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Reflections on a beer weekend with family

familyAfter a great weekend of beer sometimes it is nice to sit back and reflect on the fun that was had and the memories that were made. Followers of this column have often read that beer is a social beverage. It started over 9,000 years ago as the driving force behind binding our nomadic ancestors in civilized communities and continues to bring people together. Whether it is family, friends, or date night, beer can – and often does – helps people connect.

This week I had the pleasure of conducting my sister and brother-in-law around to several of my favorite beer destination here in Jacksonville.

First, we dined at the always fun and delicious Kickbacks in the King Street Beer District. And, even though the draft list is truncated due to the on-going construction of Guttyworks & Goozelpipes – Kickbacks’ soon-to-open sister restaurant and beer bar, owner Steve Flores manages to keep excellent brews on the menu. I accompanied my perfectly cooked ribeye with garlic-cream sauce with the tasty Ipswich Dark Ale, a satisfyingly hoppy brown ale. Others at the table sampled Tucher Helles Hefe Weizen, a smooth and refreshing brew with delightful fruity notes.

Following Kickbacks we meandered over to Bold City Brewing Company where I sipped on their newest release Big John Miller’s Apricot Wheat. This is a worthy edition to the Bold City lineup and perfect for a warm summer evening sitting al fresco in the parking lot of the brewery. It is a golden hued, cloudy wheat beer with all the notes one expects in a well-crafted wheat – flavorful malts with just the right touch of sweetness and subdued bitterness. The edition of fruit provides a delightfully tart apricot bite that is perfect for drinking with friends and family while catching up.

The next night, Friday, was date night and my girlfriend and I decided a stop at Intuition Ale Works was in order. As most people who know me will tell you, I am not shy about talking of my love for this local gem of a brewery. The consistent quality and friendly servers – who I am proud to call my friends – make this a favorite tap room for nearly all who enter. I enjoyed their distinctive Belgian-style Golden Ale, Duuval first and enjoyed the unique twist given to this stalwart style of beer. But, the star of the night was their popular rye ale Shotgun Shack served on nitro. The addition of nitro lent a smooth creamy character to the beer that I had never experienced before – but, will definitely drink again!

Intuition was followed by Dahlia’s Pour House another King Street Beer District bar that is always adding interesting and difficult-to-get brews to their tap line. My girlfriend is on a bit of a lambic kick lately and went for the Framboise while I went for Dogfish Head’s fruity and hoppy seasonal Aprihop. While we enjoyed our drinks, a follower of the blog and his wife stopped in to chat and enjoy a beer or two. In all it was another very enjoyable evening.

And then on Saturday I had the pleasure of pouring beer at the funky and fun Green Man Gourmet store in Avondale. Pete, an advertiser on the television show I appear on, I Know Jax, and a friend had asked me to pour the new Belgian Trappist ales he is selling and talk to his customers about the brews. Of course I agreed and, as always had a great time pouring. The first brew on the pour list was Westmalle Tripel an elegant, fruity and exceptional ale that is perfect for special occasions or dinners at home. Next in order of lightest in color to darkest was the always delicious Orval that presents itself with a hop-forward character due to the dry-hopping done during fermentation and the slight tang of brett yeast added in secondary fermentation. The third brew that was offered for tasting was Westmalle Dubbel a slightly sweet beer with hints of toffee, dark fruits and chocolate. The final beer poured was the astoundingly luscious Samuel Smith Organic Chocolate Stout. This heavy stout pours thick and rich and is redolent with chocolate balanced with subtle hints of coffee. It just begs to be drunk with desserts like cherry pie, raspberry tart, or even crème brulee.

For dinner I met my sister at Lola’s in the King Street Beer District and had the always amazing La Fin du Monde from Unibroue. This elegant Belgian-style triple is sweet and delightful with a floral bouquet that was a perfect accompaniment to the spicy jerked chicken burrito I ordered for dinner. Lola’s boasts over 50 drought beers and always has a great collection of brews from Unibroue.

The capper to the weekend was the Friends and Family soft opening of Jacksonville’s first World of Beer. The doors were opened to us because my daughter Taylor, aka The Beer Princess, will be working at this location. It was a who’s who of the Jacksonville beer industry with representatives from Champion Brands, Brown Distributing, Micro Man, North Florida Sales, Sierra Nevada, and Highland Brewing. On tap were some fantastic brews such as Petrus, World of Beer’s C’est la Vie brewed exclusively for them by Bavik, and a special firkin from Engine 15.

So, as you can see, the weekend was one full of great beers, great food and great family fun. We enjoyed our time together, chatting about the past as well as the future, and enjoyed good beers along the way. As a social lubricant, one could not ask for a better medium. So, as many archaeologists will tell you, beer brought civilization together, and in the case of my family, is an integral part of our gatherings. I would have it no other way.

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Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Beer, Relaxing, Restaurant

 

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Shipyard Brew Pub in Winter Park worth the trip

shipyard_brewing_logoMaine, the state that is home to most of the action in author Stephen King’s novels, is also ranked 5th in the United States for breweries per capita. It seems that those crazy northerners really like their craft beer, a fact that was not lost on the founders of Shipyard Brewing Company. In 1992, entrepreneur Fred Forsley and master brewer Alan Pugsley established the Kennebunkport Brewing Company at Federal Jack’s, a brew pub in Kennebunk, Maine. The brew pub, built on the former site of Kennebunk’s famous schooner shipyards, was a hit and demand for the fresh brews produced there soon outgrew production. To keep the beer flowing, Forsley and Pugsley opened Shipyard Brewing Company in the former Crosby Laughlin Foundry on thewaterfront in Portland, Maine. Since then, the Shipyards brand has spread across the country to over 40 states, including Florida. And one of the best places to sample tasty Shipyards brews is at the Shipyard Brew Pub in Winter Park just northeast of Orlando.

The Shipyard Brew Pub is naturally themed to a nautical sensibility, but it also presents itself as sleek with clean lines and an open, inviting atmosphere. Out front are a number of outdoor seats along with several cornhole lanes. Inside is a bar, plenty of seating and even an area decked out with a show kitchen for cooking demonstrations.

As you would imagine, the menu features Maine staples such as clam chowder, crab cakes, and of course, lobster rolls. But, it also features innovative flat bread pizzas such as the Lobster Flatbread with chinks of Maine lobster, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, dill Havarti, and fresh tarragon. Other favorites on the menu include Chicken and Shrimp Etouffee with roasted peppers, onions, and creole sauce and decadent Lobster Mac and Cheese with bacon and a three cheese sauce. Executive Chef David Squillante keeps things fresh and the quality and great flavors prove he has a passion for comfort foods.

But, since this is a brew pub,  beer is a big player. In fact, beer is such an important part of the restaurant’s culture that they have hired an on-site brewer. Eric Hilgendorf hails from Wisconsin but has learned to call Florida his home. Hilgendorf brews small batch beers that are added to the Shipyard line up on the beer list. You will still find your Shipyard favorites like Export Ale, Fuggles IPA, and Old Thumper, but you also may find brews such as Rye by Nightfall or Felipe’s Magic Ale.

This weekend, Shipyards Brew Pub will be celebrating its second anniversary on Saturday, Jan. 26 from 12:00 noon to 12:00 midnight. The festivities will include .50 oysters, $2 Shipyard bottles, $2 house wines, and $2 new menu samplers. Along with the great food and drink, partiers will be entertained by The Adam Moreno Trio, John Babcock and David Crabtree.

Shipyards Brew Pub is located at 200 West Fairbanks Ave. in Winter Park, Fla.

Keep up to date on all the beer happenings and news going on in townby joining our newsletter mailing list at the ALL NEW www.JaxBeerGuy.com.

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Beer, Restaurant

 

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The Porter in Atlanta much more than just a beer bar

Nestled in a funky, somewhat grungy corner of Little Five Points in Atlanta, Ga., The Porter Beer Bar appears rather low brow form the exterior. When you step through the door the impression does not change much with its dark wood cabinets, grey concrete bar, and Mason jar light fixtures. But, you would be wrong in setting your expectations low for this pearl of the burgeoning Atlanta beer scene.

Upon entering, a tattooed and bearded man asked if we would like a table or to sit at the bar. Because I like to be able to see how the bar runs and chat with the bartenders, we opted to sit at the bar. The bar stools seemed mismatched and held together with copious amounts of duct tape, but perhaps that is part of the atmosphere and charm.

We were greeted cheerfully by the bar manager, Justin Wickline who handed us two clipboards; one with the beer list and the other the menu. The Porter boasts around 40 taps of brews that, in the crowded Atlanta beer market, may not sound like a lot when you consider the typical Taco Mac trumps that number with over 100. But, at The Porter, it is not the quantity but rather the quality of their tap choices that draw drinkers to the bar.

On tap the morning we visited was the likes of: Duck Rabbit Duck-Rabbator, Evil Twin Freudian Slip, Green Flash Le Freak, and Lost Abbey 10 Commandments. Along with the taps, imbibers have the option of two brews on beer engines. On our visit there was only one choice, but it was the excellent Allagash Curieux. In addition the bar has an extensive bottle collection ranging from obscure Belgian brews like Pico Alvine Gaspar to excellent American brews like Founders Red Rye Ale.

Wickline was a font of information and definitely knew his beer. As we sat and chatted he presented several beers for us to taste and gave a little information on each. We worked quickly and adeptly to fill orders, take orders, and discuss the finer points of Belgian IPAs. A better bartender would be difficult to find.

Beer, though, is not the only story at the Porter. The food at this quirky little slice of heaven is phenomenal, too. The menu contained such delights as Poutine – rosemary fries covered in parmesan cheese gravy, and cheese curds, Pork & Foie Gras Terrine served with drunken raisins, whole grain mustard, pecans, bacon jam, and bacon powder, and Brasstown Pork Belly served with arugula, cherry tomatoes, bacon vinaigrette, and roasted hatch pepper.

I chose the brunch special Hangover Hash, which was a potent combination of corned beef, potatoes, red peppers, and onions topped with Buffalo sauce and three fried eggs. My companion opted for the Porter’s Half-Pound Cheeseburger of house-made fresh Angus beef patty, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, homemade pickled red onions, and homemade pickles. The hash was delightfully spicy, but not so much so that the flavor of the corned beef and potatoes were masked. My companion’s cheeseburger was perfectly cooked and heaped with toppings; she could only manage to eat half of the monster.

All-in-all, The Porter, which was recommended to me by a brewer friend, was an excellent choice for a Saturday morning lunch before an afternoon of visiting breweries. The excellent beer choices primed us for later consumption and the food kept us nourished as well as very happy. On our next road trip to Atlanta, The Porter will definitely be on our must-visit list. It should be on yours, too.

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2012 in Beer, Restaurant, Travel

 

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Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant commercial raises ire of some homebrewers

A new commercial from wing and beer juggernaut Buffalo Wild Wings has home beer brewers a bit upset. The commercial, which began airing in August, depicts three friends watching football at home on a sofa surrounded by bubbling carboys (glass, 5-gallon bottles used by homebrewers for fermentation). One of the friends announces that he has made bratwurst beer for one friend and a “secret” beer for the other. The scene is less than flattering to the homebrewer.

The American Homebrewers Association, founded in 1978 by Charlie Papazian in Boulder, Colo., boasts more than 30,000 members who may be more than a little offended by the new commercial. According to the association’s website, there are an estimated 1 million homebrewers in the United States and over 1,000 homebrewing clubs. Last year 1,900 homebrewers attended the 2011 AHA National Homebrewers Conference in San Diego, Calif. That is a lot of potential customers to alienate.

Buffalo Wild Wings was founded in 1981 by James Disbrow who lived in Buffalo, N.Y., but had traveled to Kent, Ohio to judge a figure skating competition at Kent State. While in Kent, Disbrow went looking for a restaurant that served Baffalo-style wings, but was unable to find one. He teamed up with his friend, Scott Lowery and together they decided to open up their own restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. The first restaurant was called Buffalo Wild Wings & Weck, which was commonly shortened to BW3. Since those humble beginnings the company has changed its name to Buffalo Wild Wings and has expanded to more than 652 locations in 48 states and Canada.

One Jacksonville, Fla. Brewery’s owner and head brewer commented on the commercial on Facebook, “Hey Buffalo Wild Wings! Making fun of homebrewers and craft beer is not a smart marketing ploy. Wonder if the “Big Three” had any part in this.”
Another Facebook poster said, in response to the original post, “Definitely the wrong side of the craft beer movement to be on.”

And the comments were even more brutal on You Tube. Commenters on the video site did not hold back on expressing their ire with the company for running an ad that seems to belittle homebrewers. One commenter said, “You should learn to make good wings before you pick on the people that have taken the time to make good beer.”

“Don’t forget that many pro craft brewers began life as a homebrewer,” another You Tube commenter pointed out. “Ostracizing part of your demographic isn’t a good idea.”

Neither the American Homebrewers Association nor Buffalo Wild Wings’ home office responded to requests for comments.

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2012 in Beer, Restaurant

 

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European Street taps new Lagunitas brew

Beer drinking and storytelling are two activities that go hand-in-hand. Barstools are full of storytellers that spin fantastic yarns over cold brews on a daily basis. But, a beer new to the Jacksonville area and now tapped at the Park St., San Marco, and Jacksonville Beach locations of European Street has the story to tell this time. And Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale from Lagunitas Brewing Co. has quite a story to tell.

The label on the bottle of the beer hints that the story is not one that sits well with Tony Magee, the owner and brewmaster at Lagunitas. In tiny type on the edge of the label his diatribe says, “From the first day of the first congress at the moment of the passage of the first law, we became weaker.

The extra-large B. Franklin said it well that you can tell the strength of a society by the paucity of the pages in its book of laws – Tax laws, civil law, criminal law, Statutes and Bills. Laws that make large and small criminals of us all.”

The label refers to the 2005 investigation and subsequent shut-down of the brewery for 20 days the next January that resulted from complaints of parties on breweries premises. The parties were said to include food, beer, loud music, and – perhaps most damning – marijuana usage.  The investigation took place over two-months with investigators going to the weekly parties undercover to see for themselves what was going on.

According to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control public information officer John Carr, officers attended parties over an eight-week period to determine whether partygoers were dealing in drugs. During a St. Patrick’s Day party at the brewery the officers revealed their investigation by showing their badges and arresting one employee and patron.

Punishment came to the brewery in the form of a 20-day shut-down in January of 2006, which Magee used to install a planned new bottling line.

Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale is called “especially bitter ale” to commemorate the bust and shut-down of the brewery. Later Magee, not none for his quiet demeanor, said, “This beer, I wanted it to be a knuckle sandwich. It’s big, it’s bitter and it’s angry. It’s unrepentant, and it’s unforgiving.”

And Magee, is right in those characterizations. The brew weighs in with 10.1% ABV and 74 IBUs. Popular beer rating website Beer Advocate gives the brew an 89 out of 100 points. One reviewer on the site left comments referring to the beer as, “Barleywine-like strength with well-kilned grains and citrus hops.” Another said, “Interesting. Both the hops and toasted malt appear upfront, then the bitterness hits on the finish.”

But, drinker beware, a few pints of this brew could lead to a few of your own stories. Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale is available until supplies are exhausted at European Street.

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2012 in Beer, Pubs, Restaurant

 

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European Street’s Beer & Baseball a hit

Palm beer

Palm beer (Photo credit: Abi Skipp)

Once a month European Street Cafe throws a party in the Beer Garden located past the left outfield area of the Baseball Grounds known as Beer & Baseball. This month the gathering took place on July 21 which also happens to be the Belgian Independence Day known as Fesstdag. To celebrate, Estreet poured Palm, the number one selling beer in Belgium, and Bright Lights White, a Belgian-style Wit from Intuition Ale Works. Along with the beer there were Estreet sandwiches, soft drinks, and a lot of great people.

The next Beer & Baseball — also the last for this season — will be held on August 11 and will feature Highland Brewing Compay beer. Tickets are available at all European Street Cafe locations. For just $20 you get all the beer you care to drink between 5:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m, all the Monster German Weiners and Estreet sandwiches you can eat, and a ticket to the game.

The video below was shot at the July event.

 

Follow all of Marc Wisdom’s travel, dining, and beer articles at his Examiner pages: Jacksonville Dining, Jacksonville Craft Beer, Restaurants, Drinks, and City Guides. Click the “Subscribe” button and never miss an article again.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2012 in Beer, Restaurant

 

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Bubba Burger Grill breaks loose some unbelievable beer specials

Summertime is typically when you find backyard grills lit and burgers sizzling away over the flames. The guys are sitting around the grill laughing and sharing cold beers out of a cooler chock full of ice. Inside mom is busily slicing tomatoes, rinsing lettuce, and preparing coleslaw or potato salad. That romantic image is what the makers of grills and barbecue condiments around the world want you to have. It sells an ideal summer to the gullible masses. The reality of a backyard cookout is more often than not, a dirty grill that must be scraped before it is useable, oppressive heat that causes sweat to roll down your face and into your eyes, billows of choking smoke blowing into your face, and voracious bugs biting and stinging the grumpy fellow with the spatula.

The Bubba Burger Grill restaurant at Baymeadows Road and the east 295 Beltway wants to take you away from all that aggravation and end make getting a great burger and ice cold beer a little easier on you and your wallet. Starting tomorrow you can roll on over in the air-conditioned comfort of your car and enjoy special prices on food and drink.

And when they say specials on drinks, they really mean it. With a new emphasis on local and craft beers, the great folks over at Bubba Burger Grill Baymeadows are offering pitchers – that’s right pitchers – of craft beer for only $7! To make it even better, they are now serving Intuition Ale Works brews. They are also offering all bottled brews for the astounding price of just $2! And, for those you prefer a little tequila with their burgers; pitchers of margaritas are only $6.

You may know the name Bubba Burger from the frozen hamburger patties of the same name in the freezers at your grocery store. Bubba Burger Grill is a division of the same company and do the cooking for you with awesome specialties burgers and sides like the Chuckwagon, the Hellfire Bubba, and parmesan truffle fries. And, if you are feeling particularly adventurous, try the Bubba Dippers; thick cut, hickory smoked bacon strips fried to perfection served with Bubba Burger Grill’s proprietary Maple Mallow dipping sauce. It sounds absurd, but the sweetness of the sauce and salty smokiness of the bacon is a match made in heaven.

The drink specials begin tomorrow, July 20 at the Baymeadows Bubba Burger Grill location only. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2012 in Beer, Food, Restaurant

 

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