Craft beer adventures and experiences… one pint at a time

Posts tagged ‘beer blogs’

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.)

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:

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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.

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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:

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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

“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!

If a Beer Pic is worth 1000 words, How about 400 from Halfway There?

Looking to do something grand and beer-related on a sultry Saturday evening in downtown St Petersburg FL?   Tampa Bay Beer Week (#TBBW) and our supporters definitely did it up in grand style this past weekend!

halfway there logoSaturday, Sept 6, 2014 at the historic St Petersburg Coliseum marked the second annual #TBBW Halfway There Rare Beer Festival.  With the event capping attendance at 1000, we’re making our mark on the Florida beer scene.

It was an incredible event thanks to the #TBBW board and legions of others who donated time, beer, enthusiasm, and planning.

A big thank you to all my VolunBEERs who came out and donated their time, energy and heartbeats to make this an incredible festival for everyone!

VolunBEERs

With Tampa Bay Beer Week slated for Mar 7-15, 2015, we’re Halfway to incredible times ahead…But that’s still 6 months away, and we’re just getting started.

Saturday’s Halfway There fest featured rare and little seen (in these parts anyways) brews – local and international. This fest had over 60 confirmed breweries, 8 local home brew clubs, vendors, volunteers, and paid attendees who sampled, swirled, drank, and enjoyed what is fast becoming an incredible craft beer community in Tampa Bay.

Photo credits go to Tom Scherberger, Tiese Melton, and myself.

With close to 400 pics from the event itself, you can get a sense of the merriment and fun we had.

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While I don’t have pictures from The Ale and The Witch’s pre-party, I do have some from Hops and Props after-party:

Next up is The Ale and The Witch’s Local Fresh Brew Fest THIS WEEKEND (Sept 13, 2014) featuring live music, local brews, and lots of new friends.

See you there or at another upcoming St Pete/ Tampa area brewfest!

p.s., If you’d like to be added to my VolunBEER database (in case you live here OR you’re going to visit FL in the future and might want to volunteer) for future brew events in Florida, send me your name, email address, and cell number. It’s a great way to celebrate that Brews and Florida and Friends go together!

Cheers!

Carol

#BBC14 in a NY minute… plus more

Picture if you will: 150 craft beer drinkers with a writing problem getting together for a weekend of lectures on brewing history, branding, photography, blogging, and especially beer. Got it?  That’s the essence of the 5th annual #BBC14 (Beer Bloggers Conference 2014) in San Diego, CA.

#BBC14 in a NY minute…

Who blogs about Beer?

Drawing a picture of the typical beer blogger (there are several thousand) isn’t something I can easily do, but I can say that our #BBC14 microcosm would fit in at a tasting room on a Friday night: beer geeks… young to seasoned, novices and pros, industry reps and enthusiasts. And like a typical Friday night, we arrived to sample great brews and at closing time, we really didn’t want to leave.  Through the course of 48+ hours, California and its craft brews stole a piece of my heart.

What’s #BBC about?

#BBC14 was 1/3 beer pilgrimage, 1/3 tasting adventure, 1/3 techniques/blogging… all of it amazing!

We rubbed shoulders with and heard stories from the greats of the craft brewing and blogging industries, visited tasting rooms, and sampled some of the finest brews available (and not) on the market.

From the first sip of Cigar City’s Invasion IPA at the airport in LA on Thursday to the last drops of WA state shared brew on Sunday morning in San Diego, it was a memorable (and to some, exhausting) weekend.  Along the way, I met friends and we shared pints, laughed (a lot) and bonded through our passion for beer. Some of us even registered and made road trip plans for next year’s #BBC15 in Asheville, NC.

For me,  craft beer is all about building a creative, fun-loving, grassroots community that supports the craft brewing industry and loves beer. Finding others who are equally passionate and who are leaders in the industry is simply, at the risk of sounding trite, pure bliss.

As I scribe this post en route from LAX to Tampa, I am grateful to CA brewers, fellow bloggers,  strangers, organizers, and friends whose generosity and hospitality enriched my life.

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THANK YOU

From my hometown breweries in Tampa Bay, I’d like to give a shout out to a few people who gave me swag or beer to share the Florida beer love in San Diego including:

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To so many who donated time, energy, beer, food, hospitality and friendship to make our CA beer experience so incredible, including (a full list of sponsors are listed at beerbloggersconference.org):

2014-08-23 12.36.23Happy and safe imbibing!  Hope to see you at a beer fest in Florida or around the country, and until then… wishing you health and happiness and…

 

P.s. Here’s a few of my colleagues/friend’s blog reports from #BBC14:

THANKS Fcindy and meOR THE MEMORIES!
Carol Dekkers

My 2014 Summer of (Craft Beer) Love… Dublin, Edinburgh, Toronto, Las Vegas, Calgary

Growing up in Canada (where the drinking age remains 18-19) gave me the opportunity to experience fine Canadian craft beer before the term was even coined (it was always called “Microbrewery beer” way back then!)  Calgary’s Big Rock Brewing is over 30 years old, and continues to expand with their signature “TRAD ALE” still holding court among craft beer aficionados.  Getting my tongue wet by craft brews at such a young age might forge one into a beer snob, but I attest that even back then, craft beer was all about spreading beer love (and friendship) – one pint at a time!

Craft beer today is a culture, a grass-roots movement that spreads good taste, passion, and beer love across the globe.  Its fuel is creativity, passion, recipes, innovation, collaboration, good taste and the pursuit of the perfect pint (either 16 or 20 oz) – and supported by a growing community of positive people. 

.facebook_-149164741From my experience… When craft beer people get together (anywhere I’ve been in the world!)  boundaries, politics and negative talk simply melt (or are imbibed) away!

My 2014 Summer of (Craft Beer) Love… Dublin, Edinburgh, Toronto, Las Vegas, Calgary

For me, craft beer is a community of new friendships and tasting adventures that further my passion for fine beverage sensations worldwide.

With this in mind, I planned, for the first time in years, a true vacation (no work!) – and in 23 days I visited craft breweries and pubs in 4 countries:  Ireland, Scotland, the U.S., and Canada.

The centerpiece (and the main event of my trip) was the European Beer Bloggers Conference (#EBBC14) in Dublin Ireland June 25-26, 2014 – which I will get to shortly – but the overall four country adventure had many, many highlights:

  • PROMOTING FLORIDA BREWERIES: Introducing foreigners (strangers who become friends!) to Florida craft breweries and brews.  I took 50 koozies (thank you Six Ten Brewing) and 2 bombers of St Somewhere’s Lectio Divino Belgian brew (thank you Bob Sylvester!) with me to Dublin – the thank yous and accolades from #EBBC14 attendees were well worth the added weight!  I took advantage of a few photo ops (below.)
  • COLLABORATION BREWING OPS:  Meeting and proposing collaborations with brewers outside of Florida, and sharing creative marketing ideas I’ve discovered in my travels. Craft beer is (IMHO) an international wave that unites people with great taste and community – and collaboration brewing (brewing beer with multiple brewers and dispensing it where it’s brewed) gets the marketing message out without having to worry about import/export and distribution.  I’ve met many brewers who are waiting to connect to Florida brewers (ready to travel?) and who might come over for Tampa Bay Beer Week (Mar 7-15, 2015!)
  • CRAFT BEER LOVE: Spreading the “craft beer love” on planes, trains and automobiles (actually with people in the breweries and pubs I frequent – not in my car because it’s a 2 seater… just saying);
  • STORY TELLING: Sharing craft brew stories (the brewers, the creativity, the tastes, the  places, the challenges, and especially the positive, optimistic people behind the brews) with like-minded travelers;
  • BEER TOURISM: Spreading the word about Tampa Bay Beer Week (Mar 7-15, 2015!) to everyone I meet and raising excitement (and anticipation) of a stellar week of craft beer experiences (guarantee to be frost-free) – with so many activities here in the Tampa/St Petersburg/Clearwater area (Florida);
  • TASTES AND TRENDSDiscovering the similarities and differences with the craft brewing industry on both sides of the pond (see previous post); and mostly…
  • FRIENDSHIPS: Making new friends from all over who are as passionate as I am about craft beer (and who also, like me, don’t yet have day jobs in the industry.)
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Here’s a run down of my trip… country by country… hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  (Yes, next time I might need a bottle carrier – send me a note if you’d like to join in!)

Stop #1 – #EBBC14, Dublin, Ireland

I had a great time from the minute I joined in on the pre-conference Thursday night podcasts (3 of them) convened by Google Hangouts expert Ian Bergin (11 pm somewhere), together with Wayne Dunne (Irish Beer Snob,) Eric and Flo (#brewsweplate) and a few others who drifted in for part of the broadcasts.  We met up at Brew Dock where I also met Dorthe Woltermann (Dublin Ladies Craft Beer Society), Rachel Colgan (BrewDock Dublin) and others who were so friendly, they convinced me I was definitely in the right place at the right time!

11 oclock somewhere podcast

Two further installments of the podcast are available at 11pmsomewhere.com (thank you Ian Bergin!)

After an informal pub crawl through some of the best craft beer haunts in Dublin (thank you to Reuben Gray: Tale of the Ale for organizing,) the European Beer Bloggers Conference (#EBBC14) began on Friday and ran through late Saturday night.

By the time we finished on Saturday night, beer bloggers were rife with knowledge from lectures, lunches/dinners, excursions, Guinness, Pilsner Urqell, Irish craft beer, tastings of craft beer from abroad and legions of new friends. (The invitation to visit Florida is sincere – don’t forget to follow-up with me when the cold weather looms in your area!)

(Thank you to Allan and Cindy of Zephyr Adventures and the many sponsors, brewers, speakers, distributor reps, and others who made the weekend so memorable.)

 

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Stop #2: Scotland – Edinburgh, Sterling, Skye, Perth

The highlight of my Scottish stop (1 week) was the beer and the 700th anniversary (and re-enactment) of the Bannockburn battle (focus of the movie Braveheart!)

The cask beers I sampled at every city and the bottled beers I tried were all excellent (save for one that was mediocre on the train!) – here’s my photo gallery.

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Stop #3:  Toronto, Canada en route to Las Vegas, Nevada

The third stop was actually more of a drive-by (a 10 hour stopover in Toronto)  but there was still enough time to sample brews at a couple of craft beer bars.  My friend Ralph Robinson, of Barrie Ontario (home of Barnstormer Brewing which I’ll feature in an upcoming post) met me and was my tour guide.  Did you know that there are more than 25 craft breweries within the Toronto Metropolitan area alone?

We enjoyed two stops over lunch and dinner and met some delightful Torontonians (who were of course non-natives), great brews (I’ve been searching for Caffrey’s Irish Ale on tap for several years!) – and a world cup broadcast (Netherlands and I can’t remember….)

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Stop #4:  Las Vegas, Nevada

This stop was a 4 day whirlwind (late July 4 – July 8) mostly to unwind and relax poolside (Planet Hollywood) with my Florida friend Dawn (whose family lives there!)

Of course, I was compelled to check out Sin City Brewing Company (great craft brews with two tasting rooms right on the strip) – where I hung out one evening and then met the brewer/owner Rich Johnson the next day.  Nice to know that even in Sin City you can find good Double IPA’s on tap!

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Stop #5:  Calgary, Canada – Stampede Week, Family and more Craft Brew Love…

I love that Big Rock Brewery always has innovative beers of the season (they are expanding now into British Columbia and are the oldest truly “craft” brewer in Canada) – including last years Rosmarinus Ale (with Rosemary!) plus an array of ever-expanding craft brewers.

I found myself drooling (again) as I browsed the shelves at Calgary liquor stores (privatized and no longer government-run!) and picked up several limited edition brews.  Highlights included Stampede week (the 10 day “festival” with ample beer flowing, wannabe cowboys everywhere, and entertainment – front row standing watching Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20!) – and a visit to Canmore (in the Rocky Mountains) Grizzly Paw Brewing Company.  (Coincidentally, the bartender Megan there knew my friend Ralph from Toronto and the brewmaster at Barnstormer Brewing in Barrie Ontario – small, small world!)

It’s great to visit family and be able to spread craft beer love north of the border too!

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Home again… Until August and #BBC14, San Diego

3 days, 4 countries, weight gain, fabulous memories, and so much craft beer adventure.  The next excursion is San Diego in late August (2.5 more weeks!) to the Beer Bloggers Conference where it will be a homecoming of sorts with U.S. based peeps.

Meanwhile, sunsets and suds prevail…  I love my life – and I love craft beer!  Thanks for reading!

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Have an awesome week and be safe!

Cheers!

Carol

Similar and Different – Beer is Blog-worthy Both sides of the Pond

It’s hard to believe it’s been a full 3 weeks since I had the privilege and the luxury of attending the 4th Annual European Beer Bloggers Conference (#EBBC14) in Dublin Ireland, arranged by Zephyr Adventures (June 25-26, 2014.) While I more regularly attend the Beer Bloggers Conference in the U.S., this was my first venture to the European conference.

Other attendees already provided great recap blog posts about the events and breweries featured at the conference (see the Facebook Beer Bloggers Conference Alumni page and the listing at the end of this post.)

So as not to repeat my colleagues, I decided to focus on similarities and differences based on observations (and drinking experience) across the pond.

Thank you to Guiness, Molson/Coors, Pilsner Urquell and the many other sponsors, brewery owners, the Church Restaurant and Bars (our host venue), and everyone who made the #EBBC14 experience one to remember.  (Watch for more photos in the next blog post here!)

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Why I blog…

For me, the passion about beer comes from the people, the tastes, the stories and the community created by beer, and increasingly so, craft (or in the old school vernacular, “microbrew”) beer.

There certainly was no lack of passion at this year’s EBBC. Beer bloggers in attendance (around 70 or so) hailed from varied backgrounds, which is similar to those who attend in the U.S.  Beer bloggers (and craft brewers!) seem to attract a preponderance of technical professionals (IT and engineering) mixed with banking/business and beer industry representative.  We all have one thing in common – we share a passion for beer, which may be THE world’s oldest drinks.

Beer is a source of Cultural Pride no Matter How Old the Country…

As I am reminded every time I visit Europe, 100 years is recent history. Our conference venue, The Church in the heart of Dublin was hundreds of years old and hosted the wedding of Arthur Guinness (the patriarch of the Guinness Brewery) among others.

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Today, the structure is home to The Church bars and nightclub – an inventive recycling of a historic site and not a tear down/rebuild so common in the U.S.

I could sense bygone pomp and pageantry accompanied by reverberating organ chimes when I sat down at the bar the day before the conference began. It might seem to some to be bit irreverent to my religious upbringing, but I see it as a celebration of freedom and homage to the human spirit to imbibe a pint where the walls eek of stories and the full range of human emotion.

And, this weekend was one of celebration and coming together to feed our passions about beer.

Beer Opportunities (and Challenges) on Both sides of the Pond

The weekend posed a few good surprises and learnings compared to what I’ve experienced with craft beer, conferences, drinking habits and the craft brewing industry compared to the U.S.:

Concept Topic Europe (Ireland, other) – EBBC
U.S.  – BBC Observation/comments
Gender Bloggers and craft beer drinkers 10% female at EBBC   conference 1/3 female at BBC conference Not sure if this is a general trend based on consumers. In the U.S., I’ve observed an almost even split (40% female, 60 male) of craft beer drinkers at festivals and brewpubs. Based on bartender response, men are still the majority of craft beer consumers in the UK and Ireland.
Serving   preference Cask vs Keg for Craft Beer Keg dominates in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe except for the UK (due to the Campaign for Real Ale – CAMRA) Keg dominates – cask is a rare specialty. Cask is a rare specialty in the U.S., less so in Europe. Brewpubs/tasting rooms and bars in the U.S. may feature a single cask beer if any, and craft beer lovers will remark about the specialty beers on cask.
Beer temperature Beer temperature    and servings Temperatures ranged from room temperature to chilled.   No clear difference in professed temperature preference between various European countries. Pilsner Urquell catered to ensuring beer was colder by using ice chilled glassware The U.S. market prefers cold beer and will discard ½ pints that grow warm in the glass.  Koozies are popular (especially in southern states) Koozies are not common in Europe.   I handed them out to attendees from a local Tampa brewery (Six Ten Brewing) thinking they would be popular (they are in the US to keep beer cans/bottles/pint glasses cool.). A few attendees had never seen a koozie (more than one) and others said they’d only use it in the two weeks of summer. Warm beer doesn’t seem to raise an eyebrow here.
Innovation Emerging styles and flavors    – ABV Lager still appears to prevail over ales, but increasingly IPA’s, Oatmeal Stouts, and Saisons are becoming mainstream offerings of Irish craft brewers. ABV range typically from 3.8% to 7% Styles are all over  the map with ales leading the charge and sour beers, double IPAs and imperial stouts on the rise. ABV range typically 5% to 11% A reason for lower ABV could be taxes (one London brewer noted that brewery taxes increase per liter for every ABV above 5%.) This wasn’t the case in Ireland, but ABVs were typically less than 6%.Style variations are emerging on both sides of the pond.
Post-production Using Randalls (Hopinators) to instantly infuse kegged beer On the rise – positive response from beer bloggers On the rise – positive response from beer bloggers I’ve seen this in Florida, London, and Dublin, with different hops or fruit in the randall. In Germany (and in isolated instances in the U.S.) I’ve also seen syrups (especially fruity ones) added to beer
Cross pond  interest Interest in global beer market Lots of interest in U.S. craft beers (aka microbrews) – specialty brews (such as Dark Lord and Imperial Stouts) were common both sides of the pond Introspective except for Belgium brews. Not much knowledge (or interest) outside the US craft brewers (which given 2900+ brewers in the US might account for some of the attention) Craft beer lovers seem to be the same on both sides of the pond – fueled by the pursuit of great creative tastes and experiences. In the U.S., there isn’t too much known about the craft industry (in general) in Europe aside from Belgium. The U.S. seems to be looked at as the current leaders in the craft brewing industry.
Fresh beer to go Take out draft beer (growlers) Not yet too popular in Ireland. I rarely saw growlers for sale in bars. In the UK, I’ve seen a range (still not prevalent) of take away containers ranging from disposable plastic milk-containers to stainless steel growlers for beer Popular at craft beer bars nationwide but legislation limits the sale and distribution by state (including size of growler, who/where they can be filled, and if they are allowed at all) “Pub culture” is more prevalent in the UK and Ireland than in the US. Pubs are filled with suits stopping by for a pint after work (en route home.) Dublin is home to close to 10K pubs/bars.In the US market, many people stop off for “Happy hours” where draught beer may be discounted (5-7 pm typically), but not to the same extent.  Growlers seem to be a way of extending the U.S. social experience to home.

 

These were just a few observations…

and having not been to every country in Europe or every state in the U.S. to verify my observations, I leave it up to you to correct/challenge/add your comments. In the words of U.S. entertainer Dennis Miller “This is just my opinion and I could be wrong…”

Additional posts from #EBBC14 attendees: (partial listing)

It was a cultural and friendship growing experience to meet so many great beer bloggers and new friends at #EBBC14, and I hope we continue to stay in touch.

Your comments are welcome – I’d love to hear from other attendees (and the general craft beer community) about what you think!

Happy and safe imbibing!

Carol

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