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

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“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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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…

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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.

When Worlds Collide…

•April 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment

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There are times in one’s life where seemingly completely separate aspects come together. Professional and personal, work and hobby, and so on. These are the moments where amazing things can happen.

For some, the Bad-Ass Beer Fest at Tampa Bay Brewing Company in Westchase is just an awesome time to drink some of the best beers in Florida, listen to great music, and hang out with a whole lot of cool people. And it is, if you are in to that sort of thing.

For me, this year’s event marks a significant event where my passions come together as the amazing folks at TBBC have chosen the Ocean Media Institute as their charity to donate the proceeds of the fest to. if you only know me from the beer world, you may not know that ocean literacy, conservation, education, and outreach are what I do. My calling, if you will. Last year I joined the board of directors of OMI and have since been working to offer programs and events to raise awareness (and funds) for our initiatives. That has helped me launch the Brews for the Blue initiative (which you will be hearing more about soon) and start to bring my two loves together.

But this weekend is all about Bad-Ass Beer Fest III. Nearly fifty breweries represented, three different bands playing, food trucks, and of course all of the cool people that will be in attendance. All of the proceeds from this festival will be going to the Ocean Media Institute, and in addition there will be a raffle to raise some additional money.

2 winners fish and drink the day away as guests of TBBC head brewer dave Doble and I on the Reef Donkey APA Charter Fishing Boat docked at Old Bay Cafe in Dunedin. Tickets will be available during the festival, including the occasional wandering Viking…
$1 – 1 raffle ticket
$10 – 15 raffle tickets
$20 – 35 raffle tickets

So come join us! Celebrate great beer, the amazing ocean we all depend on, and have an amazing, Bad-Ass time!

Cheers!

P.S. You can check out the quick TV spot Dave and I did on Studio 10 Live yesterday!

 

How Do You Beer Week?

•March 8, 2016 • 1 Comment

We are in the thick of it, beer friends! The big weekend has flown by and we are rolling full steam into the rest of this amazing thing we call Tampa Bay Beer Week. So here is a little recap…

On Friday, we held the inaugural Ultimate Brewer challenge, and the participants did not disappoint. Thirteen breweries from around the area competed in a blind taste off, using their creativity and know how to brings these crazy flavors to life in beer form. The big winner of the night was Brew Bus Brewing with their Vanilla Jalapeno brew, taking the championship and having their name etched in the history books.

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Brewer Kevin Butler of Brew Bus Brewing hoists the inaugural Ultimate Brewer cup.

Other beers in the lineup were:

Brew Bus Brewing – Vanilla Bean & Jalapeno (1st Place)
3 Daughters Brewing – White Chocolate & Pistachios (2nd Place)
Southern Brewing & Winemaking – Onions (Third Place)
Rapp Brewing – Orange & Old Bay
Mastry’s Brewing – Coffee & Curry
HOB (House of Beer) Brewing – Cinnamon & Lemon Peel
Cigar City Brewing – Horseradish
7venth Sun Brewing – Toffee & Bananas
Pinellas Ale Works – Thyme & Peaches
Green Bench Brewing – Bacon & Jalapenos
St. Pete Brewing Company – Oysters & Hot Sauce
Crooked Thumb Brewing – Maple Syrup & Pears
Stilt House Brewing – Dark Chocolate & Mango

A huge congrats to everyone who participated. I think it was a fun and interesting event and I can’t wait until the next one.

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Fest goer Eric Hovland tasting the runner up brew from 3 Daughters Brewing: White Chocolate & Pistachio Pale Ale (look at that color!!!)

Saturday was the annual Florida Brewers Guild Festival, where Florida’s breweries get a chance to gather, drink some of the best beers in the state, reconnect with old friends, and meet new ones. It is amazing to me how every year there are more and more participants, and the quality of beers being made just gets better and better. I also enjoyed seeing new breweries that I had never heard of. The big question I am always asked is “so what was your favorite beer?”  Well, I am not going to fall in to that trap, but I will mention a few standouts for me. (Note: I am not mentioning the incredible beers that I have had before… that would take forever…)

Barrel of Monks – The Raspberry Quad was amazing. This was my first brew from the Boca Raton brewery, and I was blown away by the complexity and sheer awesomeness of it. Of course, it never hurts when you have the lovely Brother Phil Palmisano pouring for you…

Due South Brewing – I am a total fanboy for these guys out of Boynton Beach, I’ll admit, but they always bring it big time. The Silky Johnson Peanut Butter Chocolate Stout is everything you would want it to be and more.

Ulele Spring Brewery – Most of the beers I have had from Ulele (located in Tampa) are light in style and not really in my wheelhouse. But I got to try a barrel-aged dark lager on Saturday that was rich and complex and interesting. Now I am going to have to visit the restaurant as well!

Tampa Bay Beer Week – Guava Passionfruit Floridaweisse. Yeah, total homer move, but this beer that Coppertail Brewing did for us was outstanding. Perfect for the warm Florida day, light, tart, and delicious. And lots of other people said so, so it’s not just me!

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Tres Beerigos: Brother Phil with #ThatDamnTomBarris and the Most Dangerous Man in Craft Beer

Sunday brought us to the Best Florida Beer Championship’s Brewer’s Ball. This is a special event that celebrates the best of the best in Florida breweries. Ninety-three beers selected from 558 entries, thirty-one styles. Each style awarded a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal. All the medal winners available to sample and savor while enjoying the company of the brewers themselves, the gorgeous riverfront at Water Works Park in Tampa. Definitely one of the best festivals each year. Big congratulations to all of the trophy winners, too. it is a huge honor, well deserved.

Best Small Batch Beer 2016 – Vultures from the Past, 7venth Sun Brewing Co.
Best Beer in Florida 2016 – Oktoberfest, Big Storm Brewing Co.

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Big Storm Brewing Company wins Best Beer in Florida for their outstanding Oktoberfest Marzen Lager.

Runner-Up Best Small Batch Beer 2016 – Not Your Heidi Klum Blonde, Southern Brewing
Runner-Up Best Beer in Florida 2016 – KUMquat, Tampa Bay Brewing
Best Mead or Cider 2016 – The Strange, Cigar City Cider and Mead

2nd Runner-Up Best Small Batch Beer 2016 – Chocolate Stout, Fort Myers Brewing Co.
2nd Runner-Up Best Beer in Florida 2016 – Cruiser Kolsch, Motorworks Brewing

Best Small Brewery – 7Venth Sun Brewing Co.
Best Brewery – Fort Myers Brewing Co.
Best Brewpub – Tampa Bay Brewing Company

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Vicki and John Doble of Tampa Bay Brewing Company holding the trophy for Best Brewpub

For a full list of all of the beers that won medals, you can check out the Best Florida Beer Championship Page.

So again, personal favorites? Among the new beers I got to try, there were a couple standouts:

Escape Brewing Company – I had always heard good things about this New Port Richey brewery, but have never had the opportunity to try any of their beers. The Other West Coast IPA was well deserving of it’s gold medal for sure.

Tomoka Brewing – I have known Jen and Peter from Tomoka since before they opened, and they have impressed in the past with some great offerings. Their Tangerine Florida Weisse was amazing and earned a Silver medal to bring back to Port Orange.

Grasslands Brewing – Pickle Tickle Dill Gose. Yeah, you read that right. And this gold medal winning beer was exactly what you would expect. It hit every note just right, from the garlic to the dill to the cucumber. it was definitely the talk of the fest, and people kept coming back for more.

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Pickle Tickle Gose from Grasslands Brewing Company in Tallahassee

The weekend was amazing, an excellent beginning to Beer Week. And it is only Tuesday… what does the rest of the week hold for us?

Cheers!

 
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