Brew Review – Beers at 81Bay with Craft Beer Ballers Podcast

I’m not totally sure what’s it called now, but one of the podcasts that I enjoy listening to in the Tampa Bay Area was, up to this point, known as the Balls and Brew podcast. Once they release another episode, they’re going to change that name to something akin to Craft Beer Ballers.

It had started off as a sports and beer podcast, and along the way the sports aspect sort of disappeared into the ether. That’s perfectly fine by me, since I can’t really get into sports unless you’re the Tampa Bay Lightning, and even then I don’t think I can discuss the Bolts for hours on end.

Beer, that’s a slightly different story and I have a bit more love and attention span for that.

I was on the show a couple weeks agonas part of their ‘Meet the Influencer’ series and, once they arise from a rebranding hiatus, that interview will be released for everyone to listen to, for better or for worse. But we decided to record that podcast at one of my favorite breweries in Tampa, 81Bay.

I’ve been there a number of times, but very rarely do I get to go in the full swing of things with music going on behind a video wall that really does need to be experienced in person to be believed. There’s a few breweries in the state whose taprooms themselves are significant tourist draws, and 81Bay definitely has one of those.

I was also on the tail end doing a lot of work that day, so I wanted to keep things kind of light. As much as I love their Lightning Lager, you’re starting to get that all over the place and I wanted something a little different, something that probably wasn’t going to hit distribution. So I found two sessionable beers, but with surprisingly higher ABVs than I expected.

I started with Thomas Hefferson (Hefeweizen, 6.1% ABV). As a hefeweizen, I’m a little surprised that they got it north of 6%. In terms of the flavors, this one is a bit muted, with a bit more pronunciation of clove esters than there is of the banana. This was definitely not a fruit flavored forward hefeweizen, a bit more subtle and easygoing of a drink.

The other one I got was their Vanilla Cream Ale (Cream Ale, 6.2% ABV). I am very fond of cream ales, they were the first beer that I ever made on a big professional system and they are delightful in their simplicity and how easy it is to distinguish a good brewer from a bad one by drinking one.

Yes, 81Bay got it correct and this cream ale was pretty fantastic. What was interesting about it was how very subtle the vanilla was. The cream ale tends to be a bit on the biscuity sweet side, due to a more pronounced focus on malt than the hops, but it’s not actually creamy.

It’s a misnomer, and it feels like that was intentionally kept in check with this recipe. The vanilla only serves to bring a slight mellow light to the sugars that are already in the beer, not to turn it into buttercream. It’s a nicely nuanced and wonderfully easy to drink beer.

Let’s be honest, both of these beers were fantastic, especially as the tail end of a very long day. And it was fun getting interviewed, since I’m very rarely on that side of the microphone. I hope you all get the chance to listen to the episode soon, and I’ll make sure to put it up once it’s there.

And for those of you that actually do listen to the episode, you’ll understand what I say when I say I never did get to see the kitty.

Drink Florida Craft,

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