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Helping brewers for almost 20 years, Florida Brewers Guild holds first conference

For updates and information from the Florida Brewers Conference, keep an eye on the Folio Weekly Pint-Sized Facebook page.

brewers_Guild_conferenceThe art of brewing beer is more than just combining a few ingredients, boiling them at the proper temperature for the appropriate amount of time and allowing the resulting liquid to ferment. Brewing requires knowledge of what is legally allowed to be brewed, of who can supply ingredients and packaging and how beer can be distributed. In addition, brewers must be savvy small businessmen with a handle on how to keep books, how to manage employees and who to turn to for legal assistance.

That is where the Florida Brewers Guild comes in.

“The Guild,” explained Florida Brewers Guild Executive Director, Sean Nordquist. “First and foremost, exists to help support Florida brewery’s rights and interests.”

Formed more than 20 years ago by Tampa area brewers, the Florida Brewers Guild is the trade organization for the state’s breweries. They exist to help brewers by promoting and sponsoring events, educating consumers and insuring the Florida legislature hears craft brewery’s voices over the thunderous din of macro-brewers, distributors and other special interest groups.

In a time when some experts and industry insiders are opining that the breakneck speed of craft beer’s growth is beginning to slow, Nordquist remains optimistic.

Statistics compiled by the Brewers Association, the national trade organizations that represents craft brewers, show that Florida is 10th in the nation for number of breweries, but only 43rd in breweries per 100,000 persons. That gap, Nordquist believes, leaves a lot of room for more breweries to open and thrive in the Sunshine State.

“We are going to continue to see new breweries popping up seemingly every week,” Nordquist enthused. “Some will make it, some will not. It’s going to come down to those that have a combination of a great product, good business practices and local consumer support.”

He also sees a trend for hyper-local nano-breweries like the recently opened Hyperion Brewing Company and the soon-to-open Main & Six Brewing Company, both in the Springfield National Historic District.

“If you are not packaging, your tasting room is your bread and butter,” Nordquist said of the nano trend. “You have to have a great product. And that extends to making community an extension of the brand. It brings in more local consumers who may not ordinarily go to a brewery by making it a local gathering place.”

This year, for the first time, the Guild is hosting a conference August 7-9 to bring the state’s brewers together in Orlando for three days. Activities include panel discussions on topics ranging from brewing with Florida ingredients to trademark law, guest speakers like Garret Oliver of Brooklyn Brewing Company and Jim Koch of Samuel Adams Brewing Company and mingling with industry leaders in an expo hall filled with more than 30 vendors.

“Breweries in the state have grown exponentially,” said Nordquist of the conference. “Just a few years ago Florida only had something like 40 breweries. Now we have over 200. We want brewers to learn from each other, to learn about services that are out there and to have an opportunity to meet with their peers.”

Nordquist expects the Conference to draw as many as 300 attendees drawing brewers and others like distributer representatives, suppliers, legal and other allied brewing services.

“I think you’re going to see more companies wanting to do business with Florida brewing,” he says of what he expects to see after the conference. “I also hope we will see breweries taking the things they learn at the conference and adopt them to make better beer.”

That is a sentiment we can all get behind.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Beer, Beer Industry

 

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Beer in the City; Adventures in New York City

The Big Apple, the City That Never Sleeps, Gotham City, the Empire City; whatever you call New York City, add another name to the list: New Beer City. On a recent trip I had the opportunity to visit many of the city’s craft beer spots. And the city that never sleeps knows how to do craft beer.

ponybarThe Pony Bar
637 10th Avenue at 45th Street
New York, NY 10036

Located in a neighborhood of Manhattan known as Hell’s Kitchen, The Pony Bar is more like heaven for craft beer aficionados. We arrived just moments before a drenching thunderstorm shook the city and quickly noticed most of the tables and barstools were occupied. But, no worries, a long table near the door had two empty seats and, after asking if we could share the table, we were invited to sit and enjoy.

At The Pony Bar, the emphasis is on American craft beers, meaning that you may find a Belgian-style beer on tap, but you will never find an import. In addition, there are no bottled beers available other than Bud and Bud Light. The Pony Bar features 20 taps and two hand-pulled beer engines of craft beer at all times, all displayed on a state-of-the-art display that is updated in real time hanging above the bar. The bar also displays their tap list on their website in real time for guests who like to know what is on tap before stepping out into the elements.

During our visit we sampled Elysian Brewing Company’s Super Fuzz, a refreshing blood orange pale ale. We also sampled Blue Point’s No Apologies (Citra) from the beer engine. Beers at The Pony are served in their signature blue-labeled, 14-ounce glass or red-labeled eight-ounce name-sake glass. The name of the bar, is a nod towards the small, eight-ounce glasses of beer – or ponies – that were served in years past between races at horse tracks.

Along with great craft beer, the bar also serves a small menu of pub favorites like burgers, roast chicken and sliders. Like everything else at The Pony Bar, the food was served quickly and with a friendly smile.

If you find yourself in Manhattan and want a craft beer served by friendly and knowledgeable bartenders close to Times Square, The Pony Bar fits the bill perfectly.

rattlenhumRattle n Hum
14 East 33rd Street
New York, NY 10016

Within the shadow of the iconic Empire State Building is an equally iconic to beer-lovers visiting the Empire State – Rattle n Hum. Do not be fooled by the narrow entry, this beer bar opens into a cavernous room that is generally packed with thirsty New Yorkers fresh off-the-clock or other colorful types simply stopping in for a cold pint selected from nearly 40 taps of craft beer and even more specialty bottles.

From the moment you walk in, this Mid-town pub immerses you in craft beer culture and friendly hospitality. Upon bellying up to the bar, guests are presented with an updated menu of the craft beers available that day. The bartenders are knowledgeable and will patiently answer your beer questions as well as provide a small taste of any beers you may want to try before committing to a full pint. And, if you still cannot commit to a single beer, Rattle n Hum offers sampler paddles of four beers chosen by you.

On our visit we chatted with a delightful Irish bartender who spent time answering our questions and even looking at our wedding photos (my wife will show anyone who stands still longer than 10 seconds our wedding pictures). Though, I do not remember her name, she was instrumental in the choices I made for my tasting paddle. Of the many fantastic choices available, I chose Brewer Ommegang’s Fleur de Houblon, Great Divide’s Orabelle, Vixnu from Cervejaria Colorado and Bacchus from Brouwerji Van Honsebrouck.

In addition to an amazing selection of craft and import beers, Rattle n Hum also has an extensive food menu and features brunch on the weekends. Think pub favorites like Baby Lamb Sliders, Shepard’s Pie and selected artisan cheeses and charcuterie.

StagsHead-NY-51st-and-2ndThe Stag’s Head
252 E 51st Street (at 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10022-7744

Down a few step off of East 51st Street you will find the bar level of The Stag’s Head, established in 2008. This popular beer bar boasts 16 rotating taps and over 50 bottles and cans of craft beers. It also features two seating areas and a roof-top beer garden.

When we arrived several television screens distributed throughout the venue were showing a World Cup soccer game to the delight of many boisterous patrons. It was a bit of a challenge to find a couple of bar stools to rest our weary feet, but after a few minutes a couple opened up. The friendly and jovial bartender appeared and took our drink orders. I went with a local brew from Captain Lawrence Brewing Company; Liquid Gold Pale Ale.

After the game ended, the place cleared out a bit and the bartender came down to chat with us a bit. He offered several great tips for where to enjoy more great, local beer that we later tried and enjoyed. Who says New Yorkers are all self-absorbed jerks? Certainly not us since everyone we talked to was more than willing to help and answer questions.

McSorley's Old Ale HouseMcSorley’s Old Ale House
15 East 7th Street
New York, NY 10003

New York is full of history, but it is not often that you drink at a bar that is actually part of the storied history of a place. But, McSorley’s Old Ale House is certainly full of history and character. From its outward appearance in the middle of a block on East 7th Street, one can see that it has been a fixture for many years – 160 years to be exact. That is right, McSorley’s has been around since 1854 and has played host to Civil War soldiers, presidents, musicians such as Woody Guthrie and scores of visiting dignitaries.

When you pass through the door, McSorley’s is revealed to be an old, dusty, dark and musty space; and that is its charm. Hanging from the ceiling are some of the bar’s original light fixtures sporting chicken wishbones awaiting the return of the Civil War soldiers who placed them there. In the back room hangs what used to be a scandalous nude painting of one of the first female regulars to the saloon. Above the fireplace is the bar’s motto, “Be good or be gone!” A motto still enforced in the continuously-packed venue.

Beer at McSorley’s come is just two varieties; light or dark. There are no other choices so do not ask. The only other beverage allowed are sodas that can be found tucked inside the original ice box behind the bar. Beer is served in small mugs often ordered a half-dozen at a time. Grey-vested waiters will deliver your choice of beverage to your table – if you are lucky enough to score one – or you can wait your turn at the bar to order.

McSorley’s is a force all its own in a world of beer bars. It is unpretentious and simple in its approach: serve good beer fast, except no bullshit and treat everyone like a friend. The combination works and, if the size of the Saturday night crowd is any indication, will continue to do so for many more years.

brooklyn-brewery-Brooklyn Brewery
79 N 11th Street
New York, NY 11249

More than just a tree grows in Brooklyn; this brewery near the Williamsburg neighborhood is a hotbed of activity during the week when brewing and even more so when its tap room doors are open. At the end of a large, dark beer hall stands the tap room’s bar with its selection of Brooklyn Brewery favorites like Brooklyn Lager and Local #1 along with lesser known treats like Mister Wilson’s Western Elixir and Ridgy Didge.

But, perhaps the most striking feature are the looming stainless steel fermenters that stand just inside the entrance of the tap room and serve as the starting point of the brewery tour. The tour takes interested beer enthusiasts to the brewhouse where they can get a glimpse at the pilot system as well as their larger main brewhouse. After a quick overview of the viewing process the group is ushered to the fermentation and packaging room where the guide regales visitors with stories of how the brewery started including tales of mob attempts to shut the operation down.

Back in the tap room, lines grow quickly at the bar that accepts only tokens purchased at the small company store inside the main entrance. For just $20 patrons can score five tokens that can be exchanged for a pint of delicious beer.

Just a short subway ride from Manhattan, Brooklyn Brewery is well worth the trip off the island.

birreriaBirreria at Eataly
200 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10010

Walking in to the Mahattan outpost of the European Eataly chain is like walking in to the Ikea of Italian food. The cavernous space houses several Italian restaurants along side of every type of Italian food for sale one can imagine. There is a pastry shop, gelato stand, cheese shop and gadget store all in one space.

But, for beer lovers, it is the roof of the building that holds our attention. From the main store you must board an elevator to the roof, but the short journey rewards you with gorgeous views of New York’s skyline – particularly beautiful at night – and a gourmet restaurant developed with the help of Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, Teo Musso of Baladin and Leonardo Di Vincenzo of Birra Del Borgo.

At the bar, imbibers can choose from three beers on the beer engine or several others on tap. While we were there we tried the Gina from the engine, a bay and rosemary spiced ale that was delicious and refreshing. The beer was also brewed just feet away at the venue’s rooftop brewery. Other choices were a selection of Italian craft beers such as Lurisia Sei and American craft brews from Dogfish Head and other regional breweries.

While all of the bars and beer halls we visited had friendly staff, the bartenders at Birreria were outstanding. Even though the place was packed and outrageously busy, they always stopped to ask if we had any questions or needed another drink. At one point the kitchen sent up a plate of grilled swordfish by mistake and the bartender presented it to us on the house. “I’d rather you ate and enjoyed it than send it back and it go in the trash, he said.

We were impressed and delighted. The fish was superb.

On our way out, we spoke with the manager to let her know about our stupendous experience and she was just as delightful to speak with as the staff. Next time we are in New York, we know exactly where we will be spending a great deal of time.

gingermanThe Ginger Man
11 East 36th Street
New York, NY, 10016

Michael Jackson, the late beer expert not the one-gloved singer, is quoted as to saying The Ginger Man is, “One of finest beer bars in the world.” I tend to agree. The classy, dark wood interior exudes sophistication. Behind the bar are tap handle after tap handle to sate thirsty beer lovers’ thirsts and draw them in. as you approach and sit at the bar one is handed a beer menu that is chock full of interesting and wondrous brews.

As with many beer bars, a sampler paddle was offered and I filled it with several outstanding beers: Duvel’s Single Fermented, Peekskill Brewery Simple Sour, Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge and a lighter beer from Cricket Hill Brewing Company called Jersey Summer Breakfast Ale.

The staff at The Ginger Man is well-versed in the beers on tap and was able to offer thoughts and insights into most. And, like The Pony Bar, The Ginger Man posts its current beer offering online at its website.

Conclusion

Any trip to New York City is going to be packed with new experiences. There is so much to see and do, so many landmarks, museums and shows that beer bars can easily be overlooked. But, for any self-respecting beer-lover, New York’s beer scene cannot be missed. The bars we visited just scratch the surface, there are so many more that we hope to drop in to on our next visit to the city. Suffice to say, that with the bars listed here you cannot go wrong.

The Jax Beer Guy has partnered with the UBER car service in Jacksonville. Because of this partnership, you can receive a $20 credit for your first ride by simply using the promo code “JaxBeerGuy” when you register for UBER on your smartphone.

Click HERE to sign up now!

 

 

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Summer beer round-up, video segment from “I Know Jax”

In the heat of a Jacksonville summer, a cold beer is just the thing to beat the heat and humidity. With that in mind, I embarked on a journey to several local beer emporiums and picked out a selection of brews that will quench your thirst as well as intrigue your taste buds.

Watch the segment from “I Know Jax,” then read more about each brew below.

Green Room Brewing Co. — Pablo Beach Pale Ale

This refreshing, locally-brewed ale is packaged in a can making it perfect for picnics, barbeques and other outdoor activities. The brewers at Green Room have captured a citrusy brew with notes of pine and hints of malt to cut the bitterness. Serve this straight out of the cooler or in a pint glass and enjoy the great weather here in the River City.

Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing — Summer Shandy

Shandy’s are the perfect summer beer with their light and refreshing flavors that are not too heavy. They combine favorite summertime flavors, in this beer’s case smooth wheat beer and sweet lemon. Served very cold, this beer is ideal for sipping on a lazy Sunday afternoon on the back porch.

Harpoon Brewing Co. — UFO White

Brewed with hand-ground spices like coriander and orange peel, this refreshing unfiltered beer follows in the 300 year tradition of Belgian spiced wheat beers in spectacular style. Typical of the style, this beer pours hazy and golden with a fluffy white head. The drinks smooth and refreshing with hints of orange and spice.

Spoetzl Brewery — Shiner Ruby Redbird

With a reddish color and an invitingly sweet grapefruit aroma, this brew promises a drinkable experience that it truly delivers. The flavor is predictably of ruby red grapefruit making this a great, sessionable beer with a flavor that is agreeably different from other beers on the market. Drink this one cold and from a pint glass to fully enjoy.

Cigar City Brewing Company – Cucumber Saison

Brewers tend to look for the next interesting flavor profile. The guys over at Cigar City has found it in this refreshing summer treat that positively reeks (in a good way) of cucumber while it maintains the funkiness one expects in a saison. Drink this one chilled in flutes with a fresh summer salad for a lively and refreshing experience.

Brooklyn BrewerySummer Ale

Lemon is a common and welcome flavor in summer beers and Brooklyn does not disappoint with this entry into the summer beer market. The flavor is biscuity with a light lemon note that rounds out the sweet malts. Drink this one straight from the bottle while enjoying a cool summer breeze on your porch swing.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. – Kellerweis

According to the brewer’s website, ““Kellerweis is one of the only American Hefeweizens made using the traditional Bavarian style of open fermentation. This difficult and labor-intensive technique adds uncommon depth and flavor complexity.” The flavor is bready with light lemon notes along with cloves and white pepper. This beer is a great accompaniment to any summertime backyard party.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2013 in Beer Styles, I Know Jax, The Beer Guy

 

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World of Beer set to open on Jacksonville’s Southside

World-of-Beer-logowob

Last September an article appeared on this blog about the soon to be open World of Beer on the Southside in the Tinseltown area. At that time the estimated opening date was November 2012. Then, in October, another article appeared here that said the opening date had been moved to February 2013. Well, those articles were clearly not accurate. But, take heart! World of Beer – Southside is definitely opening next week to the great relief of its owners and management and the great enthusiasm of Jacksonville beer lovers.

World of Beer started in 2007 as the dream of two entrepreneurs from Pensacola. Scott Zepp and Matt LaFon, brain-stormed and opened the first World of Beer in the Westchase community of Tampa, Fla. Since then things have only gone up. In 2010 the duo’s concept caught the eye of former Outback Steakhouse president Ben Novello and former Outback Steakhouse Executive Jim Pollard. With the backing of these industry titans, World of Beer (known affectionately as WoB) expended its concept of an approachable craft beer bar nationwide.

In fact, according to the company’s website, World of Beer is, “…is a truly uncommon establishment where the experience is as essential as the product.” And this philosophy is evident in the extensive training the company puts all new-hires through. Before any team member can hit the floor of a WoB location, they must go through two weeks of Beer School where they learn not only what beers they will serve, but also the history, flavor profiles and characteristics of the brews they will serve.

The website goes on to say, “…having the most extensive beer selection is not enough. It is important that a broad spectrum of patrons, from the beer aficionado to the casual beer fan, can enjoy the best beers on the planet and increase their beer knowledge in a comfortable and upbeat setting. By combining a friendly environment with an exceptionally knowledgeable staff, World of Beer creates an atmosphere where patrons feel at home, as if they are visiting a neighbor and not just a neighborhood bar.”

Tony Vera, General Manager of the store opening next week in Jacksonville, has been with the company two and a half years and is a believer in the company’s deeply-rooted belief that craft beer should be approachable to all.

“Hospitality and product knowledge are what separate us from other bars,” Vera says. “Our goal is to be a neighborhood bar where you can go to meet great people and enjoy great beer.” It does not hurt that his store will open with 50 craft beers on tap and approximately 550 bottled beers.

“We have an entire cooler of Belgian beers that includes an entire shelf of Trappist ales. We also have a cooler of German beers, and a wide selection of craft ciders.”

To encourage guests to continuously learn about and taste news beers, WoB also has a Loyalty club that rewards members for trying new beers. “It costs $15 to sign up, but for that you immediately get a WoB t-shirt,” Vera says. “At different levels of achievement members get different awards. At 50 different beers tasted, members receive a commemorative t-shirt; at 100 they get a mug. But, when member reach 250 different beers they get a plaque with the saying of their choice on it, displayed at the store for all to see along with a commemorative polo-style shirt.” Vera went on to say that elite members who reach the 500 different beers mark get a catered party with a $250 bar tab.

There are also nightly specials to entice guests to visit. On Mondays, service and health care industry workers enjoy 50% off select drafts from 9:00 p.m. to close. Tuesdays are reserved for Loyalty Card holders who receive 25% off all bottles – the better to drive up their tally towards those great rewards. On Wednesdays college students and faculty get half off select drafts from 9:00 p.m. until close. Ladies get 50% off wine and select drafts all day Thursdays along with active duty and retired military. As if that were not enough, one Sunday per month WoB hosts a Customer Appreciation cookout. And, do not forget about happy hour weekdays until 7:00 p.m. when all drafts and wine is $1 off.

Vera also shared that WoB – Southside plans to obtain several firkins that it will ask local breweries to fill with special treatments of their brews for the exclusive enjoyment of their guests. He also expressed that he is interested in putting in a beer engine that would further educate and delight guests on real ales.

The first Jacksonville World of Beer is schedule to open to the public on Monday, July 1st. The list of brews on tap opening day is impressive and held rather close to the vest. But, after a bit of arm-twisting, portions of the list were shared for publication here.

Look for these beers on tap opening day:

Dogfish Head 61 Minute IPA
• Sierra Nevada Hoptimum
• Petrus Aged Pale
• Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot
• Pyramid Weiss Cream
• Chimay White
• St. Bernardus Abt. 12
• Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin
• Victory V12
• Dogfish Head Aprihop
• Stone Self Righteous
• Brooklyn Silver Anniversary

In addition to the fanfare, and exceptional tap list, of opening day, plan of swinging by Wednesday, July 3rd for a huge Intuition Ale Works event that will feature 25 kegs of the Riverside brewery’s beers and visits by the owner and brewer, Ben Davis.

Vera, who started with WoB as the GM of the chain’s second store located in Sarasota, Fla., says that the Southside store is only the beginning for North Florida. He is charged with helping to develop the area and has his sights on opening locations in Jacksonville Beach and St. Augustine. If the success of the company at its other locations is any indication, Vera’s dreams are likely to soon become a reality.

World of Beer — Jacksonville Southside is located at 9700 Deer Lake Court. Hours of operation are 12:00 noon to 2:00 a.m. daily.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Pubs

 

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South Florida to host Sprung! beer festival in March

sprungMiami, Fla. has a cool vibe that is fueled by images of pastel colors, extravagant night life, and beautiful people. One can imagine those hard-bodied South Beachers sipping Mojitos and other tropical Rum drinks as they work the clubs and strut their stuff. Somehow, craft beer seems far from the glitter and glitz of the Miami we have all been shown on shows like CSI: Miami and Miami Vice. But, Tony Albelo wants to change all that.

Several years ago, Albelo came to a realization that there are craft beer fans in the Miami area that would probably enjoy a festival in their city. So, he came up with a concept for a beer festival that included a well-rounded slate of events as well as over 110 tasty craft beers. He dubbed his event Grovetoberfest as a nod to the festival being held near the traditional time of Oktoberfest and its location at Coconut Grove. Prior to Albelo’s event, beer lovers had to drive to Jupiter, Fla. to find a craft beer festival.

Grovetoberfest was a success, attracting 6,500 thirsty fans to the festival. The event was so popular it let Albelo to begin thinking about a spring event. He wanted to use the same successful formula he had used with Grovetoberfest; good food, fun games, live music, and lots of great craft beer. He decided on calling the event Sprung! and to hold it at the same venue as Grovetoberfest this coming March 9th.

“The atmosphere at Sprung! is meant to be fun and spirited. There’s no event like it in the area, and much like Grovetoberfest, Sprung! will become a staple of the South Florida scene,” Albelo said in a press release about the event. Because the event is taking place in the spring, the focus will be on spring and summer craft beers. Attendees will be able to sample over 150 brews from the likes of Sierra Nevada, Brooklyn Brewery, Kona, Magic Hat, Shiner, Shipyard, Harpoon, Blue Moon and many more. There will also be a full complement of hard ciders and even several brews from SweetWater Brewing Company.

Sprung! will also feature plenty of great food from a number of local food vendors to help soak up some of the brew and live music to keep things lively. But, one of the more interesting features will be the dedicated game area where those who are looking for a challenge can play beer pong, giant Jenga, corn hole, mega twister, and human bowling that utilizes huge plastic balls to hurl players and massive pins.

Tickets for the event will be available online via the event’s website (www.IGotSprung.com) and will range in prices from $39 for general admission, $69 for Beer Socialite, and $89 for VIP access that will allow purchasers into a special, VIP only tent with food and beers not available to other attendees.

Keep up to date on new developments on  the events Facebook page at www.facebook.com/IGotSprung.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Beer Festival

 

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Stop at this Redlight Redlight for Great Beer

When I was a child, my father, like many fathers in those days, had his favorite dive-bar hangout. His was located on a busy street corner in the northern suburbs of St. Louis. It was gritty and smoky; the walls were covered with dark wood paneling and beer posters and signs. Hand-written signs warning patrons to not upset the bartender, items for sale, and losers who had skipped out on their tab. Hanging above the bar was a fuzzy old Sylvania television broadcasting the Cardinals (baseball or football) or the Blues. Those were the good old, days when a bar was filled with working class men who just wanted to stop for a few cold ones before heading home.

Today it seems like most bars are much cleaner, more sanitized and, while maybe not corporate, they certainly have the aesthetic of a corporately run sports bar. Pubs have multiple big-screen televisions playing ESPN or one of dozens of other sports-centric programs or games. The crotchety old bartender has been replaced by a chipper young girl in bright orange hot pants, and local brews have been replaced by the brands marketed and produced by the mega brands for mass consumption.

This is why when I walked through the door at Redlight Redlight last Saturday evening while on a weekend get-away to Orlando I felt like I was stepping through a time portal. This unassuming pub located away from the beaten trail off of East Colonial Drive is a gem that brought an immediate smile to my face.

The sign is retro and, I say this with no malice whatsoever, slightly shabby looking. The interior is old-school pub with the requisite beer signs and hand-written notes. In addition there is a huge, full wall chalk board with listings of beers available.  The place is dark thanks to low lighting, but also due to the dark woods used throughout. The bar is a wooden masterpiece that belongs in a movie about old bars, it looks as though it is ancient and it fits perfectly with the vibe of the place. Behind the bar is a wall with several taps and appropriate glassware. On the bar itself are several more taps including two beer engines with real ale. Off to the side there is a stage and a screen that was showing the Alabama – LSU game while I was there. Also behind the bar are several hard-working and extremely knowledgeable bartenders. No tiny orange shorts on these guys, but if you want to know about beer, they know their stuff. This place is, as Guy Fieri would say, old school money.

I found the one empty barstool in the center of the bar and parked myself on it. Above the bar is another chalk board with the names of the beers on tap. Now, I have been to bars with many more choices than Redlight Redlight, but this place had some truly awesome beers on tap. Beers like The Companion by Brooklyn Brewing, Pangaea from Dogfish Head, Jai Alai from Cigar City, and Old Thumper Cask ESA.

The crowd was a friendly lot of young and old, beer novices and aficionados, and surprisingly a lot of ladies. I was nearly floored when a young lady who could not have been more than 22 or 23 ordered a gueuse right next to me. I asked her about it and she said she has loved it since the first time she tried it on the suggestion of one of the bartenders.

My first choice was St. Louis Gueuse Fond Tradition from Brouwerji Van Honsebrouck in Belgium on tap. The last time I had this beer on tap was when I was actually in Belgium earlier this year. As I recalled, the beer is refreshing sour with apple and vinegar notes. I finished the evening with something new that, hard as it may be to believe, I had never heard of before; mulled beer. My helpful bartender, in an effort to find brews I had not already tried, mentioned it to me and then brought me a taste. In the tradition of mulled wine, this brew was warmed and served hot. The beer is dark almost black with ruby highlights and smells very similar to mulled wine; cinnamon, cloves, anise, dark fruit like plums and raisins all enveloped in a lovely steam emanating from the glass.  First sip revealed the taste very much like the nose. On a blustery, cold evening in Orlando, that was just the thing to send me out the door.

As I said goodbye to my new friends at Redlight Redlight, I promised to return on my next visit south. I walked to my car and it struck me that many beer bars do it wrong, they dress themselves up to be something they are not. A good beer bar needs only three essential things; a bar, good beers on tap, and friendly, knowledgeable staff.  That’s it. No matter how you glam a place up if those three things are not there, it’s just not a good beer bar. Some of the corporate big boys should take note and go retro. I know that given the choice, that’s what I would want.

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!

Cheers!

Marc Wisdom

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2011 in Beer, Pubs, Travel

 

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