Tag Archives: Bitter (beer)

Florida — Georgia weekend gets its own beer

bitter-rivalryThe week of the Florida – Georgia football game in Jacksonville is always an exciting and busy time. RV City begins filling with fans of both teams displaying their team pride with flags, banners, signs, colorful awnings, mannequins, and even more interesting displays. Fans of these teams are zealous to say the least. And that includes the brewers at the two breweries in each of the team’s home towns. Swamp Head Brewing Company calls Gainesville, Fla. home along with the Florida Gators, while Terrapin Beer Company hails from Athens, Ga. the same as the Georgia Bulldogs.

Four years ago the owners of the two breweries began talking about brewing a collaboration beer to commemorate the annual gathering known in Jacksonville as the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail party. An entry on the Swamp Head blog says, “Since our inception, we have thought ‘It would be fun to do a beer with our friends at Terrapin for the Florida Georgia game in Jacksonville.’” This year, those discussions came to fruition with the Swamp Head/Terrapin collaboration Bitter Rivalry.

The two brewers began to toss out ideas, Craig Birkmaier for Swamp Head and Spike Buckowski for Terrapin, but the conversation kept coming back to using the other thing each state is known for: Florida oranges and Georgia peaches. So, the two settled on an English Bitter style brew with hints of both. They also wanted to make the beer sessionable so they kept the ABV low so that fans can enjoy many pints as they celebrate their teams and with friends.

Because both breweries are supporters of their home teams, they also decided to come to Jacksonville for the game and host several tasting events. If you would like to try the beer with the brewers consult the schedule below to find out where they will be. Or, if you just want to know where you can find a pint of this delicious collaboration, check the handy list provided below as well.

No matter which team you root for this weekend, be sure to try this Bitter Rivalry and remember to party safe and responsibly.

  • Thursday, October 31, join the brew crews from both breweries at Aardwolf Brewing Co., 5:00 p.m. — 7:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 31, the fun continues at Mellow Mushroom Southside for the Halloween Party, 8:00 p.m. — 10:00 p.m.
  • Friday, November 1, head over to World of Beer – Jacksonville Southside, 6:00 p.m  — 8:00 p.m.
  • Friday, November 1, onto Green Room Brewing, 9:00 p.m. — ?
  • Saturday, November 2, head down to Fionn MacCool’s Irish Pub, 11:00 a.m. until game time to enjoy brews with crew.

The distribution of this beer will be very limited and it will all be released starting on Thursday, October 31st. Most of the beer will be distributed in the Jacksonville market for FL/GA weekend with some reaching into St. Augustine and a small amount will stay here in Gainesville.  We will have the beer on draft at The Wetlands starting Oct. 31 as well.

Here is a list of the locations that will be getting kegs of Bitter Rivalry: Remember, this beer will probably go quickly and won’t be tapped until Thursday.

Jacksonville/St. Augustine

  • North Star Pizza Bar – Downtown
  • Fionn McCools — Downtown
  • Underbelly – Downtown
  • Dahlia’s Pour House – Riverside
  • European St – Riverside
  • Kickback’s  — Riverside
  • Bold Bean Coffee Shop – Riverside
  • Stripes and Solids – Orange Park
  • Brewer’s Pizza – Orange Park
  • Mellow Mushroom — Southside
  • World of Beer — Southside
  • Stogies Cigar Bar — Southside
  • European St – Jax Beach
  • Engine 15 – Jax Beach
  • Mellow Mushroom — Jax Beach
  • Green Room Brewing – Jax Beach
  • Poe’s Tavern – Atlantic Beach
  • JP Henleys – St. Augustine
  • Dos Coffee – St. Augustine
  • Mellow Mushroom – St. Augustine
  • Floridian – St. Augustine
  • Taps 210 – St. Augustine
  • Mojo BBQ – St. Augustine
  • Gas Full Service – St. Augustine
  • Aardwolf – San Marco
  • Grape and Grain Exchange – San Marco
  • Salty Pelican – Fernandina
  • Tomoka Brewery – Ormond Beach
  • Saucy Taco – Julington Creek


  • The Top
  • Loosey’s
  • Brass Tap
  • Stubbies
  • Mother’s
  • Salty Dog
  • The Swamp
  • Tall Paul’s
  • Tipple’s
  • KC Krave
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Posted by on October 31, 2013 in Beer News


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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.


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


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Pale Ales, Staple of American Craft Brewers

A seminal US ale. 5.6% ABV.

A seminal US ale. 5.6% ABV. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pale Ales are the bread and butter of the American craft beer industry. You will be hard-pressed to find a craft brewery in America that does not have a pale ale as its anchor, or at least as one of its standard beers. The pale ale style in America originates from England were the term was first used in the early 1700’s as an advertising moniker. By the late 1700’s however, British customers began referring to pale ales as bitters in an effort to differentiate these beers from the less-hopped stouts and porter sof the time. American pale ales evolved to become hoppier cousins of the original style.

The English style from which such luminaries of the American craft beer movement as Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewery drew inspiration is a much milder and maltier brew. This maltiness is due to the use of English hops, which are much milder than the zesty American hops. English pale ales were originally a draught ale served very fresh under no pressure at cellar temperatures — what we now refer to as firkins. Bitter was created as a draught alternative to country-brewed pale ale around the start of the 20th century and became widespread.

As craft brewers in America embraced the pale ale style, individual differences began to appear. The beers began to take on characteristics analogous to the brewer’s tastes and ideas of what a beer should be. There are many different Pale Ales out there and all have their own characteristics and taste. In an article written last June for the New York Times, a tasting panel of beer lovers and beer journalists judged Flying Dog’s Doggie Style Pale Ale to be the best of American Pale Ales. They report that it does push the limits of the style, though, with its hoppy flavors of pine and citrus. Other top-rated Pale Ales included Long Trail Pale Ale and Stoudt’s American Pale Ale. Sierra Nevada, while an excellent beer and a pioneering company in American craft brewing, did not make the group’s top 10.

Now, if you are looking for an India Pale Ale, still a Pale Ale but much hoppier, there are several outstanding beers to choose from. At the top of the list at Rate Beer, a beer enthusiast web site, is Ale Smith IPA from San Diego’s Ale Smith Brewery, followed closely by Two-Hearted IPA from Bell’s. Both of these are excellent examples of the IPA style and both are brewed in America. Further down the list, but still excellent, is Cigar City’s Humidor Series Jai Alai Cedar Aged IPA. Now that is a beer that really punches up the bitterness factor, yet balances it with enough maltiness to make it a refreshing, drinkable beer that you will definitely enjoy again and again.

Locally, in Jacksonville, FL, you can find several fine examples of pale ales and IPAs brewed with skill and dedication by such breweries as Intuition Ale Works and Bold City Brewery. Peoples Pale Ale is the flagship brew from Intuition and is quickly becoming legend in the Jacksonville area. Bold City’s Chinook IPA employs only Chinook hops for a bold, hoppy flavor and a touch of caramel malts for just the right touch of sweetness.

So, like I said, it really depends on your tastes as to which Pale Ale is the best. There are many opinions and the ones presented here are just a few of those. My best suggestion is to head to your local beer seller and start trying the beers. Many will allow you to “mix and match” a six-pack, which gives you the opportunity to try a number of beers and decide on your own what you like best.

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Posted by on June 28, 2011 in Beer


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What is it With the Bitterness?

Hop cone in a Hallertau, Germany, hop yard

Image via Wikipedia

Our bodies are pretty miraculous and interesting machines. They have mechanisms to deal with nearly any situation that may present itself. Take our senses of taste and smell for instance. These senses steer us towards foods that will nourish our bodies and keep the machine running. They also provide powerful warnings to us when something may cause us harm if ingested. Taste and smell are triggers to many powerful memories and hard-wired instincts. It’s like our bodies have an automatic alert system to warn us away from foods and drinks that will harm or kill us. Oddly though, we can overcome those warnings and even develop an affinity to foods that go against our body’s natural instincts.

Bitterness, for example, is a flavor that many of us have grown to love. Yet, in the plant world, bitterness is used as a defense and often is a signal that the plant being eaten is poisonous. Further, our hard-wired proclivity is to dislike bitterness because most bitter substances are nutritionally useless. If you have ever seen a baby eat something bitter, you probably noticed the child’s face scrunch up into an expression of intense dislike. Humans are just not supposed to like things that are bitter.

And yet, beer aficionados wax philosophically about the intense hoppy flavor of their favorite beers. Indeed, it seems that we are in the midst of an all-out assault on our bitter-recognizing taste buds by brewers concocting beers such as Bell’s Hopslam and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.

Why is it that, though our bodies and instincts say “no,” our appetites say “oh, hell yeah!”? The answer is quite complex and delves into a number of different disciplines.

Before we try to figure out this strange mystery we need to look at a few terms and concepts.

First we need to explore the idea that bitterness has a range of intensity much the same way as spiciness has a range of heat. In spiciness this is measured with the Scoville scale. The higher the number of Scoville units, a measure of the chemical capsaicin, the spicier a pepper is. In bitterness a measure called the International Bitterness Unit (IBU) is used to express the intensity of bitterness of a beer that is derived from hops. Just like with Scoville units, the higher the number the more intense the beer. Calculating a beer’s IBU is a complex and sometimes mystical process. It requires a lot of math and/or the use of a device called a spectrophotometer.

When a brewer sets out to make a specific kind of beer, he or she usually has a flavor profile in mind. Every beer style has a range of flavors including the amount of bitterness you should expect. For instance, a Belgian-style blond ale may have an IBU rating between 15 and 30. On the other hand, a double India Pale Ale may tip the IBU scale at 60 or more. In order to reach the target profile of the beer to be brewed, the brewer can use a rather complex mathematical equation that will approximate the ending IBU rating of the beer. The equation takes into account such factors as the weight of the hops used in ounces, the volume of the wort (unfermented beer) in gallons, the amount of time the hops stay in the wort as it boils, and the amount of alpha-acids that are present in the hops used. Easy, right? After the brewer carefully takes all the necessary measurements and brews the beer, solvent extraction and the spectrophotometer can be used to get a more accurate IBU rating.

As mentioned above, hops are what provide the bitterness in beer, but all hops are not created equally. Hops flowers contain alpha and beta resins and essential oils within the lupulin glands of the flower. Alpha resins are not very soluble in water; therefore, need to be boiled to extract the proper bittering from the alpha acid. Hop oils are very soluble in water and will boil off quickly with the steam of the boil. Different types of hops impart different flavors ranging from pleasant grapefruit to harsh pine. The trick is in combining the styles of hops and controlling the amount of time each type is boiled with the wort.

So, know we know that the higher the IBU rating of a beer the more intensely bitter it is, right? Well, not always. You see, malt is also an essential part of beer and malt provides sweetness. The more malt there is in a beer, the less intense a high IBU rating will taste. This is why stouts often have relatively high IBU ratings, yet do not taste all that bitter.

Contradiction seems to be a normal state when it comes to beer and bitterness and why we like it.

Back to bitterness and why we like it then. We know that bitterness is a warning marker for our body that usually means something is bad for us in some way. The chemicals responsible for the bitter taste are called alkaloids and are generally toxic. Plants produce them as a protective device to keep animals from eating them. Basically, we should run from bitter substances, but we don’t. And, to muddy the water further, in addition to toxicity, some alkaloids have medicinal and psychoactive properties. Caffeine is a stimulant, morphine and codeine are pain killers, and quinine is effective in fighting malaria. But, they are all bitter.

The reasons we enjoy our bitter beer are just as twisted and complex as the route we took to learn about bitterness. Some reasons are psychological, some are learned, and some may be physical. It’s as complex and ever-changing as the movement of leaves in a tree during a windstorm.

Psychologically we may seek out bitter beers as a way of proving to others that we are truly connoisseurs of beer. Our ability to endure greater and greater amounts of bitterness is used a badge of honor to display to the world that we are truly in the know and on the razor’s edge of the craft beer movement. And sometimes it is shear thrill-seeking, pushing ourselves to the limits for the pure endorphin rush of it.

Other theories of why we like bitterness hypothesize that we are fond of it for ritualistic, magical, or self-medicating reasons. Bitter substances lead to mild altered mental states. Bitterness is an integral part of many of the things we do every day. Many people can’t seem to function without their morning coffee, which contains caffeine a bitter substance. Nicotine in tobacco is bitter, but many people are compelled to smoke. And one of the most common flavors the world over is chocolate, a substance steeped in mysticism, and it contains theobromine, a very bitter alkaloid.

Physical cravings may also account for our desire for bitterness. Our bodies are programmed to seek carbohydrates or energy on which it can function. Highly hopped beers often have a higher content of sugar-releasing malts, which leads to a higher carbohydrate fix.

But, when you get right down to it, wonderfully hoppy – and therefore bitter – beer satisfies something that you just can’t put a finger on. It’s akin to the reason we strap ourselves on to roller coasters and trust teenaged operators with our lives. No matter how complex the reason, no matter how much we are predisposed to not ride the coaster, we get on it and scream our lungs out in terror. Then, when the rides over we laugh hysterically and get back in line to do it all over again. We drink hoppy, bitter beers for the thrill of it, to please our own palates and push our senses to the limit.

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Posted by on June 10, 2011 in Beer, Beer Styles, Beer Tasting


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