You got your chocolate in my peanut butter

I was recently at a 7-11 with Mrs. UsedHair and we were admiring the decadence of the double gulp insulated mug.

52 oz double gulp mug

Mrs. UsedHair liked the Army design as UsedHair Jr. was in the Army.  my only problem was that I couldn’t think of anything of which I would want 52 ounces in one shot.  But then I noticed the sticker.

8 hours cold sticker

This mug claims to keep liquids cold for 8 hours.  I could probably drink 52 ounces of beer in 8 hours.  Probably.  It would mean drinking for a whole evening without having to get up off the couch even once.  There was just one hitch.  I collect single bottles and cans.  That’s all I shop for.  I don’t have 52 ounces of any single beer around my house.  I would have to find a beer with just enough class, color, and charm to drink from a 7-11 double gulp mug.

Well, it just so happens that I was listening to an episode of At The Bar Podcast in which they were discussing a news story that helped me out.  As it turns out, Walmart is being sued because they sell a line of beer that (so the claim goes) is disguised as craft beer.  Just what does that mean?  Well, the 12 pack of beer in question is clearly labeled as being from Trouble Brewing.

Walmart 12 pack of “craft” beer
Walmart “craft” beer

As it turns out, there is an actual Trouble Brewing in Ireland, but none whatsoever here in the US.  The Trouble Brewing listed on the Walmart beer cans is a thinly veiled front for Genesee Brewing Company.  When I was growing up in Upstate New York, Genesee was known for it’s bargain basement quality beer.  Since then, it has been sold and mergered a few times and now rests in the hands of Cerveceria Costa Rica S.A.  Such news worthy beer definitely belongs in my collection.  For me, the bigger issue is not that the beer is made by a mass distributor.  Rather, the fact that the beer is made by Genesee makes it of about the right amount of class to be appropriate for a 7-11 double gulp.  My own personal challenge had begun.  Check out the video to see me preparing to drink a mish-mash of 5 cans of low quality beer in one night.  There’s a reward at the end of the video as you get to see that this mug really-really likes me.

So how did the night go?  Well, believe it or not, I’m not really used to drinking 5 beers in a night.  Craft beer is typically expensive, so I keep myself paced pretty well.  Getting through 5 beers, of questionable quality, all mixed together in a bucket, was not the most enjoyable evening I’ve ever had.   But I powered through it.  The biggest side effect I noticed was well after I drank the beer.  I will occasionally get up in the middle of the night with heartburn and have to take a tums.  I’m then fine and go back to sleep for the rest of the night.  I had to get up 4 times that night with the same heartburn.  That was a tums filled night to be sure.  But now I have a story, an insulated mug that I’ll never use again, and 4 new cans for the collection.

On Night in Queens – Where am I again?

So now…where were we? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh…okay. “Westley and Buttercup raced along the ravine floor.”

No, no.  That’s not it.  I was working at LaGuardia Airport in Queens and decided I could hit one brewery on a free night.  I met a guy at the first brewery that wasn’t going to have any of that and started acting as my personal beer sherpa in Long Island City.  We went together to a second brewery and had a grand old time.  But the evening wasn’t over yet.  There was one more brewery within walking distance in Long Island City that I had to see.  Big Alice wasn’t big and Rockaway Brewing wasn’t in Rockaway.  Would this be a similarly oddly named brewery?  Nope.  I was in for a third completely and utterly different style of brewery in the same city.  But LIC Beer Project (Long Island City, LIC, get it?) was definitely in Long Island City and didn’t really have any juxtapositions from it’s name going on.

LIC Beer Project exterior

The best way I can describe LIC Beer Project is “ultra”.  Ultra-hip, ultra-modern, ultra-sleek, ultra-polished, ultra-etc. Even the naming convention of calling themselves a beer project rather than a brewery spoke to the “ultra” feel of the place.  LIC had a feel like nothing else in a town with at least 2 other breweries.

Final stop of the night. Long Island City Brewing. So many breweries in one night. #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

LIC barrels

The only thing I could find that they had in common with another brewery in the area was the love of graffiti that I had also seen at Rockaway Brewing.

LIC graffiti

But, once again, the “ultra” feel of LIC comes to light in that they take the love of graffiti and ramp it up such that the graffiti art permeates almost all of their can designs.

Speaking of cans… I was able able to score 2 containers at LIC.  The first was a bottle that I was drawn to strictly because of the name.  I was an exchange student in Spain my last year of high school, so I have a love of all things related to Spanish culture.  So a beer called Dulcinea was something I definitely had to have.  The second beer was an IPA.  I’m not usually that into IPAs, but the person behind the bar was excited to hear about my collection and offered to sell me a rare can that she had been squirreling away.  How can I resist a rare can.  To their credit, it was a really good IPA and I enjoyed it quite a bit.

So, the evening has been very productive, and somewhere along the way I lost my beer sherpa Jared.  Now, I’m really tired and know I’m going to have to pay the price at work the next day as I have to get us super early.  But I head back to the hotel knowing I’ve made the absolute most out of my trip.


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.

One night in Queens – Big things come in small packages

I got to work for a few days at LaGuardia Airport in Queens, NY.  Most of the time I was working far to hard and on such odd hours that I couldn’t really think about going out anywhere.  But, at some point in the trip, that magic evening came when I didn’t have to work at night and didn’t have to be back at work at 4am.  This was definitely a brewery night.  I found brewery that I wanted to try in the Long Island City area of Queens.  I would just slip out for a single brewery, just to say I got to one in Queens.  Well, that turned into a whole adventure.  Let’s take the night one step at a time.

The brewery that I had planned was up first.  It was picked solely on the grounds of being closest to my hotel (and therefore the cheapest Uber ride).  With a name like Big Alice Brewing, I expected either a large brewery, large taproom, or a large person behind the bar.  Big Alice was none of those things.

Big Alice Brewing Exterior

Like so many other breweries, Big Alice was quite unassuming from the outside, with nothing more than a hand painted sign above a single door. Inside was quite the opposite of Big.

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

However, in the tiny place, they had some excellent barrels that I hope were once used to age something.

Big Alice barrel
Another Big Alice barrel

I thought maybe this was just a small taproom for a larger brewery.  Nope.  You can see the brewery right behind the bar, and they were nice enough to let me get a picture.

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

Now, if you’re anything like me, you know that the size of a brewery has nothing to do either way with the quality and variety of the beer that gets produced.  So, I had to get a flight to see just how good the beer there was.

Big Alice flight

With a lineup of a sweep potato farmhouse ale, a kiwi belgian ale, a jalapeno rye, as well as IPAs, kolsches, and stouts, this place really knows how to round out a beer selection.  I felt so good about the jalapeno rye that I got a growler of it to take back to the hotel.

And, of course, let’s take a super quick video tour.

Now, this is where my story usually ends.  I grab an Uber and head on home.  But not this time.  I made an awesome friend at Big Alice named Jared.  He is a local to the Long Island City area and shares my enthusiasm for beer and was quite excited to hear about my adventures all over the world.  But, Jared was not having any of my plans to head back to the hotel after visiting only one brewery in Long Island City.  He took it upon himself to act as my personal beer sherpa and we headed out to the next brewery within walking distance.  I was in for a night of three breweries that each had very, very different personalities.  Next post… you get to find out where Jared took me when we left Big Alice.

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

Dog day afternoon

If there is one thing that Mrs. UsedHair and I like as much as beer, it would have to be dogs.  We have three of them ourselves.  As they are all rescue dogs, I suppose you could call them UsedHair’s Used Dogs.

UsedHair’s Used Dogs

We’ve been very pleased to see a trend of having combined dog and beer festivals in our area.   The first one we attended was too small to write about, had only giant corporation beer companies represented, and limited the beer samples with a punch card (which always cheeses me off).  But, the second one we found was definitely worth writing about.

Pints and Paws in Sanford, FL is everything you would expect in a great local beer festival with over 60 breweries (local and national) represented.

Pints And Paws beer festival #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

So, for a start (and it’s a really good start) I get to chat with representatives of great existing breweries like Orange Blossom Brewing Co.

Orange Blossom Brewing car

And I get to chat with reps from breweries that are ramping up to their grand opening, like the guys at Tactical Brewing.

Tactical Brewing at Pints and Paws beer/dog festival

Any friends that have been out in public with me know that I have a “squirrel” reaction any time I see a dog.  So, this place had me distracted left and right with all the cute dogs.

Dog in a carrier
St. Patrick’s Day dogs
Mermaid Dogs
Our dog Cria and Mrs. UsedHair!!!!

On top of everything else, I got to wear the beer helmet that Mrs. UsedHair made for me (I’m the dope on the right wearing the UsedHair’s Used Bottles t-shirt).

Beer head gear

Last, but not least… every collectors dream, I walked away with tons and tons of swag.

Swag from Pints and Paws
More swag from Pints and Paws
Yet more swag from Pints and Paws

I even managed to convince some of the vendors to let me keep the bottles after trying their beer.

Containers from Pints and Paws

So, let’s wrap this up by saying that I highly recommend going to one of these beer/dog festivals.  As one final look, here is the 360 video tour of about 2/3 of the event.

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.

Shall we play a game?

Have I mentioned before that I have the best friends ever?  I probably haven’t, but I do.  One of my friends recently returned from a trip to Iceland and was nice enough to pick up a 3 pack of Stedji Brewery beer. He then shared these beers with me and… let me keep the bottles.  How awesome is that?

Icelandic beer 3 pack

As we were drinking the beer, I started checking out the back of the box where they have a list of all of the beer styles from Stedji Brewery.

Stedji beer styles

I don’t speak Icelandic, so I was counting on the pictures to help me figure out what each style was.  Let’s play a game and see if we can figure them out one by one based only on the pictures.

 Strawberry? Probably.

 Pumpkin?  Low hanging fruit, and Októberbjór seems an easy guess as October.

 Cat skull flavored beer?  Seriously, WTF?  I looked up the meaning of the work and it translates as “smoked”.  I still don’t see what a cat skull has to do with smoking.

 Not even a need to guess for this.  It’s a radler.

 Bow flavored?  Maybe a Christmas bow or something?

 That’s easy… It’s Mjolnir (Thor’s Hammer) flavored beer.  This beer must only allow you to drink it if it finds you worthy.  And it probably tastes like thunder and lightning.

 Pine tree? Must be an IPA.

 Whale flavored?  Oh my goodness… is that the famed dung-smoked whale testicle beer?  Indeed it is! I sooooo wish that beer had been in the 3 pack.  I do have an Icelandic friend (different friend than the one that brought back the 3 pack).  Maybe if I bribe him enough, he’ll bring one back for me next time he goes.

 looks suspiciously like a hop.  Probably another IPA

 looks like a cask or a barrel

Well that was certainly fun.  What styles do you think they are?