Asheville’s Brewgrass Festival announces brewery lineup

In the 19 years since its inception, the Brewgrass beer festival in Asheville, N.C. has made quite a name for itself. The combination of exceptional craft beers, bluegrass music and clear, cool mountain air makes it a magical experience for all who attend. And, as is often the case with beer festivals, the proceeds benefit a very good cause.  Brewgrass Festival is the largest fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina. Proceeds from this event go directly to this great organization.

Billed as Asheville’s original beer festival, this year’s festivities will take place Saturday, September 19 at Memorial Stadium in Asheville. This year’s festival will feature over 50 brewers from local, regional, and national breweries including Catawba Brewing Co., Asheville Brewing Company, Rogue Ales, The Duck-Rabbit Brewery, Samuel Adams, and more. Organizers advise those interested in keeping up with the list of participating brewers to visit their website as the list changes often. But, at the time of this article the list included:

Asheville Brewing Co.

Aviator Brewing Co.

Big Boss Brewing Co.

Blind Squirrel Brewery

Bold Rock Hard Cider

Boojum Brewing Co.

Catawba Brewing Co.

Crazy Mountain Brewing Co.

Duck Rabbit Brewing Co.

Florida Brewing Co.

Granite Falls Brewing Co.

Hi-wire Brewing Co.

Howard Brewing

Lexington Avenue Brewery

Lost Province Brewing Co.

Mother Earth Brewing

Naked Apple Hard Cider

New Belgium Brewing Co.

One World Brewing

Oskar Blues Brewing Co. Craft Brewery

Quest Brewing Co.

R.J. Rockers Brewing Co.

Rogue Brewing Co.

Samuel Adams Brewery

Terrapin Beer Co.

Thomas Creek Brewery

Sweetwater Brewing Co.

But, the beer lineup is not the only reason to attend the festival. Organizers have also announced an impressive lineup of musical talent for fest-goers to enjoy along with their brews. Jeff Austin Band, featuring mandolinist Jeff Austin formerly of Yonder Mountain String Band with band members Danny Barnes, Ross Martin and Eric Thorin, will headline the event. Attendees will enjoy additional performances from Truth and Salvage Co., Big Daddy Love, and Packway Handle Band. Music begins at 1 p.m.

Tickets for the festival are $55 and may be purchased at:

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Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Beer Festival


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Orange Blossom Brewing Company buzzing in to Publix Aprons cooking school for dinner

ApronsCookingSchoolThe cooking school inside the Publix Supermarket on San Jose in the Mandarin area of Jacksonville is the domain of Chef Tony Charbonnet. His passion for cooking can be seen on various television programs on WTLV-12 in Jacksonville as well as in front of his classroom multiple times a week. Over the past few years, the charismatic chef has been expanding the cooking school’s – Aprons – craft beer dinner program. And with good cause, the craft beer movement is showing no signs of slowing. On Saturday, August 29, Chef Tony welcomes Orange Blossom Brewing Company to his kitchen with a lineup of delicious dishes paired with equally scrumptious brews.

OBBC_4C-300x277According to the brewery’s website, Orange Blossom Brewing Company originated as a homebrew project in the garage of founder Tom Moench. His love of beer led him to tinker with a recipe for an interesting pilsner that soon became the popular Orange Blossom Pilsner.

Moench loved brewing and selling his unique, tasty brew so much that he sold his successful craft beer distributorship and took his prize-winning brew to the next level of production. After carefully laying out a plan for building his beer empire, Moench settled on South Carolina brewer Thomas Creek as the contract brewer for his three core brands. But, due to limited capacity, the search for a new facility became a necessity.

When the Brew Hub in Lakeland, Fla. came on to the scene, Moench began discussions on taking his brewery from a contract model to a partnership model. With Brew Hubs all-in-one solution, the decision was made to transfer production to the facility in 2014.

The dinner at Aprons will feature cooking demonstrations by Chef Tony and his team along with anecdotes from Moench about his brewery and beers.


Course 1

Asian Chopped Salad with Teriyaki Vinaigrette paired with Orange Blossom Pilsner

Course 2

Vanilla Orange Barbecued Seared Snapper paired with OBP2

Course 3

Grilled Jerk Chicken over Smoked Citrus Saffron Rice paired with Back in the Day IPA

Course 4

Chocolate Coconut Cheesecake paired with Toasted Coconut Porter.

Tickets for the dinner are available by calling the Publix Aprons Cooking School at (904) 262-4187 and cost $45 per person.

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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Beer Dinner


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Funky Buddha brews up fall treat

FBB-005e_3D_4pack_RGBAt a time of year when every brewery in North America is releasing their version of pumpkin ale, Funky Buddha is bucking the trend and releasing a beverage brewed with the other Thanksgiving season staple; sweet potatoes. Four-packs of the brewery’s Sweet Potato Casserole Strong Ale will be dropping into retail outlets the week of September 1.

John Linn, Funky Buddha’s Brand Director, says of the brew, “Funky Buddha’s September through November seasonal is fresh out of the oven and ready to party.”

Linn describes the beer as presenting flavors of marshmallow, fall spices and sweet potato like any respectable mom would put into the iconic casserole. And, at 7.9% ABV, the brew packs a wallop mom’s creation does not.

SPC will go on sale at Funky Buddha Brewery in South Florida at noon on September 1 for $11.99 per 4-pack. It will also see full state distribution through Brown Distributing starting that week. Expect SPC to arrive in all major retailers including Total Wine, Whole Foods Market, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, The Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, and select Publix locations.

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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Craft Beer Releases


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Funky Buddha Brewery beers coming to Jacksonville

Funky_Buddha_2Funky Buddha has been making, well, funky, brews in South Florida since 2010. In the years that have passed the brewery has grown from humble beginnings in Boca Raton, Fla. as a small brewpub into a 40,000 square-foot facility powered by a 30-barrel and a three-piece brewhouse that feeds nearly 28,000 barrels of capacity. That kind of growth indicates a rabid base of devotees and a high degree of quality of the beer produced. After winning over much of Florida’s southern areas, the brewery is now migrating north to launch – in a flurry of tasting events – in North Florida and Jacksonville in particular.

Last year, I had the opportunity to visit the Oakland Park, Fla. facility and taste several of the brewer’s beers. As I sipped brews and chatted with the staff it became apparent that the rave reviews and fanatic followers were not exaggerations. The brews were well-made, balanced and tasted exactly as described by the staff. For example, one of Funky Buddha’s most storied brews is its No Crust Brown Ale. It is described as being inspired by a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and, after tasting it, I could taste each individual component of the flavor bringing to mind the crustless sandwiches I used to find in my lunch box as a kid.

According to the brewery’s website:

Funky Buddha Brewery… is committed to producing bold craft beers that marry culinary-inspired ingredients with time-honored technique. Our mantra is big, bold flavors, made exactingly with natural ingredients. So, for example, if we say a beer will taste like peanut butter and jelly, you can be sure you’ll smell and taste the fresh roasted peanuts and fruity berry jam. Our flagship beers such as Hop Gun IPA and Floridian Hefeweizen, also strive towards big, bold flavor. It’s who we are.

You can taste the brews and discover for yourself the appeal of this remarkable brewery at a number of events being hosted around Jacksonville over the next few days. See the list below for when and where.

Tuesday, August 18

  • Alewife, 1035 Park Street – 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Blind Rabbit, 901 King Street: a la carte food pairing – 7:30 p.m. to 9:30p.m.
  • Kickbacks, 910 King Street – 9:30 p.m. to whenever

Wednesday, August 19

  •  ABC Fine Wine and Spirits, 295 Royal Palms Drive – 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  •  Royal Palm Village Wine and Tapas, 296 Royal Palms Drive: a la carte food pairings – 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
  •  Zeta Brewing Company, 131 1st Avenue North: tap enlightenment – 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Thursday, August 20

  • Beer:30, 1543 San Marco Boulevard — 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • Kitchen on San Marco, 1402 San Marco Boulevard: a la carte food pairing — 6:30 9:00 p.m.
  • Grape & Grain Exchange/The Parlour, 2000 San Marco Boulevard – 9:00 p.m. to whenever
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Posted by on August 18, 2015 in Craft Beer Brewery


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Countdown to the Great American Beer Festival: Coverage Plan

gabf2015Three years ago when I attended the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) for the first time as a member of the press I wrote of the event in hallowed terms:

There was a definite buzz in the air 30 minutes before the doors opened for Session 1 of the 2012 Great American Beer Festival. In the lobby on the Colorado Convention Center eager beer enthusiasts were lined up awaiting the dropping of the ropes for entry into the main exposition hall. While inside the hall, breweries, volunteers, and press were busily preparing for the onslaught. In a word, it was magical.

This year, three years older, three years wiser, I intend to cover the event again using a variety of media. With the advance of technology, I want to provide coverage through my blog, but also in more advanced ways like live Tweeting/Facebooking, Periscope — a live video streaming service accessed through Twitter — and targeted video interviews and coverage.

To that end, be sure to follow all of my social media accounts as I will be covering the GABF as well as the many satellite events that take place in and around Denver during that week. In case you do not already follow all of them, here is a list:




You can also follow the times of events by going to the Events page of my website;

Keep an eye open over the next few weeks as I will add my itinerary for the festival and other events along with schedules for live streaming video via Periscope broadcast on Twitter. But, also watch for pop-up interviews via Periscope as I make connections with the movers and shakers at the event.

As of now, my schedule as only a few items on it, but as GABF draws closer, more events will be added to the list. Keep in mind that all times are presented in Mountain Daylight Time for Eastern Daylight Time add two hours.

Thursday, September 24

3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.                    Deschutes-Harpoon Special Event

5:15 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.                  The Great American Beer Festival, Session 1

Friday, September 25                   

8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.                     The Oskar Blues Ordeal – Tours and Tastings at Oskar Blues facilities throughout Colorado.

5:15 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.                  The Great American Beer Festival, Session 2

Saturday, September 26              

10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.                The Great American Beer Festival Competition Awards

12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.                  The Great American Beer Festival, Session 3

Again, as I nail down interviews and other events during the festival, I will update the schedule.

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Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Beer


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Firefighters honored by two breweries

People who know me well know that my father, who passed away in 1981, was a firefighter and my personal hero. He was a fierce defender of our family and, though his job made it difficult at times, always supportive of me and my siblings. Over the years I have heard many stories from his years with the department and, as an Explorer Scout, even got to fight a fire with him (OK, I acted as backup on the hose he was using). So, I was excited to get several emails this week about breweries that are honoring the brave men and women who carry on the profession that he loved so much.

Old Style to Bring Back Chicago Heroes Can

oldstyleOld Style, often referred to as “Chicago’s Beer,” plan to relaunch the Chicago Heroes can. Depicted on the can is a silhouette of a firefighter and the iconic Maltese or firefighter’s cross in red. The commemorative can supports the people who heroically defend Chicago and their families, with proceeds from each case/can sold benefitting Ende, Menzer, Walsh and Quinn Retiree’, Widows’ and Children’s Assistance Fund. This organization provides annual financial assistance to the neediest widows and orphans of members of the Chicago Fire Department. The commemorative can is the only time Old Style has redesigned the can to support an outside organization.

After a successful first run last fall, the team is relaunching the can. This time, the can will be available in 24-packs, 12-packs and 16 ounce cans, with Old Style donating a minimum of $10,000 and up to $20,000 to the organization. Last year, Old Style’s contribution went toward the EMWQ Fund’s annual donation, which assisted CFD families in everything from basic daily needs (food, electricity, etc.), to paying off bills, to starting college funds and more.

“When we launched the Chicago Heroes program last year, it was a unique way for us to pay tribute to the everyday heroes who don’t get thanked enough for all of their courageous work,” said Dan McHugh, CMO for Pabst Brewing Co. “We selected EMWQ Assistance Fund as our partner for this initiative because we’ve been so impressed with their work and the tremendous support they provide to Chicago firefighters and their families. The funds raised from last year’s commemorative can made a significant impact on those who received donations, and it’s such an honor that we can do something truly meaningful. We look forward to re-launching the can, and once again seeing Chicagoans embrace it and the cause.”

Fireman’s Brew Looking to Expand Nationally

FB-Redhead.six.cornerMeanwhile, in Los Angeles, two firefighters collaborated to create a premium line of handcrafted ales and lagers that would quench their thirsts after an exhausting day on the firelines.

According to the company’s press release, “Fireman’s Brew’s collection of micro-brewed beers are created using only the finest of all-natural ingredients to deliver bold, full-flavored, traditional tastes and easy drinking refreshment.”

Currently, the company brews three award-winning beers that include:

  • Fireman’s Brew: Blonde (Pilsner-style Lager; 5 percent ABV);
  • Fireman’s Brew: Brunette (German-style Doublebock; 8 percent ABV); and
  • Fireman’s Brew: Redhead (Amber Ale; 5.5 percent ABV).

In addition, the company is committed to giving back to the firefighter community upon which it was founded by donating a portion of company net income to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation — the nation’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to honoring fallen firefighters and providing assistance to their surviving families.

“We are working hard to build Fireman’s Brew into a national brand,” said Rob Nowaczyk, founder of Fireman’s Brew.

Already one of the fastest growing craft beer brands in its home state of California, the brewery recently announced an expansion to West Virginia increasing its distribution to 14 states including: California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Illinois, Ohio, Kansas, Virginia, New York, Michigan, Hawaii and West Virginia.

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Posted by on August 11, 2015 in Beer News


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UPDATE: Shanty Town Pub in Historic Springfield shut down, owner vows to reopen soon


August 7, 2015: Only 36 hours after the cease and desist commerce order was levied, Shanty Town Pub has been approved to reopen by Jacksonville city inspectors. In an emotional note on Facebook, owner Ian Ranne thanked his patrons and promised to keep the pub the gathering place that it has become. He has also pledged to keep beer prices low (the pub is famous for its $2 a pint happy hour) and to use the Go Fund Me funds to improve the watering hole. 

The news broke on the morning of Wednesday, August 5; sub-culture and neighborhood hangout Shanty Town Pub had been closed by the Fire Marshall for alleged violation to fire code. While the closure is only temporary, the dive bar has become such a intricate part of the culture in the Historic Springfield neighborhood of Jacksonville that it sent ripples throughout the community. For years the pub has been a neighborhood hub used to meet friends, host meetings or just relax with a cold pint of good beer.

The notification came via facebook from owner Ian Ranne and sparked multiple comments offering help and expressing dismay. A fellow bar owner, Shannon Willow of downtown Jacksonville’s Hourglass Pub said, “Hate to hear this. Shanty is Hourglass’s spirit animal. We love you. If I can help in any way please let me know!”

Ranne recounts his experience and emotions as he was being cited, “When I was sitting at the bar by myself… just me and the marshall and a beat cop, in uncomfortable silence for 2 hours, I was bored and I pulled out my phone and said [to myself], ‘You know Ian, you should make a big deal out of this on the internet…..’

According to Ranne in his facebook post, the Fire Marshall entered a cease and desist all commerce order until the bar proves occupancy is safe with affidavits from an architect and an electrician. The main problem cited by the Marshall, according to Ranne, was that there were more than 51 occupants of the building. In addition, apparently electrical upgrades are needed and, while likely to be costly, Ranne has said that he is hoping to have the bar open again by Monday, August 10. He has meetings planned with both an architect and electrician for Thursday, August 6.

In the mean time, a Go Fund Me account has been set up to help get Shanty back in the good graces of the powers that be. In less than two days more than $2,000 of the estimated $5,000 has been raised. The hopes are that the entire amount can be raised to defray the cost of reopening.

“Anything collected will go into building improvements, promise,” Ranne says of the Go Fund Me account. “I am not trying to “cash in” on this. I have 6 jobs already.”

In addition to the costs of upgrading  Shanty, $780 in fines were levied against Ranne.

“Just gonna put on a collared shirt,” Ranne said. “…go into the office myself. …handle it and pay them their money.”

At the conclusion of his statement, Ranne expressed his thanks to his patrons.

“Again, thanks so much for caring ya’ll.” He said. “Its a bit overwhelming….”

To contribute to the Save Shanty Town Go Fund Me campaign, click the link below:

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Posted by on August 6, 2015 in Beer Bars


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