Holiday Cheer at the Pier, in Prose Form

•December 7, 2016 • Leave a Comment

festival

Hopefully you enjoyed yesterday’s attempt at some literary calisthenics with a beer-y twist on Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit From St. Nicolas”. All in good fun, of course. But for those who prefer straight, to-the-point information about such matters, let’s talk about Tampa Bay Beer Week‘s upcoming Winter break beer festival and fundraiser: Holiday Cheer at the Pier. Here are the need-to-know details:

Date: Friday, December 16th
Time: 6pm-10pm (VIP gets in at 5pm)
Location: Hops & Props, 335 2nd Ave NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
General Admission: $50
VIP Admission: $75
Tickets available at: http://stpetecheers.brownpaperticket.com/

So, what do you get for your ticket? Let’s talk beer, first. Here is just a small sample of what will be poured:
Barley Mow Brewing Co. – Tinsel Holiday Spiced Ale
Rock Brothers Brewing – Rebelution IPA
Proof Brewing – Creatures in the Dark
Weyerbacher Brewing Co. – Sunday Mole Stout
81Bay Brewing – Goliath Double Chocolate Porter
Intuition Ale Works – Regal Rapture
Coppertail Brewing – Cryptid Imperial Stout
Dunedin Brewery – 2016 Holiday Phruitcake
JDUB’s Brewing – Cranberry Saison
Darwin’s Brewing Co. – Charapa Spiced Porter
Crooked Thumb Brewery – Dark Chocolate Peppermint Bark Stout
Cigar City Brewing – Hunahpu Imperial Stout
Draai Laag Relic
Fantome Saison
Ritterguts Barentoter
…and more!

santabeer

Feeling a bit peckish? Need to nosh on something while you imbibe these great liquids? Fear not, revelers! Food trucks will be on hand to satisfy.

To help set the mood, there will be live music playing for your enjoyment, spreading holiday cheer and merriment.

Speaking of spreading cheer and merriment, all attendees are highly encouraged to dress festively! Show off your most awesome, most special, and most epic holiday outfit. Show everyone that the spirit of the holidays lives in you!

What’s that? You are waiting for me to talk about the VIP tickets? Wanna know what you are getting above and beyond the General Admission, the amazing beers, delicious food, seasonal music, and great company?  Well scoot in closer, kids… Beer for the Daddy has a story for you…

On a cold* winter night, the magic elves at Hops & Props are closing their doors to the outside world and creating a place of magic and wonder. Only those sprinkled with magic winter dust** will be allowed inside, and what to their wondering eyes should appear, but all special taps, and bottles of great beer! (Sorry… sneaking in a little more C.C. Moore there…)

holiday-taps

VIPs (and there will be a very limited number of tickets available) will receive – in addition to all the aforementioned awesomeness, the following:

  • one hour early admission to the festival
  • access to the inside bar at Hops & Props, and all of the goodies inside (including the air conditioning and bathroom facilities)
  • special hors d’oeuvres from the Hops & Props kitchen
  • special taps and bottles (here is a small teaser… more to come soon)
    • Saison DuPont Bons Voeux
    • Corsendonk Christmas
    • Barley Mow Dark Track
    • Motorworks Datil
    • Weyerbacher Brunicorn
    • CCB Bourbon Barrel Zhukov

Are you excited yet? Do you feel that old Christmas (or Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah, or just some quantum fluctuation…) magic flowing through you yet?  Of course you do.

So go buy your tickets now. It is that simple. Heck, buy one for a friend, and ensure your place on Santa’s “Nice List”. It can’t hurt, right?

*  cold is relative. the average temperature in St. Petersburg for December 16th typically varies from 60°F to 69°F and is rarely below 51°F or above 78°F.
** a.k.a. VIP wristbands

Holiday Cheer at the Pier, or A Visit from Tampa Bay Beer Week

•December 6, 2016 • 3 Comments

festival

‘Twas two weeks before Christmas, and all ‘cross the Bay
All the beer geeks were wondering: “Just where can we play?”
The growlers all sat on the counter to dry,
Recently emptied, and turned to the sky

The brewers were covered in wet hops and yeast,
Their work never done, no not in the least.
Distributors were scrambling with the holiday slam,
And retailers stocking, how much beer can they cram?!

When out by the Pier (or where it used to stand),
Came the sounds of corks popping, and a great one man band.
So off to downtown, I Uber’d a ride,
It was just what we needed for this year’s Yuletide.

The moon on the water, near the lovely Vinoy
I brought food to donate, and an unopened toy.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But the great folks of Beer Week, pouring great beer.

I told my young driver, “Thanks, this is my stop.”
And she pulled up in front, at the the ol’ Hops and Props.
I gave her five stars, then walked in to the scene,
Saw the usual suspects, the whole gosh-darn team!

“Hey, Lovett! Hey, Fairchild! Veronica and Jess!
Hi, Casey! (Dammit Barris, you’re making a mess!)
And Nordquist and Gabby, and Barry Elwonger,
And Jeromy Dana!” (This list just gets longer!)

I walked to the tent where the liquid was pouring,
I knew all the taps would be anything but boring.
With delicious beer flowing from all ’round the world,
I started my tasting, ’round the festival I whirled.

With Barley Mow’s Tinsel, then Creatures from Proof
A bottle of Fantome that was just through the roof.
I stopped by a food truck from south of the border,
Then washed it all down with Charapa Spiced Porter.

The beer-how it bubbled! It’s color so merry!
I sampled the JDUB’s Saison with cranberry!
I sipped on Goliath from 81Bay Brewing,
Then Hopquest; Tomoka, they know what they’re doing.

A wee pour of Phruitcake, my tastebuds did hum
And Peppermint Bark Stout, from old Crooked Thumb
The brews were amazing, there’s simply no doubt
I rounded it off with a Cryptid Imp Stout.

I strolled inside next, it was something to see
A whole special lineup, just for VIPs.
There was Corsendonk Christmas, and that Brunicorn,
And Cigar City bottles; it was straight up beer porn!

But the best thing of all, though the beer was all grand,
Was the knowledge that we all were lending a hand,
There are folks in our town that are having it tough,
And trying to have Christmas, though things are rough.

To keep people safe, we help out The Spring,
’cause Christmas means hope, and lots of loving.
Affordable Christmas gives families a chance
to buy presents for children in hard circumstance.

We all love our beer, but its the people that matter,
In a world that feels like it’s as mad as a hatter.
So join us as we, the purveyors of beer,
Raise a glass at the Holiday Cheer at the Pier!

(Buy your tickets online, you’ll be on the list!
Because this is one party you won’t want to miss.
VIP’s even better, you’ll get so much more
With food and the inside and special tap pours!)

Why Education Matters – Part II

•October 31, 2016 • Leave a Comment

In July, I wrote about education in the beer industry. I spoke in general terms about product knowledge, proper serving techniques, and so on. This kind of training is what separates the standard bartender or server from the ones that bring value to a business. Being able to have a conversation with the person who is pouring my beer about what is going to make my experience better can make the difference between whether or not I have a second drink, or if I decide that I am not coming back.

Anyone who has tended bar know that much of the job is simply about attitude and demeanor. There is no set formula, but patrons respond to personality nearly as much as they do the quality of service. You may be able to pour a great drink, but if you are dull or offensive, the chances of a good tip diminish greatly. The same is true in reverse. The greatest personality in the world can’t make up for a badly poured drink, or a lack of knowledge and understanding about what is being served.

Bartender is pouring beer into glass

So what is a friendly, competent, but un-knowledgeable beer pourer to do? On-the-job training is probably the most common way people learn about their job. Veteran bartenders train the new ones, servers train their new hires, and so on. Every establishment has their own quirks and ways of doing things, but the lack of a uniform understanding of the proper way to serve, store, and talk about beer is obvious.

In the wine world, the word “sommelier” designates those with proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving fine wine. At one time, some beer servers adopted the title “beer sommelier” to tie into the credibility of the wine world. With the beer industry in the middle of a Renaissance, a designation has emerged as the industry standard for identifying those with significant knowledge and professional skills in beer sales and service.

“The word Cicerone (sis-uh-rohn) designates hospitality professionals with proven experience in selecting, acquiring, and serving today’s wide range of beers. To claim the title of Cicerone, one must earn the trademarked title of Certified Cicerone® or hold higher certification as Advanced Cicerone™ or Master Cicerone®. Those with a basic level of expertise gain recognition by earning the first-level title Certified Beer Server.” – from the Cicerone.org website

The Cicerone Certification Program provides industry professionals, business owners, and consumers an assurance that prospective beer servers are well trained and knowledgeable in the subject of beer.

The different levels of expertise offered by the CCP range from the Certified Beer Server to the Master Cicerone®. These certifications all require a passing grade on an exam. The exams are challenging, and are increasingly more in-depth and intensive at the higher levels. In most cases, prospective Cicerone candidates study extensively and attend some kind of training course to prepare for the exams.

I am thrilled to be able to bring this type of training to my work at Hillsborough Community College and the Institute for Corporate and Continuing Education.

HCC ICCE- Beer Industry Training from Austin McCurry on Vimeo.

Want to know more? Visit the registration pages for the different courses at Tampa Training.

 

Cheers!

Beer and Food – The Way the Gods Intended

•September 14, 2016 • Leave a Comment

hwt90sbanner

“For a quart of ale is a dish for a king.” – William Shakespeare

People frequently talk about pairing wine with food. One often hears the old adage ‘red wine with red meat, white wine with white…’ and so on. You frequently see fine dining establishments hosting wine dinners, usually with a representative from the winery there (or someone from the distributor) to talk about the wines, terroir, and so on. But what about pairing with beer?

As beer culture has grown in popularity, so has the realization that beer is simply a better match for nearly any food. Beer has a wider array of flavors and styles, compliments as well as contrasts with every food from breakfast to bar menu, and allows for a lot more creativity in pairings.

Grilled Octopus

And this is the very soul of what Tampa Bay Beer Week’s Halfway There: A Midway Soiree beer and food event on October 1st. What beer would you pair with some Argentine chimichurri steak tips? How about a mole stout from Weyerbacher? And can you imagine how the chocolate peanut butter blondies from New World Brewery are going to taste with Brew Bus Brewing’s Imperial Baltic Porter?

This is no ordinary beer festival, ticking off obscure beers just to say you had them. No, this is a total sensory experience, put together by the chefs and brewers who make this delicious art come to life.

Keep up with announcements by following Tampa Bay Beer Week on Facebook and Twitter.

Tickets can be purchased HERE

Price: $100 per ticket. Tickets include the following:

  • Entrance to the Event
  • Unlimited samples of unique craft beer and food pairings
  • Tickets for 5 samples in the curated “Bottle Share” area
  • Access to water stations throughout the venue
  • The opportunity to meet and mingle with Owners, Brewers, Chefs, Brewery Representatives and industry leaders
  • A commemorative tasting glass
  • An event program
  • Raffle ticket entry for Grand Prize Drawing

TICKETS ARE LIMITED TO 1000 PARTICIPANTS. This event will NOT be oversold! TBBW intends to keep crowd and traffic flow at a comfortable level. This is an exclusive event, so get your tickets early!! A portion of the proceeds will benefit the National Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The remaining proceeds will be used to benefit the Tampa Bay Beer Week administration, events and goals.

For Media inquiries, please contact info@tampabaybeerweek.com.

 

Halfway There – Celebrating Tampa Bay’s Beer Culture

•September 13, 2016 • 1 Comment

tropicalheader

When planning began for the 2016 Halfway There beer festival, the board members of Tampa Bay Beer Week made the decision to raise the bar. We wanted to elevate the event to another level. The past three events had been excellent, with rare and amazing beers from all over the world, so we wanted to add a new dimension. With Tampa Bay at the epicenter of the beer culture explosion in Florida, we are surrounded by incredible breweries, restaurants, and venues, all set against the backdrop of the beautiful Tampa Bay and Gulf of Mexico. It seemed like the natural progression to expand our horizons.

Halfway There aims to showcase the amazing synergy between food and beer, creating an experience that is titillating to the senses. Guests will have the opportunity to sample meticulously paired craft beer and small plate food offerings, as well as the ability to sample rare beers in a curated bottle share area, while mingling with brewery owners, brewers, chefs and other industry leaders.

foodstuff2

Breweries from around the world will showcase their beers alongside local restaurants in what will be the first event of its kind.  Enjoy duck neck & liver rillettes with cornbread, cranberry gel, and yam marmalade from Tampa’s Elevage alongside Cigar City’s Bourbon Good Gourd Almighty and Hapax Legomenon. Sip Het Anker Lucifer Blonde and Delerium Red while enjoying Salmon Diablo from Clearsky Drughthaus. And why not savor the grilled, Charapa glazed smoked pork riblets from Holy Hog side by side with Darwin Brewing’s Charapa Spiced Porter and Ayawasca Belgian Dubbel? This is just a small taste of what you can expect on October 1st… pun intended.

In addition, a curated bottle share of internationally recognized beers will be available to sample. Special beers from Cigar City, Sierra Nevada, and Weyerbacher will be poured alongside  from St. Bernardus, Straffe Hendrik, and more!

Keep up with announcements by following Tampa Bay Beer Week on Facebook and Twitter.

Tickets can be purchased HERE

Price: $100 per ticket. Tickets include the following:

  • Entrance to the Event
  • Unlimited samples of unique craft beer and food pairings
  • Tickets for 5 samples in the curated “Bottle Share” area
  • Access to water stations throughout the venue
  • The opportunity to meet and mingle with Owners, Brewers, Chefs, Brewery Representatives and industry leaders
  • A commemorative tasting glass
  • An event program
  • Raffle ticket entry for Grand Prize Drawing

TICKETS ARE LIMITED TO 1000 PARTICIPANTS. This event will NOT be oversold! TBBW intends to keep crowd and traffic flow at a comfortable level. This is an exclusive event, so get your tickets early!! A portion of the proceeds will benefit the National Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The remaining proceeds will be used to benefit the Tampa Bay Beer Week administration, events and goals.

How: For Media inquiries, please contact info@tampabaybeerweek.com.

 

Halfway There – A Mid-Way Soirée

•August 10, 2016 • Leave a Comment

HWT2016

TAMPA BAY BEER WEEK presents:
HALFWAY THERE: A MID-WAY SOIRÉE

What: HALFWAY THERE is Tampa Bay Beer Week’s (TBBW) annual charity event marking the “halfway” point to the area’s week-long celebration of craft beer that occurs in early March. This year, TBBW is breaking away from the usual “beer festival” theme and is hosting an exclusive Craft Beer + Food Pairing event that partners local, national and international breweries with Florida-based restaurants. TBBW aims to showcase the amazing synergy between food and beer, creating an experience that is titillating to the senses. Guests will have the opportunity to sample meticulously paired craft beer and small plate food offerings, as well as the ability to sample rare beers in a curated bottle share area, while mingling with brewery owners, brewers, chefs and other industry leaders.

Who: Up to 50 select Florida, national and international breweries will partner with some of the best Florida-based restaurants to come up with extraordinary beer and food pairings. Local homebrew clubs will also showcase their best club beers.  This will be the largest and most diverse beer and food event in the State of Florida to date. 

When: Saturday, October 1, 2016, 4 pm – 8 pm

Where: Port Tampa Bay – Terminal 2 – 1101 Channelside Drive, Tampa FL 33602

How: Tickets will be available at www.tampabaybeerweek.com soon. Keep checking back, and also watch for the announcement on social media.

Price: $100 per ticket. Tickets include the following:

  • Entrance to the Event
  • Unlimited samples of unique craft beer and food pairings
  • Tickets for 5 samples in the curated “Bottle Share” area
  • Access to water stations throughout the venue
  • The opportunity to meet and mingle with Owners, Brewers, Chefs, Brewery Representatives and industry leaders
  • A commemorative tasting glass
  • An event program
  • Raffle ticket entry for Grand Prize Drawing

TICKETS ARE LIMITED TO 1000 PARTICIPANTS. This event will NOT be oversold! TBBW intends to keep crowd and traffic flow at a comfortable level. This is an exclusive event, so get your tickets early!! A portion of the proceeds will benefit the National Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The remaining proceeds will be used to benefit the Tampa Bay Beer Week administration, events and goals.

How: For Media inquiries, please contact info@tampabaybeerweek.com.

About TBBW: Tampa Bay Beer Week is organized and operated by Tampa Bay Beer Week Inc., a 501(c)(6) Not-for-profit organization. The Board of Directors consists of owners and representatives of breweries, craft beer bars, distributors, beer bloggers and non-affiliated beer enthusiasts. TBBW’s mission is to celebrate and promote Tampa Bay craft beer culture and showcase the area as an emerging and vibrant craft beer destination.

Tampa Bay Beer Week was established in 2012 with the cooperation and input of the many key players in the area’s craft beer industry.  Since its inception, TBBW has hosted more than one thousand beer-related events, ranging from large-scale beer festivals to intimate beer tastings, beer dinners and beer releases. The success of Tampa Bay Beer Week has been a major factor in the continuing growth of the Tampa Bay area’s craft beer scene. The Tampa Bay Beer Week celebration begins in early March and lasts for eight days.  The annual mid-year charity event, Halfway There, is TBBW’s major fundraising event that occurs during the fall, nearly six months before Tampa Bay Beer Week festivities.

Why Education Matters – Part I

•July 12, 2016 • 1 Comment

A frequent reply when I mention that I put together beer related classes is (with a laugh) “I’d love to take a class on drinkin’ beer! I’d git an A!” Sometimes it is more of a puffed up “I know how to drink beer already…” Yes, I get it. Ha ha. But let’s take a look at it as professionals, shall we?

We’ll start at the front of the house. When you go in to a restaurant, you have an expectation that the people serving you know the menu, are ready to make suggestions, and are willing to answer your questions.

Server: “Our special tonight is the grilled snapper Vera Cruz with Spanish yellow rice.”
Patron: “Is the snapper locally caught?”
Server: “Yes, sir.”
Patron: “What wine would you recommend?”
Server: “We have a nice Cakebread Chardonnay or if you prefer a red, we have the Shoofly Pinot Noir from Australia.”

This kind of conversation raises no eyebrows in most restaurants and if the server is well trained, they can answer these questions without hesitation. It is not only their job to know the menu and the specials, as well as being ready to make recommendations, but it means a better customer experience which (should) translates to better tips.

beerserver

A good bartender is the same way. It is not enough to know how to pour shots and knock out the usual cocktails; she knows her top shelf liquors, she knows what her bar specializes in, and when someone asks for something she does not have, she is ready with a recommendation.

Customer: “Can I have a Glenmorangie 10 year, please? Neat?”
Bartender: “I’m afraid we don’t carry the Glenmorangie, but have you tried the Macallan 12? It has some of that same vanilla note with similar fruit and sweetness…”

So why do we not see more of this in the beer world? Sure, most (but not all, sadly) tasting rooms and tap houses have pretty knowledgeable staff, well versed in the beers they carry, but the same cannot be said for most restaurants and bars that are new to the craft beer scene. When a server is asked “what’s on tap?”, simply replying “we have Cigar City, Coppertail, and Pair O’ Dice” isn’t very informative, nor is “we have an IPA and a stout”.

But product knowledge is only part of it. How a beer is served is nearly as important. It starts with regularly cleaned taplines, clean glassware, and fresh product. And some basic understanding of beer. I still cringe when I order a beer and it is delivered in a frozen mug. Snobbish? Perhaps, but I like to actually taste the beer I am drinking.  You do know that is why certain beers that shall remain nameless try to push the “serve ice cold” mantra, right? It numbs the taste buds and you do not taste anything. But I digress…

There are right and wrong ways to serve beer, just as there are for wine, cocktails, various food items, and so on. I am not quite as particular about glassware as some (yes, there is a whole ‘ban the shaker pint’ faction out there), but an establishment will get high marks from me for at least attempting.

Does this seem like a lot? Overkill? Much ado about nothing? It is just beer, after all…

beers

And that is the attitude I am working to overcome. Quality matters, from the way something is made to the way it is delivered. It serves everyone better to be educated and informed about their job. As a bartender, you have the opportunity to make more money. As a business owner, you increase the perceived value of your establishment and your employees. As a customer, you appreciate a knowledgeable staff member, and will likely remember your experience in a more positive light.

 
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