2018 Beer Travel Series - Tampa Bay, FL
I just got back from the first trip of the year that involved enough brewery visits /new beer tastings worthy of a post. The temperatures have been pretty brutal in New Jersey this winter and I was eager to head down to Florida to thaw out a bit. I have been lucky enough to get down there around this time for the past three years. One of my college roommates living down there has made it easier to make the trip and has been a great host. I've been dreaming of going down to Tampa to catch some Yankees spring training action and I was able to do so on this trip, which was awesome! I also completed my first organized 5k run so I managed to check some things off my bucket list along with visiting a handful of kick ass breweries. Let's get started.
First up was a small nano brewery outside of St Pete called Arkane Aleworks. The brewery was set in a mini mall flanked by a bar called Mugs and Jugs.....(had to mention it). We walked in to a large wrap around bar with a few fermenters peaking out in the back. The system looked on the small side, maybe a 3 bbl? I could be wrong....I initially saw the stacks of barrels and got excited. SOURS! I grabbed a pint of some beer and explored the rest of the tap room. A back door led to a dirt backyard littered with frisbee golf equipment being enjoyed with a handful of locals. In the back of the yard stood a mexican style food truck feeding Arkane's patrons.
After exploring we grabbed a seat at the bar back in the tap room combed through the tap list and listened in to drunken local conversations about a giant dog that was hanging out behind us. Look's like these guys are doing some cool things with their sours and i'll keep an eye on them. I really enjoyed their dark sour, Funkernickel, which is a dark rye American Sour, inspired by pumpernickel and sour dough breads....Man I really need to get into brewing some sours soon..I also enjoyed their Sour Berliner Weisse, Gimme Swelter. It was described as "Mango Habanero Florida Weiss". It was pretty damn good...
On our way back to Tampa we made a stop a Big Storm Brewing Co. The brewery was pretty impressive as we rolled into the parking lot. The facility looked rather large with bold branding and a grain mill towering above.
As we walked in, the entire back wall was made of glass and you were greeted with about a dozen oversized fermenters. We took a seat at the bar and enjoyed some live music. Big Storm had some accolades that I have read about prior to my visit. They were named the best beer in Florida in 2016 , they had a robust tap list, two taproom locations, billboards on the highways and a beer celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Tampa Bay Lightning. If they were still independent my guess is they may not be for long...I did have a good time and enjoyed some of there beers. Oh and they also had a screen that showed people checking in on Untappd and I kept drinking beers until I filled the screen. I succeeded.
Merchant Nitro Porter
The Lightning Twenty Five
Wavemaker AMber Ale
Firestorm Black IPA (I absolutely thought I was snacking on hop pellets with this one..)
After getting a good nights rest, it was time to head over the George Steinbrenner Field for the Yankees Spring Training Opener. The weather was picture perfect. I won't bore you with my fan-boying, but I had a great time taking in the sights and sounds. I also found a beer stand with some local craft beer and enjoyed an American Pale Ale called, Reef Donkey from Tampa Bay Brewing Company.
After we the game it was time to head over to my most anticipated brewery on the list for this trip, Cigar City. We've been getting a few Cigar City beers in the New Jersey market, but we were limited to their infamous, Jai Alai.
Oh speaking of which.....I just wanted to state the obvious here that I took full advantage of having my fair share of Jai Alai drafts. Anyway, the brewery itself was set in an industrial park and had that organic industrial brewery vibe to it.
As you walk in there were essentially two brewery rooms right next to each other. One bar served up the lighter beers and the back bar had some of their tasty darker beers on tap. Behind the two taprooms stood their brewhouse. I was able to head back there alone and took in the sights in quiet and admired the great beer this brewery has been making. Im hoping to get some more distribution of some of their other styles soon. Before leaving with two arms full of Cigar City merchandise, these are the beers that I was able to enjoy:
Florida Cracker White Ale
Marshal Zhukov's Imperial Stout
Chocolate Chip Pancake Brown Ale (yea...Im going to have to make some pancake type beers soon..)
Invasion Pale Ale
Saturday morning kicked off rather early. It was race day. We participated in the Gasparilla Distance Classic in which I received my celebratory, free Michelob Ultra, pictured here.
The rest of the day/evening consisted of some more brewery visits. I had two more on my list before it was time to head back to Jersey. The first one was a brewery called 7venth Sun. We checked out their newer location right outside Tampa which opened in 2017. The space was great.
Nice and open, with a backdrop of a foeder system which looks like they partner on some beers with Cigar City. The beers were tasty. We knocked back a few laughing at stories of the grand opening night of that location when their air condition failed to work....Oh yea and I picked up a pretty beer nerd shirt listing yeast strains.
Headbanger - American IPA
Graffiti Orange Wheat
Mangrove - Imperial Double IPA
After leaving 7vnth Sun it was time to make the short drive over to Angry Chair Brewing for a Rick Flair themed night! There was talk about this brewery stop since we started to plan this trip. Apparently every year this brewery throws a party to celebrate the legendary Rick Flair.
The brewery is compact, but the atmosphere was very laxed inside the 1,000 sqf taproom. We were sipping on some really nice Stouts. The locals that we were with explained that they were known for the barrel aging beers and had a nice lineup of sours and stouts. I really got a good feeling from Angry Chair in regards to my ulitmate dream of one day going pro with Terra Costa. Everyone was there to have a good time especially on this special night.
There were bartenders dressed up as wrestling referees and beer drinkers dressed as Dusty Rhodes, Brett Hart and Jimmy Hart to name a few. On our way out of the brewery, we walked through their 10 bbl brewhouse and enjoyed one last sour.
Space Grass - IPA
Imperial Triple C's - Imperial Milk Stout
Mangrove - Imperial Double IPA
Vassago - Raspberry Berliner Weiss
Imperial Moon Butter - Imperial Milk Stout w/ cacao + Peanut Butter (umm....yea.)
As we left the brewery after a night of beer tasting I thought back to the blurb that I read on the Angry Chair site: "Everybody has an angry chair, be it work, a traffic jam, or where else. Angry Chair Brewing is about the realization that you have one and the celebration that you can get away from it. We come from a corporate background where we associated these places as our “angry chair” so we wanted to establish a brewery and tasting room to break away from the monotony, the rat race, the white collar world, or wherever your angry chair is." I think we all indeed have an angry chair and life is too short to settle and not follow your dreams. Nice motto guys...I hope to one day follow in your footsteps. Until then...here's what is going on in the Terra Costa Homebrew world!
We're just about ready to wrap up the bottling for NHC. Natas is bottled and has been tasted and wow am I happy with the outcome of this beer....Im really anxious to see how the judges respond to it. We are also in the process of bottling up Rye of the Whale, Come on You Reds and Devils Kettle. Im curious to see how the new Devils Kettle recipe turned out since I cranked up the smoked malt and hop additions.
You better believe that I already have about three new recipes running through my head....Here's a hint.
Spring is coming and it's time for a hop overload. Im also looking to incorporate a pun on Hydrangea flowers because I like them and also incorporate another Portuguese snack into one of our beers. So stay tuned for news on those.
ALSO, I'll be looking to move more of my brewing operation outside to the garage. Im starting to outgrow the little storage space in my basement currently. I also have been paying more and more attention to my fermentation practices and its time to build a proper fermentation chamber. Oh, and I am done with bottling....it's time to install some taps in the garage and move onto the wonderful world of CO2.