The food abides…

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Wintertide and Winterbolt!!!

Halfway through December and I’m taking some downtime tonight. Drinking Sierra Nevada’s holiday spiced ale from their winter Snowpack and watching the exploits of the greatest villain ever to appear in a stop-motion holiday special.

I’m digging the brew. Sierra Nevada doesn’t really do malty beers (I think the holiday Snowpacks over the last few years have been all IPAs and Pale Ales with maybe random stout thrown in for good measure), so this was a pleasant surprise. Wintertide is very similar to Samuel Adams’ Old Fezziwig but just a little less sweet and with a slightly heaver backbone of spices; the cinnamon, nutmeg and clove in this one are more bold and you can really taste them.

And yes I’m showing my age with my appreciation for Winterbolt, the evil ice wizard from Rudolph & Frosty’s Christmas in July. He’s still a badass.

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season so far because it will be over before we know it.

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides…

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Dunedin Brewery Crawl!!!

Nestled between Clearwater and Palm Harbor, this small waterfront community with a rich Scottish/Celtic heritage has become something of a mini-Mecca for breweries in the last couple of years. Like the St. Pete Brewery Corridor, zythophiles can easily spend an entire day walking around Downtown Dunedin sampling beers from a number of different brewers and that is exactly what we did. Not everyone in our crew made it to the end of the night, but those of us dedicated enough were treated to some unique new locations and some stellar new brews.

Here’s a quick round-up:

Woodwright Brewing Co. – This may have been my favorite of all the new locations. The building, a portion of which still actively operates as a woodworking company, is gorgeous and the smell of fresh cut wood is lingers in the air. There is a spacious courtyard with lots of long tables and a firepit and it’s surprisingly dog friendly. At one point I even noticed that there were more dogs than people.

Highlight – Among a host of great malty beers like Scotch and Irish Ales, a hearty porter and a solid Dunkel, I enjoyed their Woodwright Amber Ale the most. Slightly sweet with just a touch of citrus on the back end, this makes for an excellent example of what the brewers at Woodwright can do.

7venth Sun Brewery – The second oldest brewery in Dunedin, 7venth Sun is another local craft beer staple. Located in a strip center and with only a few tables outside and a few chairs inside, you don’t really come to 7venth Sun for the atmosphere, you come for the beer.

Highlight – A collaboration with Terrapin Brewing, Real Men Wear Skirts, a Scotch Ale with rye, was sweet and full-bodied with a nice rounded caramel backbone. That rye note is just subtle enough to accent the flavors.

Halftime Eats – Hog Island Fish Camp – Around halfway though our day we decided we needed to stop and refuel. Being right on the water, there was no shortage of seafood restaurants in the immediate area, but on our way to the next brewery on our list we spotted Hog Island Fish Camp and decided to give it a shot.

Highlight – Our adventurousness paid off in spades and I was treated to this amazing Oyster Po’ Boy Sandwich. I’ve never had fried oysters this good before and this sandwich was quite large. This was a good thing as it gave me a solid base to continue beer sampling at the next locations.

Cueni Brewing Co. – Speaking of the next location, across the street was Cueni Brewing Co. A relative newcomer to the Dunedin area, this place was small and their modest taps were still plying a lot of summer brews. What they did have was well crafted and I enjoyed what I got to sample.

Highlight – The Moove Over, I’m Milk Stout was a delightful experience for the senses. Cocoa on the nose, a creamy mouthfeel with just a slight fizziness to it and milk chocolate flavors on the tongue lent itself to what I found to be a surprising brew. Highly drinkable, it didn’t sit at the bottom of my stomach like a rock as most stouts tend to do.

Caledonia Brewing – Our next stop was honestly the one I was the most excited for. Another newcomer to the Dunedin scene, Caledonia quite literally wears its Scottish heritage on its sleeve. This place operates like it’s been in business for 20 years. With blue lighting, lots of pub games and a jukebox, it was packed with clientele and felt like a Saturday night hangout. What impressed me the most was the beer list. Most new breweries start small with 4-6 core beers before they begin expanding their repertoire; however, Caledonia boasted close to 30 different styles and that is an impressive feat for a place that’s only been open for 7 months.

Highlight – When you’re in a area known for it’s Scottish roots and in a brewery named after what the Romans used to call Scotland, how can you not try the Scotch Ale before anything else? The Rat Arsed Scotch Ale was a legitimate offering with high caramel notes and a pleasant sweetness. This was a mellow brew and it was appreciated after the night started to wind down.

Soggy Bottom Brewery – Another new kid on the block as well as another location that had the feel of a Saturday night destination. With low ceilings, kitschy chairs made from old kegs and license plates and a mustachioed bartender in a vest and bow-tie, Soggy Bottom is a bit trendier than the other locations. That was reflected in their beer as there were some very unique offerings.

Highlight – While I wanted to try some of their more unique brews like the mint chocolate stout or blackberry wheat, they were still pouring an Oktoberfest. Given that we’re at the tail end of the Fall beer season I had to go with the Marzen.  As this will likely be my last Oktoberfest this year, I’m glad I went out with this one because it was worth it.

Dunedin Brewery – And of course none of the day’s adventures would have been possible without Dunedin Brewery.  As the Bay Area’s oldest microbrewery, DunBrew laid the ground work for twenty years and anchored Tampa as a craft beer destination. With old favorites always on the menu and new experimentations constantly coming down the pipe, you can never go wrong with coming to the area solely to visit this place.

Highlights – Went with a flight this time around and I sampled the Fear of Change Bavarian Amber, the Oktoberfest Marzen, the Al Grundy Red Lager and the Batten Down Berliner Weisse. The Fear of Change was easily my favorite of the bunch. Aged on Guatemalan cocoa nibs and cypress wood, this beer tasted simultaneously like Germany, South America and Florida all rolled into one fantastic brew.

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If you’re a beer enthusiast visiting the Tampa Bay Area, you’re going to have to pick and choose where you sample as no one can possibly hit all 40+ local breweries in one go. But if you want to take on a large chunk at once, Dunedin’s density of craft beer-makers, all within walking distance of one another, is very attractive to that notion. Especially if you have an appreciation for Celtic heritage and darker, maltier brews.

Visited Dunedin and tried any of the local beers? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides…

Happy Halloween from the Tampa Food Dude!

I have an annual Halloween tradition. After all the holiday’s activities are over, I kick back, crack a pumpkin beer and watch Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. This year’s brew is actually one I had cellared from last year, Barley Mow Brewing Co.’s “Lord of the Gourd” Pumpkin Porter. With a nice spice and a malty backbone this was a perfect brew to compliment the time of year as well as Burton’s Halloween weirdness.

I’m starting to find that porters take to seasonal flavors like pumpkin or gingerbread very well and aren’t nearly as heavy a stouts, so I like it when I see brewers experiment with these more often.

Hope everyone has enjoyed their Halloween this year. Given that we’re going to blink and it will be January 2nd it’s always good to slow down and enjoy things when we can.

Tried Lord of the Gourd? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides…

Jalapeno Lingonberry Salmon

Here’s a tip. Whenever you’re at IKEA don’t forget to stop at the Swedish grocery they have just after the checkout area. They have some great stuff including this Jalapeno Lingonberry dry rub which I used on some fresh salmon I just bought from Land & Sea. May very well be the best piece of fish I’ve ever cooked…

New Beer Friday/First Day of Fall! – New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin

Today would be a day that those unfamiliar with the Law of Large Numbers might call a coincidence. Not only is it Friday, my preferred day of the week for trying new beers, but it’s also the first day of Fall which is my favorite beer season. For today’s New Beer Friday, I’m kicking things off with a literal bang and trying New Belgium’s new Fall release, their Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin Ale. That’s a lot of “New.”

New Belgium Brewing always has some really creative one-offs especially when it comes to their Lips of Faith series. But like last year’s seasonal, the unusually tart Pumpkin Cranberry Ale “Pumpkick,” this spicy brew is something special. I tend to associate any of their beers tagged with the Voodoo Ranger moniker as an IPA or something similarly hoppy, but that is not the case this go around.

Atomic Pumpkin pours an orange-gold color with almost no head and just a little bit of lacing on the glass. On the nose is a significant bready aroma of pumpkin pie with a hint of vanilla and just the slightest little inference of the forthcoming habanero peppers.

Mouthfeel is surprisingly light and crisp. On the first pull are those solid biscuity pumpkin pie notes complete with the traditional cinnamon, allspice and clove flavors. It quickly mellows into something almost reminiscent of creamy vanilla ice cream. Then on the back end, the habanero peppers hit you right in the craw. It’s not overpowering or too spicy, it’s just there, leaving this pleasant little tickle and a perfect warming feeling (though I dig heat so “not too spicy” to me may mean something completely different to you).

In an age where people roll their eyes every time someone mentions the word “pumpkin,” this is a unique brew. I love both pumpkin and spicy beers and this marriage is something that scratches the itch and simply hasn’t been done before.

If you’re looking for a more traditional pumpkin ale or if you have no taste for spicy beers you may want to sit this one out in favor of something a little safer. But if you’re looking for something new and interesting it’s worth picking this up and giving it a try.

Tried the Atomic Pumpkin? Leave a message in the comments!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides…

 

Post Hurricane Irma Eats @ Buttermilk Provisions

Post Irma, most retail locations were out of power, food or both. That’s why in addition to being incredibly grateful that we made it through the hurricane relatively unscathed (especially given the devastation it wrought on some of our neighbors to the south and east), I’m also very glad that one of my favorite local coffee and pastry shops, Buttermilk Provisions was up and running immediately following the storm.

The Spinach, Mushroom and Gruyere Quiche was a perfect dish of cheesy goodness. The Vegan Cinnamon and Sugar Donut was surprisingly moist. And I maintain that the Buddy Brew coffee kicks the crap out of anything you can get anywhere else.

The proprietor greeted us with a warm smile and a genuine concern for how we fared during the storm. Between that, and the food, it was a much needed bit of normal after what had been a crazy week leading up to Irma’s Florida landfall.

THIS is why I support local business as often as I can. You cannot get this kind of comfort at a Starbucks.

Hope everyone was as lucky as we were during the storm and if you weren’t that you can get your lives back to normal as soon as possible…

And remember Florida… the food abides… and so do we….

Game of Thrones and a Coppertail “Stash…”

Yes it’s another Another Game of Thrones post so soon after the last, but it’s been a short season. In the glass is a Coppertail Brewing Co.’s “Stash” a Tropical Stout with Pistachio and Vanilla Bean.

This is a really unique brew with a very pleasing texture… and it tastes like drinking a big boozy bowl of pistachio ice cream. Which is a good thing.

Hope everyone enjoys the show!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides…