog Pub and Brewery
Saint Nicholas, the Patron Saint of Brewers.

Palm Beach County’s Damn Good Beer Bus

Damn Good Beer Bus

My buddy’s wife asked me if my wife and I wanted to go on the new local beer bus to celebrate his birthday. My initial thought was a new beer bus? How have I not heard about this? I confirmed that we would be there out of love for my buddy more than anything, honestly. After checking out the website, I saw the name of the bus was the Damn Good Beer Bus (DGBB). What a great name! Here’s how it works. You head over to the website and pick which day (Fri., Sat., or Sun.) works best for you and/or your party. The days also correspond with different areas of the county. The northern trip has stops at three of the following breweries: Civil Society Brewing Co., Twisted Trunk Brewing, Tequesta Brewing Co., Dixie Grill & Brewery, or Accomplice Brewery and Ciderworks. The central trip stops at three of the following: Accomplice Brewery & Ciderworks, Dixie Bar and Brewery, Due South Brewing, Copperpoint Brewing Co., Devour Brewing Co., and NOBO Brewing Co. The southern trip stops at three of the following: Due South Brewing, Copperpoint Brewing Co., Devour Brewing Co., NOBO Brewing Co., Saltwater Brewery, and Barrel of Monks Brewing.

Damn Good Beer Bus

Once you have picked your trip you then make your payment of $68.90 (taxes included) and BOOM you’re done. The central trip includes lunch at the Dixie Bar & Brewery so the price reflects that with an added $14.00. Believe me the food at Dixie is worth it! At first glance, the price may seem a little steep, but it includes a flight of beer at each of the three separate breweries, a brewery tour at each brewery, a tasting between brewery stops provided by the DGBB, water and snacks, and of course transportation. It’s a fun way to check out what Palm Beach County has to offer without worrying about driving from brewery to brewery. Plus it’s a great way to spend four hours with your buddies or make new friends with other craft beer lovers. Private tours are also available and that information can be found here or by calling 561.906.7212. While you aren’t able to bring alcohol from home onto the bus, you are able to buy whatever the brewery has to offer and store it in the cooler located on the back of the bus. 

Damn Good Beer Bus

Our trip was set for the third Friday that the bus had actually been operating. There really wasn’t any indication that they were so new to the scene because everything went extremely smooth. Since our party rented out the entire bus the option was given to be picked up in Jupiter. Otherwise, the meeting spot would have been at the Accomplice Brewery and Ciderworks near downtown West Palm Beach. The bus arrived around 6:30 as we were opening a beer or two to help get the party started.

Damn Good Beer Bus

A quick round of introductions with Jonathan and Ralph, our DGBB guides, were made. Waivers were distributed for us to sign while nametags were filled out for everyone. Once the boring stuff was finished we headed out to the bus for a quick group shot before loading up. The bus had been decorated with a birthday theme, which I thought was a nice touch. After a few words from Jonathan, we were on our way to our first stop, which happened to be the Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach. It had been quite a while since I had made it down to Saltwater so I was pretty stoked since I am a fan of them. About 10 minutes into the drive, Jonathan handed out cups and brought out a crowler of the Copperpoint Brewing Companies ‘Blood Orange Wit’. It was a nice introduction to the beer that was coming.

Damn Good Beer Bus

We pulled up to Saltwater and headed inside to find an area set aside for us with plenty of seating for our group. That was a huge plus because the tap room was packed. Almost instantly flights of beer were brought out for each rider. The flights are prechosen simply because it would take forever on a busy Friday night to get and receive the orders for twenty people. Each flight consisted of ‘Screamin’ Reels IPA’, ‘Locale Golden Ale’, ‘Sea Cow Milk Stout’, and the ‘Black Current Strong Ale’ which comes in at 11% abv.

Damn Good Beer Bus

I also tried a few other offerings including ‘Imperial Raspberry Reef’, ‘Habanero Screamin’ Reels’, and Coconut Screamin’ Reels’. I am continually impressed every time I get a chance to stop into Saltwater. After a few minutes, those who wanted to were taken back behind the scenes for a tour of the brewery. After about 45 minutes at the brewery, it was time to head to our next stop, which was Barrel of Monks Brewing in Boca Raton. On the drive south Jonathan opened a crowler of Civil Society’s ‘Blondes Make Me Hoppy’. We pulled up into the Barrel of Monks parking lot and quickly headed inside to our designated seating. Flights quickly started coming out and consisted of their Saison, Wit, Amber, and Tripel. I’ve always been a big fan of their Tripel and this time was no different. I also tried their ‘Irish Cream Koffee Tartan Monk’, which is their Scotch Ale infused with Irish Cream coffee. It was an interesting treatment, to say the least. After a bit, we headed into the brewery for our tour.

Damn Good Beer Bus

A rundown of brewing and production was given before moving into the cellar where a bottle of ‘Happy Accident’ was opened for us to try. ‘Happy Accident’ is their ‘Three Fates Tripel’, which picked up wild yeast from the Florida air, giving it a drier funky flavor profile that was definitely a crowd pleaser. The tour lasted about 15 minutes.

Damn Good Beer Bus

After our time was up we piled back onto the bus and headed for Due South Brewing. While on the road Jonathan opened cans of Twisted Trunk Brewing’s ‘IPGA IPA’. We arrived at Due South and gingerly stumbled into the brewery. By no means was anyone smashed, but we were all definitely feeling the beer. Once gathered around our designated area the flights began to appear. They consisted of the ‘Caramel Cream Ale’, ‘Legendairy Milk Stout’, ‘Hopicana Orange Rye IPA’, and ‘Category 5 DIPA’. There wasn’t a tour offered, but we did have access to management who eagerly answered all questions asked. Once back on the bus we were again offered lite snacks and bottles of water for the drive back up to Jupiter.

Damn Good Beer Bus

I can see another bus being added in the future with more breweries set to open before the end of 2017. Since our trip, I’ve been following the pictures posted on DGBB’s Instagram account and they seem to continually have a packed bus. All in all, I think the Damn Good Beer Bus will be a huge success in Palm Beach County.

Damn Good Beer Bus

In closing, if you’re looking for something different to do on the weekend or looking for a safe and reliable way to get to and from the breweries the Damn Good Beer Bus is most certainly your answer. It’s hard not to have a great time when you’re receiving VIP treatment at the breweries, brewery tours, tasting great beers, surrounded by like-minded people, fantastic tour guides, and an overall kick ass experience.

Islamorada Beer Company – South Location

Islamorada Beer Company

Florida Craft Brewery: Islamorada Beer Company – South Location

Established: October 31st, 2014

Location: 82229 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, Florida 32026

Known For: Located 82 miles north of Key West, the Islamorada Beer Company is known for their easy drinking fun in the sun beers. Whether it’s a day on the water, a day at the beach, or a day doing yard work, their beers are designed with the hot summer days of Florida in mind. Islamorada has taken the flag for session beers and run with it. If the outdoors is your playground, you are their target.

Islamorada Beer Company

Current Beer Menu: My family and I were down in the Keys for a wedding so it was a perfect opportunity to hit one of the two breweries located on Islamorada. Having reviewed the location in Fort Pierce already, I skipped their core beers to focus on what I hadn’t tried yet. Islamorada had eleven of their own beers on tap during my visit. Since I had already tried ‘Sandbar Sunday’, ‘Islamorada Ale’, ‘No Tan Lines’, and ‘Channel Marker’ during my visit to their Fort Pierce production facility and tap room I focused on the remaining seven. My first beer of the day was a coconut key lime Blonde named ‘No Wake Zone’. I got the slightest bit of both coconut and key lime. It certainly has a lot of potential. In talking to the head brewer, Stephanie, I learned that she was in the process of working on the recipe so it could be upscaled at the production facility. The coconut used is roasted in-house.

Islamorada Beer Company

The northern facility has purchased an oven to do the same. Next up was a Cascade dry-hopped mango infused Blonde called the ‘Last Flight Out’. I got a lot of mango on the nose with a just enough mango on the tongue followed by a lite hop bite. ‘Treasure Coast’ is a Vienna Lager that is sweeter than what’s normally typical for the style. That sweetness added a little something extra to a style I don’t normally care for. Their Traditional Lager, Wyland, was next. This is the beer that will act as a gateway to all things craft for the patron who stops in asking for a Budweiser. The Queen Conch Raspberry (Tart) Ale opens up as it warms bringing forth a nice dose of raspberry puree. I only got the slightest hint of tartness from the raspberries. I guess tart is listed on the menu so it doesn’t come as a surprise to someone who may not have a familiarity with all of the different nuances of craft beer. My favorite beer of the day was a vanilla coffee Stout called ‘Buzz on Charters’. I got a lot of coffee on the nose with just the slightest backing of vanilla. The taste was completely vice versa for me. The vanilla took over giving the coffee a backseat. At 6.7% abv it’s one of the bigger beers they brew. My last beer of the day was a Blonde Ale named ‘Go Fish’. It was nice, crisp and quite enjoyable.

Islamorada Beer Company

Price Range: A flight will get you four 4oz beers for $8.00. Each additional pour is $2.00. A pint will run you $6.00 across the board. Growlers in both 32oz and 64oz are offered as well. The 32oz growler glass will run you $8.00 and the fill of the growler will also cost you $8.00. The 64oz glass will run $14 and the fill will also run you $15.00.

Wine Menu: A number of styles are offered by the glass for $6.00, but come on now you aren’t there for the wine.

Food Menu/Food Trucks: Food trucks aren’t a legal form of food distribution in Islamorada just yet. Thankfully though you can have food delivered or try one of their prepackaged items. Fish dip for $7.00, hummus for $3.50, and Boar’s Head meat/cheese for $5.50.

Islamorada Beer Company

Ambiance: The Florida Keys are one of those places I visit just to get away from everything. You can feel the weight of the world slowly fall away as you cross the Miami-Dade-Monroe County line. It’s hard to miss The Islamorada Beer Co. with its brightly colored exterior. You are greeted by an explosion of neon yellow and turquoise as you walk through the front door. Some might think its gaudy, but in the Keys, it fits in perfectly with the tropical feel. Overhead you’ll hear music from bands like Sublime and Dispatch, adding to that relaxing feeling that has already taken a hold of you. Nothing, but good vibes flow through those doors. If chilling at the bar isn’t your thing Giant Jenga, a Foosball table, Giant Connect Four, and a number of board games are available to pass the time.

Islamorada Beer Company Islamorada Beer Company Islamorada Beer Company Islamorada Beer Company

Bar Seating: The bar is split into two sections and holds a total of twelve seats. There are seven tables holding four seats each, a picnic-style table, and additional seating out back.

Staff: Luckily head brewer Stephanie Harper was not only on site during my visit, but also single-handedly running the bar. Stephanie moved down to the Keys from Delaware five years ago to become a scuba instructor. The brewery became her go-to spot and she eventually started bartending while helping to brew on the side. One and a half years ago ownership sat Steph down and asked her to take over the head brewer’s position. With no formal training, she learns on the job and reads everything she can get her hands on regarding the subject. The rest, as they say, is history. Steph was a pleasure to talk to while handling the rest of the patrons. I don’t think she could be more personable if she tried. The Islamorada Beer Co. is lucky to have her. They are currently looking for additional bar help. The only prerequisites are having a bit of experience, the ability to show up on time, and arriving mostly sober. It’s a Keys thing!

Brewing System: Islamorada South brews on a two-barrel system.

Islamorada Beer Company Islamorada Beer Company

Merch: Wow, does Islamorada have merch! They devote a decent sized section in the tap room to all of the merch they offer. They offer everything from koozies, bottle openers, stickers, glasses, tumblers, bar signs, t-shirts, fishing shirts, hats, and even calendars. If you want something they most likely offer it. You can view everything they have to offer here.

Islamorada Beer Company

Membership offered: At this time nothing is offered.

Best days or time of year to go: During the week before the end of the work day is you best time to get a seat at the bar.

Regular Hours: Monday – Saturday: 12:00pm – 9:00pm and Sunday 12:00pm – 6:00pm

Happy Hour: Buy one get one pints are available Monday through Friday from 5:00 to 7:00.

Islamorada Beer Company

Fun Facts:

-Islamorada is the number one top-selling craft beer throughout the Florida Keys.

-Before opening the production brewery in Fort Pierce the Islamorada Beer Co. contract brewed at the Beltway Brewing Co. in Virginia, the Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. in New York, back to the Beltway Brewing Co., and finally to the Thomas Creek Brewery in South Carolina.

-The boat pictured below can be found in the tasting room. It is the first boat part owner Chris Trentine owned.

Islamorada Beer Company

-There were only three beers available during the grand opening. Realizing they needed another offering the partners began mixing the beers only to discover that the ‘Sandbar Sunday Wheat Ale’ and the ‘Islamorada Ale’ go very well together. The wine rep. who was on site at the time suggested calling the concoction ‘No Tan Lines’ and it stuck.

-The ‘Wyland Traditional Lager’ was named after artist Robert Wyland, who is best known as simply, Wyland. He helped brew the inaugural batch. He is a renowned marine life artist known for his Whaling Walls.

Islamorada Beer Company

Overall Rating (1-5): If you’re looking for an easy drinking session brew to take out on your fishing trip Islamorada is the beer for you. Their beers are built around the sun and fun life of the Florida Keys. I am rating the Islamorada Beer Co. a 3.75 out of 5.

What was missing: Being a fan of bigger meatier beers it’s always a letdown when a brewery doesn’t have one available. Of course in saying that the heat and humidity of the Florida Keys aren’t exactly the place you want the high abv beers. As much as I love big stouts, porters, and barleywines they aren’t my go-to styles when I’m sitting on the beach fishing.

Islamorada Beer Company

In closing, going into the review I knew Islamorada primarily focused on session brews with the oddball higher abv thrown in around the holidays. I look forward to the next trip we take down to the Keys knowing there’s a friendly spot to stop, grab a pint, and shoot the shit.

Is there something else you would like to know about the Islamorada Beer Company? Please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below.

J. Wakefield Brewing

Florida Craft Brewery: J. Wakefield Brewing

Established: Grand opening February 28th, 2015

Location: 120 Northwest 24th St, Miami, FL 33127

Known For: J. Wakefield Brewing is best known for theirDFPF’ (Dragon Fruit Passion Fruit) Florida Weisse Sour Ale. It is currently the #2 ranked Berliner Weissbier in the world on beeradvocate.com. First place on that list is held by Wakefield’s own ‘Miami Madness’, which is a Berliner brewed with Guava, Mango, and Passionfruit. On ratebeer.com ‘DFPF’ holds the top spot while Miami Madness is in the second spot.

J. Wakefield Brewing

Current Beer Menu: While I wasn’t lucky enough to attend Wakefield’s 2nd Anniversary party known as Wakefest I did visit the brewery the following week. As luck would have it a few of the festival beers were still available in the taproom. One of those was a Double IPA called ‘Mango Feber’. It was brewed using mango and Mosaic hops and Amarillo hops by the Swedish brewer Brewski. I got a very earthy undertone mixed with hoppy mango. Also from Brewski was a Berliner Weisse called ‘Beet Me With Passion, Honey!’ It was definitely the most interesting beer of the day. You wouldn’t think the combination of passion fruit, honey, and beets would necessarily work together, but surprisingly they did. The beets were there, but they weren’t at all overpowering. It was a really enjoyable beer. Another holdover was Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers ‘Blood Orange Sour Time’. A Wheat Lager aged in white wine barrels with Brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and pediococcus. I really loved how the orange played off of the wine barrel with the added funky sour from the brett, lacto, and pedio. ‘Manatees at the Power Plant’ was next up. It was a collaboration brewed with 3 Stars Brewing Company out of Washington DC. The Berliner Weisse used Jamaican Ugli fruit and guava in the brew. This was the tartest beer of the day with a whole lot of citrus from the Ugli fruit up front and a relatively sweet finish from the guava.

J. Wakefield Brewing

The next collaboration on the board, ‘Brush’, was developed with the Swedish brewery Omnipollo. Together they brewed an Imperial Stout using marshmallows, vanilla beans, cocoa nibs, hazelnut coffee, and ancho chilis. Now I had been drinking really good beer up to this point and ‘Brush’ blew me out of the water with how good it was. I ended up having a second 4oz pour before leaving. It was everything a big stout should be. Rich, dark, and heavy. The different flavors played off of each other so well, I wish I had more of it. Next up was ‘Pi’, a Strong Ale, brewed with key limes, vanilla, and aged in bourbon barrels. This was a collaboration with Bottle Logic Brewing that pretty much came down to key lime pie in a bottle with a shot of bourbon. This was one of those beers that you either love or hate. I happened to be on the side of really loving the beer. The bourbon was a little heavy, but in time that will mellow out. I’m looking forward to seeing what six months of aging will do to the bottle I bought. The ‘UJP’ English Smoked Porter is one of Wakefield’s core beers and one I have always really liked. It’s a chocolatey lightly smoked treat in a glass. The ‘Frank White’ NE Pineapple IPA was the last collaboration on the board and was brewed exclusively for the 18th Street Bottle Shoppe in St Petersburg, FL. I got sweet pineapple up front with a tangy pineapple bite towards the end. My last beer of the day was ‘Midnight Mystery’ Imperial Stout from the Devour Brewing Co. in Boynton Beach, FL. They are a small operation, but really turn out some tasty brews.

J. Wakefield Brewing

Price Range: Flights of the core beers are $8.00 for four 4oz pours while the specialty flights will run you $12.00. 16oz pours of the core beers are $5.00 and 13oz pours of the specialty beers will run you between $7.00 and $10.00. 32oz growlers are available and during my visit ranged between $10.00 and $15.00. You may also luck out and find 4-packs of 16oz cans or 750ml bottles available in the to go fridge. During my visit I purchased a few bottles of ‘Pi’ for $25.00 a pop and a few bottles of ‘Golden Ticket’ an Imperial Stout brewed specifically for Wakefest for $20.00 apiece.

Wine Menu: Wine is not offered, but cider and craft sodas are available.

Food Menu/Food Trucks:  Food trucks are available Friday and Saturday starting at 6:00 pm and all day Sunday.

J. Wakefield Brewing

Ambiance: If you grew up loving Star Wars and comic books (like I did) then this is the brewery for you. Before walking into the taproom there is a mural of Darth Vader’s helmet on the wall. When walking inside you quickly discover that the taproom isn’t very large. I imagine on Friday and Saturday nights it gets pretty packed in there. The wall on one side of the space is covered in graffiti murals of different scenes from the Star Wars Trilogy. The wall running parallel has a floor to ceiling mural of a fire-breathing dragon painted in more of the fashion of the Far East than in the medieval style. Comic book and Star Wars figurines from Jonathan Wakefield’s own collection adorn the tap area of the bar. The room itself is well-lit by a combination of the natural sunlight pouring in through the windows and the chandeliers overhead. Music from the likes of 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre, and other artists (from when hip-hop was actually worth listening to) played overhead. For what the taproom lacks in size it makes up for in character.

J. Wakefield Brewing

Bar Seating: There are ten seats at the bar, six tables with two chairs apiece, seating along the windows, a large family style table with 12 seats, and seating outside.

Staff: During my visit, I had the pleasure of meeting both Samantha and Andrew. Samantha holds the title of Manager on Duty and has been with Wakefield since day one. Andrew had only been with Wakefield for two months after a stint at the Yard House. Both handled the bar and patrons very well. Even the ones who were just stopping in for bottles on their way to the airport who didn’t quite grasp how things worked. Samantha and Andrew made the Wakefield experience that much better.

J. Wakefield Brewing

Brewing System: J. Wakefield has a 15 barrel Brewhouse consisting of five 15 bbl fermenters, a 30 bbl and 45 bbl fermenter, two 15 bbl brite tanks, and a 45 bbl brite tank.

Merch: T-shirts for $20.00, Polo’s for $30.00, work shirts for $35, and sweatshirts for 45.00. Glasses are also available for $7.00.

Membership offered: No membership is available and there is nothing planned for the future.

Best days or time of year to go: If you’re looking for the smallest crowd possible your safest bet is between 2:00 and 4:00 pm Monday through Thursday.

Regular Hours: Monday: 2:00pm – 8:00pm, Tuesday – Thursday: 2:00pm – 11:00pm, Friday: 12:00pm – 1:00am, Saturday: 12:00pm – 1:00am, and Sunday: 12:00pm – 8:00pm

Happy Hour: Monday through Friday between 5:00 and 7:00 pm receive a dollar off from the majority of the beers.

J. Wakefield Brewing

J. Wakefield Brewing

J. Wakefield Brewing

Fun Facts:

-Every May 4th the brewery celebrates Star Wars Day or as I’ve known it to be called, May the Fourth Be With You. In 2016 The original Trilogy was shown and limited edition t-shirts were available. Patrons were also encouraged to dress the part.

-J. Wakefield Brewing is looking to build a production only brewery in Western Miami-Dade County. The plan is for it to be the largest brewery south of Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing, and twice as large as Oakland Park’s Funky Buddha Brewery. Under the plan, the capacity would be increased to 45,000 – 50,000 barrels a year.

-Jonathan Wakefield raised $112,000, during a crowd-funded campaign, to help raise money to build his brewery.

-Christmas Day of 2005 John’s wife, Natalie, gave him a $50.00 Mr. Beer Homebrew Kit. She unknowingly helped change the future of craft beer in South Florida. We owe it all to her! Thanks, Natalie!

J. Wakefield Brewing

Overall Rating (1-5): This is an easy one. I’m rating J. Wakefield Brewing a 5 out of 5. The brewery, with all of its graffiti and murals, is an interesting place to visit. The staff was about as perfect as they could be when it came to making sure the patrons were taken care of. Last but not least the beer was spot on. After a bump or two, in the beginning, Wakefield has pretty much produced nothing but winners.

J. Wakefield Brewing

What was missing: I guess if I can’t think of anything that’s a good thing right?

In closing, J. Wakefield Brewing is one of those breweries that you have to stop in and experience. I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t be disappointed by your visit.

Is there something else you would like to know about J. Wakefield Brewing? Please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment below.

Cheers!

J. Wakefield Brewing