Craft beer adventures and experiences… one pint at a time

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Join in on the National Craft Beer Hoard…

*** Update on Mar 18., 2020…

I hope this update finds you healthy and calm and in reasonable spirits today…  our craft beverage and hospitality industry is being hit hard with the virus as it invades our communities in North America (and closer to home for me, in Florida…)

Since I posted the National Craft Beer Hoard, here’s what I picked up in St Petersburg, FL… (I’ll make updates whenever I purchase to-go beer…)

From left to right:

As of today (Mar 18, 2020), small breweries in FL are still allowed to fill and sell growlers/crowlers/package beer for home consumption.

The FL governor announced yesterday that all bars and nightclubs (any establishment for which alcohol sales are at least 50% of sales) are closed for 30 days as of 5pm EDT.

Be safe and responsible, and please, please, please keep in touch with each other (especially if you feel anxious or own or depressed!) – we’re all going to get through this together.  Slainte to your health!  -Carol  ****

—- ORIGINAL POST MAR 16, 2020 —-

Good day Craft Beer drinkers of America!

(I know it’s been a few months since I last posted… but life in the Florida brewing scene has been busy. For more, see my p.p.s. at the end for what I’ve been up to…)

This post is a CALL TO ACTION!  In light of the growing pandemic and related closings of public venues/ bars/restaurants, etc. I feel compelled to ask you to hoard something more than toilet paper and hand sanitizer and keep your local craft brewing industry afloat.

How can you do that?  You can participate in the National Craft Beer Hoard (okay, we can start local and see if it catches on…)

The National Craft Beer Hoard – Part 1:  Stock up on Local Packaged Craft Beer!

Show support for your local brewery by ordering (online or by phone) packaged craft beer and pick it up to go (or in Georgia and other states where it is legal, have it delivered) – and drink it at home.  (This also applies to local wineries, distilleries, cideries, bottle shops, etc! Many operate on low profit margins!)

Craft beer and craft beverages are ideal for in-home drinking while you’re well or taking care of a loved one or cocooning or in quarantine – stock up on craft beer supplies (canned or bottled) from your LOCAL brewery today!  I’m willing to bet they’ll appreciate it.

(And please post pics of your stash as a comment!)

Tampa Bay Brewing Craft Beer

The National Craft Beer Hoard – Part 2:  Hoard a Month or a Year’s Supply of Brewery/Tasting Room/Bar/Restaurant Gift Certificates!

Pay it forward – literally, by buying up supplies of gift certificates from your local brewery/distillery/winery/cidery, restaurant or bar.  It’s easier than ever to help out your favorite pub, tasting room, brewery or restaurant by buying gift certificates (you can give them away as gifts, use them when the business re-opens, or use them for future purchases of to-go packaged craft beer when your supply runs low!)

Why do we need a National Craft Beer Hoard?

One of the hardest hit with the government mandated closures will be our workers and owners of small craft breweries, bars, tasting rooms, retail outlets, event planners and others who are in some way part of our multi-billion dollar industry who are forced (or voluntarily decided out of kindness to patrons’ health) to shut down public access.

Cash flows are going to be an issue to keep these small businesses running – and we all are in this together.

Spend a couple more dollars on craft beer by buying local (even $5 more for a 6 pack of craft beer over the national mass produced international chain beers will help!)  And, I can guarantee your local business will NOT run out of gift certificates !

Stay safe, drink responsibly, and please be kind to each other.  Our community is small, vibrant, and is part of our future!  Let’s drink to your health and the health of our industry!

Cheers,

Carol

P.s., Don’t forget to post pics of your craft beer “hoarding!”

P.p.s., For anyone who is curious about what I’ve been up to in FL Craft Beer… In the past few years, I’ve started speaking about craft beer (globally) including Craft Beverage 101 tasting/education sessions at the annual National Association for Catering and Events (NACE) Experience conferences (2016/ 2017/ 2019) and the international Beer Marketing and Tourism Conference (2020) among others.  In the summer of 2019, I started the LLC called Curated Craft Experiences with a business partner!

I’m also teaching On-Premise TIPS (Training for Intervention Procedures) – a 4 hour safe alcohol serving workshop for bartenders, breweries and bars. (I’m proud to say I have a 100% pass rate with students – contact me for info!), and I did part-time high volume bartending for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Pittsburgh Pirates (until spring training ended last week), and if you’re ever in FL and want to volunBEER at a brewfest, you might be interested to know about my group of 500+ Tampa Bay area volunBEERs  – on Facebook, check out our page “Carol’s VolunBEERs.”  Slainte!

 

 

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

#BBC2016 – #JAXALETRAIL – #BAYCRAFTED – #LIVEAMPLIFIED – Recapping the 2016 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference (Tampa) in Pics

It’s been exactly one month since the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference (#BBC16) was here in Tampa, and, as a result, our entire bay area has benefitted from the hundreds of blog posts, publicity, beer pics, brewery visits, friendships made, beers consumed and follow-on business that any social media focused conference can amass.

It’s a privilege and a pleasure to be a part of such an illustrious group of passionate, optimistic and fun-loving people. For me, it’s also what I’d call “a happiness achievement” to consider so many beer bloggers and writers throughout the world my friends.  Thank you to Zephyr Adventures and everyone involved throughout the past 7 years who have made this such an inclusive and growing community!

I’m a visual, right brained thinker so I tend to remember things through pictures (looking at my camera roll is better than a calendar!) As such, I’ve combined my pics into a google pictures “movie” as a recap of the entire Thurs-Sunday July 7-10, 2016 weekend.  Enjoy!  (And thank you to Kelli Matheny @ladycrafter for the idea to use google pics movie app!)

PRE-Conference (Thurs July 7) Excursion – Jacksonville FL breweries:

Visits included Bold City Brewing, Engine 15 brewing, #Kickbacks Gastropub, Aardwolf Brewing, Wicked Barley Brewing…  Thank you to #onlyinJAX and #JAXALETRAIL for arrangements!

Day 1 Conference (Fri  July 8) – Tampa FL,

Conference sessions, Green Flash reception, Beer Paired Dinner Marriott Waterside, Trade Show, Night of Many Bottles

Day 2 Conference (Sat  July 9) – Tampa FL:

Conference sessions, WOB Westchase (Miller Coors) luncheon, Live Beer Blogging (J.J.Taylor), Progressive Dinner (Coppertail, Cigar City, Ulele Springs)

Day 3 — 1/2 day Conference and Post-conference excursion (Sun Fri  July 8) – Tampa FL:

Conference sessions, Post Conference excursion to St Pete Clearwater breweries: 3 Daughters, Green Bench, Cycle, Rapp Brewing

 

Thank you !!!

to so many organizers, breweries, wait staff, Zephyr Adventures, the Marriott Waterside, Jacksonville Ale Trail, Visit St Pete Clearwater, Tampa Bay Beer Crafted, trade show participants, speakers, moderators, distributors, and fellow attendees. It was so great to have the conference here in the Tampa/St Petersburg area and showcase the talent, innovation and truly hospitable FL venues in paradise!

Slainte!

There’s nothing like Speed Dating with Breweries (I think I’m in Love)

One of the most popular sessions at the annual Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference   is called Live Beer Blogging, (this year #BBC16 was the 7th conference,) during which attendees sample tastes of a dozen brews in rapid succession over the course of an hour.  Described affectionately as ‘speed dating with breweries’ (without the obnoxious nature of regular speed dating,) we sample a variety of beers introduced and poured by local brewers/brewery reps in 5 minute increments.

Live Beer Blogging creates memories that stick.  I remember my first meeting with Night Shift at BBC13 in Boston – it was a love at first taste experience!  Now, when someone brings a Night Shift brew to a bottle share, I’m taken back to that night in Boston 3 years ago.

This year’s conference just finished two days ago here in my home city of Tampa, FL, with JJ Taylor Distributing hosting the Live Beer Blogging.  10 regional and national brews waltzed across our table hoping to find favor with bloggers and writers alike.  (This year it was interesting that my table was entirely women, save for one brave male…)

Want to experience Live Beer Blogging vicariously (albeit second-hand?)  Using newly released Facebook Live (with apologies to professional videographers) – I present to you, the #BBC16 Live Beer Blogging experience:

  • First up:  Local Brewery St Pete Brewing with Casey Cothran introducing The McCracken (a Scottish Ale named in honor of head brewer Jon McCracken)
  • Next up is Safety Harbor’s Crooked Thumb Brewery (on the NW side of Tampa Bay) with owner Travis Kruger pouring their Florida Gose. (Apologies for my random cameos. I’ve since learned that the zoom button is different from the “swap camera” button!)
  • Local favorite, Cigar City Brewing brought limited edition bottles of Decoherence, which was released solely as part of the (private club) Catador series.
  • This was followed by California (and North Carolina) brewery, Sierra Nevada, featuring their new  Otra Voz, a Gose Style Ale brewed with Grapefruit and Cactus.
  • Sarasota brewery J Dubs made a splash entry by having brewery owner Jeremy (the J in J Dubs) in a bovine costume pouring his Bell Cow Milk Chocolate Porter.
  • New Belgium Brewing of Colorado (and North Carolina) poured samples of their Citradelic IPA.
  • Cape Canaveral located Florida Beer Company featured representative Seth Kapp pouring their Florida Lager (sidenote: notice how crowded the table is started to get?)
  • Up next was California based Lagunitas Brewing Company whose principals brought with them their signature brew, Lagunitas IPA.
  • Miami based Saltwater Brewing (who gained recent global attention with their biodegradable six-pack can holders) was up next with their Screaming Reels IPA.

Rounding out the 10 featured breweries was Georgia based Terrapin Brewing whose representative poured their refreshing Watermelon Ale.   On request of the representative, I have not included the video in this post.  Nonetheless, the beer was refreshing and tasty on the hot summer day!

That’s it for 2016 – and with the 2017 conference in Milwaukee, WI, I’m looking forward to another great adventure in Live Beer Blogging.  Whew… 10 brewing samples in less than an hour!  A feverish pace, lots of tasting (and discarding!) but thankfully, I’m blessed to be one of the someone’s who simply… has to do it.

Slainte!

Carol

 

Tampa area Breweries Get Ready – The Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference is only 3 weeks away!

Ever since I attended my 1st (and the first) Beer Bloggers Conference in 2010 in Boulder, CO, I’ve wondered if the event would ever grace the tropical shores of Tampa Bay, and this year (the 7th annual event) – the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference does just that July 8-10, 2016 at the Marriott Waterside Hotel in Tampa.

Our Tampa Bay region joins many in the nation where craft beer (and cider and distilling) has exploded exponentially since 2010. The result is a $20+ billion dollar national industry that refuses to slow down.

growth of breweries 2015

In Mar 2011, the website BeerandWhiskeyBros.com wrote: beer and whiskey bros mar 2011

2016: Are craft beverages a “bubble”?

With over 15 states in the U.S. boasting over 100 functioning craft breweries (including Florida!), an exponential growth rate of breweries opening (see the curve above) and an emerging millennial (Generation Y) population of over 66 million residents whose preference is craft beer, it’s safe to say that it’s a bubble that’s here to stay.

U.S. Innovation Leads the World in Craft Brewing

For over 20 year I’ve spoken on software engineering, leadership and project management topics worldwide — and watched the U.S. move from a position of dominance to one of survivability as the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies beat us with their low labor costs in software development.  The innovation and imagination in IT (Information Technology) that once led us to a number one position, fell away when cost-cutting and outsourcing became the norm.

It’s that same sense of innovation, adventure and imagination that propelled U.S. craft brewing to the top of the world game.  Using techniques and styles reminiscent of old European recipes (German and Belgian styles in particular,) the leading U.S., craft brewers add imagination and stretch the boundaries of what once was a mass-produced, close-to-purified-water industry.  We’re at the point today where the craft brewing world looks to the U.S. for new ingredients, styles and collaborations.  In the U.S., Craft Breweries are defined by the Brewers Association as being small, independent and traditional.

Craft Beer Gives Bloggers and Writers Tons of Content

The gathering of Beer Bloggers and Writers boasts a range of writers and writing styles:  from professional reporters for big name newspapers and journals, to mom-and-pop blogs for independent beer stores, to blogs for distributors/wholesalers, to people like me with a passion for people and the industry.

As the numbers of us continue to expand, so too are the angles that craft beer provides to write about:  Reviewing beers, reviewing styles, covering festival events and bottle releases, stories about breweries and brewers,  pairing of food and beer, innovations in brewing, legislation in brewing, the 3 tier system, differences across the nation with beer culture, recipes, trends, techniques, homebrew, challenges in brewing, beer culture, products from related industries (glassware to growlers to homebrew systems to dispensers…) – the list goes on and on.

The craft beer industry is still expanding as new jobs are created, new breweries are opened, and new opportunities abound to educate consumers, entertain (through events and beerfests), and satisfy (through the variety of products and even beer-tourism) the burgeoning population of craft beer lovers.

And You’re Invited to Tag Along…

While many of the sessions and excursions at the Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference are limited to officially registered beer bloggers and writers, you’ll likely see a few events where the general craft beer loving public can take part.  One such pre-conference gathering is on Wed July 6, 2016 at 6;30 pm at the Brew Bus Brewing Terminal on Florida Avenue in Tampa where our own Florida Women in Brewing, together with Beer Bloggers, (and you!) are invited to stop by and mix and mingle over a pint.  Brew Bus Brewing is one of our newest local craft breweries and the terminal for one of our most popular and successful beer tourism companies, and has even won a medal at GABF for one of their brews!

Craft beer in Florida (and throughout the U.S.) presents a genderless, ageless, and culturally independent reason to get together, enjoy a few laughs and savor the goodness that barley, hops, yeast and water can bring to an ordinary workday or weekend.  And, in a matter of days, the Beer Blogging and Writing community will find out just how good that can be here in Tampa.  Welcome!

Slainte!

Carol

 

p.s., A few more to-do’s during #TBBW…

O.M.G. – there’s so much MORE to do during the upcoming Mar 5-13, 2016 #TBBW (Tampa Bay Beer Week)… so this is a post script post with two more additions…

The weekend choices of the larger beer festivals (Ultimate Brewer Fri Mar 4, FBG Fest Mar 5, Brewers Ball Mar 6, – see my post from Mar 1, 2016,) still stand but… having seen pics of other events, I simply MUST add two more events to my wish list of to-do’s:

20160302_191351_HDR (1)Sat Mar 5 – 2pm (and available until stock runs out!) – Launch of the Florida Women in Brewing’s inaugural Barley Berry Jam beer (Blackberry Barleywine) – at various locations throughout the #TTBW area.  Here’s the description of the event:

“Join us at 10+ locations throughout Tampa Bay on Saturday, Mar 5, 2016 at 2pm (and throughout #TBBW until supplies run out!) for the simultaneous launch of the 1st ever Florida Women In Brewing (#FLWIB) beer: “Barley Berry Jam” (Blackberry Barleywine.) Proceeds will benefit local women’s charities. (Specs on the beer follow at the end of this post.)  #FLWIB

Here’s the list of locations where you can purchase Berry Barley Jam on tap in bomber (22 oz) bottles:

Hillsborough County:
Jug & Bottle – 6203 N Florida Ave, Tampa FL 33604
Independent – 5016 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33603
Brew Bus Brewing – (not yet open)
Cigar City Cider and Mead – 1812 N 15th St, Tampa, FL 33605
Cigar City Brew Pub – 15491 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33624
Cigar City Brewing – 3924 W Spruce St, Tampa, FL 33607
Brass Tap Ybor City – 1600 E 7th Ave E-113, Tampa, FL 33605

Pinellas County:
Pair O’ Dice Brewing – 4400 118th Ave N #208, Clearwater, FL 33762
Brewers Tasting Room – 11270 4th St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33716
Lagerhaus Brewery and Grill – East Lake Woodlands, 3438 E Lake Rd S, Palm Harbor, FL 34685
Dunedin House of Beer – 927 Broadway, Dunedin, FL 34698

Manatee County:
Darwin Brewing Company – 803 17th Ave W, Bradenton, FL 34205

In addition, the beer will be available at the Dunedin House of Beer’s 6th Annual Craft Beer Fest – Edgewater Park, Sat Mar 5, 2016 – Edgewater Park – Dunedin FL and for tasting at Hunahpu’s Day, Sat Mar 12, 2016 – Cotanchobee Park, Tampa

Barley Berry Jam specifications:

Beer Name: Barley Berry Jam
Style: American barleywine-style ale
Date Launched: February 2016
Availability: One-off, Tasting Room and Tampa Bay distribution, draught and 22 oz. bottles
ABV: 10.3%
IBU: TBA
Hops/Usage: ADHA 527, an experimental dwarf hop that lends notes of stonefruit
Specialty Ingredients: Kerr blackberry concentrate
Name Origin: The beer is meant to have a blackberry jam-like flavor to compliment the dark fruit character imparted by the malted barley
Awards, notes, etc.: Barley Berry Jam was brewed to support awareness of the Florida Women in Brewing organization, an organization designed to “excite, educate and empower women currently working in or seeking an opportunity for a career in the brewing industry”. CCB has made a donation based on the sales of this beer that will go to fund a scholarship for Florida women in brewing to further their education in their field. The label was designed by Cigar City Catering’s Kim Johnston and Cigar City Cider and Mead’s Jen Sladky.

pair o diceThurs Mar 10 – Out of the Pot’s “Cooking with Beer” dinner at Pair O’ Dice! Tickets are still available and the menu (left) looks amazing!!!  Tickets:  Only $35!

 

 

 

 

Have a safe and awesome weekend!

The 5th annual #TBBW! Let the festivities begin…

From humble beginnings and the first #TBBW in 2012, to becoming a 501c6 not-for-profit organization, Tampa Bay Beer Week has emerged as one of the premiere beer weeks in North America involving the Florida Brewers Guild, Best Florida Beer, and scores of breweries, brewpubs, bars and restaurants throughout our multi-county region.

For five years running, #TBBW has featured local breweries (now numbering close to 50 in the region) and some of the finest brews and friendliest people around.  There’s just one small problem… how can anyone who works full-time really get out and enjoy the festivities?

tbbw2016

Some people I know have taken the week off from work, but unless you’re a tourist here on vacation or independently wealthy, this is simply not an option for many of us.  I’ve seen the entire event lineup at www.tampabaybeerweek.com and while there are adventurous types who will turn #TBBW into a marathon tasting event, I’m going to be taking in the weekend events and a select few in between.

I hope you’ll find some great things to do and taste some great local brews here in Tampa Bay.  Thank you for being a part of the vibrant craft beer industry here in Southwest Florida, and for reading this post!  Wishing you a week of enjoyment, new friends, fun times and responsible drinking.  PLEASE arrange to get home safely (Lyft and Uber or a designated driver) – so you can enjoy many more #TBBW to come!

Slainte!
Carol

————— Short list of don’t miss events #TBBW 2016 (Full details at tampabaybeerweek.com/events)———–

fb_img_1456761244639.jpgTHURS Mar 3, 2016 – 6:30-9:30 St Pete Beach, FL – All Tapped Out – A Tasting Extravaganza… (click for tickets) — unlimited tapas and draft beer pairings at Tapz and Tapaz, 348 Corey Avenue St Pete Beach. Tickets $25 adv/$30 door

 

 

Ultimate BrewerFRI Mar 4, 2016 – The Ultimate Brewer – 8-11:30pm at Rapp Brewing Company, 10930 Endeavor Way, Ste C, Seminole, Florida 33777. 14 local breweries debut their special recipe in a blind tasting competition along the lines of the Iron Chef.  Each brewery was given a list of secret ingredients ranging from Oranges and Old Bay Seasoning to Oysters and Hot Sauce to Horseradish to…  Tickets  only $20 advance.

fbg listSAT Mar 5, 2016 – Florida Brewers Guild Craft Beer Craft Beer Festival 2-5 pm (VIP 1-5 pm) -Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, 601 Old Water St, Tampa.  Featuring brews from around the state (and beyond) in an open air setting in downtown Tampa.  Benefits the non-profit trade association dedicated to advancing the craft brewing industry in Florida.

Tickets $45 GA / $65 VIP.

 

 

 

best-florida-beer-ogSUN Mar 6, 2016 – Best Florida Beer presents Brewers Ball – 12noon-5pm – Water Works Park Tampa, 1710 N Highland Ave, Tampa, Florida 33602. The Brewers Ball festival celebrates the best beers in Florida. The top three beers in each class of beer, mead and cider will be served up for your enjoyment. The Brewers Ball has been held for over 10 years celebrating the breweries, the brewers and the beer they make right here in Florida. Tickets $65. (includes food)

SUN Mar 6, 2016 – 5 pm  – 7th ANNUAL BREWERS’ BALL AFTER PARTY!! (even if you don’t go to the Brewers Ball) –  at Independent Bar & Cafe, 5016 N Florida Ave, Tampa – Special brews on tap for the event, and will also be serving burgers and brats outside to satisfy the hungry folks coming from the beer festival. LIVE MUSIC 6-9 PM BY LAURIS VIDAL! NO COVER!

WED Mar 9, 2016 – Rare and Big Beer Night -7 pm at Rapp Brewing Company,  10930 ENDEAVOUR WAY STE C, Seminole FL. No ticket fee. Come join us as we bring out all of our rare and big beers for your enjoyment! Some have never been available!

THURS Mar 10, 2016 (2nd Annual Mini Festival) Jester King, Jolly Pumpkin one off’s and Cantillon on draft & in bottle. Plus a Blend your own Gueuze class!  7:30 pm, Tickets $35 in advance.  Mr Dunderbak’s Biergarten and Brewery, 14929 Bruce B Downs Blvd, Tampa. Jester king, Jolly Pumpkin & Cantillon will be on draft and in the bottle. Including a wide range of sour, funky beers from Shelton.Blaugies, De Ranke, De La Senne, Drie Fonteinen, Green Bench, Saint Somewhere and more….. European Cheeses and Artisanal bread will be provided to cleanse the palette. Starts at 7:30. Tickets (very limited) call JB @ 813-977-4104

THURS Mar 10, 2016 – Special Hoperations Fundraiser – 7-9pm Hidden Springs Ale Works, 1631 N Franklin St, Tampa. Tickets $15 non-members, (Members: Free)  This is a fun social event to help raise funds for local Tampa homebrew club Special Hoperations. We’ll have taps in the brewery flowing with medal winning homebrew from the #1 homebrew club in Florida along with a 50/50 raffle and some Special Hops shirts floating around.

THURS Mar 10, 2016 – The Wild Beer JAM at the Witch with Green Bench Brewing & more…., 3-11 pm (entertainment after dark) –  The Ale and the Witch, 111 2nd ave NE Downtown St Pete, No cover, beers a-la-carte pricing.Hosting 7 breweries (Green Bench, Almanac, Prairie Artisan Ales, Jolly Pumpkin, Central State, St Somewhere, Jester King) 14 taps, bottles and cans

FRI Mar 11, 2016 – 3rd Annual Brew and BBQ – 5pm, Pair O’ Dice Brewing, 4400 118th Avenue North, Ste 208, Clearwater.  $10-$15.  Back by popular demand, our own Ken Rosenthal will team up with Out Of The Pot to cook up his famous Texas-style brisket. We’ll be pairing Pair O’ Dice brews with lots of competition quality, 18 hour slow smoked brisket served Texas style. That means white bread, pickles, and onions with sauce on the side because this brisket is so good it just doesn’t deserve to be covered up. Sides will include baked beans and creamed corn. BBQ plates will be available for purchase first come first serve while supplies last so you better get here before the meat runs out. #GetAPair  – I’ve missed this one two years in a row because the brisket sells out quickly!  Don’t miss it!

FRI Mar 11, 2016 – 3rd Annual Foeder for Thought Festival, 5pm-midnight, Green Bench Brewing Company
1133 Baum Ave, St Petersburg.  Tickets $60. Foeder for Thought celebrates oak fermentation. This is one of the most unique and intimate festivals during Tampa Bay Beer Week offering beer to sample from across the country.

SAT Mar 12, 2016 – Hunahpu’s Day – sold out months ago.  This specialty festival’s limited tickets and pricing ($200. minimum for festival entrance and 4 bottles of Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout) is a #TBBW staple and sought after festival.  Unless you are an oil baron or financier, you’ll have to find other events to keep you busy today. Worth a mention just because… you can’t get in.

SAT Mar 12, 2016 – Pucker up with Almanac Brewing Company and Cascade Brewing – 6pm, Independent Bar & Cafe, 5016 N Florida Ave, Tampa.  No cover, drink prices vary.    If you love sour beers, you can’t beat this one… We have some amazing sour beers coming from ALMANAC BEER CO. AND CASCADE BREWING BARRELHOUSE!!    DRAFT LIST! (Flights will be available)
Valley of the Heart’s Delight (Sour Blonde with foraged Apricots, Dates, and Mulberries)
Peach de Brettaville (100% Brett Saison with local Peaches)
Farmer’s Reserve Blackberry (Sour Blonde with Blackberries)
Hoppy Sour Mosaic – Sour Blonde dry hopped with Mosaic
Almanac IPA – West Coast IPA with Citra, Simcoe, and Cascade
Cascade Figaro
Cascade Bourbonic Plague
Cascade Vlad the Imp Aler

SUN Mar 13, 2016 – Hunahpu’s Hangover Day at 7th Sun (two locations: 7th Sun Brewing, Dunedin, and new Tampa (parking lot) location 6809 N Nebraska Ave, Tampa) 11am – 5pm.  Buy four beer tickets to get in ($20 total), purchase additional beer tickets at $5 each (beers will range in size from 8 oz to 12 oz). This year for Hangover day, we are christening our new location with a lot party in honor of you. Since we are still in the process of building-out for the new facility, the parking lot will host the event. And because Dunedin is where it’s started and what you made possible, we’re also going to continue the tradition of Dunedin Hangover Day too. (Dunedin location only – extended hours 11am-10pm)

Be safe…

Prelude to Tampa Bay Beer Week… Mar 3 Food & Beer Pairing!

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Countdown to THIS Thursday- did you buy tickets? Food and craft beer pairing event Thurs, Mar 3, 2016 at Tapz and Tapaz in St Pete Beach.  Only 150 tickets, $25 advance, one night only – unlimited tapas paired with local craft beer! Join us!

http://www.eventbrite.com/e/all-tapped-out-tasting-extravaganza-aka-the-perfect-pairing-prelude-to-tbbw-tickets-22052597914?aff=efbevent

Tell your friends and join us!

“The Festival” 2015 Florida – Thank you to all VolunBEERs!

Having just returned from the European Beer Bloggers Conference (#EBBC15) in Belgium at the end of August, 2015, I was excited to be coordinating volunteers for “The Festival” presented by the Shelton Brothers in St Petersburg, FL.

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Now in its 4th year, The Festival brings in specialty craft brews coveted by beer geeks everywhere with a personal presence by some of the world’s finest brewers and brewery representatives for brands imported by the Shelton Brothers. Two of my favorite Belgian breweries,  Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen and Brouwerij Cantillonwere well represented, along with an entire St Petersburg Coliseum full of famous notables from the international, U.S., and local brewing scene.

Sidenote:  If you are purely interested in the array of brews, the brewers, and the breweries involved in the festival (or photos thereof), please visit www.sheltonbrothers.com to see coverage of The 2015 Festival. From my perspective it is  suffice to say that it was one of the most diverse, well-organized, and friendly festivals I’ve ever seen, thanks to the people involved.

After three well-attended sessions this past weekend, I’d like to shout out and give my thanks to a few people who made The Festival so incredible this year.

This post is a tribute…

20151017_231227-1To the thousands of hours invested by Shelton Brothers staff, international brewery reps, and local beer ambassadors whose passion to high quality craft beer made this a once-in-a-lifetime, international event a reality for us in St Petersburg, FL.

Among the locals who stand out are Bob Sylvester, owner and head brewer at St Somewhere Brewing Company in Tarpon Springs, FL and JB Ellis, owner of Mr. Dunderbak’s Craft Biergarten in Tampa whose love of Tampa Bay culminated in The Festival being in St Petersburg this year.  Thank you Bob and JB.

20151017_191436-1Thank you also to Joel and Dan (Shelton Brothers), Jordan DeFrank  and everyone else at Shelton Brothers importers whose efforts brought European, Canadian, Australian, NZ, Japanese and other brewers to The Festival and graced our shores with heaven-sent beverages (or at least they tasted that way!)

Thank you also to my team leads:  Tim Bennett of Armon Events, Robert and Lisa Bandl, and Mike Thompson, head brewer at Brewer’s Tasting Room. I couldn’t have done it without your energy, advice and support.

And, finally, THANK YOU! to my army of close to 300 VolunBEERs, whose enthusiasm, flexibility, courtesy and boundless energy went above and beyond to make this year’s festival the best ever.  Hopefully, this is the start of many Shelton Brothers festivals and other notable brewing events in our area!

Sidenote: VolunBEERs are needed to several more upcoming events – please check out our Facebook Page for Carol’s VolunBEERs or our master sign-up page for opportunities to help out!  (Yes, even if you fly in to VolunBEER, we want you!)

Hopefully, this gallery of photos helps to convey a bit of the spirit, friendliness, personality, diversity and vibrancy of our VolunBEER community.  THANK YOU all for your service!

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p.s., This weekend (Oct 24, 2015) in St Petersburg is Keep St Petersburg Local week with a family-friendly Saturday afternoon event called “In The Dip” – I still need Localicious_IN_THE_DIP_FB_CoverVolunBEERs to pour beer!

 

 

Come out and have fun with us!

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