Category Archives: Champion Brands

Busy Spring for Beer Events

Beer season has definitely arrived with the proliferation of events centric to the world’s most popular beverage. In the next few months there are two beer weeks – the Jacksonville Beer Week and Craft Beer Week – each with their own bevy of events from beer festivals to tasting dinners to pub crawls. If you can’t find something to do that centers on beer this right now, you just are not trying hard enough.

Upcoming highlights include:

Jacksonville Beer Week – April 2 through 7

Monday, April 2

Kickback’s Gastropub – Local beer night

Tuesday, April 3

Intuition Ale Works – Celebrating local beers, the Tap Room will feature guest taps of Florida-brewed beers through Saturday.

Wednesday, April 4

Sun-Ray Theater – “Beer Wars” will be screened at 5:00 PM and followed by a panel discussion and Q&A session with local brewers Ben Davis of Intuition Ale Works and Eric Lumen of Green Room Brewing. All beers on tap at the cinema will be local only!

Engine 15 – Special beer and food pairing of Oak-Aged Simcoe Imperial IPA paired with steam burger sliders and coconut rice ice.

Thursday, April 5

Engine 15 – The guys who write the Times-Union’s beer blog and column Amber Waves – Ed Stansel and Roger Bull – will be tapping their own beer named appropriately Amber Waves Amber Ale. Proceeds for this event go to the St. John’s Riverkeepers.

Brewer’s Pizza – Local IPA night featuring IPAs from Intuition Ale Works, Bold City Brewery, Green Room Brewing, and the debut of their own double IPA Landslide IPA. Plus they will have a special IPA soup and bread to pair with the hoppy brews.

Mile Marker Brewing – Double Feature Night! The St. Augustine brewery will host screenings of “Beerfest” and “Strange Brew,” two classic beer movies.

Friday, April 6

Engine 15 – Jax Beer Tap Takeover! Five Engine 15 beers on tap, one in a firkin, and Old Battle Axe through the Randall. In addition to this, ten beers from the other local brewers.

Green Room Brewing – Florida beer tasting of more than 25 Florida-brewed beers.

Downtown Jacksonville – The Downtown Pub Crawl presented by the Springfield Brew Crew and sponsored by Intuition Ale Works. Get all the details and purchase tickets at All proceeds for this event benefit The Bridge of Northeast Florida an after-school education program for disadvantaged and urban core children.

Saturday, April 7

Mellow Mushroom Southside – Grand Tasting with unlimited tastings of local and Florida brews. For more information and to purchase tickets go to All proceeds for this event go to the Daniel Foundation. Shuttle service will between Intuition and Mellow Mushroom to be furnished by the Jax Brew Bus.

Hogtown Craft Beer Festival

Gainville’s Kanapaha Botanical Gardens will be the venue for the Hogtown Craft Beer Festival April 14. Look for a slew of Florida and local brews at the festival sponsored by the Hogtown Brewers a home-brewing club located in Gainesville. There will also be food from local resaturants and entertainment. Tickets are $35 for general admission, $75 for VIP. Proceeds benefit the St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Alachua Conservation Trust. See their website ( for more info and tickets.

Folio Weekly Beer and Music Festival

For the past 19 years the Folio Weekly has been throwing this beer bash and this year is no exception. Friday, April 27 the Morocco Shrine Auditorium will once again host more than 200 beers, food from local restaurants, a chicken wing eating contest sponsored by Whisky River, hookahs from The Casbah, and more fun than should be humanly possible. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $25 for VIP in advance and $5 more at the door for each.

Craft Beer Week – May 12 through 18

While events for Craft Beer Week are still being firmed up, the capstone event is already planned and in the offing. The Craft and Import Beer Festival will be held May 18 at the Veterans Memorial Arena. The unbridled success of this festival has necessitated the opening of the third level of the Arena so even more great beer can be stuffed in. There are more than 35 breweries scheduled to attend with over 200 beers to sample. Proceeds for this event benefit the Southside Business Men’s Club. Tickets are $30 for general admission and $45 for VIP. Purchase tickets and get more info at:


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Sierra Nevada Decides on East Coast Brewery Location

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company

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As I mentioned in my article about the future of craft brewing in 2012, Sierra Nevada has been looking for an east coast home for its second brewery. Well, according to the below press release, they have found it and it is Beer City USA, Asheville, NC.


CHICO, Calif. — Jan. 25, 2012 —Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is pleased to announce that it has chosen a site in western North Carolina for the future home of an East Coast brewery. The site, approximately 90 acres in the Henderson County Town of Mills River— along the French Broad River, 12 miles south of Asheville — will be home to the new production facility, as well as a proposed restaurant and gift shop. “We are thrilled to have found an ideal location in western North Carolina for our second brewery,” says Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada. “The beer culture, water quality and quality of life are excellent. We feel lucky to be a part of this community.”

The new facility will add much needed capacity for Sierra Nevada, and will allow for the quick shipment of brewery-fresh beer to consumers in the east. The East Coast brewery will start with a capacity around 300,000 barrels, with room to grow. The added barrelage will accommodate wider production of the myriad of seasonal beers and bottled specialties Sierra Nevada has produced in recent years, as well as an expansion of the brewery’s well‐known flagship product: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Sierra Nevada began the search for a new location several years ago. The brewery looked at hundreds of potential sites, eventually narrowing the search down to a handful of locations. The list of criteria was long and included quantifiable factors such as ease of shipping and water quality, as well as quality of life issues for its employees. Sierra Nevada has a reputation for a laid-back brewery culture and a love of the outdoors, and the new facility will retain this same tone. The Asheville area offers Sierra Nevada Brewing the perfect confluence of community, recreation and craft beer culture.

Sierra Nevada’s eastern brewery site is expected to employ approximately 90 workers, with additional staff in the restaurant to follow. The brewery anticipates being operational by early 2014.

About Sierra Nevada Founded in 1980, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is one of America’s premier craft breweries, highly regarded for using only whole-cone hops and ingredients of the finest quality. Sierra Nevada has set the standard for artisan brewers worldwide as a winner of numerous awards for its extensive line of beers including the flagship Pale Ale, Torpedo, Porter, Stout, Kellerweis, four seasonal beers, Estate Ale, Harvest Ales, Ovila Abbey Ales and a host of draught-only specialties


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Heading for the Mountains – The Sierra Nevada Mountains

A few weeks ago a friend of mine and I had the opportunity to attend a truly wonderful beer event. The event, a beer pairing dinner with Sierra Nevada beers and Publix’s Aprons Cooking School in Mandarin showcased the great brews of Sierra Nevada and the cooking talents of the chefs at Aprons. In all, five courses were offered, each paired with a different brew from the Chico, CA brewery.

Before each course Terrence Sullivan, assistant brewmaster and field educator for Sierra Nevada spoke about the brewery and the specific beer paired with the course. Terry studied at the University of California at Davis were he obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1994. While going to school, he worked for Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley for two years, and later worked for Golden Pacific Brewing Company in Emeryville.  In May of 1994 he joined Sierra Nevada as a shift brewer. In 1997 he was promoted to Cellar Manager when the brewery expanded. Recently, Terry was promoted to Field Educator, working closely with the brewery’s marketing department. In this new role, his technical brewing knowledge is an asset while working with consumers and wholesalers to educate them about the Sierra Nevada brewing process. His insights were witty, succinct, and very informative.

As is the case with many great breweries, Sierra Nevada had humble beginnings and rose from the founder’s love of exceptionally good beer. Back in 1976 Ken Grossman, a recent chemistry and physics graduate of Butte Community College and California State University at Chico opened a brewing supply store called The Home Brew Shop in Chico. He supplied the local home-brewing community with equipment, materials, and advice, but dreamed of opening his own brewery.

Soon his dream became a reality when he and co-founder Paul Camusi assembled – just two years after Ken opened his brewing store — a brewery from second-hand dairy tanks, a soft-drink bottler, and equipment salvaged from defunct breweries. They used only premium ingredients and, as would become their brew’s signature flavor, large amounts of hops. The result was a stunningly good pale ale first produced in 1980 from a brewery named after the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. The rest is brewing history right out of a fairy tale (one that involves beer instead of princesses, of course).

Demand for Sierra Nevada products grew rapidly and by 1989, Ken was looking for a new site for his operation. He traveled to Germany to look for a brew house and found a traditional copper, 100-barrel house which he immediately bought and brought back to California, piece by piece. This met demand for a while, but the brewery soon needed to expand again. In 1997, Ken commissioned the original coppersmiths to match new kettles to the originals, bringing the brewery’s total capacity to almost eight hundred thousand barrels per year.

Today Sierra Nevada is revered world-over as a pioneer in highly-hopped, premium quality beers. They were at the fore-front of the craft beer revolution and are poised for even greater things in the near future. The company also maintains an environmentally conscious attitude through its recycling, composting, solar energy (they have one of the largest solar cell arrays in the country), heat recovery, and CO2 recovery programs.

The Courses and the Beers

First Course – Huevos Rancheros paired with Sierra Nevada Kellerweis

Normally considered a breakfast dish, this version of huevos rancheros fit in nicely as an appetizer course for the tasting. The enticing mixture of egg, chorizo sausage, refried beans, cheese, and spicy salsa roja all piled on a fried corn tortilla was a welcome treat to begin our epicurean journey. Paired with the refreshing Kellerweis wheat beer this tasty treat was a perfect starter.

Kellerweis is unique in that it is brewed in the traditional Bavarian style of open fermentation – meaning that instead of being sealed the fermentation tanks are open at the top. This technique imparts depth and flavor in the beer not found in many American wheats. The brew pours a hazy yellow with a good frothy head and smells of clove and banana. The taste is citrusy, as are most wheats, but this one also had a touch of apple to me. It was a perfect match for the spicy strong flavors of the dish.

Second Course – Handmade Sauerkraut Pierogies paired with Sierra Nevada Glissade Golden Bock

Though I am of Bavarian decent, I have never been a huge fan or sauerkraut. These pierogies, however, were delicious! Pierogies, for the uninitiated, are small dumplings filled with an assortment of sweet or savory fillings. In this case, they were filled with well drained sauerkraut. They were then sautéed in butter with sweet onion slivers and served with a dollop of sour cream. Not too heavy, and not too tart, this second offering went down very well with Sierra Nevada’s Glissade Golden Bock.

Glissade is a mountaineering term that means to slide. Mountain climbers often slide, or glissade, down mountains once they have climbed to the peak. The word fits this refreshing seasonal offering as it smoothly slides down your palate. The beer pours a golden yellow with copious head that hangs around to the last sip. Your nose is tickled by the scents of sweet malts, floral hops, and just a hint of citrus. The brew drinks remarkable well with a slight sweetness, breadiness, and nuttiness. The richness of the sour cream and sourness of the sauerkraut played nicely with this refreshing mid-season treat.

Third Course – Spicy Thai Steamed Mussels paired with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

When I was in Belgium I discovered a renewed love for the humble mollusk known as the mussel. The Belgians are quite found of this tasty shellfish and bring you bucket upon bucket of them. This iteration of the dish was a bit different with the addition of spicy Thai seasonings which made the broth accompanying them, and the mollusks themselves, practically explode with flavor. This intriguing and flavorful dish was paired with Sierra Nevada’s flagship brew, the Pale Ale.

What can be said about this brew that has not already been said many times? This is the beer that Sierra Nevada built its reputation on and continues to be nearly synonymous with world-class pale ale. My advice, drink it and drink it often!

Fourth Course – Country Fried Steak with Sweet Onion Porter Gravy paired with Sierra Nevada Porter

Good down-home cooking kicked up to city folk eating is hard to come by. Yet, the chefs at Aprons managed to find a way to put a decidedly different spin on an already decadent dish. As the chef prepared this dish his banter began. “Ya know, when I was thinking about a dish to pair with the porter I asked myself, ‘Self, you like beer and you like fried stuff, what would go together with this?’” A eureka! Look followed and he continued, “Fried stuff with gravy made from beer!”  And that is just what he did. He created a crispy country-fried steak then used the pan scrapings and a dark roux combined with the stout beer to make a gravy any beer lover would eat with a spoon right out of the pan – the heck with the steak!

With the gravy already deliciously rich over the steak, paring the dish with Sierra Nevada Porter was a given. This thick, dark beer pours robustly into your glass and smells of chocolate and caramel. The taste is of darkly roasted malts and chocolate. A perfect accompaniment to the rich food it was paired with.

Fifth Course – Pear and Blue Cheese Ice Cream paired with Sierra Nevada Torpedo

The final course was somewhat experimental and interesting in concept if not execution. But, alas this was not a very good finish to the food portion of the evening. The ice cream had very little pear in it and way too much blue cheese. The result was a salty, cheesy, yucky mess. Had they amped up the pear and just made the blue cheese a hint, it may have been better.

On the other hand, Sierra Nevada Torpedo was, as were all the other beers, excellent. Torpedo is called an extra IPA because it is dry-hopped using a revolutionary device – the torpedo – developed by Sierra Nevada. These guys are serious about hops and wanted this beer to be a big IPA. Through innovation, they succeeded. This beer pours into your glass a beautiful amber color and assaults your nose with wonderful grapefruit, lemon, and pine notes. The flavor is a wake-up call of big, hoppy, pine with grapefruit and herbal notes. If you like hops, this brew is for you!

The evening I spent with the guys from Sierra Nevada and Team Hophead at Publix was a treat on many levels. Not only was the company great – Steve Flores of Kickback’s, old friends Bill and Heather , David and his wonderful wife of Team Hopheads, and the gang from Sierra Nevada – but, the venue was fun and classy. Given an opportunity to attend another beer pairing at Aprons, I will leap at the chance – and you should, too!

Long Live the Brewers!


Marc Wisdom


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Intuition Ale Works Grand Opening

Yesterday Jacksonville’s newest brewery opened the doors of its tap room and event area to the public. From the size of the crowd and the smiles on everyone’s faces, it was a very welcome addition!

I got to the brewery early and red t-shirt clad employees were scurrying around completing last minutes tasks and adding finishing touches. The event area — essentially the warehouse area next to the brewery — is now decked out with a plank wood bar and a large chalkboard with the beers current available. The area is large and airy, a cool breeze blowing through the open dock doors kept it comfortable for the large crowd.

And then there is the Tap Room. A combination of old and new, brick and chrome, dark high-top tables and concrete floor make it a welcoming, eclectic area sure to become many beer afficianados favorite hang out. The addition of a few televisions with sporting events on them would make it a mecca for sports-loving Jacksonvillians looking for great beer.

Four beers were being served for the Grand Opening; People’s Pale Ale, King Street Stout (which was already good upon my last tasting a few weeks ago, but has now fully matured and is my favorite IAW beer), Riverside Red, and the as yet un-named wheat beer. In fact, they were having a contest to name the wheat beer. My entries; Wild Westside Wheat and Will “Wheat”on.

The crowd at the opening was huge, many lined up outside the gate to be one of the first to be in the Brewery Mug Club (I got number 11 — the frirst 10 numbers were reserved). With only a little over a hundred memberships available, it was obvious that the club would fill up quickly. And, by the time I left around 6:00 PM it looked as if it had.

Once inside, the crowd was animated and friendly. Everyone was enjoying themselves, discussing the beer in very positive and complimentary fashion. Groups of friends gathered around the tables set up in the warehouse, milled around and laughter filled the brewery.

The day was an unqualified success and a testiment to the hunger the Jacksonville area has for great beer. Now with Bold City and Inuition Ale Works only a few short blocks apart and Kickback’s just a few blocks as well, we have the makings of Jacksonville Brewery/Pub district. With luck we will see more great establishments like Intuition Ale Works poppin up soon!

Congratulations to Ben and the gang at Intuition. A job well done!

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Posted by on November 21, 2010 in Beer, Beer Tasting, Champion Brands, Local Brewery


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Laughing Dog Beer Dinner

Last night, in the stock room of Total Wine at the St. John’s Town Center, a group of beer lovers gathered to taste Laughing Dog brews and Bahama Breeze food. Everyone left with a smile and a full belly.

The November event — A Crew Members Best Friend is Beer — of the Springfield Brew Crew was a huge success raising over $400 for the Jacksonville Humane Society.

The brain child of Crew member and owner, Steve Rushe, the event celebrated the entry of Laughing Dog beers into the Jacksonville market. The night went off without a hitch and the food pairings from Bahama Breeze were delicious! A HUGE thank you to Steve and his crew of servers for a wonderful event.

Now, let’s talk beer. The beers samples last night were:

Laughing Dog CSB — A solid English style ale with notes of butterscotch and malts. Very enjoyable and easy drinking (I liked it so mush I bought a bottle).

Alpha Dog Imperial IPA — As you would expect from an IPA, this one has a fresh piney nose with solid citrus notes. The flavor is again piney and citrus and a sweet finish.

Devil Dog IPA — More citrusy and malty. Drank easily with caramel malts which opened up as I drank more.

Dogzilla Black IPA — Another great IPA, this one nearly black in color and well balanced. I found it the easiest of the IPAs to drink.

The Dogfather Imperial Stout — Thick and delicious this beer was perfectly paired with a chocolate brownie, mouse dessert. The chocolate notes and subtle bitterness of the beer played accross my tongue like a wonderful dream. Another bottle I purchased at the event.

Again, thank you to Steve and the gang at Total Wine. You put on one really great party and I look forward to more great events!


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