Hogtown Craft Beer Festival 2012

It’s bad luck to call your event “1st Annual” but I hope that’s what this was. We look forward to the 2nd Annual Hogtown Craft Beer Festival at Kanapaha. Very much.

We’ve been attendees and fans of the Greater Gator Beer Fest for some time, but when faced with a choice, decided to try the new one at Kanapaha rather than the GGBF a few weeks earlier at Magnolia Park. Sorry, we did have to choose for financial reasons, and we’re glad we chose this one.

Not that it was perfect. Next year they’ve got to figure out the food situation. Guests were invited to buy a ‘Food Pairing’ ticket for an additional $15 (or purchase food separately), but at the end of the day the vendors were just giving their food away to anyone. The food area was also somewhat separated from the beer tasting field, so it was awkward. And the absolute worst offence was the choice of food vendors. There was a surprising list of out-of-town vendors, and an alarming vacuum of vegetarian options. So even though we brought cash to buy food, I ended up diving into the emergency crackers in my purse.

Other than that, and a few first-time kinks, the event was a lot of fun. Not only was it NOT in a parking lot, but it wasn’t saturated with Budweiser and Busch displays run by skinny girls in tube tops. There were plenty of craft breweries representing their art. There was shade to stand in, grass and chairs to sit on, and even live music off to the side. Some of the small breweries even had their actual staff (and brew masters) pouring the beer and talking about it like it was something they knew about.

It was nice to see some absolute favorites there, and we bee-lined for Victory Brewing’s table first thing, and then two steps over to Southern Tier. We stopped at Cigar City, SweetWater, and Swamp Head because we are fans. And we lingered at Mile Marker (wish they had the Coconut Porter), Stone Brewing (Levitation Ale was tasty), and Magic Hat (Elder Betty was interesting). That’s not to say it was all fun and games.

Cheers to Orlando Brewing Partners for their offering of organic brew, but there weren’t a lot of developed flavors to be found. With so many things to try, I can promise that the grass was watered with some unwanted beer from a few people drinking for quality rather than quantity.

Many of the breweries at the Festival are available at bars and pubs around town, so it wasn’t all new to the beer-lovers in our group. But there were smaller breweries that are up and comers. Mile Marker is a brewery in St. Augustine we never heard about and fully intend to visit on our next road trip. Not only were their brews intriguing and the team behind the table friendly, come on… it’s like an hour’s drive away. How could you not? Each of their offerings at the Festival were tasty.

Another note about the event was that instead of being jam-packed with college youths trying to get drunk, there were tons of locals and beer-lovers out an about. The Man and I generally run into a lot of people we know, but this was wall-to-wall locals. The event staff allowed designated drivers to pay the garden entry fee and get a DD bracelet so they could hang out with (and watch over) their friends. Plus it was Kanapaha for the love of god. How could you not have a good day?

Highly recommend you keep your ears to the ground for next year’s event and buy your tickets immediately.

Hogtown Craft Beer Festival
April 14th, 2012 | $35 General admission ticket
HogtownBeerFest.com
(let’s hope the prices don’t go up for next time!)

[Girl21]

Snakebite

Snakebite, Loosey's Pub

Brass monkey! That funky monkey!

If you remember when that song came out, you’re my kind of people. (Beastie Boys, License to Ill, 1986.) I only bring that up because I was looking up the history of one of my favorite drinks, and this fun little fact was flung at me like an unwelcomed booger.

A Brass Monkey is a shandy, which is a drink that mixes beer with some kind of soda or juice, depending on where you are and where your bartender is from. A Brass Monkey is a mix of orange juice and beer. And the version the Beastie Boys were familiar with was where a hard-partying rock and roll youth would drink off the first 1/4 of a 40 of malt liquor or beer, and top off the can or bottle with OJ.

No, that’s not my favorite drink at all. I feel like I just threw up thinking about that. I like a Snakebite, which is a specific type of shandy. It’s a combination of half beer and half cider. Many bartenders will just mix the two willy nilly and hand it over like a dead rat in a glass. But the classy folks will pour the cider first, then float the beer on top. I generally see this done well with a nice dry cider like Strongbow paired with a dark beer like Guinness for the maximum effect and flavor.

At Loosey’s (pictured), you get Donnybrook instead of Guinness, which goes much nicer with the cider because it lacks that slightly burnt after flavor. But I may have to try the version a friend was drooling over which was raspberry cider with Choklat Stout by Southern Tier. Probably best for dessert.

But watch out. Lore states that Snakebites get you drunk faster than the individual drinks that make them. I haven’t seen any supporting evidence, but there’s a long argument at several sites about this. I can only guess the reason for the myth is that originally a Snakebite had a shot of vodka in it in some regions. Which of course would sneak up on you and bite you in the ass.

[Girl21]

A Little Too Civilized

We really wanted to like Civilization. Really. We tried.

But you know how you have that one friend that is super nice, and has never said a bitchy thing about anyone, ever. That girl that genuinely likes even the biggest ass in your circle of friends. The girl that’s probably not a virgin, but no one is quite sure. The one that you try to like because she is so sweet and truly nice, but you never know what to talk to her about because you’re afraid of offending her in some way. And she won’t laugh at juvenile jokes.

That’s how I felt about our time at Civilization. We wanted to like it. We tried very hard. But it just didn’t happen.

Months ago we had gone for the first time with two friends. I was still mourning the loss of 2nd Street Bakery. It was like driving past a house you lived in as a child and seeing the new owners painted it a really trendy shade of green. But I sucked it up and walked in there with my big girl panties on. We did have a decent meal there, and the neighborhood cat was panhandling nearby. But we weren’t impressed enough to go back.

Another friend absolutely adores the place with the zeal we adore The Top, and she begged us to give Civilization another try. There’s not much else open on a Monday night on the Northeast side of town, so finally we grudgingly wandered over there for dinner.

It was one of the first cool nights of the year, and the dining room was quite full (there’s a minor acoustic problem because of the one big room), so we asked to sit outside on the patio. The hostess clearly thought we were insane but was too gracious to let it show.

We started with some delish craft beer. Then the Utopian Salad; one to share between us because they are HUGE. I had the Fettuccine della Casa because the housemade pasta and creamy tomato sauce sounded yummy. The Man went for the Thai Shiitake Mushrooms w/Asian Greens. Nothing was particularly bad, although I was trying to get him to switch with me because I liked the flavors of the cilantro and scallions in his dish.

My dish was passable, except for the slightly gritty texture of the pasta and the over-abundance of roasted ‘in season’ veggies on top. This month ‘in season’ meant eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash, all of which make me nervous. I couldn’t escape the heavy butter flavor in the creamy tomato sauce, which is what chefs use to punch up a weak sauce… add more butter. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t $14.00.

The Man had more to say about his dish. Some things I wouldn’t necessarily type here. I liked it better than mine, but again, it still wasn’t all that fabulous. The rice was a touch undercooked. The shiitakes were there but the flavor was not. The greens were nicely done, and again, I liked the balance of cilantro and scallions with the coconut milk. But it’s never a good sign when mere hours after eating out, your stomach starts to make sounds you only hear coming from the bathroom stalls at a booty dancing club after 1AM.

On the other hand, the salad was perfection. The dressing, the toppings, the flavors and textures. Possibly the best salad in G’ville. And of course it’s nice to get good beer with your meals.

This visit didn’t change our opinion of Civilization very much. Our first time there, the general consensus from the four of us was that the salads were perfect, appetizers were tasty, the desert was yummy, but the meals were questionable. Of the four of us, one had a special which was a weak thumbs-up, two were so-so, and my Stroganoff was far too oily to finish eating.

But the staff were painfully nice, knew the menu and the food, were gracious and timely, and obviously cared a great deal about their patrons. And Civilization is another of those true Gainesville businesses, where a lot of emphasis is put on the provenance of the ingredients, support of small business, and deep community roots.

So how could we feel so lukewarm about this place? The food just misses the mark. Punches are pulled. People are playing it safe. Everything is too nice. Aimed at being inoffensive to everyone. And you feel it. This vaguely nice personality that doesn’t seem quite real. A lack of depth or life experience that makes it uninteresting.

I’d rather sit next to that weird older guy at the bar that drinks Negronis and talks about his worst days as an EMT, than sit with the very nice girl who always smiles politely but refuses to laugh at fart jokes.

We’ll probably go to Civilization again. There’s not a lot of choices on a Monday and on the Northeast side of town. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t remarkably interesting. We’ve heard better things about the carnivore meals, but are not overly impressed with the veggie selections so far.

Civilization
1511 NW 2nd St
Gainesville FL 32601

352.380.0544

WelcomeToCivilization.com
(Okay… a pet peeve of mine is when restaurant websites have their menu only as a PDF download: Menu)

Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Friday; Saturday brunch and dinner; closed Sunday. Also home of Terranova catering.

Our meal of two craft beers, a salad, and two entrees (plus tip) was about $60.

[Girl21]

Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale, Cigar City Brewing

Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale

Back in college I ran a cigar shop. This was the height of the cigar madness of the late ’90s and I think the most expensive cigar I sold went for $35 a piece. Not per box, but per cigar. How do you sell expensive cigars like that? You’re a female and you lounge around the shop smoking a double corona maduro (yes, that’s the big black kind of cigars).

So when The Man gave me a pint of beer to try and told me it was Cigar City Maduro, I had to resist the urge to undo a few buttons, fondle the pint glass, and offer to show him my humidor. There’s a vast difference between a maduro cigar and a maduro beer. I’m not so sure I could sell a $35 beer, even in my best push-up bra. But this is yummy beer.

Tampa and Ybor City is quite famous for cigar making back in the day. The whole area is still steeped in the musky scent of aged tobacco and Cuban ex-pats. What else would you want after a long day of rolling cigars in a non-air-conditioned warehouse? A tasty beer. Which would be why there have been breweries in Tampa just as long as the cigar warehouses.

Cigar City Brewing started up in the heart of the tobacco capital of Florida with the intention of making the best beer in the country from the best ingredients, etc., etc. I think it’s a copy-and-paste job that most microbreweries insert into their ‘About Us’ page on their website. Don’t let that hold you back. CCB makes a collection of tasty beers.

At The Top, The Man likes to get a pint of CCB’s Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale because it’s usually on tap, and it’s generally friendly to whatever we might have for dinner. As per its name, this oatmeal ale has a good quantity of oats in with the barley. ‘Maduro’ is translated to ‘mature’, which in cigars means the tobacco is aged long, mellowing the flavor and leaving it sweeter.

This dark, molasses-colored beer has lovely notes of cocoa, malt, hops, and roasted coffee. There are hints of smoke and nuttiness, and even moments of vanilla in the background. But even though there is a rich collection of flavors in a single pint glass, it’s never crowded or overbearing. It’s actually quite amicable and ready to make friends with many kinds of food.

It’s fairly easy to find Cigar City beers here in G’ville but they’re usually bottled. Jai Alai IPA and this Maduro are the two most popular. I really want to try the Espresso Brown Ale next. There are some places that have CCB beers on tap, such as The Top (and the Maduro goes great with the Tempeh Rueben with the tempeh substituted with seitan). The Maduro is totally different than my usual cider (shown above), one being fresh and crisp while the other is mellow and friendly.

Having a CCB Maduro isn’t quite as fun as leaning against my cigar counter, blowing smoke rings from a huge maduro cigar, making customers quiver uncertainly. But it’s just as tasty on a warm dusk night.

Cigar City Brewing
3924 W Spruce Street, Suite A
Tampa, Florida 33607
info@cigarcitybrewing.com
www.cigarcitybrewing.com

Tasting room:
813.348.6363, ext. 206
Hours:
Sunday to Thursday | 11:00am-9:00pm
Friday & Saturday | 11:00am-12:00am

[Girl21]

Donnybrook & The Beer Monogamy Myth

Victory, Donnybrook Stout

Before I bring down the wrath of thousands of Guinness lovers upon my head for what I’m about to say, I will preface this with the emphasis that there’s nothing like a Guinness beer. But…. No, wait! Just listen for a minute while you sip your beer.

If you’ve not had a lot of Guinness, and not developed a deep, abiding love for the beer, then this whole post might be lost on you. Guinness appears dark and brooding, as beer goes. It has a head on it that looks like you have to chop a hole in it with an ice fishing saw. Yet it is creamy. Almost milky. And underneath that is the bright, soulful, yeasty, hoppy stout beer. There are a good many people that are devout Guinness drinkers.

The Man is a diehard Guinness lover, through and through. The glassware in our home is a seemingly endless supply of Guinness pint glasses. (Not my ideal stylish home entertaining statement to make. Dorothy Draper would have to go lie down if she saw this.) He will give any sketchy, sh!thole bar a chance if they claim to offer Guinness on draft.

So you can imagine the evening we were at our home-away-from-home bar for a relaxing drink on the patio, and we were casually told of plans to switch the place over to carrying only American craft beers. It took a moment for The Man to realize this meant Guinness was included in that sweeping gesture, as it’s from Ireland. There was a brief twitch of his bottom lip and a wild look of panic in his eye as he imagined having to go elsewhere for his favorite draft beer.

But lo, the angels played their harps and flower petals fell from the sky. Hope was offered in the form of a new beer that was similar to Guinness yet made in the U S of A. Victory Brewing Co. is gaining support for its Donnybrook Stout as a beer similar to, or even better than (gasp!), Guinness. The Man clung to this mad hope like Bob Barker clung to his career as host of The Price is Right.

It took some doing, a few false starts, but eventually the Donnybrook arrived on site and was ready to pour. It wasn’t quite as tarry brown as Guinness but it had a lovely creamy head on it. The Man had a ceremonious sniff, then a sip. He made me sip it, and then nearby friends had to try it. There was shrugging of shoulders and shaking of heads. More tasting. More grunting among the men at the bar. Then with very little fanfare and a remarkable lack of earth shattering chaos, Donnybrook was declared a perfectly good swap for Guinness. I was expecting a hoard of irate Irishmen frothing at the mouth and brandishing shillelaghs to appear through a crack in the floorboards.

It was actually a few weeks later that the true impact of this arrival was revealed. After quite a few delicious Donnybrooks, a Guinness connoisseur can have a Guinness and realize what the Donnybrook is missing. Guinness has always had this lactic mouth feel and a tangy aftertaste as an entertaining contrast. So does the Donnybrook. But the Donny lacks Guiness’ burnt caramel undertones that actually muddle the flavors quite a bit. So with the Donny you can taste the hops, yeast, roasted barley, and the full clean cresting flavor curve better.

That’s not to knock Guinness. It’s still a tasty beer that is much lighter and flavorful than the dark color would suggest. In fact, there’s the rumor of the bloke that tried the Guinness diet–only Guinness beer, a little milk for calcium, and a vitamin C supplement for a week, and you’ll be fine. As far as we’re concerned, it remains a rumor since the guy’s blog has disappeared (aliens?!). But that won’t stop college guys across the country from trying their own Guinness diets, I’m sure.

If you like Guinness and want to send us all kinds of hate mail for suggesting Donnybrook is at least as good as your favorite, I invite you to have a Donny first. We don’t believe in this one-or-the-other TV show contest thinking. We’ll have a Donny and a Guinness at the same time if it is an option. There’s no such thing as beer-monogamy. I checked.

Have a Guinness to calm your nerves if you have to, and then try a Donnybrook Stout. If you still need to rail at us for having an opinion, sit on your shillelagh.

Victory Brewing Co.
Donnybrook Stout
Victorybeer.com
420 Acorn Lane
Downingtown, PA 19335
[Brewery & Restaurant!]

• On tap at Loosey’s
Downtown Gainesville

—————–

Diageo
Guinness Stout
[Dublin location offers museum and bar!]

• Found on tap at a variety of local establishments such as The Top, Durty Nelly’s, and Gator City.

[Girl21]

Dogfish Head, Namaste

Dogfish Head, NamasteI’m not a girly-girl but I’ve never much cared for beer. I am German. I come from a long line of German drinkers. My last name is synonymous with beer. Every time I say I don’t like beer, I can feel generations of ancestors turning in their graves.

When The Man and I first started dating, he told me he was going to teach me how to love beer and spicy food. Not doing so good with spicy food, but he’s making headway with the beer. I am starting to appreciate beer the same way I appreciate wine and cigars. Unfortunately, he likes the super-hoppy IPAs which make my face want to turn inside out.

I don’t know what I like yet. I haven’t found it. But I’m searching. I used to shoe shop and go a little crazy when I found a pair of Steve Maddens in my size on clearance. Now I impulse-buy beer. What? Yes, I had my first pointless beer splurge the other day. It’s hard not to when you’re standing at the Great Beer Wall in Ward’s. “I would look GREAT holding that bottle!”

Not quite that silly, but since I don’t know what I like, I am willing to take a few wild shots in the dark. Hence the bottle of Dogfish Head Namaste Ale that chilled in the fridge for three days, staring at me, while I decided if I was going to try it. It’s ale, brewed with orange, lemongrass, and coriander. Unusual.

The Man decided on scotch one night, but I wasn’t up for that, so I opened the Namaste. It was a pretty little drink, reminding me more of a good cider than a beer. The bouquet of flavors are balanced and work in harmony. The orange and lemongrass add fresh notes, while the coriander mellows it with a soft earthy tone. It creates a variety of delicate, false flavors that flirt with the tongue without revealing themselves. Hints of lavender, caramel, cardamom, and pear surface barely long enough to wink playfully before disappearing.

“Namaste” is one of those multi-use terms, like ‘aloha’ or ‘dude’. The simple meaning is “the spark of god in me honors the spark of god in you.” Or some such hippie variations. With that same spirit, I am approaching beer. Starting slow with a mild, frilly beer like this Dogfish Head variation. Namaste.

Dogfish Head
Namaste
750 mL bottle | $7-9

Brewpub:
320 Rehoboth Ave.
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971

Brewery:
#6 Cannery Village Center
Milton, DE 19968

[Girl21]