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Cigar City Brewing - Hunahpu's Imperial Stout

Huna.jpgI recently had the privilege of visiting Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, FL. As a rule, I am not a big fan of Florida, due to the unusually abnormal level of bad drivers and generally abnormal folks - but I found Tampa pretty cool. Folks were nice, the beer was good, and they even have pretty damn fun single track. 


This past Saturday was Hunahpu's day. Cigar City's annual brewfest. Brewers came from around the world to share their brews. Due to 'admission issues' in the past - things are pretty well organized now. Your wristband comes weeks ahead in a box, you activate it online, and entry is only allowed with the rfid wristband. You can pick your bottles of Hunahpu's Stout ahead of the event - which beats picking it up after. Although picking it up after was not an issue for those folks either as most everyone had picked theirs up already, mitigating any lines.

Four free food tickets and a tasting glass weSample.jpgre provided, along with admission. The fresh food from Da Kine Poke Bowls and other food trucks was amazing.

Estonia.jpgThe first brew I sampled was from a brewer in Tallinn Estonia - a Scotch Whiskey Barrel Aged Scottish Ale. He says it's changed a bit since I was there last.

My favorites were a couple of brews from 3 Sons, Lumberjack Morning Break - an amazing stout with a great aroma, and Scoop a La Mode a neapolitan stout, which was the best attempt I have had at a neapolitan stout by far. I met a couple of great guys from Chicago while in line and after dinner we headed over to the brewery.

The Cigar City brewery is decently small, had great service and tons of great brews on tap. They sell hand rolled cigars to smoke at the brewery. I sampled a Darkstar November (good stuff) shared by a patron, and enjoyed the tap list. The regular Huna pours with a dark viscous head, has a spicy sweet arouma and flavor. It's balanced with cocoa notes and nice warmth, it's a great stout. A bit expensive, but not disappointing.

cigar.jpgI might even try to go back someday. There are a number of other great breweries in the area, and Hunahpu's day falls at the end of craft beer week, and about two weeks before it gets way too hot. So it's not a bad time to be in Florida.

2012 MBG Winter Beer Festival

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Beer_Festival_Sign.jpgThis years Winter Beer Festival showcased some amazing brews. Odd Sides once again stood out with their creativity, bringing a Pineapple IPA, and Mayan Mocha Stout to the table. The Pineapple IPA was excellent, real live pineapple with no off or artificial characteristics. The Mayan Mocha Stout had a habanero burn, it was excellent, a little thin, but very original.

Dark Horse lead the way for Russian Imperial Stouts with this years Barrel Aged Plead the 5th. Next in line was Waldorf with their full bodied, caramel sweet, Old Woody Imperial Stout, their Braggot was also good, not amazing, but good. Third inline for Imperial Stouts was Jaden James - what an amazing Imperial Stout. I chatted with Chris the brewmaster, and he explained that he had aged it on French Oak Cubes, but pulled it off a little too soon. His six hop IPA was excellent as well, cloudy due to rough handling before arrival at the festival. He was less than trilled that his crystal clear ale had been stirred into a dust bowl.

Green Bush stood out among the new breweries, their LTD "Old Fashioned" Style Ale was excellent, and many of their brews got great reviews. Other worthy mentions are Old Boys Black IPA with a perfect hop aroma, Jolly Pumpkin Madrugada Dawn Stout with nice fruity notes, and while I did not get to sample it Dark Horses Bourbon Barrel 666 ran out in a hurry.

I was disappointed in White Flame, their watery Ugly Stick Oatmeal Stout convinced me a drive to Hudsonville would be nothing short of complete disappointment. Cool logo, now they need to work on the brewing part of the business. Friendly folks though. Beer_Thinker.jpg


It's Hoplicated

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hoplicated.jpghoney_creek_june.jpgSo I wanted a pint, it was a hot afternoon and I wanted to be in a nice air-conditioned pub drinking ale. I thought, and thought, yes Honey Creek Inn was the place I wanted to be. So I biked a loop at Cannonsburg State Game Area and checked out the new improvements; it's very nice. I then headed to Honey Creek Inn for a pint of whatever was on cask. Train Wreck Ale from Mt.Pleasant was the cask ale. A bit heavy for a cask ale, I was really looking for something hoppy, but it was good. I saw an odd sides Hoplicated on tap, thinking this would be a great ale, I ordered one. Holy lactic acid Batman, it was sour milk with hops. I finished it, and honestly I can't be too critical except to state that this may be an acquired taste. It was hoppy, cloudy, and a decent ale, with a flavor and mostly strong aroma of sour milk. It was one of those things that really turns you off, sour milk, what more could tell your palate, DON'T DRINK THIS, while at the same time my brain is saying, if this is was they were trying to accomplish they really nailed it, they must have just poured the lactic acid in by the gallon. I like a bock with a little sour, this was all sour. Not something I would drink again however. Honey Creek Inn is awesome, I could not remember the name of the brew and called them back, they were all too helpful getting me the name. Their food, service, and ale is one of a kind. Who else is Kent County serves cask ale? Not to mention the cool people you meet there.


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Vivant_2.jpgI once again stopped in at Brewery Vivant, this time for lunch. I had "The Burger", it came with a bacon onion and raisin marmalade which was excellent along with tomato, lettuce, onion, mayo, and fries. I sampled their Belgian Wit. While I am not a fan of Witbier I enjoyed its mild character, it did not overwhelm the senses with spiciness like some Witbiers. I also sampled their Kludde Strong Ale, a dark beer with a pronounced black olive and root beer aroma, and a deep roasted malt taste. I would recommend it for a selection. Their Triomphe Belgian IPA is interesting in that it's a divergence from the traditional Belgian and French styles. It is a great IPA, however it's pretty hoppy for an ale with the word Belgian in it. They also have an Abbey Ale that seemed a bit more like a down to earth brown ale to me. The one thing that is very impressive about all their brews is their clarity, everyone of them is crystal clear. The service was excellent, the food was served hot, and the ale was fresh. Pretty hard to beat. If you are new to the brewery it's helpful to know that there is parking in the back so in most cases you probably don't need to find a spot on the street.

Brewery Vivant

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vivant.jpgThis evening I stopped off at Brewery Vivant, aside from the hipster overload, I was impressed. Their food smelled great, and their brews were top notch. It's a brewery with a french/belgian cloister theme. Set in an old church they have Belgian and French-style beer and food. Their bar service was very good considering how busy their were. When I did find a table I found their wait staff a little unresponsive. As a result I made my own 'Belgian' fries when I arrived home from the brewery. Had I had the opportunity, I would have ordered one of their many scrumptious looking entrees.

My first brew was their Farmhouse ale, a very clear blonde ale, despite the menu description of a 'cloudy' beer, it was what a farmhouse ale should be, it had a light maltiness and a barely detectable hop character. Typical of a Belgian Farmhouse - you have to get pretty imaginative to describe it 'fruity in the aroma and flavor'  'earthy yeast tones'  'mild to moderate tartness'. The truth is, that I have been drinking beer so long, I can tell you if something is brewed right, but I think all that descriptive stuff is hogwash. It tastes like a Belgian farmhouse ale, if you don't know what that is, drink more beer. The fact is Jason Spaulding knows what he is doing, this is not his first attempt at making a great brewery.
My second ale was their Sgt. Peppercorn Rye, it had a very distinctive malt character, not the sweet malt flavor of a German beer, but the dusty roasted taste of malt running through the grain mill. It was amber in color with no hop aroma or taste, very drinkable like a session beer.

One thing that stuck me as unique, as if having your brewery in an old mortuary in not unique enough, was their bright tanks. They are horizontal storage tanks that have been, according to their website "repurposed from dairy tanks" that "give our French style "biere de garde" the extra time it needs to develop".

I give it a thumbs up. From the time I stepped in and was greeted at the door I thought it was a great place. Their bathroom sinks are a one of kind, check them out when you're there. So aside from my deep concern that the hipsters, those young folks who are so confused about who they are they have to be just like everyone else who pretends to be 'different' watering down the craft brewing movement by making people think we drink good beer to be cool - we don't - we like good beer - it was great. And to all those hipsters out there, just be yourself. You look like a bunch of immature posers. Take it from someone who is their-self,  it's better to just relax, not worry and have a homebrew.


Founders Breakfast Stout Breakfast

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Breakfast.JPGEach fall Founders Brewing does a Breakfast Stout Breakfast with the motto, "You can't drink all day if you don't start in the morning". In the past it has been catered by San Chez Bistro. This year it was catered by Gilmore catering.The food was excellent and it did not seem to run out as it has in the past. This year Jeremy Kosmicki, head brewer at Founders also brewed up a hazelnut and a vanilla bean version of the Breakfast Stout. Both were not overpowering but had just a hint of character from the bean and coffee. I asked him about pitching the vanilla beans. He just dumped them in and hoped for the best, without a lot of worrying about what evil they might impart. After all it would be quickly consumed by Founders patrons. Here's looking forward to next years Breakfast Stout Breakfast!

Church Calls

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iap.jpgFounders IPA. If there is a stand-by IPA, this is it. If you haven't picked your tickets up yet, this Saturday is Founders Breakfast Stout Breakfast.

Moon River Brewing Company

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Moon_IPA.jpgCoaster.jpgFinding myself in Savannah Georgia I did what I always do when I am somewhere new, look for the local micro brewery. Georgia is home to a few breweries and brewpubs. The most popular local beer on tap in Savannah is the Sweetwater 420, a full bodied pale ale. Downtown Savannah is home to Moon River Brewing Company a local brewpub that has cask ales on Wednesdays and thirteen or so brews on tap. Located in the building that formerly housed the historic City Hotel built in 1821, it sports an oak and brick interior with an extensive beer can collection.

I first had their Swamp Fox Indian Pale Ale, it has a great hop character reminiscent of a Simcoe, I never got a chance to ask the barmaid what hops they used. I also had their porter and ribs with sweet potato fries. The food was excellent, the service decent, I would recommend stopping in if you get the opportunity.

Graydon's Crossing & the Three Hour Pint

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graydens.jpgI want to say that Graydon's Crossing is my favorite pub. But I have already said that about Honey Creek Inn. So maybe I have two favorite pubs, so sue me. It burnt down a while ago, fortunately not too down, as it's back up again. Last week I stopped in and had a Flying Dog Gonzo Porter. In the bottle it's a great porter, but on tap it takes on a whole new persona, still great, but with a hop and sharp malt character undetectable in the bottle.

Tonight I stopped in and had their soup of the day (incredible) a spicy little curry and whatnot in a cup. I also had their fish and chips, a meal for two really - I was over stuffed for the next three hours. But the best part was the pint I sipped on for three hours, the Barrel Aged Plead The 5th from Dark Horse. I have already ranted about how it's the best ale in the world in my brewfest blurb. It comes out in November but Graydon's being Graydon's has a keg of it. But the story get's better, they let me take a growler of it home - Whoo Hoo. I am bottling it up right now so I can ship a sample to my favorite beer drinking buddy south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Founders Bourbon Apple Cream Ale

Bourbon_Apple.jpgendurance_ale.jpgWow now here was something new, Founders Bourbon Apple Cream Ale. I just tried a small sample of it. It tastes just like it sounds, and it was very good. It was like an Apple Jack on the rocks that had been melting for a while. It had the taste of cider, water and bourbon. I am not sure I would want an entire pint of it but perhaps a wineglass of snifter of it. The small sample size glass in the picture is the Apple Cream Ale. I also sampled their Endurance Ale (the pint glass pic) it was a very light pale ale with a real nice hop aroma and bitterness, sort of a session ale.


The Brewmaster


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