Friday, December 31, 2010

My 2011 Brew Years Resolutions

2010 was quite the year for me.  Lots of ups and downs, turnarounds, and so on.  There were some really great changes and happenings, especially towards the end of the year, and I hope to build on those in 2011.  I think I see things more clearly now than I did this time last year.  Hell, I KNOW I am seeing things through different eyes just since October...

And so without further gilding the lily and with no more ado, I give to you: My 2011 Brew Years Resolutions.

  1. Attend GABF in Denver for the first time.  This is a carry-over from last year, but this time I will start planning in January instead of realizing in August I am too late...
  2. Visit more breweries.  Another carry-over.  Just want to continue the trend and see more of the industry.  (This includes finally getting up to Saint Somewhere!)
  3. Attend more local events.  I get to some, but my lack of planning and paying attention has left me missing some great happenings.  Need to rectify that.
  4. More homebrewing.  Four batches a year is pitiful.  I need to brew more, period.
  5. Meet more "beer people" when they come to town and when I am travelling.  Craft beer people (who, as we know, Rgoodpeople) are everywhere.  There is no reason not to meet up.
  6. Be more consistent with my writing.  It takes discipline and time, but there is no reason I cannot meet all of my obligations each week.
  7. Expand my tasting range.  Its easy to fall into a pattern of only IPAs, Imperial Stouts, and the like, but there are so many other great beer choices out there.  I should give them a fair shot as well.
  8. X Project 1: CLASSIFIED - A joint venture with another beer visioneer.  Should be fun and interesting.
  9. X Project 2: CLASSIFIED - Another involvement I have signed up to be a part of.  Not necessarily "fun", but it is important.
  10. Continue to be a vocal craft beer evangelist and advocate both locally and in general.  We are in what looks like a craft beer Renaissance, but there is evil at every turn.  We cannot afford to be complacent.
2011 holds a lot of promise and excitement.  I plan of facing it with beer in hand and determination in my heart.  May everyone have a safe and fun New Years Eve.


 - Beer for the Daddy

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My 2010 Brew Years Resolutions - A Look Back

A year ago, I made my resolutions for 2010 as they related to my life and work in the craft beer world.  Some evolved and changed as time went on, and some I dropped all together when I realized they were not where I wanted to go with my life.  So before I make my new list, Lets review how 2010 turned out:

1. Attend GABF in Denver for the first time. - Didn't happen.  Mostly due to lack of planning on my part, and then conflicting schedules.  Looking to try to make it happen this year.

2. Visit more breweries. - I would say I did okay on this one.  Any time I travelled, I tried to make a point to visit any local breweries I could.  Not as many as I would have liked, but I did make a good effort.

3. Start rating beers. - I stopped doing this almost as quickly as I started.  I enjoy reviewing beers, talking about the flavors and what I like, etc... but the whole rating thing just didn't feel right for me.

4. More homebrewing. - Failure.  I brewed a total of 4 batches this year, about a third of what I had hoped for.  They all came out great, but too infrequent.

5. More writing. - Pretty good.  While my articles for Examiner and Hop Press slipped, I did pick up the Creative Loafing gig, but I need to be more consistant all the way around.

6. More drinking. And by this I do not me quantity, but variety. - Definitely did this, and got to sample and explore a LOT of new beers.

7. More reading. - I read everything I could get my hands on, and continue to do so.

8. Certification and study, part 1. Cicerone program. - Just never got around to it, really.

9. Certification and study, part 2. Beer Judge Certification Program. - Somewhat limited by access and availability, not to mention time.

10. Continue to be a vocal craft beer advocate. - A+.  I took a much more active role this past year not only in trying to educate people about craft beer, but standing up for it as well.

So all in all, I give myself a passing grade, but with a lot of room for improvement.  Coming soon, the 2011 resolutions!

- Beer for the Daddy

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Onward Craft Beer Soldiers...

Today is the Tampa City Council Meeting that will determine the fate of the much-loved Cigar City Brewing Tasting Room.

Once again - and for the last time - here are the pertinent details:

Date: Thursday December 2nd - THAT IS TODAY!!!
Time: 10:30 AM
Location: 315 East Kennedy Boulevard (Downtown)
City Hall, 3rd Floor
Tampa, FL 33602
This is a public meeting so anyone may attend and speak if they so choose or just attend to show support.

These are the three members of Council who voted against Cigar City:
Gwen Miller
Thomas Scott
Curtis Stokes

These are those Council members who voted for Cigar City:
Mary Mulhern
Yvonne Yoli Capin
Joseph Caetano

And the absentee vote was Charlie Miranda.  He is very likely to be the tie-breaker in this fight.

So it all comes down to today.  Lets hope reason and sanity prevail instead of rumor and false accusations made in the name of "serving the community".

P.S. If you do not know what I am talking about, read these posts:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Moving Forward...

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

No matter how we approach life, it keeps moving forward.  Such is the nature of time and our ride along with it.  As such, we now enter the holiday season.  Thanksgiving has come and gone, and I hope you found time to reflect on some of the things in your life you can be thankful for.  I, for one, am very thankful to be surrounded by my family and friends who love and support me.  I am thankful that I have found myself back in a career that challenges and fulfills me.  I am thankful for the friends I have made over the past year in the craft beer community, and how much I have learned.

Thursday of this week is the much-talked-about Tampa City Council meeting that could determine the fate of the Cigar City Tasting Room.  Letters have been written, phone calls have been made, and now it is down to the wire.  It is probably safe to assume that the three who voted "no" will continue to do so even if only out of ego-driven stubbornness.  It is also probably safe to assume that the three "yes" votes will hold, seeing as they are based on logic and common sense.  Which leaves - once again - Charlie Miranda.  Here's to hoping he makes the right decision.

Here is the info about the meeting, as posted by Cigar City:
For anyone planning to attend the City Council meeting where the wet-zoning for the Cigar City Brewing Tasting Room will be voted on this is the pertinent information.
Date: Thursday December 2nd 
Time: 10:30 AM
Location: 315 East Kennedy Boulevard (Downtown)
City Hall, 3rd Floor
Tampa, FL 33602
This is a public meeting so anyone may attend and speak if they so choose or just attend to show support. We encourage everyone that has the time to attend. Thanks again for the overwhelming support and well wishes. Win or lose we are humbled by the support from the community and beyond.
Joey Redner and the CCB Staff
If you are in the Tampa Bay area - or are going to be - think about attending if at all possible.  Your support would be greatly appreciated.

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
 - Edmund Burke

Friday, November 12, 2010

On A More Positive Note...

"You have it easily in your power to increase the sum total of this world's happiness now. How? By giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged. Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime." -Dale Carnegie

The past two days have been a tad wild and emotional in the Tampa Bay craft beer community.  The uproar over the situation with Cigar City Brewing and the Tampa City Council has been loud and passionate.  I know a lot of people have called, written letteers, sent emails, and so on.  The next vote is not until December 2nd, so there is a tendency for our outrage to fade and die down.  Don't let it.  Instead, find out all you can about the issue.  Strip away the hearsay and rumor, and get supportable facts.  The stronger a case we can make - with real solid facts - the harder it is for rational people to refute.  Of course, assuming we are dealing with rational people is a BIG assumption.

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer." ~Abraham Lincoln

So, on to the positive!

This weekend is the Fall Beer Festival at the Cajun Cafe on the Bayou.  If you have never been, you have to go.  It is a small event, but you will not find a bad beer in the place.  Paul Unwin - the owner - loves craft beer, and has made it a point to be sure his festival is about enjoying good beer.  Its not about how much you can drink, finding the highest ABV, or being a beer snob.  Its about the beer, and about the people who make it and enjoy it.  You can read more about the event here.  I highly encourage you to attend if you can.

Also, you should check out the following other events over the next week:
Remember, our goal is to support, promote, and educate.  And by "our" I mean all of us who appreciate the artisanship that is craft beer.  We are not drunken angry mobs.  We are not elitist, exclusionary, snobs.  We come from all walks of life, all backgrounds, and represent countless regions and socio-economic levels.  What we share is a common belief that good beer should be available to those who want to enjoy it responsibly, that craft brewing is a welcome and beneficial addition to any community, and that the world needs to be educated to these facts.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster - Sun Tzu

And the beat goes on...

The situation with Cigar City and the Tampa City Council has not changed since yesterday.  The call has been heard across the country and people are still talking about it.  But I want to urge caution.

In the past 24 hours I have heard claims of racism (the three members voting no were African-American, the three voting for were white), back-room shady dealings, and personal vendetta.  I am not saying any of these are or are not true, but no one has shown me any evidence to support these claims yet.  I would hate for one of these rumors to take hold only to find out it was baseless.  It is not only unfair, but it hurts our cause.

Here is how I see it:
  • As long as Cigar City has followed the laws and complied with everything required of them, there is no good reason to deny them their request.
  • If there are issues with crime that can be attributed to the operation of the Cigar City Tap Room, we need to know that.  And that means we need evidence of that.  Not hearsay and "what I am hearing on the street."
  • If there are traffic or parking -related issues related to the operation of the Cigar City Tap Room, we need to know that, too.  And again, there needs to be data to support that claim.
  • However, if there is something else at work here, it needs to be exposed.  It needs to be called out.  And it needs to be addressed in a public forum for all to see.
Maybe that is too simple and reasonable.  But it seems like the best way to go about running a city.

Another comment that was thrown around was "well, that's what happen when you have no beer culture..." Really?  No beer culture in Tampa Bay?  Then explain to me the success of places like Cigar City, Saint Somewhere, Dunedin Brewery, and the Tampa Bay Brewing Company.  Tell me how places like the Oldsmar Tap House, Peg's Cantina, Willard's, the Pour House, and Mr. Dunderbak's survive?  We may not be Portland or San Francisco or Asheville, but considering what the craft beer landscape in Florida looked like even three or four years ago, I would say we are doing pretty damn well.

No beer culture in Florida?  Tell that to Redlight, Redlight in Orlando.  Tell it to Swamp Head brewing in Gainseville.  Tell all the locations of World of Beer they don't know what they are doing.  Explain to the owners of the Independent and the Rex that there is no "beer culture" for them to cater to.

I could go on.

As I mentioned on Twitter earlier today, the notion that Florida has no "beer culture" is like saying there is no "culinary culture" in England.  The claim is antiquated and patently false.  There was also the assertion that a "craft beer leader" - who wished to remain anonymous - in Florida agreed with the claim.  I have been writing about craft beer for over a year, and have traveled quite a bit, met a lot of people from all over.  Apparently I have not met our "leader".

Frankly the idea of a "craft beer leader" is laughable to me.  Craft beer lovers - the writers, the homebrewers, the fans, and even just the drinkers - work together just fine without someone guiding us.  Independent-minded, and just as passionate about our beer as anyone from Colorado, California, or Oregon.

So don't tell me there is no beer culture in Florida.  And don't tell me our "leader" agrees with you.  If he or she does, they are no leader at all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hell Hath No Fury...

There is nothing like a good political debate to rekindle one's activist spirit, no?  In case you have been living underneath some kind of Prohibition-era rock for the last 24 hours, you have at least heard about the recent kerfuffle with Cigar City Brewing and the Tampa Bay City Council.  If not, there are plenty of places you can go to read up on it.

The bottom line is three members of the Tampa City Council want to stop Cigar City from having a tasting room where people can buy locally produced craft beer, drink locally produced craft beer, or have craft beer events.  Never mind that it is a local business, owned and operated by local residents.  Never mind that they employ over twenty people locally.  Never mind that they attract visitor (and their money) to the Tampa Bay area, who then in turn spend their money on restaurants, hotels, and other activities.  One would think that in these difficult economic times, the idea of a local business thriving and succeeding would be encouraged, especially if said business is following all of the rules.

But apparently that is not enough for Tampa Council Members Gwen Miller, Thomas Scott, and Curtis Stokes.  Their claim is that "the neighborhood don't want it", with "it" being the wet-zoning and extended operating hours for serving beer or wine.  They have made very vague claims that alcohol-related crime is up, but when confronted with evidence to the contrary, they defended the allegations with "well, not everything gets reported."

Sorry, in my world that does not fly.  Which certainly makes some of us wonder what this is really about.  Are these three part of the insidious neo-prohibitionist movement that often rears its ugly head in times like these?  That would mean their argument was more of a "moral" one than one based on any kind of facts.  There is some grumbling that this is payback for the Council's long and well-documented battles with owner Joey Redner's father, Joe Redner.  Whatever the reasons, the bottom line is voting against making the zoning and hours permanent is tantamount to voting to kill jobs and keep dollars away from Tampa.  It is inexcusable and Miller, Scott, and Stokes ought to be held accountable.

One of the positive things to come out of this event, however, is how the craft beer community has rallied around Cigar City.  From Wayne Wamble's initial post on Facebook, the cry went out far and wide and craft beer lovers from all walks of life answered the call.  Letters, emails, and articles spread like wildfire.  A new Twitter hashtag was created (#SaveCCB), and a Facebook group was set up by DosBeerigos.  I have said before and I will say it again: Beer People R Good People.

Monday, May 10, 2010

May the Fourth be With You - What Would Yoda Drink?

In honor of “Star Wars Day” last week, I decided it was appropriate to bring back the “fictional characters that I would like to sit and enjoy a good beer with.”  Previously, on the 40th Anniversary of Sesame Street, we looked at the cast of the beloved children's series and paired them up with what kind of beers to share.  I feel it is only appropriate to address the other major influence in my life with the same respect.

I will preface this by admitting, with great pride, that I am, always have been, and always will be a Star Wars geek.  I remember very distinctly going to see Star Wars with my father when it came out in 1977.  We went to see it in the old Century City movie theatres (this was long before the multiplex that came along when I was a teenager).  I remember riding the escalators up from the underground parking lot, sitting in front of the enormous screen, and watching the most incredible thing I had ever seen.  It fundamentally changed me and has remained to this day one of the most influential things in my life.  Of course, I am talking about the Holy Trinity – The Original Trilogy, not the subsequent prequels and the new Clone Wars, etc.

So, with my uber-geekiness laid out there on the table, let’s answer the question: What Would Yoda Drink?

Yoda – The serene, wise, and backwards talking muppet is the epitome of a true Master.  Never one to rush or hurry, he prefers to sip his craft beer and experience it and all of its nuances.  Barrel-aged and complex brews are his choice; Cigar City’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Hunahpu, Lost Abbey’s Angel’s Share, and Barley John’s The Dark Knight (Returns) are among his favorites.

Ben “Obi-wan” Kenobi – Usually, the “crazy old hermit” is a scotch drinker.  Single malt, almost exclusively.  But when he sits down for a pint, he asks for a bitter.  Why bitter?  Lets see, your best friend betrays you and then leads the movement to wipe out everything you have worked your entire life to preserve, you end up living in an adobe hut on a desert planet all alone, and then you have to look after your former friends whiny-ass son, only to have your old buddy show up and kill you.  Yeah, ol’ Ben has a right to be bitter.  Jolly Pumpkin E.S. Bam, Oakham Asylum, or some Fullers ESB will do.

“Princess” Leia Organa – The spitfire with cinnabon hair looks killer in a bronze bikini, but she’s no lightweight.  This girl likes to party and nothing better than a good hoppy IPA after a day of “diplomatic missions to Alderaan”.  She loves her Bear Republic Racer 5 and Rebellion Amarillo, but has a special place in her heart form Sun King Brewing’s The Princess Warrior.

Chewbacca – Normally Wookiees are not beer drinkers.  The foamy head gets in their fur and any spills turn the walking carpet into something more akin to a walking bar rag.  But after hours of being hounded by a nerf-herding smuggler (“THIS one goes here, THAT one goes there!”) a strong barley wine makes him less likely to pull anyone’s arms off.  Hair of the Dog Bourbon Doggie Claws From the Wood is his natural choice, but  Kuhnhenn Brown and Hairy Nut Porter will do in a pinch.

Han Solo – The man.  The myth.  The scoundrel.  Cool as winter on Hoth with the hottest ride this side of the mines of Kessel.  Han goes for anything rare and hard to get.  He had Tactical Nuclear Penguin before anyone else, and keeps a case of Pliny the Younger growlers in carbonite under that false floor in the Falcon.  He is at every release party and is usually the one responsible for the short supply.  He’ll share his Samuel Adams Millennium or his collection of 3 Fonteinen brews if he is feeling generous.  Word around Mos Eisley is that he hangs out with Ken Weaver.

Luke Skywalker – The “hero” of the films.  But damn this kid is whiny!  He’s used to blue milk with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, but has been seen shotgunning fizzy yellow water and doing keg stands with Biggs down in Tosche Station.  Maybe someday he will grow up and drink real beer, but his lineage is not great.

Darth Vader – The immediate thought is that the Dark Lord of the Sith should drink Imperial Stouts and the darkest things around, right?  Not so.  You see, Vader used to be Anakin Skywalker, remember?  Just as whiny and immature as his son turned out to be.  Doesn’t want to listen, thinks he’s better than everyone, and force-chokes people to death if they have the gall to challenge him.  He is an honorary board member at InBev.

There are others, of course... but we'll see who picks up the tab this time and who gets invited to the Ewok celebration.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

El Chupa-hop-ra Report

Racked to secondary tonight.  Gravity reading at 1.02.  Great aroma still and a good color.  Stole a taste and ooooooh this baby's gonna be good!

Bottling this weekend.

Brew #2: West Coast IPA - El Chupa-hop-ra?

Admittedly, my brewing schedule is way behind the planned brew-a-month pace.  However, we do what we can, right?  The latest foray was originally going to be a straight-up, American  Pale Ale.  Nothing over the top, just crisp and drinkable and most likely a session beer.

Oh well.

When I arrived at Southern Brewing and started talking to Ben Romano (a fine brewer in his own right), I found myself once again shifting to something little more hoppier.  And then more so.  And then before I could say lupulin, I had a recipe for a hopped-up West Coast IPA in my hands.  Ben convinced me to up the Magnum and Chinook hops.  Such is the burden of a hop-headed homebrewer.

Here is the recipe:

6.6 lbs Golden LME
2 lbs Golden DME
1 lb Crystal 65
8 oz. Vienna

1 oz Magnum (60 minutes)
1 oz Chinook (20 minutes)
1 oz Amarillo (15 minutes)
1 oz Centennial (10 minutes)
1 oz Simcoe (5 minutes)
1 oz Amarillo (end)

I used a dry yeast for the first time, the US-05 recommended by Ben.  My O.G. was 1.07.  According to my BrewPal app, I am expecting an ABV of about 7.2%, and an IBU of 92.  We'll see.  Does this rank as a Double IPA?

After less than 12 hours, the fermenter was bubbling away, and the wafting, bitter hoppiness was floating about.  Going to secondary shortly.  I wish I had some hops on hand to dry-hop with.  Oh well.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Time Flies When You Are Having Sons...

The things that are on my mind this week...

My oldest son turns 10 today.  It doesn't feel possible that a decade ago he arrived in this world (after 5 days of induced labor) and changed my life forever.  That weekend my friend snuck a 4-pack of Guinness cans into the hospital room.  The Nordspawn never developed a taste for beer, unlike his younger brother.  Perhaps that will change over time; I like to think it will.

I am never tired of hearing about collaborations between craft breweries.  Its just one of those feel-good things about the industry that you just don't see much of elsewhere.  The latest release is epic as fas as those involved go.  Fritz Maytag (Anchor Brewing) and Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada).  Giants in the industry.  Legends.  Icons.  Like Mozart and Bach.  All reports say the 30th Anniversary Fritz & Ken Ale is a fantastic beer.  I expect to have a bottle or two in short order.

Last weekend was the Craft Brewers Convention in Chicago.  I do hope to make it there one day.  Everything I have heard back indicate it was an amazing event, and not just because of the great quality (and quantity) of beer available.  The seminars and speakers alone would have been worth the trip.  And then to be surround by so many kindred souls... sounds like heaven.

The weather is heating up in Florida.  We may very well skip Spring and go straight in to Summer at this rate.  And that means its time for the more refreshing beers to move to the front of the line.  I love my big beers and stouts and whatnot, but there is something special about sitting outside on a warm Florida day with a lovely sessionable pale ale or crisp pilsner.  Time to get reacquainted with them, says I...

Now that we are done with the "first quarter" of the year, it is a good time to take stock and see where we are in terms of the "Brew Year's Resolutions".  Some might need to be adjusted and some may no longer qualify.  Lets take a look!

  1. Attend GABF in Denver for the first time. - Well, this is not until September.  So...  Grade: N/A
  2. Visit more breweries. - I have been over to Cigar City a few times now, and stop in at Peg's Cantina and Brewpub as well as Tampa Bay Brewing Company, but I need to step it up.  There are a few trips planned for this year, so I will make it a point to get to nearby breweries if at all possible.  Grade: D
  3. Start rating beers. - I am doing it, but not often enough.  Grade: C
  4. More homebrewing. - To date I have exactly one batch done.  Not good enough, and far short of where i should be so far this year. Grade: D
  5. More writing. - That I have been doing, but still not consistently enough for my own taste.  I need to double my efforts on that. Grade: B-
  6. More drinking. - Also been doing well with this.  I am trying to make sure i try something new at least once a week.  I have had some really excellent beers, too. Grade: B+
  7. More reading. - It seems like the more I read, the more books I add to my list.  I have knocked off several books so far and am loving the knowledge I am gaining. Grade; A
  8. Certification and Study, part 1 - Cicerone.  Nothing yet.  I am looking to maybe the summertime to really look at this. Grade: N/A
  9. Certification and Study, part 2 - BJCP.  See #8.  Grade: N/A
  10. Continue to be a vocal craft beer advocate. - Probably to the point of being obnoxious.  Grade: A
So, there is work to be done!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Beer People Are Good People

I have been deeply engaged and writing about the world of craft beer for about nine months now.  I knew when I decided to focus my efforts on this culture and industry that there was a lot I didn't know and that I needed to learn.  I soon found myself surrounded (virtually and otherwise) with other beer lovers, writers, brewers, and so on, all eager to pass on information and answer any question I had.  And there was no common theme other than beer people helping other beer people.  No one asked "are you a Democrat or Republican".  No one cared how much money I made, if I was married, had kids, owned a home, had a good credit rating, or where I went to school.  The single factor was that I liked craft beer and wanted to learn more.

Everyone I have met has a different background, comes from a different place, and has their own personal tastes and preferences when it comes to beer.  Hop-heads and malt-heads, sour-lovers and "extreme" beer hunters alike love to talk about beer and their experiences... and actually listen to yours!

Recently a hashtag of #beerpeopleRgoodpeople has been circulating on Twitter, and I have to smile every time I see it.  As I have gotten to know more people I am uplifted by how something as basic and seemingly simple as craft beer can bring so many people together from so many different walks of life.  of course there is some healthy competition.  West Coast and East Coast, Yankees and Red Sox, NorCal and SoCal, Portland and Asheville... But I have met someone great from each of those.  And with each new person i meet, be it online or in person, my own knowledge and appreciation of craft beer grows.  I am not only introduced to new beers, but new books, new blogs, new cities, even.  I can go just about anywhere in the country at this point and probably be within a couple hours at most from a #beerpeopleRgoodpeople connection.  There is something fundamentally comforting about this to me.

So my goal - long term, anyway - is to share a craft beer in person with as many of these great beer people as possible.  As spread out as they all are, it is a lofty goal, but a worthy one, I think.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Brewed for Tots

I was recently made aware of a new craft-beer-related blog called Brewed for Tots.  I highly recommend it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

... Out Like a Lamb? Not hardly...

March is nearly done.  End of the Quarter.  Beginning of Spring.  And so on.  To quote the great sage Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Of course, there are choices that have to be made sometimes.  Weighing the lesser of two evils or - if you are lucky - the greater of two goods.  The more I go down the path of beer writer/blogger/advocate the more choices I am presented with and the more opportunities.  And with those choices come compromises.  Balancing those against a regular job and family life and just general responsibilities can be a daunting task.  But undaunted, I press on.

A lot is going on in the world of Craft Beer these days.  New breweries opening, long-standing ones being sold, and new offerings appears on shelves.  Distribution is increasing and beers previously unavailable in certain markets are suddenly there.  Fellow beer writer Ken Weaver described the craft beer situation in America these days as "an embarrassment of riches", and I have to agree.  And its one of those times you have to be happy about being embarrassed.  Here in Florida, the news is encouraging.  More craft breweries opening up, more events being held, and more beers are becoming available.  In fact, the shelf-space is becoming limited for all the new stuff coming in, and buyers are having to make choices about what to stock!  A good problem to have, I suppose, but it got me thinking.

Is there a peak that we might reach where there is TOO much craft beer out there?  How much will the market bear?  According to studies and reports I have read recently, the craft beer industry increased sales over the past few years while macro-beer sales have fallen.  In fact, the craft been industry is one of the few that have actually grown in this uncertain and unstable economy.  If you think about market share, we still have a LOT of room to grow.  But how does that growth happen and what does it look like?  Does it mean more production from the current breweries?  More breweries opening up?  Larger and more far-reaching distribution?  More local consumption?

The future of the industry is unclear, bu not uncertain.  I don't think there is much that could stop the increasing momentum short of another Prohibition, and all signs point to the opposite happening.  Greater acceptance and understanding of craft beer is taking hold, and it is also being recognized as a stable and positive economic addition to any local market.  More and more craft beer is moving up the ladder of respect, and the brewers recognized not only in their niche but in a larger capacity as business people and artisans.

The coming months should prove to be interesting and exciting ones.  I have been invited by the brewer of a yet-to-open brewery to sample some of his recipes, asked to help organize a craft beer pub crawl downtown, and expect to attend a few special events in the area.  Things are happening in St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay, and all of it good!

Now... what beer to serve with lamb...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Festivals and Honors

So out of nowhere, this very blog was selected as "Beer Blog of the Week" by the fine gentlemen of Beer Tap TV.  Eric Boles and Eli Shayotovich host a weekly internet TV show all about beer!  From events to tastings to beer-related news, these guys know their beer and are entertaining to boot!  I hope to raise a few with them someday.  I am very humbled to have been selected.  Thanks guys!

In a Hop Press article this week, fellow writer Brian Cendrowski reviewed his trip to the Chaleston Brewvival beer festival and it made me think about the festivals I have been to and will go to.  This coming weekend is the Florida Brewers Guild Beer Festival in Ybor City, an event I have been to numerous times.  However this time I will be attending as a member of the "press".  Being invited to a festival takes on a different feeling than just attending one.  There is a certain responsibility that comes with it to not only prove that you belong as a recognized beer writer/journalist, but also to represent your sponsor, even if it is just yourself.  In my case I am representing the Hop Press by, the St. Petersburg Craft Beer Examiner, and of course Beer for the Daddy.  My conduct directly reflects on all three (even more than the following article to a certain extent), and can very well determine future invites.  Drunken, slovenly behavior is not usually appreciated by hosts or sponsors.

That said, these ARE beer festivals. Alcohol is part of the equation.  And when you have twenty five craft brewers from Florida, and god-knows how many other great craft breweries represented, even if one were to only taste a single beer from each ("tastes" roughly being 1-2 ounces)... well, you do the math.

But something I have noticed about myself at recent festivals is that I am being more selective about what I choose.  Maybe it is a sign of being a little more mature, maybe a sense of responsibility... maybe I am actually taking the time to TASTE the beers now.  Yes, intoxication is pretty much a given, but obliteration is not.  Back in my days at the old Harp and Thistle Pub we used to call it "that slightly blessed feeling, where you are oozing good will and compassion."  Its a good state to be in.

Beer festivals have a tendency to bring out a variety of people.  Of course, you have the beer geeks, hop heads, malt-lovers, home-brewers and so on.  Then you have the people in the business... sales reps, distributors, brewers, and bar owners. 

From there things start to go downhill.  Its a toss-up to me which is worse: the frat-boy drunk or the beer-snob.  The frat-boy drunk is the loud obnoxious guy sporting his Hollister shirt (2 sizes too small) trying to drink as much beer as he can and trying to find the highest alcohol beers only.  He does taste, he guzzles.  He probably will try to sound like he knows something about beer by making "poignant" statements like "I'm really into beer these days.  Mostly I like lagers and ales."  He will say this with a straight face.

The beer-snob is at the other end of the spectrum; she knows her beers.  In fact, she knows YOUR beers.  Better than you do.  And she knows what is good, regardless of what you actually like.  She will recite the OG, IBUs, and  ABVs of everything you mention (WTF... seriously...)  And she will tell you she will not enter a bar that serves Budweiser.  She too will say this with a straight face, and probably an upturned nose.

But do not let the inevitable appearance of these two deter you from attending.  They are easy to spot, and easy to avoid.  It is not hard to find the beer geeks and genuine craft beer lovers, and they will most likely welcome you into their conversations, talk about the beers that have tried and liked, and direct you to ones you may not have found yet.

Saturday I am looking forward to tasting many of the Florida craft beers I have not had a chance to sample before.  Swamp Head, Saint Somewhere, and a few I have never heard of are tops on my list.  Most of all, I am looking forward to talking to some of the brewers and hearing their stories and ideas for the future of craft brewing in Florida.  The event proceeds all go directly to moving pro-craft beer legislation in Florida government, spearheaded by the Florida Brewers Guild.

Monday, March 1, 2010

...Coming In Like a Lion

Oh February... where hast thou gone?

I find myself beginning the last month of the first quarter (in business parlance) wondering how I got here.  Where did January and February go?!  Granted, articles were written, festivals attended, events and new discoveries and so on.  But can it really be March, 2010 already?

Apparently it not only can be, but it is.  So be it.

Since this blog is not only about beer, here are some thoughts and musings of the past 2 months:

I have been reading Sam Calagione's Brewing Up a Business and am very impressed.  I am a big fan of Dogfish Head Brewery, and really like most of their beers.  It is very eye-opening to see things down the right way and have them equated with a successful business.  I have seen many other companies doing the opposite, and they are miserable places to work.

More people seem to be taking notice of the difference between "beer geeks" and "beer snobs".  I talked about it in a Hop Press article a few months back, but have now seen it pop up in other articles and as a topic of discussion.  Beer snobs do a disservice to the industry they purport to love.  Beer geeks uplift it.

The Winter Olympics were a lot of fun to watch.  I would love to visit Vancouver again some day now that I am an adult.  I really enjoyed the opening ceremonies and most of the games I watched.  However, NBC's decision to air the majority of the hockey games - including the USA v Canada (preliminary) game - on their cable channels was a huge disservice to their non-cable audience.  And then to go a step further and offer it streaming online was great... until you discovered that even online, you had to be a cable subscriber.  NBC = FAIL.

Olympics II: The men's hockey tournament was exceptional.  Even though the USA lost, the level of play was a joy to watch from every team.  And the level of class each team displayed regardless of victory or defeat should be a model for athletes world-wide (including prima-donna Russian figure skating men).  Call Alexander Ovechkin a show-boat, but you didn't hear him bad-mouthing Team Canada after losing.

January and February are typically cold months everywhere in the northern hemisphere, even in Florida.  However, in the past 15 years that I have lived here, I have never experienced this many "cold" days.  By cold, I mean in the 50's or below.  Now, before those in snowy climes start guffawing and pointing and shaking their heads, it should be pointed out that people live in Florida mostly because it does NOT get snowy and icy and frigid.  People who live in those Hoth-like locales are there by choice.  I am tired of being cold all the time.  But it does make for good stout, porter, and barley-wine drinking weather.

I have sampled the Three Halos Rum Porter now a few times since bottling.  This most recent test revealed a really, really good beer.  Not as much rum flavor as I had hoped, but its there.  Cheers, my friends.

My journey up to Dunedin Brewery for the Stogie and Stout event was excellent.  I fell in love with stouts while living in Sonoma, and they were my beer of choice for many years.  I was reminded why at the S&S.  Full, rich, dark, and flavorful... I need to remember that its not always ONLY about hops...

The coming weeks hold several beer-related events and happenings which will be detailed out on and the Hop Press.  I am also going to try to be more present here on Beer for the Daddy.  Until then, relax and have a homebrew or craft beer...

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Three Halos Rum Porter

The Three Halos Rum Porter was brewed in remembrance and in honor of my friends Derrick Ide and Jevon Witherspoon, and my aunt Bonnie Nordquist.  All three passed away in the final months of 2009.

The Wolf Paw represents Derrick.  It is the same design that he had tattooed on his leg, and his wife Rachel now wears the same artwork.  I see it as a symbol of his untamed spirit, even in his darkest days.

The Norwegian Flag represents Bonnie, the Norwegian wife of my Swedish uncle Neil.  She tolerated the unceasing teasing by our family with great humor and love.

The Florida Gator represents Jevon, a Gator fan to the core.  He wore the colors whenever possible, even down to the orange and blue flip-flops.

The design was created by John Wilson, aka Sailin Nox.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The First Beer of 2010

Well, technically the first beer I brewed in 2010.

2009 was a tough year for me personally, especially towards the end. I lost two good friends and my aunt over the last 3 months, and it definately took its toll on my heart and mind, although i can't begin to imagine what their families have now been through.

Back in October, I lost a good friend named Jevon. He was my oldest son’s best friend's dad. 33 years old. He was in remission from testicular cancer. Father of 3 boys, 1 baby girl. He got suddenly sick (non-cancer related) and was hospitalized, then kept in a coma, then passed away, all in about 3 weeks. He was a perpetually positive and happy guy, always helping everyone else and having a good time doing it.

About 8 months ago I reconnected with an old friend from my days in Arizona named Derrick. After I left Arizona, we kept in touch for a few years, but then lost touch. I knew that he had moved back to upstate NY and gotten married. I searched for him on Facebook but found his wife instead. I contacted her and she told me that in 2006, Derrick had been diagnosed with cancer. Urachal adenocarcinoma to be specific. The past 6 months had been especially hellish with the pain and experimental treatments, etc. I got an update from her on November 14th that they were pretty much done. There was little to no chance of recovery anymore. They moved him home and got in touch with Hospice. He was 36 with a 5 year old daughter. Again, someone who did everything right, someone who had so much to offer the world and made it a better place. He passed away on Thanksgiving night in his wife’s arms after saying goodnight to his daughter.

In the beginning of December, I got an email from my mother that my aunt Bonnie (my dad's brother's sister) was in the hospital in critical condition. She was suffering from something called C. diff (which after looking it up sounds particularly nasty) and had her colon removed, which then was followed by her kidneys and liver failing. Come to find out she had actually been hospitalized since Halloween. She went dramatically downhill from there and passed away on the 4th of December. According to my father, she was nearly unresponsive at the end, and "They were gathered around her bedside reminiscing, and Neil (my uncle) looked over at Bonnie and saw a tear run down her cheek. At that moment her heart stopped. Neil said, "She made the decision for us.""

For a while I felt a bit stunned and unsure what to do or how to even grieve. I was also keenly aware that my sense of loss had to be a drop in the bucket compared to the two young widows and my uncle who had just lost his wife of many years. I decided – in true homebrewer fashion – that I would dedicate and brew my next batch in their memory, and thus, the Three Halos Rum Porter was born. I brewed it up yesterday, and have an artist friend working up a special label for it incorporating something special for each of them.

2010 Three Halos Rum Porter

16oz Crystal 90L
8oz Cara-Pils
8oz Chocolate
4oz Black Patent

1 Cup Mount Gay Barbados Rum
7lbs Dark LME

At 30 minutes, added 1oz Kent Golding and 1 oz Fuggles
At 60 minutes, added 1oz Willamette

Using White Labs English Ale Yeast (WLP002)

This baby is DARK...

Not sure if the rum will come through or not, but I figured better understated than over, eh?

O.G. is 1.062

I will report as it progresses.