Craft beer adventures and experiences… one pint at a time

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Creating FOMO events = food + drink + fun + surprises + charity

Let’s get real for a minute… we live in an age of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) when it comes to events, and, at the same time, our entertainment budget is limited by time and $$$.

(Even if you’re Richard Branson with unlimited finances, there’s only 7 days in a week and 24 hours in a day…)

For most of us, we choose events that we hope will be magical and unique (fun) and leave a lasting (positive) impression.

Some of our best memories are typically celebrations having fun with upbeat people (like-minded friends and strangers,) enjoying good food and libations. For me, when I look back on whatever-was the event, I still get a warm, happy feeling.  It’s those feelings we want to create with our new company: Curated Craft Experiences.  It is our goal to exceed our customers’ expectations with lively, unique and fun events that come with a few surprises.

Invitations > Time

For extroverts, social media brings way more invitations to events than most of us have time or money for, and that creates a challenge:  where to go to get the biggest ROI (return on investment)?  For introverts, simply perusing a listing of upcoming social opportunities can be daunting: which ones will be friendly, not too in-your-face, and fun?

We all want events that make us feel part of a community and special (not too many people.) It’s a given that there will be a solid beverage and specialty food lineup with good entertainment.  We anticipate leaving feeling satisfied and it’s a bonus if we feel like we’ve made a difference (because there’s a charity involved.)

So what’s the Magic Formula to Create (and Satisfy) those of us with Expectations and FOMO?

As event planners, two things are always considered for our public events (this is just the beginning – we consider a lot more):

  1. Today’s consumers:  Attendees want to feel good about themselves and the world. This means events featuring locally sourced and delicious food (from local vendors), craft beverages (featuring local breweries, cideries and distilleries), a community-based charity, and an upbeat, whimsical atmosphere; and
  2. Millennials (those born 1982 to 2004): Many events are the same year after year without considering the changing societal  demographics. Millennials are the next major consumer superpower (even larger than the boomer generation) – and they value quality over quantity, leisure time over money, social responsibility over indulgence, and seek unique, exclusive experiences.

So, the formula I’ve seen work best that satisfies (and delights) the majority of event attendees (not limited by age) is:

The best ROI = Locally sourced food + Local craft beverages (beer/cider or distilled spirits or a combination) + Fun (an element of whimsy) + Surprises (think Pop-up events) + Charity (giving back).

WHAT DO YOU THINK?  (Please comment)

Upcoming Curated Craft Experiences events:

July 8, 2019 – Training for Intervention ProcedureS (TIPS) training for bars/bartenders/brewery/restaurant servers by Carol Dekkers at Overflow Brewing, St Petersburg, FL, 5-10pm.

Register here

 

Sept 7, 2019 – 0.1 Mile (528 feet) of Fun Run, Dunedin House of Beer, 3-6 pm.

Register here

 

 

 

Oct 26, 2019 – 0.1 Mile (528 feet) of Scary Fun Run, If I Brewed the World, St Petersburg, FL, 3-6 pm. Register here

 

 

 

Join us for one or more events and overcome your FOMO!  It’s going to be epic fun!

Gallery

1st World Problems: Carving a Niche in the (Crowded) Craft Beer Market

When “craft beer” first came on the market in the 1980’s, our national brewing map showed a host of Big Beer strongholds:  St Louis (Budweiser), Milwaukee (Miller), Denver (Coors), and PA (Yuengling,) and a few lonely encampment dots (Anchor, Sierra Nevada, Sam Adams,) scattered in between.

Big Beer distribution was speculative and sporadic (Coors was only available in the western US) and new laws were put on the books by brewery lobbyists who helped sweeten the Big Beer pot for various members (case in point, Anheuser Busch effectively kept Miller out of FL for decades with a state law that limited bottle sizes.)  The topic of how Big Beer uses legal means to limit craft breweries is a future blog post.

The craft brewing pioneers started gaining followers through their alternatives to mass-produced 3.2% lagers; and here and there, ideas of microbrewery /brewpubs starting making inroads. Times were unpredictable, Big Beer was fat (and growing fatter) and no one thought the meager craft beer beginning would turn into a liquid gold rush, the likes of what we’ve seen since 2010.

Fast forward to 2019:

  • Sierra Nevada, Stone, Oskar Blues, New Belgium Brewing and others boast brew house locations in multiple states;
  • U.S. craft breweries/ brewpub numbers skyrocketed to over 7500 by the end of 2018, with little sign of abatement;
  • Big Beer conglomerates (Miller/Coors, AB/InBev) are buying up as many craft breweries as will sell; and at the same time pitching new craft cocktails (think Bud Lite Margaritas as an example);
  • In many states, craft beer sales outpace those of Big Beer and continue to grow.

April 2019 Brewers Association stats show:
Brewers Assn Apr 2019 stats

Branding and Brewfests – Standing out in a Crowded Marketplace

In any industry with double-digit growth, competition starts getting tighter and the guaranteed earnings diminish.  To make it through the first year, brewery start-ups need a cadre of solid brewing skills (and proven recipes,) plus business acumen to make the slim margins work.

And, as the market gets more crowded and charities realize they can make money from brewery product donations, brewery owners need to add marketing, outreach and creative problem-solving skills to their list of must haves.

In geographies where the weather is good and the breweries are better, weekends double and triple up with fundraising brew fests and brewery anniversary parties. Tampa Bay is one such locale with an active festival season running from September to May (when the temperatures are palatable.)

In other areas where the outdoor season is shorter, beer fests cluster indoors or wedge into the short June – August time frame.  Competition becomes tight (and often contentious) to capture the spending of the craft beer loving community.

Competition Brings new Tactics

So what happens when the competition (for buyers and shelf space) ramps up quickly with more breweries in the same market space?

I’ve noticed a few behaviors emerge (not unique to the brewing industry) as well as some creative solutions that are changing the landscape of craft breweries:

  • More tactical collaborations. In the past, collaboration brews happened because brewers knew each other and wanted to try something new – together. Today, it seems that collaborations are often done for bragging rights or to create market presence for lesser known breweries.  I’m not judging here, simply observing that collaboration brews are moving away from the friendly experimentation into the realm of competitive advantage;
  • More “experimental” brewing. The US imagination and creativity is alive and well with the expanding list of beer ingredients.  Kudos to the breweries who are capitalizing on the changing American palate for sour and non-traditional beer flavors;
  • More daring /shock marketing that pushes the envelope of “taste” (on moral or palate grounds.) Brews such as the beard yeast beer, and a questionable vagina yeast beer (Europe 2017) stretch the limits of shock marketing. Add this to the litany of questionable/sexist graphics and beer names more typical of a frat house than professional brewers.  The situation has gotten so out of hand that the Brewers Association is getting involved to remove “offensive” labels (for their graphics and/or beer names) from the marketplace;
  • More niche brewing and new styles.  As breweries seek to prove their own brand identity, some have taken to brewing a wide range of styles (with an equally extensive number of draft taps,) or a narrow one (such as all IPAs) to differentiate them from the crowd. In addition, highly limited bottle releases have created a secondary market for resellers and a “mule” industry (buyers paying proxies to bypass bottle limits on release days), with questionable legality;
  • Rise in trademark infringement lawsuits. Protecting brewery branding and beer names has become highly litigious and involves a complex web of patent and trademark laws.  Recently Patagonia Clothing company filed suit against AB/InBev for launching their Patagonia Beer line.  Other cases include infringement on brewery names, graphic art, or beer names (too similar to another or using trademarked product names or celebrity likenesses.) As the competition heats up, the once friendly cooperation and easy-going settlements out of court become more rare.
  • More specialty brew fests/events and charity causes. When Sierra Nevada donated their gift shop clothing to CA firefighters in late 2018, then launched a nation wide call for  brewers to brew a fund-raising Resilience IPA, the brewing community rose to the challenge. The craft industry has always been generous towards charities, but today, more breweries realize that involvement must be planned.  Played right, one can assume the role of an industry leader for little cost.  But, with charities holding their hands out for donations on a daily basis, good strategic planning on leveraging such donations is needed.  Additionally, consumers are becoming more sophisticated with their expectations of novelty at craft beer events.  In response, breweries are inventing new twists on traditional beer festivals to keep attendees coming back: limited release fests, food/beer pairings, museum fundraisers, art-centric festivals, beer mile runs, PGA-related associations, garden club events, etc. Almost any festival today has a craft beer tent or some sort of beer tie-in.

It takes ingenuity and flair to create a solid brand presence and carve out a sustainable niche in the craft beer industry today.

What was once a battle of recipes, today is one of marketing prowess and discovering what consumers crave.  With the rising domination of  the millennial drinker (the millennial generation is as big as the boomer generation), competitiveness will focus more on innovative brand/product offerings aligned with charitable/ethical/environmental causes, and of course, good beer.

Don’t count Big Beer out yet, I believe that things will continue to get more interesting as craft continues to dominate.  Craft beer is growing up and if the Tuckman model of business (Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing) is any indication, it’s going to be an industry to watch for many years to come.

What do you think?

Heading to VA for Business or Pleasure? Be sure to stop at Loudoun County (LoCo) Breweries

It’s always fun to experience local beer goodness off the beaten path, but Virginia farmland is not where I’d expect to find  yummy craft brews – yet Loudoun county, VA boasts close to 25 breweries in its 147,000 acres of farmland (the colloquial response when I our tour guides about the size of the county.)  Leesburg is the only urban sprawl in Loudoun County.

Thanks to the kind folks at the I took part in a LoCo (Loudoun County) media brewery tour day as a precursor to the Craft Brewers Conference #CBC in April in Washington DC.  The full day tour featured several stops:

1. Adroit Theory Brewing. (Adroit Theory Brewing 404 Browning Ct. Unit C Purcellville, Virginia 20132)

 

 

 

Owner Mark Osborne provided an overview of the brewery operations, generous samplings of their brews on tap, and insights (definitely non-conformist) behind this innovative brewery:

  • Androit Theory self-distributes in MD/VA, and has no big plans to go beyond (at this point in time.)  Their limited production line specializes in “big, boozy beers” such as their EBK, a New England style DIPA (a “sessionable” 8.5% abv brew with citra/mosaic/Galaxy hops)
  • “Consume life, drink art,” and “brewed to destroy” pay homage to the metal bands that are inspiration behind the brews, labels, and decor.

My favorite brew on tap was the cask Belgian Quad “All I see is Carrion” aged in Bourbon barrel a with cherries, almonds, and coconut, a 12.2% abv glass of smooth finish deliciousness.  The non-cask (bottled) version is available in limited supply at the brewery, and even without the almonds and coconut, it’s an outstanding value.  (I purchased one for an upcoming FL bottle share!)

Adroit Theory is DEFINITELY worth a stop based on the beer variety (a range of styles on tap) and the ambiance.  Merchandise available in the tap-room includes limited release bottles, t-shirts, winter headgear, glassware, and books.

 

2. Vanish Brewing/Black Hops Farm (42245 Black Hops Lane | Leesburg, VA 20176)

A truly organic hop farm and brewery operation featuring 4 acres of hops growing on structures fabricated out of recycled drilling pipe from Texas.

Inside the hop harvesting building sits the Polish manufactured/Slovenian-sourced hop picking and processing machine (purchased with the support of a VA state and Loudoun County matching grant) facilitates the 90 minute picking to processing timeline.

Brews include tangerine and orange brews, IPAs and a selection of always available brews.

My favorite was the tangerine on tap – served up in a six taster flight – Delish!  Merchandise available includes t-shirts, glassware, and other swag collectibles.

 

3. Delirium Cafe USA       (101 S. King Street, Leesburg, Virginia 20175)

This first of its kind in the U.S. – a formal location of the famed Delirium Cafe (Brussels) – hopes to be open “in 3 weeks”  (it’s been 6 years in the making) according to the owners/partners whose patience with licensing, contractors, and other delays is beyond the realm of most business people.  Their dedication to the craft of craft beer (in particular Delirium and other Belgian delights) carries over to their renovation of  a relic 170-year old building in downtown Leesburg.  Delirium Cafes in other countries are known for their brews but not their locations (often seedy) – and it’s nice to witness a new tradition in the making with this new locale.  It’s a standalone building (two suites were annexed into one) boasting hardwood floors and brick that creates a cozy, turn of the century, yet upscale/urban space that already feels like a trendy new spot even before it’s open.  I can’t wait to visit and try a few of their 25 draught taps and over 150 bottle varieties.

While the traditional Delirium Cafe in Amsterdam (and other locations throughout the world) typically focus on beer, this Leesburg space will also feature on-premise prepared food to go along with the fine brews.

Scheduled (for real!) to open this week (May 10, 2017!)  in downtown Leesburg, VA.

4. Lost Rhino Brewing Co     (21730 Red Rum Drive, Suite 142, Ashburn, VA 20147)

I love artistic spaces that celebrate beer and art and Lost Rhino is a perfect example!  Chalk art (by local Instagram artist “Chalkoholic Chalk Designs”) is everywhere creating an inviting and colorful tasting room.  If pictures say 1000 words, then the gallery below speaks volumes but doesn’t do justice to the innovation of the brews (more about that below,) and the ambiance created by the decor.

Lost Rhino Brewing gained international recognition in part due to it’s moniker “Rhino Chaser” (in surfer lingo it means seeking the largest wave) and due to the attention garnered by their “Bone Duster” Amber Ale, a 6.5% amber ale brewed with the yeast extracted from a millions of years old whale fossil.  The brew was featured in both the Scientific American Journal and PlayBoy’s 2014 online list of the World’s 10 most Interesting Beers.

In addition to creativity, support for Rhino adoption in Africa, and great brews, Lost Rhino also features live weekend entertainment staged in front of their lighted wall of empty beer cans (awaiting packaging.)  A must stop if you’re in the area!

 

 

5. Old Ox Brewing                (44652 GUILFORD DRIVE, UNIT 114,  ASHBURN, VA 20147)

According to the Old Ox Brewery owners (a family business named after a notable county road), the brewery caters “first and foremost” to their  customers in Northern Virginia with local package distribution.  As a 3-year old, community-focused company, Old Ox believes that it is more important to service their cadre of bar, restaurant and grocery accounts personally than it is to expand quickly, and they count their community partners and charitable causes as friends.

And they are innovative!  Old Ox’s imperial IPA embraced a bold step to brewing by using powdered hops (Humulus Lupulus) to gain a better batch yield.  IPA fans on our tour loved the brew, but as a non-hophead (come drink with me and you can have all the IPA’s!), I gravitated to the Funky Face Cherry Sour (a 5% ABV cherry sour) and enjoyed it thoroughly against the backdrop of VA cherry blossoms.

What a wonderful and delicious day it was – and a true testament to the imagination of craft brewers everywhere.  With 25 (and counting) craft breweries in Loudoun County (LoCo) alone, VA is becoming a BEERcation destination.

Many thanks to the Loudoun County organizers and the breweries who participated!

I’ll be back. 🙂

Belgian Beer 101 – For People who Love People who Love Belgian Beer

Ideas to Help with Holiday Giving…

Every year when holiday season rolls around and I’m browsing my local craft beer aisle for new brews, I watch nervous parents, grandparents, husbands/wives, and other adults aimlessly scanning beer labels in hopes of choosing just the right combination of beers for their loved ones who love Belgian craft beer.

Harried sales clerks are often too busy to repeat their picks to yet another clueless customer whose son/daughter/boyfriend/girlfriend loves specialty beer.  While it’s easy to pick up a six-pack of something local, many are looking for an introduction to Belgian Beer so that they can make informed choices.

Note that beer drinkers are like art lovers or foodies!  There are often style/flavor preferences that differ between friends and family members about their beer preferences: the light beer drinkers who buy whatever is cheapest in the 24 can pack (stop reading now,) those who prefer Belgian beer (this is for you and yours,) those who are American craft beer lovers (see my next blog post,) while some are just getting into the “beer world.”   

For those who love Belgian beer and those who love them, I compiled Belgian Beer 101 – for yourself (if you want to know more) or print out for a loved one who simply isn’t as knowledgeable or passionate about Belgian beer as you are.  (You can thank me when you finally get a delicious gift of good Belgian Beer !)

One point to note – if you or your recipient is into BELGIAN BEER – buy Authentic Belgian!  

Don’t be swayed by a bottle or package of Belgian-style American craft beer (unless you’re really on a budget.)  Belgian imported brews have unique flavors that come through generations of pride, tradition, barrel aging and often wild Belgian (in the air) yeast.  It’s like being transported to Belgium and living the good life!  For me, the
deep richness that comes with my favorite Belgian brews are worth the extra couple of dollars I might spend.  (It might sound snobby, but I like what I like.)

Still stumped?

petrus-aged-red1Create a gift basket or 6 pack of several different Belgian beers:  For starters choose different styles that show the diversity of Belgian beers:

  1. One bottle of Lambic (you probably won’t think it is beer because it tastes more like a fruity champagne-style drink than a “traditional” U.S. style beer.  This is a great choice for anyone who might have to share their gift with someone who “isn’t really into the taste of beer” (we ALL know people who say this!)  Brouwerij  (Brewery) Van Honsebrouck N.V. brews St Louis lambics:  Framboise (French for Raspberry) and Kriek (French for Cherry);
  2. A couple of barrel-aged  brews such as the Brouwerij De Brabandere’s Petrus suite of beers including  Petrus Oude Bruin, Petrus Aged Red (my favorite – it’s deep  amber color and sweet) and Petrus Pale ale.  If you or your recipient are a bit adventurous, you might want to take a look at the combination “Sour Power 6-pack” (it comes with instructions on how to blend the brews to get your perfect taste!);
  3. One bottle each of a Dubbel, a Tripel and a Quad.

This would give you a nice varied six-pack of small (11.2 oz) bottles. If you want to create a basket – 2 or 3 of the larger 25 oz / 750 ml (wine bottle sized) bottles or a large and a couple of small bottles, together with a couple of Belgian beer goblets or flutes that match the brewery (or blank ones) makes a great gift. (I’d choose one of the Brewery De Bradandere’s barrel-aged brews, plus a Dubbel and a Quad for variation.)

Happy holiday season, and please share, like, comment – and let me know if this has helped you with your holiday giving !  If you’d like me to send you a copy by email, send me a note at caroldekkers@gmail.com with the subject Belgian Beer 101.  I’ll also be doing a Craft Beer 101 in the next couple of weeks.  Are you interested?

As the Belgians would say:  à votre santé (to your health) or Proost! (cheers!)

Belgian Beer 101 – Page 1

belgian-beer-101-2

Belgian Beer 101 – Page 2

Part 3: Orlando North TTD (Things To Do) – off the beaten (theme park) path…

Want a change of pace from the Orlando area theme park lines, crowds, fantasy and hype?

Why not get off the beaten theme park path and discover some hidden gems a short drive from the big parks?

(This is part 3 of a trilogy of posts – see also Beercation:  Take a look at Orlando North Seminole County FL – a Stones Throw from Theme Parks  and Part-2: Food Worth Going out for — Orlando North Delivers Taste over the top )

Here’s a few notable Seminole County (Orlando North) ideas for your consideration:

Just off of I-4 East of Orlando, the Lake Mary Marriott is a perfect pivot point for both Orlando proper and theme parks and Seminole County towns and villages.  In addition to comfortable rooms, the Lake Mary site boasts incredible food and catering (including craft beer and food pairings for events!)  Here’s a few pics to whet your whistle:

  • CRAFT BEER BAR:  Celery City Craft (craft beer taproom, wine, growlers, bistro) -Sanford, FL

Sanford, FL was originally known as “Celery Capital” based on the celery fields a hundred or so years ago.  Today, Celery City Craft is THE place for a wide choice of over 100 local, US and international beers (draught and bottles) with wine and food available.  Without the pretentiousness of many newfangled “craft beer” boutiques, Celery City is friendly,  down-home and a great place to grab a brew or two and settle in with good food.  Beer flights (sample sizes of multiple brews served on a “paddle”) available.

Make an entire evening out of dinner and live entertainment by  visiting the newly opened Route 46 area – stop for delicious country BBQ (with many sauces!) and then stay for live band entertainment at the outdoor seating area or visit the indoor “saloon” complete with a turn of the century bar.

  • NATURAL ISLAND GETAWAY WITH KAYAKS AND BBQs (in a city neighborhood!)  – Wekiva Island – 1014 Miami Springs Dr, Longwood, FL 32779

Nestled against the Wekiva River, this close to zero carbon footprint recreation area features craft beer (25 local and national craft beer taps + over 100 cans,) wine, foot trucks (Check out Firepit Fridays!), kayak and canoe rentals, boot launch, cabana rentals (weekday and weekends,) event areas (think weddings, receptions, corporate events), a gift shop and weekend entertainment.  Bring the family and friends and spend a lazy day/evening in the wilderness against the natural backdrop of FL cypress, the slow-moving Wekiva River, otters with BBQs available with all cabana.  Check their website (link above) for special events and evening hours. Boat stowage available.

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One word for this craft beer and wine bar (come furniture store by day) – AMBIANCE!  When the sun sets on the fine furniture at Washburn Imports in Sanford, the bar opens and the place comes alive.  Aside from the incredible artistic bar (designed by local artist Blair Sliger,) the beer is fresh and local, the wine exquisite and the decor – well, think about sitting on heavy, expensive, imported wood furniture that eeks of Malaysia or the Philipines.  If I lived closer, this would be my #1 choice for a Friday or Saturday night romantic spot – even if I didn’t have a date!  A must see in Sanford… even if you just stop in for a single nightcap.

  • SOMETHING DIFFERENT WITH FRIENDS – LimoCycle.Com – Sanford, FL

Ever wanted to convince yourself that you are burning calories and improving your health during an evening of bar-hopping?  I’m not a fitness and drinking crazed person, so I always opt for the “no-peddling” seat, but the Limo Cycle is lots of fun and exercise.  Drinks are included with the price (as low as $40 per person) and reservations are accepted.  Tell Steve (the owner) I sent you – he’s a great guy and knows plenty about the local area history.  Options range from 2 hour pub tours, game events to 5 hour birthday party tours.  Whether you’re single, a couple or part of a group that wants to try something different – LimoCycle.com is a good option with lots of available potential stops (Sanford Brewing, Wops Hops Brewing, Celery City Craft, etc.)

Part 2: Food Worth Going out For – Orlando North delivers Taste over the Top

 This is the 2nd in a 3 part series about the breweries, restaurants, and things to do in Seminole County / Orlando North.  For more info see Part 1: Beercation? Take a look at Orlando North/ Seminole County, FL – Within a stone’s throw of theme parks  Don’t forget about the upcoming (soon!) Sanford Beer Week (an entire week of events!) November 15-22, 2016.

Food, glorious Food!

I don’t know about you but in today’s lean economic times, I’m more careful about my discretionary spending – especially when it comes to eating out at a new restaurant in a new locale.

Before I get in the car, I  do research (internet, Facebook foodies groups, Better Business Bureau, plus online reviews (lots!), advice from friends and family.) It’s time-consuming, but I remind myself that it increases the odds of a good meal.  Given the myriad of factors happening behind the scenes at a restaurant (servers, ingredients, kitchen staff, day of the week, time, etc.) having a great meal sometimes seems to be more luck, than science.

UNTIL NOW…  When I was invited to a 3 day FAM trip in September (tourist jargon for FAMiliarization trip…) courtesy of DoOrlandoNorth.com/Seminole County Tourism, and Paradiseadv.com (thank you to Roseangela Santiago for Orlando North, Seminole County Tourism and Mary Jane Kolassa, Public Relations for setting it up!) I discovered Food Worth Going out For!  Without exception, I had some of the BEST FOOD ever in Seminole County… and I’m thrilled to share my finds with you!

What’s so Special about Seminole County for foodies and families?

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Seminole County is a combination of upscale, active, fun places with a down-home-authentic-FL-vibe (think “tropical suburbia”) and similar to a northeast U.S. village/ suburb with better climate and more affordable prices!

Sanford and the other villages I visited reminded me of New Haven, CT (with old-fashioned-country style downtown areas housing modern boutiques, restaurants and bars within walking distance of each other.)  The area is ideally suited for couples, families, and business visitors who want relaxation combined with  great food, glorious sunsets and Florida charm.

Where it’s worth going out…  in Seminole County

Restaurants are like movies – every one has a story and a unique angle and the restaurants and bars listed here shared one thing in common:  passion for the overall dining experience from customer service to fresh ingredients to unique presentations.  (Warning, food pics ahead!)

Here a few of the best in Seminole County:

tt-frontTennessee Truffle  – BREAKFAST AND LUNCH
Address: 125 W 1st St, Sanford, FL 32771
Phone: (407) 942-3977
Hours: Tues-Sat 7:30 am – 2 pm

My quote:  “EVERYTHING I SAMPLED HERE WAS INCREDIBLE!”

Much like its namesake vegetable (the first bulb to pop-up in springtime,) newcomer restaurant Tennessee Truffle, started out as a pop-up restaurant experience for which demand quickly outgrew the occasions. Now that owner and executive chef, Nate Russell, has signed a 6-year lease, Tennessee Truffle has found a permanent home as a brick and mortar kitchen and restaurant.

There were so many interesting dishes on the menu (it would have been tough to choose only one!) so it was heaven when Nate proposed sample sizes of a few signature dishes (some pictured below) and ended with Buttered popcorn ice cream (made on site) and the Chocolate Gravy biscuit.

My personal favorite was the Florida citrus cured salmon – refreshing, fresh and slightly tart (everything I tried was delicious!) Most menu items allow for sampling (Cream corn & grits $4.50,  The next time I’m in Sanford, I’ll definitely make this a stop!

Notable notes about Tennessee Truffle:  Decor is unpretentious, clean and homey; restaurant is family friendly (with a special kids menu); staff is approachable (patient with questions!); and there are fun touches (you can draw on the tables with chalk – provided!)  You can even buy their specialty coffee and pickled ramp to take home.  Beer (local FL craft and domestics) and wine are also available.

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20160922_093144Crepevine – BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER
Address: 249 FL-436, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
Phone: (321) 972-8999
Hours: Sun-Thurs 7:30 am – 9 pm ; Fri/Sat 7:30 am-10 pm

http://www.thecrepevine.com/

My quote: “BEST PLACE  FOR MADE-TO-ORDER CREPES AT GREAT PRICES.”

Crepevine lives up to its slogan “fast, fresh, friendly” with fresh, as-you-wait crepes ranging from savory to sweet – with an innovative selection of flavor combinations – or – you can choose your own.  It reminded me of similar restaurants I’ve only seen in London (UK) and Scandinavia where freshness and natural ingredients are prized.

Breakfast crepes (11 special ones) are served until 11am M-F and until 2pm on weekends, but the variety of crepes filling options available all day (5 fruits, 5 cheeses, 7 protein/meats, 10 veggies, and 11 sauces) plus an array of sweet crepes (such as kloob nika: banana, fresh straw berries, kiwi, whipped cream and nutella for $7.29) and even salads (all reasonably prices at 6.99.) — the combinations give an almost endless array of possibilities.

Prices range from $4.99 for a full sized custom veggie + egg or protein + egg breakfast crepe to $12.29 for the “annihilator”  (chicken x2, bacon x2, turkey, cheese x2, mushroom, green pepper, onion, spinach, lettuce, and topped with trifecta sauce!)  There’s also a children’s crepe menu (turkey or grilled cheese or PB&J or ham and cheese) priced at $3.29.

Bottled beer (yes, craft!) and wine are available (mimosas and crepes, yumm!)   The kitchen and the entire restaurant was pristine clean (I love that) and the staff all seemed happy to be working there (unusual in FL!)  Outdoor, dog-friendly seating (a staff member even took a dog dish out to patrons!) is also available.  Don’t miss this one!

Notable notes about Crepevine:  Dog-friendly patio, Gluten free crepes upon request, Friday night special (buy 2 savory crepes, get a free nutella crepe after 4pm on Fridays), take out orders available, children’s menu, beer/wine/champagne.

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20160922_123734Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe – LUNCH, DINNER
Address: 205 E 1st Street, Sanford, FL 32771
Phone: (407) 321-2204
Hours: Sun-Thurs 11 am – 9 pm; Fri/Sat 11 am-10 pm

www.hollerbachs.com

Magnolia Square Market (A True German Deli) – Sun-Thurs 10 am-7 pm, Fri-Sat 10 am-8 pm

My quote: “YOU WON’T FIND MORE AUTHENTIC GERMAN FOOD ANYWHERE.”

Proprietor and chef Theo Hollerbach started the restaurant and bar 15 years ago (15 year anniversary Aug 1, 2016) and continues his German family tradition as a 5th generation butcher and chef.

The food was varied (see the slide show for a few of the traditional dishes Theo serves up), tasty and absolutely authentic (he knows his stuff!)  German pride is evident in the food, decor, beer (both bottled and on tap,) ciders, Schnapps (a wide variety!) and traditions including the Schunkelabend nightly live entertainment Thurs-Sun.

Theo remarked that his restaurant packs in regulars ranging in age from 5 to 95 – with a cadre of regulars who frequent the restaurant for the food as much as the entertainment and German brews.  If you’re looking for authentic (and delicious) German fare with a side of fun, Hollerbach’s is a great choice.

Notable notes about Hollerbach’s:  It’s a family affair with Theo’s wife and daughter working at the restaurant.  The beer list (that’s my forte) is impressive and features both draught and bottle choices.  The outdoor seating expands the restaurant by approximately 40% and the venue is suitable for large family, team or corporate events.  Down-home German cooking!  (And if you’re here during October, be sure to stop in for the two day annual Sanford Oktoberfest at Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe.)

The Magnolia Square Market (literally around the corner from the restaurant) is one of the area’s largest and most extensive German markets with fresh sausage, cheeses, and desserts made on premise, as well as non-perishable delicacies from overseas.  If you’re looking for direct-from-Germany food items, you’re likely to find it here.

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The Town House Restaurant  – BREAKFAST, LUNCH, AND DINNER

Address: 139 N Central Avenue, Oviedo, FL 32765
Phone: (407) 365-5151
Hours: Monday – Thursday 6:00 am – 10:00 pm
Friday – Saturday 6:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday 7:00 am – 10:00 pm

http://www.oviedotownhouse.com/

My quote:  “THE BEST LITTLE (WITH LOTS OF SEATING) DINER IN FL ”

Owner Leigh Ann’s obsession with chickens is just part of the local charm and down home goodness of The Town House Restaurant.  It’s no wonder this place is a favorite with locals and tourists alike.  Leigh Ann mentioned that their regulars are as close as family – especially the ones who eat every meal there (and staff will drive by their home if they don’t show up for dinner, just to make sure they are okay!)

The family atmosphere extends to the staff – their names are on the tables they serve, and the restaurant is a close-knit part of the community.  I dined at breakfast and had one of the best Florentine Benedict’s I’ve ever tasted.  It was large, fresh, and the hollandaise was pure heaven.  Unusual for a diner, Town House has several craft beers on tap (who doesn’t like beer for breakfast!)  I’d definitely come back to try their lunch or dinner specials based on the atmosphere (everyone in local government and the community dines here!)

Notable notes:  Bar stools at the counter create a cordial atmosphere for singles, and the place is open, airy and suitable for families and groups.  No outdoor dining but the large windows overlooking the bike and nature trail give a great outlook regardless of the weather.

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20160922_211153Lonnie’s Fusion Cuisine  – LUNCH AND DINNER

Address: 124 N. Fourth St., Lake Mary, FL 32746
Phone: (407) 878-5804
Hours: Mon – Sat 11:00 am – 9:00 pm,  Closed Sundays

http://www.lonniesfusioncuisine.com/

My quote: “BEST CHOICE FOR A DATE NIGHT OUTING OR SPECIAL OCCASION”

While typically the term “fusion” implies Asian inspired dishes, owner and chef, Lonnie, describes his Fusion Cuisine as being “Caribbean French with sauces.”  The result is a menu of innovative dishes with the freshest ingredients available anywhere.  For example, Lonnie sources his seafood from the local fish market across the street daily and creates his menu based on availability of the fresh catch.  His buttered spinach was incredible (worth the visit itself!) as was the Grouper on Black Eyed Pea Cake with Citrus and Poblano Peppers.  My mouth waters just thinking of it.

The restaurant features mostly affordable (yet unique) wines, as well as half a dozen local craft beers on tap.  Other group members remarked favorably on their pork and other meat dishes, which all paired well with Lonnie’s featured wine (see pics below.)  Lonnie’s is ideal for a romantic date night or a small group (it’s not a large place) with indoor and sidewalk patio seating.  It’s a nice refuge for a quiet dinner, with a sports bar next door if diners are meeting up with a group or favoring a touch of sports to accompany a post dinner nightcap.

Notable Notes: Freshest ingredients, with innovative and flavorful taste combinations.  Great date night venue (upscale yet affordable) with comfortable outdoor seating.

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Smiling Bison Restaurant – DINNER
Address: 107 S Magnolia Ave,       Sanford, FL 32771
Phone: (407) 915-6086
Hours: Tue – Sat: 5 pm to 10 pm with Happy Hours: Tue – Sat 5 pm to 6 pm

http://smilingbison.com/sanford/

My quote: “SMILING BISON WILL HAVE YOU SMILING EAR-TO-EAR WITH A SATISFIED BELLY”

The farm-to-table reputation of Smiling Bison carries through to its rustic decor – chic yet reserved with lots of natural wood.  The food and menu carry through with fresh vegetables and high quality meats.  Portion sizes are large and shareable, savory (delish) and innovative.

The general atmosphere was friendly and reminded me of rustic, open plains, Colorado style restaurants – and the Bison Steak was incredible:  rare, lean, tender, and so so good!  We tasted many different appetizers and main course offerings and everything we tried was fresh, fresh, fresh!

Notable Notes:  Craft beer and wine are available to pair with the food.  While there is no outdoor seating (at least in front), the restaurant is open and airy with high ceilings.  Food is fresh and tasty – and a definite stop before heading out for an evening of bar hopping or brewery visiting in Sanford!

20160923_114248 Vinzo’s Italian Grill and Pizzeria – LUNCH AND DINNER
Address:  1006 State Road 436, Casselberry, FL 32707
Phone: (407) 331-9090
Hours: Mon-Sun 11 am – 10 pm

http://www.vinzos.com/

My quote:  “UNPRETENTIOUS ITALIAN WITH AUTHENTICITY”

If I lived in Casselberry, I’d be a regular at Vinzo’s both because of the food and the approachability and passion of the namesake owner.  Staying true to a solid gourmet lineup of Sicilian family recipes (Lobster Ravioli, Eggplant Parmigiana, Chicken Cacciatore, among many others!), Vinzo’s outdoes itself in presentation and taste.

Just seeing the pics and remembering the savory and rich tastes (I especially love the heartiness of fresh mushrooms in Italian dishes!) makes me hungry even if I’ve just finished a meal.  Located in a strip mall next to Bowigen’s Beer Company (a favorite and featured in my last post) – I know I’d be spending time and expanding my waistline (willingly!) at Vinzo’s.

I can almost smell the aroma !

Notable Notes:  Great for takeout and dining in – the wait staff are friendly and knowledgeable (and patient with questions on the menu,) and bottled beer and wine (wine is their specialty) are available.  I would say, hands-down, this was the best Italian I’ve had in a long time (including my recent visit to Italy in May!)  Worth a drive for a date or a family outing!

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I don’t know if I could live in Seminole County without gaining weight because all of these restaurants would be on my list of favorite haunts!

Please let me know what YOUR experience is like when you visit.  Happy fooding!

Beercation? Take a look at Orlando North/ Seminole County, FL – Within a stone’s throw of theme parks

Quick!  When you think of Orlando, what comes to mind?

For me, it was theme parks, traffic, orange groves and Cape Canaveral – until I took a Beer and Foodie trip to Seminole County courtesy of DoOrlandoNorth.com/Seminole County Tourism, and Paradiseadv.com (thank you to Roseangela Santiago for Orlando North, Seminole County Tourism and Mary Jane Kolassa, Public Relations for setting it up!)

Having toured the local breweries in Seminole county – now I think “BEERCATION:  Seminole County.”

Sidenote:  This is the first of 3 blog posts stemming from the 2 1/2 day FAM trip.  Keep an eye out for additional posts featuring some of the best spots in Seminole County, FL.

First off, what’s going on with Beer in Florida ?

Florida is “home base” to over a hundred craft breweries including the one of the oldest in the nation: Yuengling Bros., several mainstay award-winning breweries (such as Dunedin Brewery, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, and Cigar City Brewing) and many new (less than 2 years old) up-and-coming notables.

Gerard Walen - Beer in FL

Fellow beer blogger and friend, Gerard Walen (who coincidentally was also on this FAM trip,) dmaintains and up-to-date FL brewery map on his BeerInFlorida.com site.  He is the author of Florida Breweries (a great read and a unique gift for anyone who is into craft beer and the stories behind the brewers, owners and the beers they brew!)

Florida is becoming a craft beer haven – especially when weather turns chilly in more northern climes.  Lately, there’s a beer fest or new brewery opening every weekend.  Seminole County is home to half a dozen well-respected breweries and craft beer bars – read on for details.

And, if you’re a fan of “Beer Weeks” (a week-long celebration dedicated to craft beer events) – you’re in luck because Sanford Beer Week is fast approaching: November 15-22, 2016.

Sidenote:  I took Facebook Live videos (you can see them on my timeline Carol Dekkers from Sept 20-23, 2016) but when I converted /uploaded them to You Tube for linking here, they became SILENT (or almost silent) movies.  When I get the link from the Seminole County television coverage (which was at all the locations) – I’ll update this blog posting. Meanwhile, thank you for your understanding!

A few notable Seminole County Breweries:

hourglass-logo

Hourglass Brewing is a 4-year old brewery that has been open at the current location for almost two years. They boast an impressive array of 15-20 innovative brews on tap (I can’t wait for the Cloudberry bottle release!) – all served in proper non-pint-glass glassware – and  a new barrel program (20 bbl foeder.) The tasting room space is wide open (two-story ceilings, lots of open space) and adorned with Star Wars and action figure memorabilia.  Glass doors to the huge bottle release cooler and windows showcasing the brewing areas add to the feeling of openness even when the taproom is crowded for their weekend live music and movies.

Interesting tidbits I found out about during our tour:

  • Head brewer Matt Gemmell started out as a bartender (with a passion and talent for brewing);
  • Marketing director Jeremy Gonzalez is also their label artist with a great talent for fantasy themed graphics;
  • All of the fermenters are named after Muppets characters;
  • The barrel program (new) will feature tequila, rum, gin, and Sauvignon blanc barrels;
  • The brewers like to challenge each other and have brewed batches beers with ingredients ranging from yarrow and cranberry hibiscus to rosemary, paprika and even roasted sheeps head.  The current selection on tap included two sours (yumm!)

My onsite video at Hourglass ended up with poor sound quality, but click on the photo below to open the slide show of brewery pics.  Worth a visit.

fam-trip-hourglass

wops-hops-logo

Oct 22, 2016 marked the 2nd anniversary of Sanford’s first brewery.  Co-owner and brewer Greg (who you’ll often find working the taps in the tasting room) is unabashedly proud of being the “Wop” of Wop’s Hops Brewing Company. Greg is a strong supporter of craft brewing in the area, and helped other breweries in Sanford get started.  Aside from the passion for brewing and supporting charitable community causes, one notable difference about Wop’s Hops is their on site kitchen featuring (thank you!) non-pub style food made on premise by classically trained Chef Jason.  It’s great to see a brewery that also takes pride in the gourmet selections (including a section for 4-legged doggie patrons.)

20160922_142704 20160922_143557 The day I visited, Wops Hops had a number of their own brews on tap ranging from their Peach Cream (one of my favorite peach beers!) and their Golden Stout (both on Nitro) to their Marshmallow Chocolate Peanut Butter Ale (think s’mores!) and IPAs.  In addition, there were several guest taps (which rotate.)

The food was amazing (thank you Chef Jason) and the tasting room was cosy and friendly. Outside is a dog and kid-friendly beer garden area.   A definite stop if you’re looking for good beer in Seminole Country!

While Wops Hops does not yet package bottles or cans for distribution, you can buy a Wops Hops growler filled to go – but with the great food options, why not stay and enjoy the brews on site?

The tasting room and beer garden are open Wed-Sun (see their Facebook page for special holiday hours):

Monday – Tuesday CLOSED
Wednesday 4:00pm – 10:00pm
Thursday – Friday 4:00pm – 12:00am
Saturday 1:00pm – 2:00am
Sunday 11:30am – 9:00pm

Here’s a quick video visit with Greg at Wops Hops Brewing:  (my apologies for the lack of clarity on the menu – it isn’t restricted or blocked out (even though it looks like it!) – that’s the Facebook Live video format…)

red-cypress-logoRed Cypress Brewery just celebrated their first anniversary and in our visit with Ryan Patrick, the owner and CEO, he mentioned that they are serious about increasing their mark on the Florida market with distribution (cans) plus crowlers (32 oz onsite cans filled to order and sealed to go) and growlers.  Current distribution includes Polk, Osceola, Orange, Seminole and Brevard counties (FL.)

The Red Cypress tasting room is smaller than the one at Hourglass, but larger than Wops Hops, kid-friendly (open spaces when it’s not crowded) with ample room for groups.  Food trucks and local delivery are available for food.

Red Cypress is entering into barrel aging with an expansive brewing and aging area behind the tasting room.  On tap the day I visited in late Sept were:

  • Deep Roots (lager like amber)
  • Fruit de la terre (Saison)
  • Spook Hill Pale Ale (named after the optical illusion in Lake Wales)
  • Devils Chair IPA (similar to Two Hearted Ale by Bells Brewing)
  • Death Roll Milk Stout
  • Summer Nights (a hoppy and delicious! peach wheat ale made with 1000 lb of peaches in the batch)

My SILENT video (I have no idea what happened to the audio!  It WAS there when I posted this on FACEBOOK Live!  At least you can see the venue!)  features Ryan Patrick of Red Cypress – definitely worth a visit to this brewery:

bowigens-beer-company

It was refreshing to meet someone as passionate about music (see the guitar in the logo,) innovative ingredients (you have to read their tap list), and the community as Bobby Bowen, co-owner/brewer of Bowigens Beer Company.  (I found it reassuring to find multiple Lyft taxi brochures throughout the tasting room including the front entrance to encourage responsibility and safe rides home for patrons.)

Bowigens is set in a renovated strip mall featuring an outstanding Italian restaurant: Vinzo’s Italian Grill and Pizzeria (the subject of a future blog post) so I could imagine spending long evenings doing my best to pair Italian food with the brews on tap (might take multiple evenings to do this justice!)

The tasting room is similar in size to Wops Hops in Sanford, and equally inviting and cosy.  The brewery is in the back and it’s clear that quality is a big focus as every brew I tasted there was fresh and true to style.  As the final operating brewery on our tour, it was great to note that all four breweries touted friendly service, approachable staff (who were happy to answer questions and provide understandable, non-techie answers – thank you!)

Bowigens is open every day and definitely a solid stop on your beercation in Seminole County.  Hours of operation:
Sunday | 3-10 p.m.
Monday | 5-10 p.m.
Tuesday | 5-10 p.m.
Wednesday | 5-10 p.m.
Thursday | 5-10 p.m.
Friday | 3 p.m. – midnight
Saturday | Noon – midnight

Here’s the on-location silent screen video with Bobby Bowen (my apologies for the lack of sound! but you can see Bobby’s passion in talking about his brewery – you’ve simply got to visit to hear his story first-hand!)

Sanford Brewing was not yet open for business but had anticipated doing so by November 1, 2016. Their seating rivaled that of Hourglass – topping out with capacity just over 150 patrons with live entertainment and a full kitchen in addition to fresh onsite brewed beer.

Check out Sanford Brewing at http://www.sanfordbrewing.com/

Whether you’re looking to round out a theme park/convention trip with some great beer or if you’re in the market for a Beercation that delivers the goods with personality and panache, Seminole County brewers will whet your whistle for more.   Sure, you can still head to a theme park (within a short drive) – but with the breweries I visited, why bother?

Let me know what you think!

Carol

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