Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Florida Beer Tour for Spring Break using theCompass Winery Brewery Distillery App

My son's 10th birthday and Spring Break coincided with a trip to Florida with the stipulation that I can visit a brewery where ever we ventured. And the theCompass Winery Brewery Distillery app was the perfect accoutrement to locating these breweries. We started on the right coast visiting relatives near Cape Canaveral which hosts half a dozen breweries. Our first stop was the beach and the Cocoa Beach Brewing Company, a nano with two beers on tap, the Cocoa Beach Pale Ale and Honey Golden Belgian, The later was quite tasty and brewed with 60 pounds of local honey. The next day we ventured a little north to Titusville and I forced a stop at Playalinda Brewing Company. This newbie has a great selection, many reflective of its environment. The Bottomless Blonde Ale was light and refreshing; the Shear Bliss Ruby Red Grapefruit also refreshing with a citrus and floral character. They also produce a honey Saison, the Honey Bee Belgian, which is just as tasty as the one at Cocoa Beach. The most interesting beer was the Mezzcal Margarita Ale, brewed with fresh lime juice, smoked peppers & agave nectar. The agave is evident but blends nicely into the smoked lemon flavors. And yes, they brew a sour - the Sour Puss German-style Berliner Weiss. You know that was on my sampler list; quite good.

We then drove to the Suncoast with our first stop, Ybor City (actually the Florida Aquarium) and the Tampa Bay Brewing Company. This was my second trip to the brewpub and they only disappointment was I couldn't show my son an operating canning line. No canning that day, but excellent wheat beer in the Wild Warthog HefeWeizen. Yeasty banana in fact. The brewery is best known for Old Elephant Foot IPA™ and Reef Donkey APA - solid beers canned to go.

I was determined to visit Cigar City Brewing, I mean how can one visit Tampa and not include this beer icon?  Fortunately the brewery is centrally located near the airport and with a couple hours available before picking up our travel companions, a side trip was made. The beer selection is overwhelming, maybe 20 beers on tap - some collaborations, some guests, the rest, brewed in house. I was captivated by the Josh's Little Lady Friend Belgian-Style Singel and the English Dark Mild With Cherries, Vanilla, & Coffee. The first was light, bready and funky; whereas the second had loads of flavor, with the cherries exuding forth as the beer warms. With a driver and more time, I could have stayed all day. Fortunately I found the Cigar City Florida Cracker Belgian-style White Ale at Busch Gardens later in the week.

We were staying in Largo, and on our first trip to the beach passed Barley Mow Brewing Company, a relatively new brewery with a diverse portfolio. The Company California Common was an immediate favorite with its smooth flavor and subtle hops. The Illustrious Sir IPA is a lighter bodied IPA, but with a strong nose and fresh finish. Also try the Black Rock Rye with it's spicy malt, sweet aroma, smooth finish. Being a weakling I should have avoided the Chocolate Jalapeno Porter - no subtle jalapeno here - it's in your face.

One of the more useful features of theCompass is it's Location search, where the application returns breweries within a predefined radius of the device. After a day at the Lowry Park Zoo, theCompass showed a brewery in the very near vicinity: the Angry Chair Brewing Company. Despite having a limited portfolio and being located off the beaten path, this gem is a mandatory visit. Their portfolio is currently small because they have a long term barrel aging plan - with sours in play.  Fortunately one sour was available, their Gose - at this point my favorite #flbeer. Sour, refreshing, with just a hint of salt & coriander. Spot on. Their German Chocolate Cupcake Stout is worth a taste, subtle cake flavor with just a hint of sweetness.

Surprisingly there are no breweries near Clearwater Beach, so after a visit to that town's aquarium, I drove the family ten miles north to Dunedin and 7venth Sun Brewery. I had targeted that brewery because of their love of brett and hit two out of the park with the Dancin' In The Street Berliner Weisse and the Hopeless Bromantic, a Brett Farmhouse brewed with Italian Plum. The later was fabulous, my favorite of the entire trip - just above the Angry Chair Gose and the Dancin' In The Street. Sadly the day had turned into night quickly and I couldn't convince my companions on a stop at Florida's oldest micro-brewery, the Dunedin Brewery.

The final day before driving back North was a day trip to St. Petersburg. After watching dolphins play off The Pier, we took the trolley to the center of town where Cycle Brewing and the St. Pete Brewing Company share a common block. While the family ate at Acropolis Greek Taverna, I walked across the street to Cycle Brewing and quickly quaffed a pint of their most appealing beer - the Cycle Path - an Indian Pale Lager that had an IPA finish accompanied by a fresh lager flavor. On the back side of the restaurant sits the St. Pete Brewing Company and with a short amount of time I sampled and returned home with their flagship St. Pete Orange Wheat. I've been enjoying this beer and its refreshing, crisp wheat flavor since returning home. I didn't get a chance to stop into St. Pete's 3 Daughters Brewing, but I've also been enjoying their Beach Blonde Ale as well.

Florida will soon be known for more then their beaches and Disney. Their breweries are brewing refreshing beers to match their beach environment as well as push the boundaries to dark and funky beers. Cheers.

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