Some places were just made for a 360 camera

I’m in Pittsburgh having flown there straight from Queens.  The work is still flowing, but I find myself with an afternoon to myself in which I’m not so tired I can barely think.  This is it!  This is the day to get out to breweries.  Talking to someone at the work site, I hear tell of a church that has been converted to a brewery.  Sounds interesting.  Then, I have a talk with an Uber driver about breweries in the area.  He knows nothing about beer, and even less about why people would visit breweries.  But, he’s heard of a brewery that was converted from a church.  OK.  Now I have to see this place.  It becomes priority numero uno on brewery afternoon in Pittsburgh.  From outside, you wouldn’t even know The Church Brew Works was a brewery without looking at the sign.

The Church Brew Works exterior

When I walk through the doors, I immediately remember architecture from all those times from my youth when I actually went to church.

The Church Brew Works entrance
Stairs leading to upper level seating

Ahhhh, North East Church architecture.  But, then I walked into the main part of the church.  Holy made for a 360 camera Batman!  So much to see here!

OK. I’m calling it. The Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh was specifically designed for 360 pictures. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Wow!  I couldn’t even sit down and get a beer at first.  I had to walk all over this place and get pictures of every nook and cranny.

Brewing equipment at alter of The Church Brew Works
Serving equipment behind bar area at The Church Brew Works
Motorcycle made of bottle caps
Big rock? Fossilized dinosaur poop?
Stuff to buy
Entrance half of The Church Brew Works
Alter half of The Church Brew Workds

Ahhh, but you’re talking to me again as you’re reading.  You’re saying “but, is there more to this place than just pictures?”  Turns out there is.  I just wanted to get the pictures out of the way first as the place was just so visually stunning and photogenic.

I sat down with one of the brewers (Brian) and had a really good discussion about the story behind the brewery.  Of course, my first question had to be “Is the theme based on a highly religious background on the part of the owners?”  Turns out it is not.  The parish was going through a lot of movement and restructuring in the area and the building itself came up for sale.  The owners saw the potential that lead me to walk all over taking pictures before I even sat down for a drink and they leaped at the opportunity.  It really seemed to pay off.  I highly recommend reading the history page of the breweries website as there was a lot of painstaking work that went into the specifics of how this place looks.

Brian also had some interesting perspectives on brewers.  Specifically, he had an observation that many brewers seem to have one of two different training styles.  Many brewers are artists at heart.  Their training is in the art of brewing and they tend to focus on exploration of new and unique styles and flavors.  Then there are the brewers that have a primarily engineering background (like Brian).  They are often chemists at heart and like to focus on perfecting existing styles and flavors.  Brian’s passion is in the flavor that water adds to beer.  The flavor in water comes from stuff that isn’t H2O itself such as minerals.  When he is home brewing in small batches he likes to start with distilled water and then create flavors of water that complement the style of beer he is brewing.  Fascinating!

And, of course, I did manage to get a bottle while I was there.  They had a fantastic Belgian Tripel.

The Church Brew Works 2000 Tripel

If you are ever in Pittsburgh, you NEED to get to this place.  It is quite an experience.

That means what now?

When last we left our intrepid anti-hero, he was living it up with a trip to Queens, NY.  From there I went straight on to Pittsburgh.  I don’t mean that I went home and then flew up to Pittsburgh the next week.  I mean that I had an interesting conversation with the travel agent in which I booked a flight from Orlando to Queens, then from Queens to Pittsburgh and no flight back to Orlando because I wasn’t sure when I would be done working in Pittsburgh.  I’m sure I’m on some sort of government watch list for booking that set of flights.

Anywho… I get to Pittsburgh, I’m tired, and I need dinner.  I want to stay close to the hotel, but I have a rental car (for the first day only) and can’t resist finding a brewery a bit further out.  My research said that my best bet was to go to Heidelberg, PA and check out Insurrection AleWorks.

Insurrection AleWorks

Despite a long walk down a hallway, the actual tap room area is not all that large.

Post from RICOH THETA. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

But, as I’ve mentioned before, the size of a brewery is never indicative of how good they are.  The food at Insurrection was exactly what I typically look for.  A menu full of odd things that I just won’t find anywhere else such as Jamaican Hot Chocolate Habanero wings and a list of cheeses with such oddities as Rattlesnake.  As I would soon find out, the Pittsburgh area was going to be a mecca of interesting foods everywhere I turned.  I was even able to find bizarre and delicious food at an airport sports bar.  I’m sure I gained about 10 lbs on this trip.

But, I’m sure you’re asking in your head (because you’re like that, don’t try to tell me you’re not), what about the beer?  Isn’t this a beer blog?  Well, hold your horses, I’m getting there.  The beer menu had a wide variety of styles and I was able to put together an eclectic flight that I’m sure would make some purists somewhere cry.  But, what caught my eye for my collection was a beer called восстание.  A challenge I often face in collecting is tracking all of the beers in the collection.  In this case, I was wondering how my poor spreadsheet that I’m hoping to turn into a full blown database is going to handle Cyrillic.  Just in case, I ask the server what восстание means in English so that I can enter a backup name.  Turns out it means “insurrection”… you know, the name of the brewery.  Crazy.

So, the collection is one growler stronger, I have beer to drink in the hotel after long shifts of work, and I’ve started a trend of fantastic food.  The trip is definitely off to a good start.

My goodness the thoughts in your head right now.  You know I can hear you bitching already, right?  “But were you able to enter Cyrillic into Excel?”  Yes, crybabies.  I was able to put Cyrillic into Excel.  Now go have a beer and calm down.

One Night in Queens – Reggae Rockabilly?

The story of the film so far…

I’m working at LaGuaria Airport on a super-busy schedule.  But, I find my self with one night in which I can try and find a brewery in Queens.  I decide I will head to Long Island City, visit Big Alice Brewing and then head back to the hotel.  Once at Big Alice, I meet a guy who would very much like to act as my personal brewery sherpa and take me to more breweries in Long Island City.  All within walking distance.  How can I say no?

So we head out to find out next brewery and I wonder what the style of brewery I’m in for. Big Alice was actually quite small. Would the next brewery be the opposite of it’s name?  I was heading for Rockaway Brewing Co. and all I know about “Rockaway” is that Far Rockaway is a beach area in Queens.  I was in Long Island City rather than Far Rockaway, so we were off to a good start for an ironic name.

Don’t ask me how, buy as we approached the brewery, I could tell right away that the style was going to be quite different from Big Alice.

Rockaway Brewing exterior

Rockaway’s website says they are fans of Reggae.  However, once I entered, I had a distinct feeling of something akin to a rockabilly diner.

Unique look to Rockaway Brewing
Classic pinball machine
Graffiti mural

One thing I really got a kick out of where the bar stools made out of a sheet of plywood, and the plywood leftover on the wall to prove it.

Plywood bar stools
Plywood bar stool cutout

Jared (the brewery sherpa) and I enjoyed a few beers and chatted about all things beer for a while (because what else do you do in a brewery).

Moving on to Rockaway Brewing. Big night so far. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Then, after I got a mixed 4 pack of Rockaway Brewing cans, we decided we’d best be heading out to the next brewery.  Other wise, I might get to tired and give up.  And Jared wouldn’t be having any of that nonsense.

Check back again and I’ll finish out the night with one last brewery in Long Island City.

Best Brewery Tour Ever

I’m so excited right now.  This post has been more effort than any other. But, it (IMHO) takes this blog to a new level.  I happened to be touring breweries in South Central Pennsylvania with a good friend and he told me about a place called Bube’s Brewery that had catacombs and historic equipment that could be explored.  I knew right away this would be the perfect place to bring the 360 camera.  Once we got there, I met up with Jeff Woodman who arranged for the stunning Kate Hopkins to take me on an extensive tour of the whole place.  This is no 30 second, unguided, walk through like I normally get.  Kate gave this tour her all and explained out every room they have.  I don’t even want to keep writing more because you need to see this video.

As a bonus, here are some 360 pictures from Bube’s.

Bube’s Brewery 3 #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Bube’s Brewery 4 #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Bube’s Brewery 7 #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Bube’s Brewery 9 #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Bube’s Brewery #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Be bold!

Slowly but surely, I’m finding the opportunities to get to the legion of Central Florida breweries.  After the last trip to Super South Georgia, I was fortunate enough to pass through Jacksonville, on my own, somewhere around dinner time.  In Jacksonville, dinnertime means one thing more than any other… get off the roads and find somewhere to eat, because traffic isn’t letting you go anywhere anyway.  So, I looked for breweries close to I-95 that might have some good food.  Turns out that Bold City Brewery fit the bill on both counts.  It was time for a detour!

Finding some breweries is a process that makes me happy that we have progressed to a point where we have GPS on our phones.  Aside from the great big fermentation tank out back, I would never have guessed from the outside that this was anything other than an industrial building of some sort or other.

Bold City industrial building

But, true to the kind of quirky neighborhoods in which breweries tend to reside, there was some interesting graffiti on the building across the street.

Bold City graffiti on the building across the street

And, what quirky neighborhood would be complete without a completely random and inexplicable billboard on the other side of the parking lot?

Bold City inexplicable billboard

To be honest, that’s a pretty good start to a brewery visit for me.  Quirky and I get along quite well.  Must be time to see what the inside looks like.

Stopped in at Bold City Brewery on my way home through Jacksonville. Very impressed so far. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Pretty damn nice on the inside.  The industrial vibe is completely gone… except for a giant window that looks out into the brewing area and the Bodega where I got some astounding fried nachos with pulled chicken.  And, of course, my attention was immediately drawn to the bottle collection displayed in the tap room.

Bold City bottle collection

Bonus points if you spotted the Duff Beer.  And, as if that isn’t enough, they have interesting beer-related products for sale, such as beer hand lotion.  Crazy.

Bold City beer hand lotion

So, the quirky industrial exterior works and the interior vibe has it going on as well.  What about the beer?  I have to admit, I already knew about the beer as they have a great brown ale in distribution that I’ve had several times before.

Bold City Duke’s Cold Nose Brown Ale

But at the brewery you get to see a picture of the actual Duke for which the beer is named.  He’s quite the cute sucker too.

Bold City picture of Duke

So, I knew the beer was going to be great.  What surprised me was that when the bartender noticed I was a first time customer, he immediately provided me with a free flight so I could get a feel for their full range of styles.  That is the best business move I’ve seen from a brewery in many, many years.

Bold City free-first-time-flight

You can also see in the picture a set of Jax Ale Trail booklets in which you can get stamps from many of the Jacksonville breweries.  Another great business move.  I think these guys are going to be around for a while. After the flight, I ordered a pumpkin ale and got a free pint glass because I kicked the keg.

Bold City pint glass

This is definitely my kind of place.  If it wasn’t a two hour drive, I would make this a regular stop.

But, let’s get down to the nitty gritty here.  Did I get a bottle for the collection?  Hell yes.  They have growlers and I have a growler koozie that I keep handy for long return home drives.  So the trip was a success on all fronts.  Let’s check out a 360 video tour so you can see the whole shebang.  I think you’ll be surprised at how big the whole place is based on the size of the taproom in the 360 picture.

So Moon River is the name of a song, a river, a district, and a brewery?

On my last trip to super duper South Georgia, I got the chance to drive up for work a day early and I didn’t have anyone else with me, so I was able to take the hour or so drive North to Savannah, GA.  Why?  Well, because there are NO breweries in super duper south Georgia, of course.  But Savannah definitely has a few of them.  I scoped things out before making the drive, called to make sure they have been around long enough to be serving their own beer, and headed on up to Moon River Brewing Company.

I’m on travel and decided to suck it up, take an hour drive and visit Moon River Brewing in Savannah. I like the moon shaped flights. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Like many breweries located in a downtown area, it has a fairly low key profile for the entrance.

Moon River entrance

However, this one seems to be doing well enough to have a great big, open air, beer garden area right next door.

Moon River beer garden

Of course, the first thing I noticed when I stepped inside was the collection of beer cans lining the entrance.

Moon River beer can collection

But, what really caught my eye was a set of beer cans the likes of which I’ve never seen before.  They look like the giant cans of pudding that Carl finds in The Walking Dead.

Moon River giant cans of beer

This was definitely my kind of brewery.  I knew I was going to be walking around downtown Savannah for a while, so I splurged and got two flights of beer (which happens to cover their entire beer list).  I then discovered that I really like the design of their beer flight paddles.

Moon River beer flight boards

And the discoveries just kept coming.  I have to admit that I’ve seen it a few times since this visit, but this was the first time I’ve seen a pumpkin pie beer that is a pumpkin beer with pumpkin pie spices on the rim of the glass.  Very unique and actually tastes pretty damn good that way.

Moon River pumpkin pie spices rimming the glass of a pumpkin beer

OK.  Adventure time is over.  Let’s start drinking those samples.  But wait… there’s more.  A big group of people starts funneling in while I’m enjoying my beer and a nice conversation with the group next to me.  I ask what’s going on and it turns out that Moon River Brewing Company is a stop on one of the haunted Savannah type tours because they are located in such a historic building.  Crazy man, crazy.

But, you ask (I can hear you asking whether you think I can or not), is Moon River Brewing Company located on or near the actual Moon River or in the Moon River District?  No.  It’s located a block or two from the Savannah River.  I guess Savannah River Brewing Company just doesn’t have the same ring to it, or allow for all of the excellent moon-based decor.

I did manage to get a growler, so the bottle collection is up by one.  I got the pumpkin pie beer and was pleased to find that they gave me a to go container of the pumpkin pie spice so I can rim my own glass when I drink it.  How very thoughtful of them.

Growler of Moon River pumpkin pie beer with a to go container of pumpkin pie spice to rim my own glass

And, if you look closely right behind the growler you will see that I was successful at getting them to take some of my world famous UsedHair’s Used Bottles coasters to get the word out to more people about the blog. Go me.

But, all good brewery visits must come to an end.  So, let’s cap it all off with a 360 video tour of the haunted Moon River Brewing Company.

Release the Kraken!

I’ve been living in Central Florida for nearly 8 years at this point.  It’s a measly 2 – 2 1/2 hour drive to get to Tampa (depending on where in that area you go).  And… I’ve only been to 2 breweries there so far.  That is unacceptable considering there are WAY more breweries in Tampa than there are in the Orlando area.  Well, Mrs. UsedHair and I decided to help out with that a bit when we figured we would go see Joan Jett, Heart, and Cheap Trick play in Tampa.  We drove down early in the day, walked the river walk area for a while downtown and then hit Coppertail Brewing Co. on the way to the concert.

Coppertail Brewing in Tampa. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

This is one of the newer breweries in the area (founded in 2014) and I have definitely had their beer in other bars and in distribution bottles long before I made it here.  But, it fills out so much more of the story of the beers I drink if I can see the atmosphere of the place it came from.  They run the gambit from tiny tiny Big Alice Brewing (coming soon to a blog post near you) to the gigantic Tröegs Brewing (guess what… you guessed it… also coming soon to a blog post near you).  Well… Coppertail definitely has a feel all it’s own.  Yet, about what I expected based on the look an feel of their bottle labels and beer descriptions.

Coppertail Brewing exterior

There were a lot of water themed decorations strewn about.

Coppertail Brewing diver decor
Coppertail Brewing kraken and/or giant squid decor

And there was definitely some industrial-space type gear decor happening.

Coppertail Brewing gears

And, much to my liking, there were nice couches to lounge around on.

Coppertail Brewing Couches

Most important for a breweriana collector, they had a big section of cool and interesting stuff for me to buy.  I got some really nice socks and a keychain.

Post from RICOH THETA. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Coppertail Brewing merchandise

Although the place is not what I would call huge, it was big enough that I was able to stand in a third spot to get yet another 360 perspective.

Post from RICOH THETA. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

But, as usual, it all comes down to the bottles.  They had a few 12 oz bottles that I had not seen in any store, so I had to get them.

Coppertail Brewing bottles

See… I wasn’t lying about the socks.  They’re right between the six packs and the key chain.

So, the trip was definitely worth taking.  And it makes me want to get back to the Tampa area more and more and more.  I hear great things about the breweries there.  From what I’ve seen so far, I believe it.

Oh… wait! Confound it all, I nearly forgot the 360 video walk through.  Don’t let me do that again.

A Wicked brew enbiggens the smallest drinker

I usually drive through Jacksonville, FL on my way to and from South, South Georgia for work.  Unfortunately, I tend to find myself either traveling with others that just want to get home or traveling by myself in the middle of a weekday and find that no breweries near by are open.  However, on this occasion Mrs. UsedHair and I decided to make a drive up to Jacksonville to check out their zoo.  And… it’s never a hard sell to get her to stop in at a brewery after we drive somewhere new.  So, I did some searching on Google Maps and on the way back we stopped at Wicked Barley.

Wicked Brewing now open sign

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had made the mistake of stumbling onto a new brewery that had not yet started serving their own beer.  My first hint of trouble was the “Now Open” sign.  But…  did that really detract from my experience at this brewery?  Hell no.  They had 20 taps of other excellent beer, several of which I had never had before.  So, no harm no foul.

Wicked Barley tap list

In addition, they also had some incredible food.  At that point, how can you go wrong.  I write these posts a bit out of order sometimes, so this was actually the very first time I got to play around with my 360 degree camera.

At Wicked Barley in Jacksonville, playing with the 360 camera. Keep an eye out for a video on the blog. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

I also walked around with the regular camera and checked out the cool art work.

Wicked Barley art

The staff there were awesome, and let me wander around the taproom taking 360 video and then let me wander around the brewing area taking yet more 360 video.  It was an awesome first experience with the new camera.

So, what started out as a bit of a disappointment because I couldn’t get a bottle, can, or growler, turned into a success because I got to walk around a brewing area and play with my new toy.

Pair up enough and you’ll make a Mechazord!

OK younglings.  I’m pretty excited about this brewery visit because the brewery itself is so unique on a few different levels.  I first heard about Broken Cauldron Taproom way back when Mrs. UsedHair and I went to the DeLand Craft Beer Festival last year.  What’s so special about Broken Cauldron?

Post from RICOH THETA. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Broken Cauldron Taproom

It’s two, two, two breweries in one!

Broken Cauldron Sign

On my trip to Broken Cauldron, I talked with Ken and Jeanna Malines about how it all got started.  As it turns out Jeanna and Ken were actively working to open a brewery called Black Cauldron Brewing and generally having a hard time with all of the hassles that new breweries have to deal with (licencing horror stories are pretty common in the industry).  Meanwhile some other brewers in Central Florida were trying to create a brewery called Broken Strings Brewery and having the same problems.  In the true, almost anti-competition, nature of craft brewing all of the brewers decided that it would be best if they worked together and shared each others challenges and successes.  So, Broken Cauldron Taproom has beer that is brewed by Black Cauldron and beer that is brewed by Broken Strings.  Brilliant!

Ken filled me in a little more on why that approach works so well.  Opening a craft brewery takes a metric ass-ton of work.  Most people that decide to do so can’t really “quit their day job” until the brewery is not only up and running, but also profitable.  We’re talking a time scale of years here.  Ken said that they seriously started the process about 14 months ago. At the time, they thought they would be open last November.  But, they were actually able to open June 4th.  Now they are facing the “becoming profitable” portion of the journey.  However, with 4 people (2 from Black Cauldron and 2 from Broken Strings) available and 100% dedicated, they can get all the work done themselves and not have to worry yet about supporting staff (on top of all of the other costs involved).  And they might even be able to have some sort of semblance of a life outside of the brewery.  In addition, because each pair of brewers has unique brewing styles and preferred beers, each pair of brewers is able to spend more time focusing on brewing styles of beer that they really want to brew rather than spend much of their time brewing just what they think will bring in customers.  Their individual styles cover the gambit from Belgians to sours to IPA, etc. that will already please most crowds.

One more way that I found Broken Cauldron to be unique is that the setup is not just a collaboration between Black Cauldron and Broken Strings, it’s also a collaboration between Jeanna and Ken.  And I don’t just mean that Ken brews the beer and Jeanna runs the taproom.  They collaborate all the way with Jeanna (according to Ken) being the really creative force behind the recipes for the beers.  So many collaborations under one roof!

Let’s take a gander around the place.  To start, the walls are covered with cool art featuring music legends that have passed away.

Broken Cauldron art
More Broken Cauldron art

In addition, they have a great mural dedicated to the Pulse tragedy.

Pulse mural

And they have a little art floating around the door to the brewing equipment.

Brew House entrance

So, because we can, let’s take do a 360 video walk through of the place.

Finally. A special treat for anyone dedicated enough to read all the way to the end.  Ken takes us on a 360 video tour of the brewing area and talks about an upcoming brewery that we might see cropping up in the Sanford area and tells us how Broken Cauldron plans to be involved in yet more collaborations.

If at first you don’t succeed

I travel quite a bit and seek out new breweries wherever I go.  However, like the person that grows up on Long Island and never visits New York City, I often find that there are breweries in Orlando that I just never get around to checking out.  One day at work, a group of us were trying to list out all of the Central Florida breweries and found a new one that no one had yet heard of called Deadly Sins.  The next time Mrs. UsedHair and I were heading to that area of Orlando, we decided to hit them up to see if I should get everyone from work to high tail it over there. There weren’t a lot of people there, but that was good because it gave us a chance to get pictures of all the cool artwork and get a tour with the owner.

Deadly Sins art work
More Deadly Sins art work
Tour with Tom

Mrs. UsedHair and I are big dog lovers.  So, we were really happy to find out that Deadly Sins is dog friendly and that we were able to meet the official pet of Deadly Sins, Luke.

Deadly Sins mascot Luke

There was only one problem with Deadly Sins the first time we went there. They had just opened and did not yet have their own beer on tap.  For a bottle/can collector, this resulted in me failing to meet my prime directive. Fortunately, Deadly Sins is not too far away.  So, when they had their grand opening I was able to go back again and get a growler of Crème Del Diablo.

At the grand opening of Deadly Sins brewing in winter park. Tons of people. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Coming back a second time really paid off.  I was able to see the place with a big crowd, live music, a food truck, etc.  I even got a chance to get a really good walk through with the 360 camera.

So many lessons learned early in life continue to serve us today.  In this case, it was “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again”.  Now I just need to gather up the beer lovers at work and get over there with a group.