Events – Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

It’s rare that I talk about theme parks on the blog, especially since the traditional theme park beer offerings tend to be incredibly overpriced selections of SAB-Miller-Coors and AB-InBev ‘beers.’ Yes, I put beer in quotation marks for that last sentence.

But the world of theme park beer is getting better. This blog sort of exploded when I put my review of Florida Beer Company’s Duff Beer, sold only at Universal Studios Florida. The other major place I can think of right now to get theme park craft beer in Florida is during Epcot’s annual International Food and Wine Festival.

Epcot park maps

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival park maps.

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Not Brew Review – St. Augustine Distillery

I know it’s not beer,  but I wanted to add this entry to the blog because I found it particularly interesting, awesome, and a lot of fun. And it’s Florida, with a homegrown business that supports and prides itself on supporting other Florida businesses.

That being said, St. Augustine Distillery, dear readers.

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The Ice Plant, home of the St. Augustine Distillery.

That’s St. Augustine’s old Power and Ice Plant, built in the early 1900’s. It’s pretty close to San Sebastian Winery, and just down the road from A1A Ale Works, kind of a triangle of alcohol goodness. St. Augustine Distillery makes a pretty big point of pointing out all the old trusswork, brickwork, etc. of the building. It’s a gorgeous facility, and if the steelwork and walls aren’t original, they sure did a good job making it look old. It’s very Disney inside; you’re not totally sure if it’s real or if it’s theming.

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Entering the distillery tour.

That theming starts the moment you enter the tour, which involves ‘punching’ your time sheet. Because you work there. And if you want free samples, you need to work. But it’s free vodka and gin. Just punch the ticket; the drinks are worth it.

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The St. Augustine Distillery museum.

Up next is the well-made and detailed museum. The Distillery spends a good amount of time and energy describing who they are and giving a crystal clear picture of how they support U.S. businesses, and businesses in North Florida in particular, when sourcing the materials they needed for the distillery. There was even a fairly good description of the grains they use, and a sample cooperage area, complete with barrel you can lift and play with (and wow, those things are heavy).

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The distillery floor.

After a prerequisite video, we finally hit the distillery floor. And it sure smells like a distillery; quite heady stuff if you’re not totally ready for it. It smells wonderful for the rest of us. The copper stills are gorgeous, however, and it’s fairly interesting to see not only their working space, but also explanations of how the former ice plant used to work.

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Barrels of aging bourbon.

As of the time of my visit, St. Augustine Distillery had bottles of vodka and gin ready. The bourbon, as you can see above, is still aging and should be ready in a few years. The rum, much to my extreme disappointment, won’t be ready until the beginning of 2015. Personally, that’s what I wanted most, since I’m more of a rum drinker than anything else. I’m not sure I would be against driving back up there next year to get some of their rum, however.

Now for the samples. It starts off with a clean shot of vodka, which is very pure, very crisp, and has little aftertaste. From there, it goes into a nice breakdown of their signature Florida Mule, a sweeter version of the Moscow Mule. Yes, it needs the copper mug the recipe calls for. Here’s a video of the Mule being made. You’ll notice that there’s a fair amount of ‘equipment’ that is used in this video. It’s good quality, and (naturally) they sell it, but I can’t say for certain it’s entirely necessary. Except for the copper mug. My wife was such a big fan of them and how they made the Mules taste that we got a matching set.

Yeah, I got a little ‘artsy’ at the end of the video. So the gift shop is well stocked, pretty, a little pricey, but has some nice stuff. Importantly, it has a lot of bottles of their gin and vodka.

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St. Augustine Distillery Gin and Vodka.

I know a 2-pack of 1 bottle of each is around $50. It’s pre-packaged so you can just grab the box. And yes, you’re going to want one. I would also flip through one of the many tourist books you can find in the area. Many of them have a coupon for a free shot glass with a $25 purchase. We went back twice, so I ended up getting two. If not, the shot glasses are a big $3, which isn’t bad.

What’s really nice, however, is the Ice Plant Bar, a bar and restaurant upstairs from the gift shop. As you can expect, it continues the sort of 1920’s flair that the rest of the location has, and it does it quite nicely. It’s also wonderfully sunny, aided by giant windows all around the seating area.

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As you can see, the bar is very well stocked with a lot of things I’ve never heard of. It also has a respectable craft beer list from North Florida stalwarts such as Bold City, Intuition, and some selections from Cigar City and Monk in the Trunk. There are a few others from breweries outside of Florida like Terrapin and Highland, as well. (Looking over the list, I’m fairly sure they all are cans/bottles. I didn’t see a tap anywhere). But how can you order a beer at a place like this?

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Florida Mule at Ice Plant Bar.

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Gentlemen’s Club at Ice Plant Bar.

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The Moon and Antarctica at Ice Plant Bar.

Interestingly enough, being called the Ice Plant, they take a pretty extraordinary amount of attention into the ice they use in each of their drinks. The white drink I have pictured, interestingly titled ‘The Moon and Antarctica,’ features a giant mound of shaved ice. It only collapses when the drink is poured into it, which is usually done tableside. I was a little bummed about the ‘Gentlemen’s Club’. While the drink was fantastic and watching the sheer amount of labor that went into making it was kinda interesting, (and my wife stole the awesome black cherry it came with), the menu stated the drink was supposed to be served with a giant sphere of ice. I got normal blocks. Didn’t change the taste of the drink, but I still would have liked my ice ball, darnit.

My wife and I were both in agreement that this would be a dangerous place to have local to us. And, even though it has been open less than a year, I’m surprised that it’s not nearly as busy as it could be. Mind you, I haven’t been there on a Friday night, but I would think more people would pack this place.

As for the distillery itself, Publix should start carrying their vodka and gin soon, but possibly only in North Florida. If you’re interested, call them, and they can forward you to the liquor store that may be able to ship some to you. For me, however, it’ll be another reason to head back north soon.

P.S. I still want to see them share their bourbon barrels with someone like Bold City, Aardwolf, or Intuition and get some Florida aged beers…

Cheers,

Dave

@floridabeerblog

floridabeerblog@gmail.com

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Brew Reviews – Bold City Brewery (@boldcitybrewery)

NOTE: I posted this a week or so ago. Due to circumstances I still can’t figure out, it disappeared. So, here it is again. Enjoy….

Miami is the Magic City. Orlando, the City Beautiful. Cassadega is that scary place with all the mystics. And Jacksonville? The Bold City.

Actually, the full title is “The Bold New City of the South,” a nickname that apparently dates back to the 60’s and references the paper mill industry that has largely left Jacksonville.

No problem there. The craft beer industry has exploded to take it’s place.

To be honest, Jacksonville is Tampa’s main rival, in my honest opinion, when it comes to the title of Beer City, Florida (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale are close behind, though). And one of the biggest players in the Jacksonville Craft Beer Scene is Bold City Brewery.

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Bold City, like so many other newer breweries, started out as a homebrew in 2002, then eventually became the North Florida brewery and tap room you see today. I hope to get there someday, but I was lucky to sample some of their beers during a recent trip. The big three, pictured above, are their main line, available at all sorts of places around Central and North Florida, including Publix and Total Wine & More. Let’s get into them (accompanied by my awful attempts at ‘artsy’ photography):

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Mad Manatee IPA: It’s a good, solid representative of what an American-style IPA is. Stronger and a bit more bitter than an English-style IPA, the hops flavors really shine through.

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Killer Whale Cream Ale: This gets me every time, as well. It’s not creamy. This is not an alcoholic milkshake in a can. It will not bring the boys to your yard. Cream ales are a lager/ale hybrid, usually using increased sugar to aid fermentation. Killer Whale is an excellent cream ale for cream ale beginners, as it is crisp, smooth, with little hoppy bitterness or bold, heavy flavors. It’s the ‘cream of the crop’ (use that to remember it).

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Duke’s Cold Nose Brown Ale: Duke rules St. Augustine. Seriously. Everywhere I went, Duke was on tap. Even if the place didn’t have the best beer selection, Duke was available. And it’s for good reason. Duke (named after the Bold City owners’ late dog pictured on the can) is an easy drinking, lightly sweet and nutty beer. Truth be told, I wish I had gotten a chance to try more of it. Luckily, Duke’s Cold Nose Brown Ale was recently announced as a selection at this year’s Epcot Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World. They’ll be featured along other samplings from Orlando Brewing and Cigar City, and it’s great for them.

I thought my Bold City Brew experience was going to end there, but luckily Mellow Mushroom in St. Augustine managed to have a good local listing on tap, and that included Big John’s Apricot Wheat, their summer seasonal. I had never had apricot in a hefeweizen, and it works well. It’s not as overpoweringly sweet as some fruity wheat beers I’ve had are, and that’s a good thing.

It’s a shame they’re on the other end of the state. I can see my beer fridge stocked with any of their cans on a regular basis. Here’s to hoping they get a wider distribution soon.

Drink Florida Craft,

Chris

@Florida Beer Blog

The Future of Miami Beer

About a week ago, this post started circulating around the internet. It’s a listing of what the writer calls “The ten best ’emerging’ beer towns.” Naturally, I was happy to say that I was pleased when Florida’s own Tampa came in at number one. Bolstered by the likes of Cigar City, Dunedin Brewery, 3 Daughters, Green Bench, and Florida Avenue, the author (and any self-respecting beer aficionado) would easily be able to call Tampa a Florida craftbeer mecca.

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Craft Beers from Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing

And then I pondered further. And I realized that Tampa has the ‘craft beer mecca’ title pretty well established. Jacksonville is, too. Just look at Bold City, Intuition, Engine 15, Pinglehead, and so on.

For my money, the emerging craft beer town in Florida is Miami.

Seriously, take a look at what the city has. Miami Brewing got started a few years ago and is now distributing across the region. Wynwood Brewing is a year old and is starting to bottle their special brews. Titanic Brewing is established, so is The Abbey. Plus M.I.A., J. Wakefield, and Concrete Beach Brewery are all about to open tap rooms. And if you add Ft. Lauderdale to the mix, then you can add places like LauderAle, Coral Springs Tap House, and the venerated Funky Buddha.

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Beer flight from Wynwood Brewing

To the author, I say Tampa is a wonderful city (Go Lightning) and a craft beer haven all Floridians are proud of. But they are nicely established. For the major movers in the Florida craft beer industry, set you sights southward.

 

Drink Florida Craft,

Chris

@floridabeerblog

Happy IPA Day!

Happy IPA Day, everyone!

Which is funny since I’ve never been a big IPA fan, but we celebrate nevertheless!

So, as a question, what Florida IPA do you enjoy most? Is it Cigar City’s Jai Alai? Mad Manatee from Bold City? How about Hop Gun from Funky Buddha (the pineapple variation is really good)?

Hit us up on Twitter (@floridabeerblog) or Facebook (flbeerblog) or email (floridabeerblog@gmail.com) and let us know!

Drink Florida Craft,
Chris
@floridabeerblog

St. Augustine and the love of beer

Interestingly enough, St. Augustine is the patron saint of brewers.

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I was fortunate enough to spend a few steamy summer days in the nation’s oldest city. It was quite a trip, and gave me quite a lot of material for several blog posts.

My biggest dissapointment, however, was the closure of Mile Marker Brewing. Situated in St. Augustine itself, Mile Marker promosed a nice lineup of craft brews. In the time between I planned the trip and we went, Mile Marker closed their tap room, then eventually their brewery. I would love to be able to report on what happened…

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So bear with me, dear readers. We’ll be reviewing Bold City, Intuition, A1A Ale Works, 3 Daughters, Pinglehead, and even a few non-beer places.

Prost!
Chris
@floridabeerblog