Whew! Halfway through May and we're not done yet! By the time you read this, me and Mrs. GrassLands will be headin' east to Jacksonville for the annual Craft and Import Beer Festival. I've not been to this particular event before but I'm definitely looking forward to connecting with the brewers that happen to be serving. I'm especially eager to chat with some awesome CASK homebrew club members that I've yet to meet.
So Tampa/St. Pete was awesome...obviously. In the span of 24 hours, we visited six different breweries/pubs and hit a few other craft beer bars. The area is a great example of how brewing talent can really be appreciated by the community. Tampa Beer Week is just one of the many examples of cool things going on in the region. It's what we want for Tallahassee. When you've got craft beer feeding into state/local tourism, that's a good thing for any economy. Let's take it from the top of the places we visited:
This was a referral from one of our brewing buddies (Thomas C.) and what a referral it was! We came in and had a great conversation with Rick Wolfe, who helps run the place. Rick and the BTR crew are innovative thinkers when it comes to craft beer and I'm not talking about just brewing. BTR won't refer to beer brewed offsite and sold onsite as a guest tap. He wants to refer to everyone as brewers. Cool, no? They've got a 1 barrel system (31 US gallons) and they intend to allow talented homebrewers to brew with them and have their stuff sold onsite under the BTR name. They also plan on collaborating with other regional breweries (we got a standing offer :)) to do the same. Good food, atmosphere & beer. We can't wait to see what BTR has in store.
Best atmosphere by a longshot. Dunedin made me feel like I was at an Irish-themed beach brewpub. Saralyn and I had the fried cheese curds (which I highly recommend) and a flight of their beers. We also got to listen to some sweet live tunes from a modern Irish band. The place was packed and the folks were extremely nice. Dunedin is a traditional brewpub and it was awesome to eat/mingle right around the kettles. From what we've heard, the Dunedin area is simply cool all around - and the brewery just added to the flavor.
Tiny and very welcoming, the "Strange" brews at 7venth Sun were freakin' excellent. 7venth Sun is a block away from the water in Dunedin and just a couple blocks away from Dunedin Brewery. The atmosphere was much more quiet and it seemed like they just wanted the beers to do all the talking - and each had a lot to say. 7venth Sun takes the award for the most laid back of any brewery we visited. Saralyn and I got a 4oz pour (plenty) of 6 of the beers on tap...all freakin' awesome. My favorite was the Nelson Sauvin-hopped Saison - Amazeballs! Mike behind the bar was extremely cool and gave us a little insight on how the 3 barrel operation is run at 7venth Sun. This place was hyped up a ton by the Tallahassee locals and it didn't let us down one bit.
Talk about innovation in craft brewing! Greg Rapp's place was off the beaten path a bit, but really, really cool. Saralyn and I happened in during a homebrewing session Rapp was hosting, as well as "brew with the brewer" contest winner! (A local homebrewer won a best tasting beer competition locally...grand prize? Brew with Rapp!) We got a flight and wish we could've tried all of the 20 BEERS ON TAP! The Gose was especially awesome. Greg is extremely creative with his recipes. We had a peanut-butter/chocolate stout that was one of the best tasting brews I've ever had. We also got a secret sample of his O.M.G. - an imperial strong ale that was I believe at 20% ABV and served at room temp! Incredible things going on at Rapp and we highly suggest tasting the beers.
Finally, one of the primary reasons we were in town in the first place. I hinted at it before, but Cigar City head brewer Wayne and VP Justin were kind enough to welcome us in and simply convey some of their vast industry/procedural knowledge. It's hard not to be somewhat intimidated by the wealth of information the folks at Cigar City have at their disposal. If I could identify a flagship brewery for the state of Florida, it'd be CCB - hands down. Wayne is exceptional at what he does and Justin is just the same. Best piece of advice they conveyed? Even if you have to make less beer - make high quality beer...or else you risk bringing the whole industry down a notch, especially in FL. As you should know by now, my dear readers, that's exactly what we're striving to do. Cigar City is a great example of a brewery that knows exactly what it's doing, where it wants to go, and what it's going to do to get there. I couldn't thank them enough for allowing us to simply scratch the surface of what information/advice they were willing to offer.
Did I say "Whew" already? The one thing (among many things) we took away from this past trip was that Florida is on the rise with regard to the quality and innovation in craft beer. We're extremely excited to get into the mix and rub shoulders with these very talented guys/gals. We're also eager to "pay it forward" like each one of these breweries did (and continue to do) for us. It won't be long now!
With that, we'll leave you to it for now.
Oh, and by the time you read this, GrassLands will officially be an incorporated entity. WOOOOOOT! We've also got a business address (nothing more than a PO Box - for now - but it counts for something)! We love the snail mail - so send any/all correspondence to PO Box 6441, Tallahassee, FL 32314! Hell of a way to close out American Craft Beer Week, right?
Have a blast of a weekend, my dear readers, because you most definitely deserve it!