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Sunday, December 11, 2011

On the Road Again

Just got back from our annual pilgrimage to the Fort Myers area of Florida. As you can see, we weren't the only ones from the Great White North to try to get away from the cold for a bit. We ran into these two gentlemen on the beach catching some rays. We spotted them right off as fellow Northerners. Not sure why, just a feeling.

Anyhow, thought I'd fire off a quick entry here before the main one next week. I promise, no song or poem parodies - just a look at a few beers and a great place to find good craft beers in Florida.

As I've mentioned before finding good beer here is a tricky bit of business. At least now most of the larger grocery stores (Publix, Winn-Dixie) are carrying some craft beers so I can always grab a sixer for back at the ranch. Restaurants and bars are another story. Something about tropical settings, your choices seem to be a light lager or a lighter lager. But the diligent beer connoisseur can scope out good craft beers with a little research.

Cigar City Brewery out of Tampa ("Not in Ybor since 2009") has found its way into the grocery stores in this area so I grabbed a six pack of their excellent Jai Alai IPA (winner of the 2010 Gold medal for the Best Florida Beer Championship and a silver in 2011). A wonderfully cloudy copper-colored unfiltered ale: it's so unfiltered I think it counts toward your daily intake of fiber. The beer looks like honey, a rich golden amber the the unfiltered quality give it a thick, cloudy appearance. Jai Alai has a unique flavor, strong on the hops with interesting hints of citrus/tropical fruit and caramel. With an IBU of 70 and at 7.5% ABV though, it is never overwhelmed with sweetness. Those flavors enhance rather than dominate. Here's hoping they can expand North as it would be a favorite of the BOTB guys for sure.
By the way, Ybor City is a historic neighborhood in Tampa - named for Vincente Martinez Ybor, an early cigar manufacturer.

I Googled brew pubs in the Fort Myers area and kept coming up with a place called Hops. It sounded promising, until we couldn't find the place. It apparently has closed. Then, by chance we stumbled onto a place called "World of Beers." I finally found Heaven in this little corner of Paradise! World of Beers is a rather novel concept. It is both a bar and a beer store. There are several of them located around Florida and throughout the South (Columbus, Ohio is the furthest north). The one in Fort Myers is in the Bell Towers Mall. It has 40 taps and over 500 bottled beers. The number of beers is overwhelming. Kid in a candy store? You bet! I wanted to try some beers I hadn't had before so in the course of a couple of trips I was able to sample six beers. Herewith is a brief rundown of my impressions.
A look at WOB's taps

1. St. Bernardus ABT. 12 - A terrific Belgian Quadruple Ale. Dark brown with an aroma of dark fruits and molasses.The taste is rich and complex and warm. A great beer for a cold winter's night by the fire. Served in a snifter, the first impression is that of a malty roasted grain. You're reminded of yeasty bread. There are hints of caramel and toffee. Everything blends nicely, with a bitter hop presence balancing the sweetness of the malt. At 10.5% ABV it will take the chill off the coldest of nights. Yet there is a creaminess to it that make it amazingly smooth and easy drinking for such a strong beer. Really liked this beer.

2. Bells Two Hearted Ale - Just had a quick sample of this beer from the Kalamazoo, Michigan brewery. It's a very good, well-hopped IPA. Didn't really get enough to make an informed analysis. I do know it made a top 50 beers of the world list.

3. Anchor Brewing Christmas Ale - This was a pleasant holiday ale. It pours brown with some red highlights. It's a very easy drinking ale with chocolate and coffee notes and a roasted malt body.

4. Lost Coast Indica IPA- This Eureka, California brewery has been growing consistently since its inception in 1989. Indica IPA is a filtered golden IPA with a flowery nose. It's a very easy-drinking beer, somewhat middle of the road as far as IPA's are concerned. There is a nice hops presence, though not overly so as witnessed by its 57 IBU's. It weighs in at 6.5% ABV. Good beer, but it won't knock your socks off if you're a hop head.

5. Sierra Nevada Beer Camp #16 - Juniper Black Ale  (8% ABV - 61 IBU's)- Seriously, does Sierra Nevada make a bad beer? This interesting hybrid which is brewed with juniper berries is an excellent beer. Nicely bitter, very hoppy with a rich molasses undertaste, this black ale is a warm, rich full-flavored beer. The juniper berries just seem to work in harmony with the hops, adding to the bitterness, rather than overwhelming the beer. I really liked this beer.

6. Weyerbacher Sierra - This is the New Jersey brewery's take on a milk stout and it was the most disappointing of the bunch that I tried. The taste to me was a kind of burnt malt rather than roasted. It was a sharp, rather unpleasant taste. There was a bit of dark chocolate to it but overall it was dominated by that smokey, burnt flavor. I wasn't crazy about this one, unfortunately. I've had other Weyerbacher's which I've enjoyed, but not this one.

Tuesday Afternoon, December 6. (Sigh) See you next year.

Upcoming, the BOTB Guys take on Holiday beers: Winter Warmers, Christmas Ales, Holiday Brews... You get the picture. PLUS - Sam Adams Infinium.

The BOTB Guys