Category Archives: Team Hopheads

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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Bell’s Brewery Slams the Hops Into it’s Brews

It gets cold in Michigan during the winter months, so cold that the average winter temperature there is only 30 degrees. The coldest temperature on record there was recorded on February 9, 1934 when the mercury dropped to an astoundingly cold 51 degrees below zero. Add to that the over 58 inches of snow they get annually and one might wonder why anyone would want to live there much less brew beer. But, brew beer there they do!

Bell’s Brewery began its life back in 1983 when Larry Bell opened a home brewing store called Kalamazoo Brewing Company. Soon after opening – 1985 to be exact – the store he began brewing his own beers and selling them to customers. In those early days the brews were made utilizing a 15 gallon soup pot and fermented in open fermenters covered only with plastic wrap. In the first year of production the budding brewery managed to turn out only 135 barrels of brew, but change was coming and along with came capacity. In 1989 the operation had grown to over 500 barrels a year with no end in sight to their expansion.

With an eye to brewing flavorful, unfiltered beers, Bell and his merry band of helpers grew their portfolio to over 20 different quality craft beers not including small-batch brews for their on-site pub. The company strives to make thoughtful, creative, and artistic beers as well as an authentic experience to their customers through unique ales and beers.

In 2005, Bell changed the name of the Kalamazoo Brewing Company Bell’s Brewery, Inc., reflecting the name by which most people refer to the brewery. Today, the brewery owns two separate facilities, the original Kalamazoo facility and the new plant in Comstock Township that sports state-of-the-art brewing equipment. The original building still houses brewing equipment as well as an attached pub – Bell’s Eccentric Café – and a store that still supplies home brewers and sells Bell’s apparel.

In-the-know beer enthusiasts know that Bell’s has a tradition of introducing outstanding seasonal brews. This practice of releasing beers only during optimal seasons ensures the beers are perfect for enjoying right away. Moreover, savvy beer snobs know that this time of year is when the much sought Hopslam is released. This week several, local watering holes such as Pele’s Wood Fire, Kickback’s, and Brewer’s Pizza have put this delicious double IPA on tap to much fanfare and the delight of beer drinkers in Jacksonville. Tuesday night, Pele’s went all out with representatives from Team Hopheads passing out Bell’s pint glasses with a Hopslam purchase, a special spicy pizza concocted specifically for the event, and Grandpa’s Cough Medicine, the outstanding local bluegrass phenomenon playing to an adoring crowd. But, Hopslam is not limited to just taps, it is also available in six-packs at local stores if you can find it. And if you can, prepare for sticker-shock. This potent (10% ABV) brew retails for $20 a six-pack.

Some may be asking if Hopslam is worth the necessary search and high price, the answer is a resounding yes! The Bell’s version of a double IPA begins with a complex hopping schedule of six different hops and a huge dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops for the perfect aromas of citrus, grapefruit, and pine along with a pleasing and stand-out bitterness. To balance the impressive bitterness of the hops, the brewers add a healthy amount of honey and just enough to the malt bill to balance the brew with sweetness.

Hopslam pours clear copper in color and is redolent with the aromas of piney hops, sweet caramels, pineapple, and citrusy grapefruit. When you finish admiring the smell of this great beer and finally take a sip your taste buds will be assaulted by the huge hoppy nature of this brew – but, in a very good way. Intense pine and grapefruit flavors give way to honey sweetness and maltiness. Your mind will tell you to savor every sip, but your instincts will be to drink it much more quickly so you can get another. Even with the extreme hop profile, this brew is extremely drinkable so be sure to watch out, that 10% ABV will sneak up on you fast.

Lest you think that Hopslam is the only noteworthy brew from this brewery, I would also like to discuss some of their other outstanding brews. Another exceptional seasonal brew is Oberon Wheat Ale fermented with Bell’s own house yeast strain. Available to most of the country only during the warmer months of the year, Bell’s makes this brew available in Florida year-round. This brew is smooth and delicious, perfect for a hot summer afternoon of sipping from a hammock.

Two Hearted Ale is another intensely-hopped beer that is expertly balanced by a great malt backbone. This brew is hopped exclusively with Centennial hops from the Pacific Northwest in both the brew kettle and fermentation tanks. The result is a smooth, citrusy IPA in the best American tradition.

There are many more beers from this brewery to discover like Third Coast Ale, Kalamazoo Stout, and Amber Ale. You really cannot go wrong with any of their products.

Cold winters in Michigan give way to mild summers and the brewers of Bell’s revels in the change of seasons by surprising its followers with yearly additions of their highly demanded beers. All that can be said is; keep them coming, we will drink all you send!

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!


Marc Wisdom

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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Beer, Craft Beer Brewery, Team Hopheads


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Fat Tuesday & Highland Games Beer Events

It is another busy and fun week in the craft beer world here in Jacksonville. It seems like our sleepy little town is getting more and more excited about good beer and good fun that goes along with it. So, without any further fanfare here are some of the things happening around town this week:

Tonight, February 21

Pele’s Wood Fire

You have all read my review of the wonderful Pele’s Wood Fire restaurant in Riverside/Avondale. These guys have truly awesome food and a phenomenal beer selection. Tonight that beer selection gets kicked-up a notch in honor of Fat Tuesday: they will be tapping a keg of Bell’s Brewing Hopslam! If you have not had the opportunity to try a pint of this delicious and big IPA you owe it to yourself to swing by and try one. To sweeten the deal and get the party atmosphere really hopping, Grandpa’s Cough Syrup will be playing at 7:00 PM as well. This is a not-to-be-missed event that will be spoken about for quite a while!


What could be more appropriate for the end of Mardi Gras than to host an Abita event at Copeland’s near Tinseltown? Nothing in my book! If it isn’t already Abita beer should be the official beer of New Orleans – party central for all things Mardi Gras. Be sure to try such Abita favorites as, Turbo Dog, Andygator, Purple Haze, and Jockomo IPA.

Brewer’s Pizza

If you cannot make it to Riverside – or cannot get a reservation – do not fret. The guys at Brewer’s Pizza are also tapping Bell’s Hopslam tonight for your hop-loving pleasure.

Wednesday, February 22

Engine 15

Engine 15 at the beach has a Pint Night planned with Blue Point Brewery starting at 4:00 PM. Swing by and sample such great brews as Hoptical Illusion, Rastfa Rye Pale Ale, Old Howling Bastard, and Sour Cherry Russian Imperial Stout.

Thursday, February 23 through Sunday, February 26

In celebration of the Northeast Florida Highland Games to be held Saturday at the Clay County Fairgrounds in Green Cove Springs, Highland Brewery is sponsoring four great pub crawls aboard the Big Red Bus, a double-decker party bus. The details from the Highland Brewing website are below:


The Double Decker English Bus is coming to town for more Pub Crawls! This time we will have 3 nights & 1 afternoon of official fun. For the price of $25 riders can enjoy being chauffeured around town while they take in great beer and some of the areas great bars & pubs!

Thursday, Feb. 23 will be our traditional St. Augustine crawl and we will once again partner up with Ghost Augustine ghost tours for ghost tales and brews on our “Haunted Crawl”. Unlike last year, St. Augustine fans may join up with Jacksonville riders for the crawl in progress at a reduced rate ($15)! Friday and Saturday,

Feb. 24 & 25 we will have our traditional Riverside/Southside and Beaches runs. This year the bus is sponsored by Highland Brewing.

Sunday afternoon (Feb. 26) will be our craft beer lovers crawl as we enjoy some of the great beers produced by Highland.

Another change this year is our new ticket sales location and loading and unloading venue, Southside’s very own Tilted Kilt near Tinseltown. We encourage all of you to bring friends and come early to buy tickets and enjoy the Tilted Kilt’s great food and hospitality!

The plan this year is for a few new stops and new surprises. Anyone who’s been on the bus knows there are always stories to be had and a good time with good food, music and Adult beverages!

Some remaining tickets will be available on site the days of the crawls at Tilted Kilt, but why wait! Seating is limited so get your tickets now online at or call 704-399-9393.

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Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Beer, Events, Pubs, Restaurant, Team Hopheads


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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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Sweetwater Brewing a Sweet Success

SweetWater Brewing Company

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As a great American success story, Sweetwater Brewing makes a pretty compelling case study. Founded in 1997 by two friends who met while studying at the University of Colorado in Boulder in the early 90’s, Sweetwater had humble beginnings. Freddy Bensch and Kevin McNerney discovered that brewing beer was more fun than attending classes. Yet, the duo, who shared living quarters as well as a passion for beer, persisted in their studies while taking on jobs as keg washers at a local brewery in exchange for free beer.

When graduation day came a sudden reality that in the real world you had to have a real job struck Freddy and Kevin so, in true beer-lover spirit, they headed out west to the prestigious American Brewers Guild in California to master the art of zymurgy. After that the boys took jobs brewing beer for breweries around the west coast.

In 1996, Freddy found himself in Atlanta amid the flash and crowds of the Olympics. As he wandered the town’s beer scene he became aware of the fact that Atlanta needed its own West Coast style brewery and he knew just the person to help him get one started. And so, the quest began for a location and the necessary start-up money to get an aggressive, in-your-face brewery off the ground.

By February 1997, enough money had been scraped together to get things rolling and Sweetwater – named for a nearby creek Freddy enjoyed kayaking – began producing the ales we now know and love. And what extraordinary beer it was. After only five years of operation, the Great American Beer Festival awarded Sweetwater the prestigious Small Brewing Company of the Year award making them the only brewery east of the Mississippi to ever win that award. As if that were not enough, Kevin was bestowed the Small Brewing Company Brewmaster of the Year award. The two awards represented a major coup for the young brewery along with several gold and silver medals for their brews.

Monday night, November 28th, I had the opportunity to talk with Stuart Brown, Jacksonville sales representative for the company as he conducted a tasting at Kickback’s. This was not the first time Stuart and I had talked, but, as always, it was a pleasant conversation. That night the conversation was about the Dank Tank series beers he had brought with him. This series is a very limited supply of interesting beers created only a few times per year. I thoroughly enjoyed them as my notes below will attest.

Fresh Sticky Nugs

The name refers to Nugget Hops, a bittering hop with a heavy herbal aroma. This brew is a double red, dry hopped ale that will really kick you in the seat. It pours deep red with huge hoppy, pine, and citrus aroma. The flavor is almost that of an IPA with pine and a citrus tang that reminded me of orange peel and a bit of malt as a backbone. The finish on this one is long and bitter and thoroughly enjoyable.


As the Sweetwater website confesses, “Warning: We don’t even know what style it is either,” this brew is, as its name implies, a mixture of many parts. Utilizing three grains – two-row, black wheat, and Munich malt – and 14 hops, this brew is truly a brew stew. This mélange pours very dark brown, almost black and boasts aromas of coffee, pine, and citrus. The flavor is floral, citrus hops, and roasted malts with light carbonation. This is a smooth beer with very little bitterness or alcohol flavor even as it weighs in at 8.5% ABV.

Festive Ale

Sweetwater’s holiday entry is Festive Ale a dark, medium to full-bodied ale with subtle but wonderful aromas of chocolate and caramel malts along with spices and dark fruits. The taste reveals the chocolate flavor promised in the aroma and subtle spices you would expect from this style of brew.

In 2004 demand had outgrown brewery capacity and operations had to be moved to a larger and the current space. Currently listed in the top 50 American brewers in both the craft and overall sales categories by the Brewers Association, Sweetwater is set for success and ready for growth, but not at the expense of freshness. Sweetwater is fanatical about freshness and even employs a tester who drives their territory in the southeastern United States, tasting Sweetwater brews to ensure only top quality beer is served.

With their dedication to quality beers, this is a brewery that will surely stand the test of time. The brews are tasty and the philosophy is sound. Next time you are out and about, try one of their brews and, as their tag line says, “Don’t float the main stream!”

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!


Marc Wisdom

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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Beer, Craft Beer Brewery, Team Hopheads


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