One of My Favorites: Stogies and Stouts

•February 19, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Dunedin Brewery

I say it ever year, and I will say it again. Dunedin Brewery – Florida’s oldest microbrewery – puts on one of the best brewery festivals of the year the last Saturday of every February: Stogies and Stouts. it is, as they put it, a celebration of dark beer, cigar smoke & live music. While I am not a big cigar guy, I do love a good stout (and porters, too). I also love good music. And this event has plenty of both. The beer lineup is huge, as always, but here are some I am looking forward to:

  • Dunedin Brewery (Dunedin, FL) – Midnight Sextant
  • Dunedin Brewery (Dunedin, FL) – Vanilla Mundofolbick (cask)
  • Three Palms (Brandon, FL) – Hot Schtuff (stout brewed with brown sugar, cinnamon, ghost peppers)
  • Pair o Dice (Clearwater, FL) – Hot Cocoa Imperial Stout
  • Cigar City (Tampa, FL) – Iron O’Rourke’s God of Fear
  • Barley Mow (Largo, FL) Nuada (chocolate coffee stout)
  • Nature Coast (Crystal River, FL) – Manatee Milk (imperial coffee chocolate milk stout aged in a Jack Daniels barrel)
  • Funky Buddha (Oakland Park, FL) – OP Porter

And there are always delicious surprises, too… You never know who or what might turn up.

The details for this event are as follows:

February 28th, 2015 – 7pm – 11pm

$35 includes commemorative tasting glass, choice of cigar from Los Blancos Cigar Company & access to 30+ Local & National stouts on draft. Live music by Lingo (from Atlanta, GA). $45 includes meal voucher.

Limited to 350 people. THIS WILL SELL OUT!!! If you do not have a ticket, do not expect to be let in! I have seen it happen.

Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/dunedin-brewery-stogies-stout-2015-tickets-15071992736

Honestly, you do not want to miss this event if you are at all a dark beer lover. Plus, the vibe is always good, the music is excellent, and the people are cool.

Cheers!

AB/InBev to Redner: “I can haz CCB?”

•February 9, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The past 48 hours in the Florida beer world has been an experience in shoddy reporting, mind-numbing knee-jerk reactionism, and ultimately comedy. This is what happens when a hack writer takes an innocuous piece of information, surrounds it with vague claims and speculation, and then releases it under the guise of “industry news”. And then other online sources pick it up and run it again as “fact”. Here’s the gist:

A local newspaper ran a story about AB/InBev, the foreign macrobrew corporation that owns Budweiser and claims to make beer “The Hard Way”, reaching out to Cigar City Brewing about an acquisition. Honestly, that is where the article should have ended, because there is no story here. But the author continued on, referencing the much-bashed Superbowl ad, the recent acquisition of Seattle’s Elysian Brewing, and other potential targets (including the very vocal anti-AB breweries Intuition (Jacksonville) and Due South (Boynton Beach). What gets glossed over is probably the most important part of the article, a direct quote from CCB owner, Joey Redner: “We have been approached about having a more in-depth meeting. There hasn’t been a second meeting.”

ABI-CCB

Not surprisingly, reaction from the beer geeks in Florida was fast and furious, with vows to never let Cigar City touch their lips again if the sale happened, to the claim that the Tampa brewery’s sale would not have any effect on Tampa Bay’s beer scene “at all”. The venom was prolific, the hyperbole pretty astonishing. And the journalistic merits of the article itself heavily called into question, and rightly so.

But here are some facts for you:

  • AB/InBev acquires other businesses as part of their business model. That is not new to anyone who follows the industry. They own Goose Island in Chicago. They have minority ownership in Redhook, Widmer, and Kona Brewing. These are not stupid people running AB/InBev. They see the market trends and the assess how they can profit from them. Like it or not, it is an effective model.
  • Cigar City Brewing is successful, well recognized, and in the top tier of Florida breweries in regards to size and perceived value. Of course ABI would be interested.
  • Cigar City Brewing is also a business, and Joey Redner is a businessman. A smart businessman listens to business propositions, even if he has no intention of taking any action. One of Joey’s comments about this whole deal was “We talk with private equity folks all the time. You always take the meeting because information is cool.”

So, does this mean Cigar City is next to be gobbled up by ABI? In a word: no. I give you the following quotes from Joey Redner and head brewer Wayne Wambles:

Wayne (in response to the suggestion of Jai Alai national distribution) – There would not be immediate increase in Jai Alai production in such a manner to distribute nation wide. It is impossible to do that and have the beer be true to brand. The big issue is the allocation of hops to produce the beer. Some of the hops are not standard issue. At that point, the brand would out grow the raw material chain. It’s inevitable either way.

Joey – So that meeting took place BEFORE the 10 Barrel and Elysian deals closed. There hasn’t been a second meeting in that time. Draw your own conclusions and remember newspapers can troll too.

Joey – It is a moot point anyway. We took a meeting. It ain’t much of a story.

Wayne (posted on his Facebook wall) – We are not selling to AB. If you read this, please spread the word.
I am humbled by the fact that many people are concerned and have sent me personal messages but everything is fine.
Enjoy your beer and relax.

Is that clear enough for you?  Does that mean Cigar City will never be sold? Of course not. Remember that part about Joey being a businessman? I’ll give you one last quote:

Joey – For a hundred million, I’d stop liking beer.

One thing that so many of the beer lovers forget is that while we all like to think it is all about the beer, for the people that do the brewing and run the breweries, it is also about the business. At the end of the day, when they do the books, the numbers better be black. While very few people get into brewing to get rich, none go in to fail.

A word of caution before I sign off: beware articles about the industry written by someone with little knowledge of it. And before you go screaming to the heavens “WHY HATH THOU FORSAKEN MY BEER?!?!” you need to a) gain a little perspective, and b) maybe ask around to get clarity on things.

Cheers.

That’s what woods are for… For those moments in the woods…

•February 5, 2015 • Leave a Comment

We are moving into February swiftly, and that means the beer events are coming fast and furious… We have already had the Cajun cafe on the Bayou Cider and Mead Fest (which I missed, unfortunately), and tonight is the celebration of the Ale & the Witch’s 4th anniversary! Congrats, by the way, to Brett and his staff for taking a ghost-town of a plaza and turning into the place to be in St. Pete for beer lovers.

featureslider_lostinthewoods_2015_s

This weekend the Witch is having a very special event alongside New Belgium Brewing called Lost in the Woods. This very limited ticketed event is a simultaneous one across the country, a New Belgium Brewing 2015 release party of their La Folie.

Only 50 seats total are available for this event which includes:
Meet up at the Bar at 8:30 to check in and get a Le Terroir Draft (an American sour aged in New Belgium Foeders then dry hopped w/ Amarillo hops).
The group then goes upstairs for a private dessert & sour pairing including these:

La Folie 2015 draft serving paired w/ a fig bread w/ apple & fennel jam, taleggio, candied bacon & tarragon.

Transatlantic Kriek 2015 draft serving paired w/ fromage fraiche w/ roasted cherries & chocolate toffee.
New Belgium Love/Felix aged in cherry whiskey barrels draft serving paired w/ Tahitian vanilla ice cream.

After the dessert pairings all ticket holders receive a bottle of the 2015 La Folie (before it is even available in the stores).

Desserts are created and made by local chef Jeffrey Jew.

A live video feed will be on from inside the New Belgium Brewing’s Foeder Forest in Fort Collins, CO  and a toast will be made across the country with all participating release parties and the Brewery itself.

Cheers to 2015 La Folie and the release of another amazing blended year.

The tasting notes of the rare keg from the Brewery only available here and there:
(NBB Love/Felix aged in Cherry Whiskey Barrel) – 8.5% abv
This is a single source delight from one special foeder of perfectly soured Felix our light base beer. When tasting through the cellar, we found it deliciously complex all on its own, no blending necessary! We then laid it down in a Cherry Whiskey barrel from Leopold Brothers Distillery. This peaches n’ cream-colored beer shines with a light glowing haze. The fruity color is reflected in the aroma, decadently rich and syrupy in cherries and almonds with a zippy grapefruit pith added in. Big blast of oak vanillin in from aging in the whiskey barrel, giving the impression of a slice of tart cherry pie a la mode when they combine with the fruits. As expected, a brisk, puckering, enduring sourness is in the fore, offset somewhat by the slight cherry sweetness in the background. The medium body finishes dry and crisp, readying you for the next sip.

Lost in the Woods
Get your tickets at the bar in person only as they are $30 each and this event will sell out (if it hasn’t already) so plan ahead.

Lots more to come in the next few days!

Cheers!

Dads Who Cook… And Drink Beer…

•January 21, 2015 • 2 Comments

dadcook

There was a time where it was unusual for fathers to be present in the kitchen at home. To some, the idea of dad making dinner was as absurd as mom working in the office. Those days are long gone. Cooking – be it professional or at home – knows no gender. I fancy myself a pretty good cook, and I learned a lot from my father, who was (and still is) an excellent cook. I especially enjoy cooking from scratch, or at least not from packages. Putting together ingredients and combining flavors is a melding of science and art that – when done well – is rarely matched in other parts of life.

Regardless of what I am cooking, from the most basic spaghetti and butter to a multi-stage, five course feast, a constant no matter what is (you guessed it) good beer to drink while cooking. This is not the time for the Imperial stouts or double IPAs; you don’t want to dull your senses or wreck your palate! Everyone has their favorites, but I find a good pale ale or lower ABV IPA works well. Cigar City Invasion Pale, Tampa Bay Brewing Company Reef Donkey APA, and Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale are my go-to beers in these instances. Sierra Nevada Pale is also a great around-the-kitchen brew.

Why do I bring this up? Because I recently discovered Dad’s Diner, a new web series that is simply dads like me cooking up simple but tasty recipes for their kids, all while enjoying a beer or two and having fun.

With some easy to follow videos, and a good serving of humor, I am looking forward to what these guys are going to put out over the next few months. Ken, Scott, and Josh are the main dads behind Dad’s Diner, and all now live in Los Angeles (my hometown). This is the excerpt from their page:

Ken is the only LA native of the group. Ken has always felt at home in the kitchen, so much so that he let us film the series in his kitchen. Sushi would rank as his favorite food. Watching the Seahawks would rank as his favorite past time. When he’s not eating or watching the game, he works as a web designer.
Scott is the brains of the outfit. Born in Detroit, once he got a taste of the L.A. lifestyle, he never left. Scott is a writer, director, omnivore and food scientist (you’ll see his sous vide machine soon). There is nothing Scott won’t eat, particularly if it is covered in bacon.
Josh was born in Chicago, and has been an avid eater ever since. He emigrated to SoCal for film school. He enjoys woodworking, fly fishing, and craft beer (time permitting). But the question always on his mind is “what should we eat next?”

I think I may have to track them down next time I am in LA. Maybe I’ll bring some local Florida beers to share! In the meantime, check out their first episode.

Cheers!

corruptissima re publica plurimae leges

•January 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

“When the republic is at its most corrupt the laws are most numerous.” – Tacitus

It is January, 2015, and you know what that means! Yep, the battle begins anew. For anyone who is new to the Florida Beer War, I will give you a quick summary of 2014: it was a stalemate. The growing brewing industry in the Sunshine State attempted to get some of the laws regarding container sizes adjusted to put us more in line with other states by allowing 64 ounce growlers (you know, the standard size that every other state uses?), and to allow tastings in retail outlets similar to the way wine has been done for a long time. There was nothing hidden in the agenda, there was no change of anything else.  The effort was met with a full-frontal assault on the brewing industry by distributor industry juggernaut, Florida Beer Wholesalers Association. The result was several counter-bills filed by bought-and-paid-for politicians (with zero understanding of the industry) that would have seriously impacted breweries abilities to do business and survive. Luckily, a tide rose against them, and these bills were shot down. There were some attempts at compromise, but it became clear that even though there was some movement within the industry, the politicians were entrenched, and resorted to patronizing comments about “mommy knows best” when it became clear they would not get their (and their donors’) way.

stargel

So much for less government intrusion, eh?

It was with cautious optimism that many people watched as notable brewery representatives sat down with their counterparts in the distribution tier to discuss what might be for 2015. Talk of “clean” growler legislation right off the bat had lots of people thinking we had finally won the day. Growler stations began popping up in retailers around the state, something no one thought they’d see. Even big retailers like ABC were getting on board! Could our message have been heard loud and clear and the other side have a change of heart?

To quote the Dread Pirate Roberts, “Life is pain, princess. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.”

Recognizing that there was no appetite for legislation restricting brewery activity even further than it already was, industry groups have colluded to take the fight away from the legislative side (and away from public forums) by filing a law suit against the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco for “incorrectly” enforcing existing law. Led by the Florida Independent Spirits Association, Inc. and the Florida Retail Federation, and backed by not only the now-infamous FBWH, but the Beer Industry of Florida (the other big distributor group) as well, the assault has begun anew, flush with many of the same claims about “protecting consumers” and “maintaining fairness” and “clarifying the laws”. Not surprisingly, few – if any – in the brewing industry see it that way. In fact, they feel very much under attack by a bigger and much-better funded bully.

I won’t try to sum up the lawsuit itself. I am not a lawyer, and frankly, the details of the suit are not the point for me. If you want an analysis of it, you should read Ross Appel’s explanation of what is going on. There has been a very vocal outcry in response to this lawsuit from across the spectrum. Breweries, consumers, retailers, and so on are all angry that, once again, powerful special interests are pushing actions that are going to hurt existing and prospective local breweries. (By the way, Eric Criss, the claim that “such clarification will not impact brewers who currently hold retail licenses; and furthermore, that it will protect the public by preserving Florida’s state-based alcohol regulatory system” is cynical and disingenuous at best!)

The Florida Brewers Guild is gearing up for a fight. This is a different battlefield than the legislature. You can’t win people over with facts and presentations and a line of supporters pleading your case, and public comment is limited to social media and the web… and your dollars. Legal battles are rarely cheap, so FBG is asking for your help through a crowdsourcing effort. If you can, check it out and donate whatever works for you. They need every bit of help they can get.

Don't Tread On Craft Beer

T-Shirt Design by Hopcloth

But something else has been bothering me for a while now. I have heard it mentioned once or twice in conversations I have had with friends and colleagues, but it didn’t start to gel until this past week. What if this isn’t about Florida breweries at all?

I’ll let you think about that for a moment.

It is easy for those of us active in the community to think we are legion in numbers. We see endless beer posts every day, see lots of people at our favorite places, and it seems like there is always news of another brewery opening up nearby. But the reality is, we are still very small in the larger world of adult beverages. Consumers of craft beer – as defined by the Brewers Association – still only make up single-digit percentages of the beer sold in the U.S. Yes, it is growing every year, but big beer is still making billions, if not trillions. Yes, they are losing shelf and tap space in some markets, but they are really doing just fine. And let’s look at who the driving forces behind this lawsuit are: corporate retailers and distributors.

What would happen if AB/InBev decided to return to Florida and build a new brewery? They certainly can afford to, and probably could make it as slick and inviting and fun as anyone. And let’s say they decided to open a tasting room as well. All kinds of AB products available, fresh on tap. Even some “limited release” stuff. And some bottle releases. And you know, since we’re here, lets through some cases of Bud and Michelob and Shock Top in the big fancy walk-in cooler as well. Since they are a tasting room, attached to a brewery, why not?  And, as far as I know, there is no law that says their prices have to be higher than the retail stores like ABC or Publix. So now, you can swing into the taproom on your way to the frat-house and get fresh long-necks… for cheaper than the store.

Suddenly, ABI is now circumventing the second tier. And they are doing well, so they open another one. And another. And then use their considerable clout to push for a relaxation of distribution law. And the distributor is cut out of the equation entirely. I guarantee you, they are much more worried about losing sales of Bud Light than they are of any of the local breweries.

So, I may be playing at conjecture here, but it is an interesting idea.

In the meantime, we have work to do. While this is not currently a legislative issue, it might turn in to one. You can be sure that this fight will have numerous fronts, and we need to be ready to fight on all of them. That means educating our legislators and the public, it means letting the trade groups know how you feel about what is happening, and most importantly, it means supporting your local breweries and locally owned retailers. Know where your favorite places stand on the issue. If they don’t know, educate them.

But be nice.

Look at your local representative’s record on the issues last session, and see how they voted. If they were on the wrong side, let them know.

But be nice.

Post comments to the trade groups (apparently they are asking us too!) and tell them what you think.

But be nice.

Remember that ugly attacks simply do not work. In fact, they make us look like idiots. Use facts. Use stories. Try to refrain from profanity (I know it is hard sometimes). And go sign this petition. Every bit helps.

This is a fight that will go on a while, until Florida can scratch and claw its way towards the mindset that places like Oregon, Colorado, Washington, and Michigan have (in regards to beer, anyway).

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and I will do my small part to try to keep the dialogue going and the information flowing.

Cheers.

Florida Breweries

Skål! Swedish Glögg in the Nordquist tradition continues…

•December 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment

If you have not noticed, I have been absent from this virtual place for some time. Life has a funny way of barreling forward at a breakneck speed, regardless of one’s needs or intentions. We’ve all heard the mantra “life is what happens when you are making other plans.” So, in a nutshell, I have simply been otherwise occupied with work, school, and life to keep this blog updated over the past several months. And that is all I will say about that.

It is winter, now. The holiday season is upon us, ready or not. Lights are going up, trees are being decorated, and the chilly Florida weather has decended into the nigh unbearable 50-60 degree temperatures. By Odin’s beard, I am forced to wear SOCKS!

But I digress…

Holiday traditions are as varied as the people that celebrate them. Ask any person what evokes that holiday spirit in them, and you will be given answers across the spectrum or sights and sounds and smells and tastes. For some it is that first cold day, or the first snowflake. For others it is the sound of carols being played on the radio or the decorations going up around the neighborhood. In our home, we always celebrated Christmas, and the real indicator that the holiday was close was when my father made his traditional Swedish meatballs and cooked up the family Glögg. To fully explain what Glögg is and means to those that participate in the tradition, I have to defer to my father’s own words on the subject.

I post this every year, usually right around the time I make my own batch… which is scheduled for tonight, in fact…

“Glögg, with an umlaut over the “o,” and unpronounceable until imbibed, is a Swedish mulled wine drink that has been served in my family since the dawn of creation. I am told that “Glögg” means “glow” and comes from the traditional way of heating it by plunging a glowing poker from the fire into it. Like reality, Glögg is constructed, and like reality, mutable from one iteration to the next. The origins of the recipe are lost in the fog of Swedish woods, but this is how it goes today:

Take a big pot (size depends on how much you are going to make – multiply the following quantities to increase the volume) and put in a cup of water and a handful of raisins. Make several cheesecloth bags of spices containing about 5 cardamom seeds each (shell cracked) and 5 whole cloves each, as well as a large pinch of orange zest. Fling it in the pot along with 5 or 6 sticks of cinnamon. Over time you can experiment with spice proportions to mutate the taste to suit yours –a variation of “survival of the fittest”. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, add a cup of red wine, and simmer for 15 more minutes [to absorb the concentrated flavors of the spices]. Add a bottle of red wine, cheap but flavorful, and a bottle of port – I use tawny. Cover and heat until steaming, but not boiling. Simmering it uncovered and/or boiling it removes the alcohol, thus altering the fabric of space-time, and wasting everyone’s time.

Glögg can be drunk at anytime after completion, but it is best if it sits in the refrigerator for a few days before serving. Be careful when you reheat not to bring it to a boil. Keep it covered when hot. Serve it in a small cup, being sure to include a few raisins, along with a small spoon.

Part of the tradition is to reserve a small portion from year to year to add to each new vintage. This has all manner of metaphoric virtues. I like to think that I am drinking the same Glögg that my dad and I drank 50 years ago, and his father (“Far Far”) before him, and my son and daughter after me.” – John Nordquist (my father)

I have been making Glögg now for most of my adult life, having begun with the addition of a “starter” from my father. The aroma of the spices and wine filling the house have come to symbolize what the holidays mean to me: family, friendship, and an open home to all passers-by.

Cheers!

Halfway There – The Official Announcement

•August 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Halfway There 2014

On Monday, August 25th, Tampa Bay Beer Week put out the following press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

TAMPA BAY BEER WEEK presents
HALFWAY THERE, A Rare Beer Festival

Saturday, September 6th
5pm VIP admission, 6pm General Admission

The Coliseum
535 4th Ave N, St Petersburg, FL 33701

HALFWAY THERE is Tampa Bay Beer Week’s mid-year event marking the “halfway” point to our week long celebration of beer that occurs in March. This beer festival features rare and one-off beers from your favorite local breweries and breweries around the globe. This year we are pouring beers from 6 distributors, 8 local home brew clubs and over 55 breweries. This is the largest number of breweries any Florida beer festival has ever seen.

Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/halfway-there-2014-a-rare-beer-festival-tickets-12437538011

VIP tickets ($75) include a commemorative tasting glass, 2015 TBBW shirt* and one hour early entry. GA tickets ($50) include a commemorative tasting glass. All admission includes unlimited samples during serving times. We encourage people to drink responsibly and stay hydrated.

TICKETS ARE LIMITED. We will NOT oversell this event. We aim to keep crowd level at a comfortable level with short as possible lines. Visit TampaBayBeerWeek.com for a complete list of breweries, distributors and homebrew clubs participating in the event.

The Wholetones (Naples, FL) will be providing musical entertainment with a live performance on the stage. A unique mix of bluegrass, folk, jazz, and metal, all translated through acoustic instruments will be a perfect pairing with whatever beer is in your glass.

There will a number of food trucks present to keep our guests well fed. Food trucks include** Renny’s Oki Doki, The Cheesesteak Truck and Holy Hog.

Tampa Bay Beer Week is organized and operated by Tampa Bay Beer Week Inc., a 501c6 Not-for-profit organization. Our board consists of brewers, brewery owners, distributors, home brewers and independent beer enthusiasts. Our mission is to Celebrate Tampa Bay beer culture and showcase the area as an emerging and vibrant craft and specialty beer destination.

The inaugural Tampa Bay Beer Week was established in 2012, and has since hosted more than 750 events. Ranging from large-scale festivals to beer tastings, beer dinners and more, the success of TBBW has been a major factor in the continuing growth of the Tampa Bay area craft beer community. Tampa Bay Beer Week begins on the first Saturday of March and ends 8 days later. Our annual mid-year festival, Halfway There, is our major fundraising event that occurs in September.

* While supplies last, sizes and variety limited. Shirt may be redeemed at a later date.
* * Food trucks subject to change

- end of release -2015 TBBW T-Shirts

Also, we have our first images of the new 2015 TBBW T-shirts! These will be available at Halfway There! Get some! 

Cheers!

 
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