Craft beer adventures and experiences… one pint at a time

Posts tagged ‘Florida’

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

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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.)

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

 

A typical Beery Saturday in Tampa Bay… May 14, 2016

It’s an epic time to be a Floridian with a burgeoning craft beer scene and lots of events going on every weekend.  In fact, it’s been stated that on some weekends, there’s simply TOO MUCH going on, making it hard to choose where to go.

Today is no exception – there are three notable events happening and I’d love to be able to attend all three. Two are charity events and one is an out-of-state brewery event:

1. Barns and Beer Craft Beer Festival – Old McMickey’s Farm, Odessa (just north of Tampa)

**** TICKETS AVAILABLE AT THE DOOR ****barns and beer updated may 14

This is the second craft beer event for the farm (a 501c3 charity) to raise money for their charitable programs including military weddings, children’s camps, and a host of other worthwhile endeavors for the community.

In addition to unlimited tastings, entertainment will be provided by the Black Honkeys (a celebrated local band!) and there will be mechanical bull rides, egg races and more.  Professional brews from around Florida are the focus of the tastings.

I still need a few more VolunBEERs (you get in free in exchange for working 1/2 the festival to pour beer, work the gate, etc.) – here’s the link if you’d like to sign up:  http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c084da5af2caafa7-barns

Tickets available at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/barns-beer-may-2016-tickets-22499606930

2. St Pete Beach Beer Festival

St pete beachThis is the second charity beer fest this weekend – this one focuses on homebrewers and their wares plus local breweries in the bay area.  A growing community festival worth checking out if you’re close to the beach.

Tickets available at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/st-pete-beach-beer-festival-tickets-24607898888

3. Blue Point Toasted Tour

blue point

Blue Point Brewing is bringing their Toasted Tour (based on their flagship brew: Toasted Lager) and will feature entertainment and beer in downtown Tampa at Waterworks Park.

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1154253177946609/ 

General admission – No charge to get in, Blue Point beer available for $5.  – VIP Tickets available (includes beer.) but I couldn’t find a link to the ticketing site.

Enjoy your weekend responsibly!  I hope to see you out and about enjoying the best brews Tampa (and beyond) has to offer.

SLAINTE!

“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!

Tampa Bay Beer Week (#TBBW) Mar 7-15, 2015 – Shortcuts, Fun Events and VolunBEER Opps

tbbw 2015

Throughout the U.S., (and increasingly in other countries as well,) full-scale regional BEER WEEKS are becoming the norm.  With over 3000 operational craft breweries, Beer Weeks are definitely becoming TOURIST DESTINATION WEEKS!

Our local Tampa Bay Beer Week (#TBBW) is imminent (Mar 7-15, 2015) will again be a celebration focused on local Tampa Bay (30+) and Florida breweries (close to 100!) with a few notable anchor festivals on the first and second #TBBW weekends:

All told, if 2015 is anything like years before, you’ll be able to select from close to 300 events on both sides of Tampa Bay (and north and south to Bradenton, Sarasota, Tarpon Springs, Lakeland, and beyond) – visit the #TBBW website for up-to-date listings and  links about 2015 events.

VolunBEER (volunteer) Opportunitiessignup genius

If you’re short on cash or simply want to donate your enthusiasm and energy to making local craft beer events run smoothly (volunteer tasks range by event and can include registration help, checking identification, selling tickets, pouring beer, fetching ice, emptying dump buckets, door security and other jobs,)  you may want to join my VolunBEERs database (simply email your name, email and cell number to me:  caroldekkers at gmail dot com!)

 

What’s New for #TBBW in 2015DIPA TBBW 2015

For the first time ever, the Tampa Bay Beer Week board has commissioned a special beer to commemorate craft beer in Tampa Bay.  Brewed this inaugural year by Cigar City Brewing, the Double IPA (DIPA) is already available by the bottle at Cigar City’s Tampa tasting room, and will be available throughout the bay area at local #TBBW sponsors, bars and establishments (distributed by J.J. Taylor.)

Carol’s Event Recommendations for #TBBW:

  • Sat Mar 7, 2015: Florida Brewers Guild Beerfest (see links above) – Tampa
  • Sun Mar 8, 2015: Best Florida Beer presents Brewers Ball (see links above) – Tampa
  • Wed Mar 11, 2015: TBD. Recommendations to come!
  • Fri Mar 13, 2015:  Friday the 13th!  Recommendations to come!
  • Sat Mar 14, 2015: Hunahpu’s Day – Cigar City Brewing Company (see links above) – sold out! – Tampa
  • Sun Mar 15, 2015:  Recommendations to come!

Drink responsibly – designate a driver to get you and your friends home safely!

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

Pinch me! Ales and Tales of Dublin and Edinburgh and Toronto Await…

One more day… and then I am off to a three-week adventure involving beer passion, friends and family (in that order!)

I feel truly blessed to be able to attend the European Beer Bloggers Conference in Dublin, Ireland this coming weekend with an agenda that rivals none, followed by a few nights outside Edinburgh, Scotland (for the 700th anniversary of the Bannockburn battle!), followed by a stopover with a good friend (and more craft beer) in Toronto, followed by a few more nights in Las Vegas with friends, followed by a week up in Alberta with family (and a few craft brewery visits.)

bbc europe I get asked weekly why beer is my passion and how I’m earning from the pursuit of fine craft ales, and the short answer is that I love the taste of craft beer and I love the community of entrepreneurs and inventors behind it, and to-date, it’s a pursuit for the sole interest and joy of the craft.

I am fortunate to have a solid career in software consulting (enabling me to work anywhere -home or away), that allows me to pursue my hobby worldwide.

BrewStat

BUT, I would love to parlay what I’ve done for years in the software industry (speaking at international conferences) into a career in the craft beer industry on behalf of a Brewers Guild or the American Craft Brewers Association or a similar group in Europe, Asia and North America.

Where we’re at in the U.S. with Craft Beer…

Our domestic craft brew industry is, as you already know, exploding with flavor, innovation, and creativity, and it’s a beautiful thing.

At home in Florida, challenges emerge with legislation, funding, and big beer domination, but the tide is turning.  We have passionate brewers, consumers and a cast of workers bringing it all together.  As a nation, craft beers fuels a proud and emerging community that contributed over $10.2Billion to the U.S. economy in 2012/13.  And we are leading the world in a way unseen since the wine revolution propelled Napa Valley to stardom.

I can’t Wait for the Weekend…

The U.K. and Europe face different issues that we do in North American, CAMRA has emerged as a 170,000 member force in U.K. legislation, and brewers are taxed based on the ABV %.  But, the quest for good taste, creative recipes, community and innovation pervades the issues – and this weekend’s lineup of events and lectures is inspiring.

Watch this space for updates, photos, comments, and links… I’ll take you along on my journey and pursuit of fine brews across 4 countries in as many weeks (and have a happy, safe, 4th of July!)

Cheers,
Carol

Celebrating FL Brews in London during American Craft Beer Week May 12-18, 2014

When I spoke to Brett Andress of The Ale and The Witch, a fantastic craft brew pub in St Petersburg, FL last week about American Craft Beer Week, he remarked that “It’s craft beer week EVERY week here at The Witch,” which, of course, is true.

For the rest of us, the craft brewformation (see my earlier post “From God’s Waiting Room to God’s Tasting Room, the Brewformation of St Petersburg) is just coming of age and having an entire National Week devoted to Craft Beer couldn’t come soon enough.

For me, I’m celebrating American Craft Beer Week over here in the UK (where I’m working this week) – but I’m spreading the news of Florida craft breweries in every pub I visit.  It’s certainly easier given a few props (and having the delicious desert-like Siren Brewing UK and Cigar City Brewing FL’s collaboration brew – Caribbean Chocolate Cake Stout – on tap in several places!)

 

For those of you in the U.S. (and in the Florida legislature and senate!), here’s a “legislative style” document I can support:

American Craft Beer Week

For our legislators throughout the U.S. (such as FL senators who support Big Beer, and Minnesota lawmakers who just made growlers illegal!) and for all of my readers, the video link below shows just how prominent American Craft Brewers are! (Sidenote:  Only one of the 100 Florida breweries, M.I.A. Brewing, was included!)

mia

You may want to turn down the sound (I hate the kazoo-like musical theme), grab a fresh Florida pint, and enjoy the show!

ACBWAmerican Craft Beer week May 12-18, 2014

Have a great and safe week!

-Carol

The Health Benefits of Beer – Let’s Drink to your Health Florida!

There’s no question that anything used in excess or irresponsibly such as coffee, alcohol, pills, or even grapefruit juice (contraindicated with particular prescriptions) — or even sunshine (!) – can be deadly.  Irresponsible use (abuse) is never a good idea, no matter what.

BUT, there are proven health benefits to some of controlled substances such as those going through various legislatures (such as the medical marijuana) and to freely available products such as BEER.  And it doesn’t have to be a Craft Brew either… (even though I’d profess that a craft beer drinking experience involves more tasting and savoring that ever does with mass-produced volume beers.  But that’s a matter of opinion.)

health benefits

Perhaps some of the states with Aging Populations and Health Problems, such as FLORIDA, might want to consider encouraging moderate beer consumption as a holistic way to health? (Seriously!)

Here’s a sampling of recent media releases (there are MANY more) about the Health Benefits related to Beer.

NOTE: I have not researched the medical validity of said claims or whether the studies are funded by alcohol distributors – maybe one of my readers knows?)

10 surprising health benefits of beerhttp://health.yahoo.net/experts/dayinhealth/10-surprising-health-benefits-beer

health benefits2http://www.care2.com/causes/6-health-benefits-of-drinking-beer.html

health benefits3http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/03/16/surprising-health-benefits-beer/

health benefits4http://www.everydayhealth.com/healthy-living/0315/tap-into-beers-health-benefits.aspx

If we have legalizing medical mary jane on the slate for health benefits, why wouldn’t we be encouraging the responsible (read: MODERATION!) consumption of readily available, and now tastier than ever, CRAFT BEER?

It’s cheaper than many prescription drugs, has less side effects with moderate consumption (I’ve never heard of someone dying by negligently mixing two different craft beers in an evening!) and IS LEGAL.

Perhaps craft beer could be a low-cost, tasty, and healthy way to improve the lives of our overall population and improve longevity.  I’d like to say it would also improve the overall mood of many (seniors and others) on a given Florida day, but I also know  people with horrible “alcohol” personalities who would negate this statement.

For everyone else, perhaps drinking a beer a day could be a diet change – with long term benefits that truly makes sense!

To your safe imbibing!

FL Legislation Pending to KILL Craft Brewing… What can “WE” do?

You may or may not be privy to the maelstrom brewing around craft brewing in our great state of Florida – and if you don’t you’re in good company!

Our newspapers and popular social media (including the big mass-produced-beer distributors) espouse the newest craft brewery openings and local festivals featuring photos of happy, upwardly mobile hipsters with kids in tow enjoying brews hand-crafted from the Tampa Bay area and beyond.  It would appear to an outsider that big beer and others support the growth of craft brewing…

Don’t be fooled!

The big beer distributors (especially those “featuring” Belgian owned Anheuser-Busch InBev) pour millions of dollars into Florida’s campaign funds to support the current self-professed “pro-business” (bahahaha!!! NOT!) legislators -dollars intended to PROTECT BIG BUSINESS and kill craft beer in Florida.

All told, there are almost a dozen house and senate bills making their way through the various committees and structures – intending to make sure that the small craft brewer pays the piper (the big beer distributors!) for their own beer that they wish to sell to willing patrons.

One such bill just passed its committee last week on a vote of 8-1 and would require breweries to pay a distributor a 30-40% profit on their own beer (that they bottle or can on premise) before they can sell it to their patrons. It doesn’t even have to leave their refrigerators – and the distributor can actually refuse to allow them to even do the sales in the first place!  And this is one of only a dozen pieces of legislation that the distributor’s lobbyists are pushing through in Florida – wait until you hear some of the other ludicrous proposals intended to “protect” and preserve the rights of big beer over the underdog craft brewers!!!

Here’s a recent piece on the situation:

the ledgerhttp://tinyurl.com/n6jte5s

Another great piece written by my colleague Sean Nordquist:

beer for the daddy

WHAT CAN WE (YOU AND ME AS FLORIDA VOTERS) DO?

The short answer is to TAKE ACTION (and not sit by and watch and say “it doesn’t really affect me…”  – small businesses in Florida affect all of us!)

The best course of action for any small business community that isn’t flush with cash (like the big beer distributors are!) is to assemble and support with facts.  This isn’t just about greed and bullying anymore, this hits to the very core of the American Dream – that the little guy, the craft brewers in Florida, can make it big – that our small brewers can join the nation and other states that CELEBRATE the growth of a highly innovative and family-friendly industry.  Our craft brewing industry is a collaborative small business industry that promotes other small businesses (festivals, community projects, farmers – yes farmers!, food trucks, State Fair, charities, local historical societies and so many others) – AND works together to promote a better Florida.  These are the mom-and-pop, bricks-and-mortar, small business at its finest, FLORIDA based businesses that need our support to survive (and thrive!)

Here’s my humble assessment (that I posted on Facebook) about the approach we (as a united group of Florida voters) need to take:

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What do YOU think?  PLEASE give me guidance (and your email address if you’d like to participate in preparing a position paper to present to the Governor) – our future depends on all of us!

Happy imbibing!

Carol

Everything you wanted to know about FLORIDA BREWERIES… from the Expert Gerard Walen

April was already a busy and notable month for Craft Brewing in the Tampa Bay area – and we’re only 1/2 way through!

We’ve toasted two new brewery openings in Pinellas County just last week (Sea Dog Brewing in Clearwater and St Pete Brewing Company in St Petersburg) – along with celebrating National Beer Day on April 7.

And, after much fanfare and anticipation, the new book FLORIDA BREWERIES, by my friend and author Gerard Walen, was published.

FloridaBreweries_TS Gerard is now on a book signing tour all over Tampa Bay (see details below) and beyond, and I caught up with him last week to ask him a few questions about his book-writing “research” behind FLORIDA BREWERIES:

1. Where are you from and how did you come to call Florida your home?

Tampa, and I believe that answers the second part.

2. You’ve just written THE book about Florida breweries – what inspired you to write it?

On my Road Trips for Beer site, I reviewed a few of the other state brewery guidebooks published by Stackpole Books. Through the writing and research for my Beer in Florida site, I realized that the state’s brewery scene had grown large enough that it deserved a similar guide. I pitched it to an editor, and it was accepted. When I pitched it in spring 2012, there were about 50 breweries in the state.

The book has chapters on 66 (one has closed) and a list of more than 40 that opened past deadline or that are on
their way to opening.

3. What was the best and the worst thing you discovered in your travels about Florida breweries?

Most breweries across the state were not producing enough beer to meet demand in their local areas, not to mention the state. Forget the country. That is also the worst thing, but fortunately new expansions have been completed, and that is starting to change: We’re seeing more regions of the state getting beer shipped in from others.

4. What surprised you (or continues to surprise you) about the industry or people involved?

I think it’s the collaboration aspect among craft brewers, which I knew about already but found it to be universal and mostly consistent. I worked as an assistant business editor at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune for a few years, so I had really delved into the mechanics of how businesses operate. I know of no other type of industry where its members are so open and supportive of each other.

5. What should people know about the book and why should they buy it?

I’ve had some folks mention that “Florida Breweries” is “outdated” already because of the breweries that have opened since deadline, but I did try to keep it as current as possible. I was able to make minor updates and add to that list in the back up to a month or so before it went to the printers. But it’s more
than just a list of breweries. Each of the chapters includes what I thought was the most interesting story I heard while visiting and talking with the brewers or owners (yes, I physically visited each of the 66 breweries). Plus there are chapters on such things as Beer in Theme Parks, Other Beer Companies, Beer Fests and Beer Webs, and introductions to each of the four regions – North Florida, Central Florida, Tampa Bay area, and South Florida – with information about the history, things to do, places to eat, and so on. Not to mention a glossary!

6. Anything you’d like to add?

Folks so far who have read it have been very positive. I’ve been told by a few people that they learned new things about the Florida beer community, and most of them are really invested in the industry in one form or another. I feel fortunate to be able to share a little of the knowledge I gained during my
research phase, and I hope it helps spread the word about our state’s great beer across the country and around the world.

A couple of other things:

Gerard walen

Author of FLORIDA BREWERIES Gerard Walen

  • The book is available on Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and StackpoleBooks.com, and I think the major bookstores in Florida (that’s just Barnes and Noble, now, right?). There are at least a few breweries who have purchased it for their tasting rooms – Cigar City in Tampa and Copp in Crystal River, for sure. But no matter where you purchase it, I’ll be happy to autograph it for you at any book signing, where I’ll also have copies for sale.
  • The best way to keep up with the signings is on my Amazon Author Page. I’ll also announce them on the Beer in Florida Facebook page, and will also do unscheduled “popup signings” at various craft beer places, which I’ll announce on the Facebook page and Twitter.
  • Drink Local! Drink Florida!

THANK YOU GERARD!  Wishing you continued success and many more research days ahead!

– Carol

 

An Open Letter to FL Senate President Don Gaetz about the Florida Craft Brewing Industry: “I’m Confused”

Here’s what I’d like to send to Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, but… we’re not friends

Dear FL Senate President Don Gaetz and the Florida Senate:

I’ve read and re-read the recent Miami Herald article posted Sunday March 16, 2014:  Beer distributors, brewers fight over growlers where you are stated as saying you are a “free-market, pro-business legislator,” and I cannot seem to reconcile what definition of free market you are using.  I looked up the definition of free-market and every source emphasizes freedom from government regulations:

Merriam-Webster definition: free market:  noun    an economic market or system in which prices are based on competition among private businesses and not controlled by a government

www.investorwords.com/2086/free_market.html  Definition of free market: Business governed by the laws of supply and demand, not restrained by government

dictionary.reference.com/browse/free+market      free market —n: a. an economic system that allows supply and demand to regulate prices, wages, etc, rather than government policy : b. (as modifier): a free-market …

Yet Mr. Gaetz, you are quoted as saying:

“I’m with the beer distributors in my district. That’s a very important issue because one of my very best friends is an Anheuser-Busch distributor and he never talks to me about his business. It’s always about what are we going to do for disabled children, what are we going to do for the arts, what are we going to do for economic development. But this time he’s talking about growlers.”

How does the law of supply and demand fit in with your position, and why is it that Florida consumers can purchase 64-oz growlers legally in 47 other states, but cannot when they are at home?

I am also struggling to understand why Anheuser-Busch, which is now under Belgium InBev ownership, can garner Senate support for proposed craft brewery restrictions that would limit collaboration brewing and sales of brews from Florida-based and owned craft brewery locations.

Why is it that Florida continues to break ranks with the rest of the union by restricting growler size?  Do Floridians really support allowing big business interests to trump and curtail the growth of an industry that other states fully support?

Do Floridians really know about The House Bill 1329, “Big Beer Bill”, AKA the “Craft Beer Killer Bill” to further curtail and restrict craft breweries statewide? Why would we want to turn our backs on an emerging market that is providing employment, income, tourist opportunities and vibrancy in our state?

Is there a new set of definitions for your free-market, pro-business stance that includes government regulation to protect a best friend’s business interests over and above those of small craft brewers, and of Florida consumers who freely choose to buy craft beer instead of your friend’s products?

As a Florida taxpayer, consumer, and confused voter, I’m hoping that there is a reasonable explanation that doesn’t include reference to political contributions or lobbyist influences.

Respectfully and truly yours…

——————-

As I consider whether to forward this on, I’m betting that the rest of the nation reads about us and remarks “Only in Florida…”

Tampa Bay Beer Week (#TBBW) 2014 — A week of Craft Beer Memories, Friendships, and Bittersweet Moments

As the last bottle caps and tasting glasses are picked up from the hundreds of venues throughout Tampa Bay, I’m reflective (and ecstatic for the most part) about the success of the third annual Tampa Bay Beer Week (TBBW.)

I confess that I am on the TBBW Board of Directors and have been part of the overall planning and volunteer coordination for TBBW 2014.  I also confess that I am a craft beer aficionado. (Sidenote: someone overheard me say this in a bar and asked what is a “craft beer Fish Animal?”  LOL…)

Now that the week is over, I feel like I do when the Olympics are over (except with a craft beer slant):

I feel happy that our newest breweries and tasting rooms were filled to capacity during their first ever Tampa Bay Beer Week.

I feel gratified to hear so many happy stories from volunteers, festival attendees and Tampa Bay citizens whose first or thousandth craft beer happened during TBBW.

I feel excited about the energy and collaboration in and around our growing brewing economy.

I feel refreshed (and a bit tired) after visiting so many events and meeting so many great people.

And, I feel sad to know that our community has grown to the point where we now have a criminal element and greed trumping some of the good intentions and planning from within our own ranks.

I’m also a bit embarrassed at the ongoing rhetoric and behaviors of our fellow craft beer citizens that will allow outsiders to malign the good we do in our community.  There are always those who will criticize the brewing industry as being a haven for drunkenness and debauchery, and I’m sad that through the short-sightedness of a minority, our industry has tarnished itself.  We can regain our reputation as an innovative, cooperative, fun-loving, honest, and inspiring community, but it’s going to take some work.

On this last point, perhaps I was naive to believe that our craft beer community was better than society and we were unique today in espousing the values of our forefathers – supporting local business, giving neighbors the benefit of the doubt,  paying an honest dollar for a days work, celebrating great successes within our ranks, and being grateful for the wonders of a free life.  Reminiscent of Olympics past, this Tampa Bay Beer Week was a mix of highs, lows, winners and losers, and sadly, the emergence of both a criminal element and an alcohol-infused “entitlement attitude” that I’ve not seen before.

The great people and great ideas that inspired the growth and vibrancy of the first two Tampa Bay Beer Weeks (2012 and 2013) are still a big part of the week, however, it may be time to accept the fact that with grand success comes those who don’t want to play by the rules, those who feel entitled to lie, cheat, steal and malign to get ahead.

Yes, I was naive to believe that everyone in craft beer is noble (wouldn’t that be nice?) while the rest of the world deals with such everyday chaos.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss, but once exposed you can’t be ignorant anymore.

Let’s start by talking about the elephant in the room that has dominated the social media airwaves for the past 48 hours:

The “Disaster/Failure/Chaos/Disappointment” (call it what you like) of Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day on March 8, 2014.

The day started out like the perfect day in Tampa Bay – not too hot, rain free, a northerner’s dream… perfect for an outdoor beer fest.  Cigar City posted pics on Facebook showing the pre-festival grounds; the mood was optimistic that ticketed attendees (capped at 3500 invitees) would be calm, semi-sober and at last, manageable – nothing like the overcrowded chaos of the past.

In fact,  March 8 was intended to be a fun-filled, stellar day of tastings and celebration to mark Cigar City Brewing’s 5 year anniversary and it seemed, from the outside at least, that even the Mayan gods were smiling.

But, as history repeatedly shows, when things look too good to be true, they probably are.  By the end of the day, the army of employees, volunteers and a few policemen were barely enough to control the mob of drunken and disturbed ‘alcohol personalities’ that emerged.  Mob behavior is curious enough, but when you mix in high gravity brews, sun-baked drinkers, lines snaking around the block, supplies dedicated to ticketed attendees, and a sudden doubling or tripling of attendees through duplicate/counterfeit tickets, it results in behaviors unacceptable in civilized society.

The scene was one out of Woodstock – raised fists, angry words, pushing and shoving – in fact, I’m surprised that no one was hurt or trampled in the chaos – and I, for one was embarrassed by my fellow craft beer lovers.

Certainly, in retrospect, a larger security force, a professional event planning company, trained volunteers, 8 foot fences, strict processes, and a no-nonsense business attitude would have handled the duplicate tickets (sorry, you bought counterfeit tickets – you lose, goodbye!), the fence jumpers (you are under arrest, sir!), the bottle pickups (Disney style lines with strict adherence to roped off areas), and the adhoc campground (sorry, no folding chairs or umbrellas) – but get real, this is not Budweiser (thank goodness) or Walmart!

Hunahpu’s day was never intended to be a pro-sport – and that was it’s beauty!

Hunahpu’s Day celebrated small town America — honesty, values, neighborly love and great beers all mixed together – and that’s what we all loved.  Things could have been better planned (as outlined) – but give me a break, there was no sinister, conspiratorial mal intent on the part of Cigar City Brewing in the first place.

(Sidenote to some of the comments floating around about conspiratorial intent:  I can say that having been a part of both the planning and executing of the Halfway There TBBW Rare Beer Fest in September, we stocked triple the glassware and triple the wristband supplies that we needed, because it’s cheaper to buy bulk and have way too much on hand than to run out…. things happen that are unanticipated!) 

I am appalled at the ongoing vitriolic rhetoric on the part of disgruntled attendees, who owner Joey Redner tried to appease through refunds, free beer, and special batch brewing – it is simply cruel and vindictive.

Just because one of our own community makes it big doesn’t mean that everyone else is entitled to display their bad alcohol-personalities (what I call people who are angry drunks) or feel entitled to inventory.  Think about it, when Walgreen’s or Target has a sale and they run out – you get a rain check (optimistically) or you just walk away.  No mob scene, no angry demands, no “xxx SUCKS!” chants.

What has happened to us that we feel entitled that every promise (for beer no less) should be fulfilled?  What gives us the right to disparage volunteers who gave up their day so that we could enjoy a tropical beer fest and bottle exchange just because everything didn’t turn out the way we planned?  No wonder Hunahpu’s Day is no more… and I, for one, am sad that TBBW will never be the same.

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

TBBW 2014 – a Year of Firsts

TBBW 2014 culminated 12 months of planning, thousands of volunteer hours, and featured many firsts:20140228_183535

  • Both St Peterburg City Council and Tampa City Council issued proclamations officially recognizing Tampa Bay Beer Week;
  • We piloted the TBBW “Passport” – a 50+ page passport featuring coupons good for free beer, growlers, and other deals at the beginning of TBBW. Even now, after beer week is officially over, there are over half the offers still valid through to December 31, 2014 (there are still some available for purchase for only $10.);
  • TBBW formally became a not-for-profit incorporated entity;
  • We hosted our first ever event as an organization – Halfway There – A Rare Beer Festival, in September 2013 and received Creative Loafing’s best inaugural beerfest award;
  • The number of new breweries in the Tampa Bay area nearly doubled since TBBW 2013;
  • Once an oddity, the upscale beer-paired dinners became a regular featured event during the week;
  • Collaboration events (involving multiple breweries) were commonplace;
  • Criminal activity (duplicate/counterfeit tickets) coupled with unexpected outcomes (double the ticketed attendance) and some poor advance planning resulted in a mob mentality, scarcity of resources and supplies, and ultimately resulted in financial losses for a mainstay brewery in our industry.

Overall, there were grand victories, learning experiences, disappointments and crowds.  After herculean efforts on the part of hundreds of people:  brewers, restauranteurs, bar owners, volunteers and thousands of craft beer drinkers throughout the area, the week ended with mixture of emotions and promises, no deaths, few injuries, and we can all look towards an even better TBBW 2015.

My next Post will Cover the Highlights of TBBW 2014 (from Carol’s Perspective)… stay tuned

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p.s., Don’t forget to vote for my beer blog entry (I’m the only one from Florida) at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5J9SPP7 – Please and thankyou!

Have a great week!

Carol

Related posts from others:

– All about Beer.com – The Death of Hunahpu Day by Gerard Walen

The Beer Apostle -Hunahpu Day: The Proper Response

Beer for the Daddy -An Ugly End to A Great Week by Sean Nordquist

Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day a Mess, but so was angry mob’s response by Justin Grant

Joey Redner on Hunahpu’s Day: “I just don’t want to deal with it” by Tom Scherberger

From God’s Waiting Room to God’s Tasting Room – The “Brewformation” of St Petersburg

It’s no secret that cities transform themselves over years of careful planning, but none has been more dramatic than that of St Petersburg FL over the last five years.

Formerly known as “God’s waiting room,” the new moniker for St Pete should be “God’s tasting room” – we’ve just gone through a major Brewformation.   Pop into any downtown establishment and you’ll find that hipsters and millennials (with craft beer in hand) far outnumber snowbirds in St Petersburg.

“Craft beer is liquid art, and Tampa Bay is Beer Heaven”
Carol Dekkers

Green Bench

St Petersburg’s Brewformation placed us definitely on the NY Times list of 52 places to visit in 2014– one of only 10 North American mentions (along with my hometown of Calgary!)  The article attributes this prestigious honor to our craft breweries and gives a shout-out to our Green Bench Brewing and Cycle Brewing.

All told in the Tampa Bay area, we now have over 25 professional craft breweries, a dozen local distributors, hundreds of restaurants and retailers featuring craft brews on tap, a half-dozen homebrew clubs and thousands of craft beer enthusiasts!   Craft beer has so transformed our local region that craft beers are now a staple at weddings (custom brews are casked for the occasion!), festivals (at least a dozen throughout the year), Tampa Bay Beer Week (March 1-9, 2014 featuring hundreds of craft beer events) and even our traditional celebrations.

In fact, the Tampa Bay Times featured a pirate-themed craft beer six pack (two of the brews were specially brewed by our local Cigar City Brewing Company) in celebration of our annual pirate invasion Gasparilla (click on the photo to link to the article):

cigar city gasparilla

 

What makes St Petersburg and Tampa Bay unique in the exploding craft beer industry?

It’s the incredible collaboration and passion for the industry.  While our brewers are truly talented craftsmen and craftswomen (no pun intended,) co-operation trumps capitalism here in our corner of the Sunshine State. From collaboration brews and guest taps in our tasting rooms, to USF interns working alongside of professional brewers at local breweries; to three(!) local chapters of “Barley’s Angels” (a national women’s organization); to our Tampa Bay Beer Week not-for-profit consortium of brewers, distributors, retailers, homebrew clubs, media and charity supporters; we’ve figured out how to rapidly Brewform (as opposed to transform) our area successfully.

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Further proof that St Petersburg is God’s Tasting Room:

  • At least 40% of craft beer drinkers on any given night are women under 40 (based on frequent personal observation,) and the region is home to 3 chapters of Barley’s Angels;
  • Fox TV and Bay News 9 often cover craft brew events and breweries in Tampa Bay;
  • Tampa Bay Beer Week is incorporated as a not-for-profit organization with our third year coming up March 1-9, 2014 (there will be over 400 events);
  • Florida breweries are part of mainstream publishing (Florida Breweries by Gerard Walen);
  • St Petersburg brews are featured in major craft beer websites and industry journals (Beer Advocate; Rate Beer; DRAFT, etc.);
  • Awards are amassing for local brewers (both professional and home based) at The Great American Beer Festival and BJCP competitions;
  • Local “support the arts” events like LOCALTOPIA feature a diverse craft beer garden.

This is hardly your father’s St Petersburg – no longer will people come down to retire in God’s waiting room – no, sir!  St Petersburg is now home to God’s tasting room – so bring your palate and your dollars – we’re waiting for you!

-Carol

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