Hech en Tampa

I’ve been to some really small and really big breweries. Cigar City in Tampa, FL is definitely one of the biggest. However, you probably wouldn’t think so when you first walk in. The first thing you see is a pretty standard tap room.

img_6125
Cigar City tap room

Pretty standard that is, until you see the guy hand rolling cigars just off to the side of the bar.

img_6127
Hand rolling cigars at Cigar City

I talked to gentleman for quite a while. He was extremely nice, explained everything that he was doing as well as all the equipment he was using, and he even let me take a video of the final steps.

That would have been enough to keep me pretty happy. But then I took the brewery tour. Turns out the tap room is a small part of a very large building.  And that building is only one of many.

Tour group waiting to get started

After the tour group met up and got a sample, we went to the building where most of the brewing proper happens… and got another sample.

One of the brewing buildings at Cigar City

After that came the canning facility… and another sample.

Canning line at Cigar City

Finally, the tour ends and you get to buy some beer to take home with you. I found a Gwar beer and had to get a 4 pack so I could share it with UsedHair Jr (yup, there is a UsedHair Jr).

Gwar – Oderus Ale for sharing

I don’t live terribly far from Tampa. I think the lesson here is that I need to get myself out in that direction more often. Cigar City was definitely worth the trip. And I know there are a lot more breweries in the Tampa that need exploring.

2001: A Beer Odyssey

OK.  So, I know I geek out every time I hit another number mark in my collection.  But, this time is extra special.  I hit the 2,000 bottles and cans benchmark.  For the first time, I can legitimately say I have “thousands of bottles and cans”.  This is a huge step up from saying “more than…” or “nearly…”.  “Thousands” just seems to roll off the tongue so much easier.  And, I’m hoping, is more impressive.

So, what tipped my over the 2,000 mark?  It was Mastiff Oatmeal Stout from Railhouse Brewery in North Carolina.  I’m on vacation with my extended family in Emerald Isle, North Carolina and (of course) had to stock up on North Carolina beers.  I wish there was more of a story to tell here, but that’s about it.  Here is where the current numbers stand for the whole collection:

Beers Added 2002
Repeats (e.g., Orange Blossom Pilsner in a bottle and in a can) 70
Size Difference (e.g., Heineken in a 22 oz bottle and in a 12 oz bottle) 19
Still to drink (I purchased the beer, but have not yet consumed it) 112
Cans 461
Bottles 1541
Unique Beers (Not a repeat or a size difference) 1913
Breweries 654
Classic Cans (cans from a 1970’s collection that once belonged to my brother) 44

Where does he get those wonderful toys?

Along side the container reviews, the brewery visits, and the tales of woe involved with trying to display over 1900 containers, I manage to stumble upon some interesting beer related products.  There was the Das Can-in-Stein from Think Geek, the pint glass cover from Bolt Brewing, the bottle opener that I modified to tackle beer cans, and the Lil Sucker from Shipyard Brewpub.

That’s a lot of beer toys.  But I’m not remotely done yet.  I recently found 2 more toys that I’d like to share with you all.  The first was actually given to me by the same person that does all of the wonderful graphical work for the blog (including the coasters).  I was bitching at him about having to find a place to clean a bottle and put a paper towel in it so that i don’t get stale beer all over my travel bags.  He said that he had found some silicone beer caps, called Beer Savers, meant to keep beer from going flat if you have to put it back in the fridge.  He’s such a nice guy, that he then gave me a few of them the next time he saw me.  I now keep a few of these in my travel bag at all times.

img_7576
Beer Savers reusable bottle caps

More recently, I was at the Orlando Beer Festival and saw a table with what looked like a really tall can koozie.

img_7570
Better Than One double can koozie

Turns out the guy at the table had invented a new kind of can koozie called the BTO Cooler.  This thing lets you hold two beers at a time (one stashed under the other) so that you can spend more time talking to other people, or doing whatever it is you are doing, and spend less time going back and forth to the cooler.

img_7571
Better Than One can koozie separated out

As much as I like this thing, I won’t actually be able to use it much.  Turns out that getting cans back out of this toy is super difficult and I had to dent and even downright crumple my cans to get them back out.  If I was crushing crappy beer at the beach I wouldn’t see a problem with this.  But the whole serious collecting thing makes this something that I wouldn’t use on a can that I want to keep.

As I find more toys, I’ll let you all know.  Do you have and cool beer toys you think I should know about?

Containe review – Brown Note

Let’s look at an all out humorous container approach. Today’s can is The Brown Note from Against The Grain Brewery.

img_7498
The Brown Note – front

Name: I’m a huge fan of humor, unique names, and obscure references. So, this name speaks to me on many levels.

Art work: I’m also a fan of complex art work with tons of detail. Although the art here isn’t like that, I can definitely see that the cartoony style goes better with the name.

img_7499
Beer description: Doubling down on the humor approach. Absolutely have to admire that. Also have to admire the cojones involved in putting an obscenity in a product description.  And there is a good explanation of the name as well.

Just the facts: ABV and the best drinking temperature.  Not bad.  I do like to also know at least the IBU.

Label quality: The label is printed directly on the can. In addition, there are no dings, dents, scratches, etc. This can is in pretty good shape.

Not “Sea Craft” or “See Craft” or even “Frog”

I’m in the DC area, then I’m in Orlando, then I’m back to the DC area, off to Toronto, and back to DC.  So it goes.  I get to travel to lots of different areas, but DC seems to be a rock steady location.  The sad thing is that my trips there are often so short that I don’t always have the chance to get to a brewery when I’m there.  But, on this trip I lucked out.  I had a free evening and was able to hook up with some friends that live in the area at Sehkraft Brewing in Arlington, VA.

img_5990
Sehkraft Brewing in Arlington, VA

I’m never sure what to expect when I go to a new brewery in heavily populated areas.  When I looked at their menu online, I was a bit concerned that their focus would be on food and that the beer might be a secondary component.  That was definitely not the case.  There was certainly fancy decor such as lights that I would really like to have in my house.

img_5986
Super funky light that I want to have in my own home

I was also digging the vibe of the funky purple lighting that they used on the stage.

img_5982
Stage with purple lighting

But the theme was definitely not “restaurant”.  Everywhere you looked, there were kegs predominantly displayed.

img_5988
Kegs, kegs everywhere

img_5979

Even more kegs everywhere

They also have a large bar area where (of course) you can see all the brewing equipment through a window.

img_5984
Sehkraft Brewing bar area with mandatory view of brewing equipment

In short, they really do seem to focus on brewing beer and not just being a restaurant that has their own beer.  Some searching on their site confirmed this when I found that “sehkraft” means vision in German and that they are hoping to “bring about the vision of what the craft beer movement is all about”.

To start wrapping this up, the punchline always has to do with whether or not I can get a bottle for the collection.  The good news here is that Sehkraft does have growlers.  But, pay attention to the style you get.  I nonchalantly asked for a growler and only started paying attention to the growlers themselves when the server asked me what color I wanted.  When I went to the bar to look at them, I was cautioned by the bar tender that the 64 oz growlers were made of a funky material like ceramic or stone or something and cost $65.  That’s a pretty hefty fee for a growler.  Fortunately, they also had glass 32 oz growlers at normal prices.  So, the bottle collection won on this trip.

Container review – Red Cypress Devil’s Chair

Time for another container review. Today we’re going to take a look one of the very first cans from an up and coming brewery in Central Florida. Red Cypress Brewery opened about a year ago and has already progressed to a point where they are producing cans for distribution. I see big things in the future for this brewery. If they aren’t in your area, I’m sure they will be some day.

without further delay, Here is Devil’s Chair from Red Cypress Brewery.

img_6676
Devil’s Chair Can – front

Name: I’m always glad when a beer is named something above and beyond just the style of the beer.  And Devil’s Chair just plain sounds cool.

Art work: The interpretation of Devil’s chair is pretty funny.  And extra points because they got the Red Cypress logo in there as well in a meaningful way.

img_6677
Devil’s Chair Can – description

Beer description:  Now we’re cookin’ with gas.  Finally, a description that actually explains the name of the beer.  They also give a good indication of what to expect from the flavor.  And, to boot, they throw in more devil jokes.  A+

Just the facts: ABV and IBU.  The standards, but the IBU is critical knowledge for IPAs, so good on them.

Label quality: The label is fully printed on the can (not a cheap plastic sleeve) and there are no nicks, scratches, or dents.  This one’s pretty well done.