The Red Headed Stranger: Cigar City Tocobaga Red Ale

September 25, 2012

I am bigoted against Red Ales. I pre-judge all red ales, thinking that they are all bland, somewhat but not too malty, watered down beers that the brewer has whipped together in a bid to appeal to timid beer drinkers, those that order an “amber, like a Bass Ale” when they belly up to the bar, but never explore the world of beer beyond that. The lesson here, as always, is that I am an idiot.

Eyes like the Thunder

Proof of my idiocy is found in this beer, the Tocobaga Red Ale from Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing Co.  This Red Ale is excellent. It pours a deep copper with red highlights and terrific lacing. The aroma is hop forward, lots of pine, some citrus, and some sweet caramel malts. You get an initial blast of hoppy bitterness, followed by sweet caramel malts, and then a dry and hoppy finish. It starts with a creamy mouthfeel which gives way to sparkling carbonation. Minds are like parachutes, they only work when they are open, and I need to open myself to more red ales. The Tocobaga Red Ale is a good first step, 7.5/10.


The Good, The Better, and The Strange: More Florida Beers!

September 19, 2012

The Good:

Tequesta Brewing Co. American Farmhouse Ale – Tequesta Brewing Company does not appear to have a website, although they do have a Facebook page and some reviews on Yelp, so they are not wholly ignorant of this thing called the internet.  While they may not have much of an internet presence, I can say that they know how to make beer based on the pint of their American Farmhouse Ale that I knocked back recently. This American Saison was delicious. It had the funky farmhouse yeast aroma, pale yellow and cloudy color, and hay like flavors that I associate with saisons. I call it an ‘American’ Saison as it had a nice dose of hops added to it, which to me tasted like Chinook hops from the Pacific Northwest. This was not as hoppy as an IPA, but the hops were a prominent feature of the beer. This was a fine tasting beer, 7.5/10.

The Better:

Cigar City White Oak IPA: I enjoyed Cigar City’s White Oak IPA in a bottle, so I jumped on it when I saw it on tap recently. All the good parts of the bottled beer (the vanilla and oak notes, the complex fruitiness of the hops, the creamy texture) were amplified in the draft version. This beer was simply outstanding, 9/10.

Let’s have a brief musical interlude with my favorite Rock and Roll band from Florida, Charlie Pickett and the Eggs!

The Strange:

Holy Mackerel Panic Attack: Billed as a Trippel/Saison fusion, this tastes as odd as that sounds. This is overloaded with sweet fruit flavors, canned peaches, pineapples, mangoes. It is treacly sweet without any hop bitterness to offset that sweetness. Rather, this beer relies on the 10% ABV as a counterbalance to that sweetness, and 10% is not nearly alcohol to cut it. You also get that cotton candy bubblegum flavor that I find so cloying in trippels. The only saison notes I could find were in a slight funky yeast aroma and flavor. It also had a strange mustiness to it. I know it sounds like I hated this beer, but I actually found it kind of interesting, although I am not quite sure if I actually liked it, 6.5/10.

Hello D’ere!


Beach Blanket Bingo! Frankie and Key West Southernmost Wheat and Annette and Orange Blossom Pilsner!

September 5, 2012

Labor Day has come and gone, so I can no longer wear White Bucks nor drink Gin & Tonics, but the Autumnal Equinox has not yet arrived so I can still review summer beers. Hey, I don’t make these rules. If you have a problem, write to Emily Post.

To Have and Have Not

Florida is not exactly a hot bed of beer culture. There are precious few brewers. There are not even many beercentric bars, at least in the Fort Lauderdale area. Cigar City is Florida’s best known brewer, but my experience with them has been hit and miss. Despite this, I am always on the prowl for beers I have not tried, and I like to drink local when I can, so finding myself in Florida for an extended stay I have been exploring.

The Southernmost Wheat from Florida Beer Co. is a Belgian style witbier. It has a nice coriander aroma and flavor, with some musty funkiness from the yeast. The Florida ‘twist’ on this beer is the addition of key lime juice to the brewing process. The key lime juice introduces a nice tartness to the flavor, very muted, but it is there in the background, along with some mango flavors and some rich bread flavors from the wheat malt. I had some trepidation about this beer when I read about the key lime juice, but it was quite pleasant, as the acidity of the key lime juice helps to cut the sweetness, 6/10.

The Orange Blossom Pilsner is apparently brewed by Orange Blossom Pilsner LLC, a brewery so new they do not have a proper website yet. It is brewed with orange blossom honey, and the honey and orange aromas and flavors are prominent, with some floral hops as well. Unfortunately, there is not much else going on with this beer. It is a bit too sweet and fruity for my palate, so I will not be going back to it, 5/10, but it might serve as an introductory beer to someone who is unfamiliar with craft beer.

Well, I’m going down to Florida
Get some sand in my shoes
Or maybe California
Get some sand in my shoes


Cryptozoology: The Yeti and The Swamp Ape

December 10, 2011

There are great beasts wandering the wilderness, not all of whom have been photographed, catalogued, vivisected, dissected, DNA mapped and whatever else it is that scientists do with animals.  There is so much we do not know.  Oh, sure, the aliens who visit regularly have probably gleaned all sorts of information from the anal probes performed on these undiscovered creatures (Do you really believe that the aliens only perform anal probes on Harvard Professors? I think not) but the aliens rarely, if ever, share the results of their experiments with us.  We have much to learn.

As a rugged outdoorsman*, extreme adventurer**, and acolyte of Teddy Roosevelt***, I have spent months at a time in the wild unmapped corners of the globe, and have had close encounters with a variety of cryptozoological phenomenon.  There was the time I was fly fishing on Lake Champlain and hooked Champ but was unable to land the beast.  Growing up in New Jersey, the Jersey Devil was a regular visitor to our backyard, stopping to swim in our pool, before taking off for the flight to the Pine Barrens. I have had several recent encounters with the Chupacabra while out walking my dogs, and the less said about my experience with the Mothman, the better.

It is in the field of Sasquatch studies that I have been most successful. On a recent trip to the Himalayas, I encountered the Yeti.  More importantly, I encountered two distinct kinds of Yeti. Read the rest of this entry »


REDEMPTION!: Cigar City White Oak Aged Jai Alai India Pale Ale

October 13, 2011

After burying Cigar City for their Cedar Aged Jai ALai India Pale Ale, I come to praise them for their Jai Alai India Pale Ale aged on White Oak.  This beer is fantastic.  It pours a nice cloudy orange, with some vanilla, mild hops and oak in the aroma, all balanced by some malty sweetness in the taste. This is not a ‘hop bomb’ IPA.  The hops are too subtle for that, but for all of their subtlety, they are quite complex, with some pineapple, mango and even coconut notes.  The mouthfeel is initially quite creamy but finishes on the dry side, similar to a saison.  This tasty and interesting IPA restores my faith not only in Cigar City, but in all of humanity.  As lousy as the Cedar Aged Jai Alai was, and it was damn lousy, the White Oak Aged Jai Alai is damn fine, 8/10.


Three Reviews of Cigar City Humidor Series: Cedar Aged Jai Alai India Pale Ale

October 11, 2011

The Review I’d Write If I Really Loved This Beer: Florida’s Cigar City is at the top of their game here.  They have taken their already excellent Jai Alai IPA and have added a dimension of flavor by aging it in cedar barrels as opposed to the traditional oak barrels. The cedar aging adds an earthiness to this beer that amplifies and accentuates the subtle hop and malt notes.  Outstanding beer, fifteen out of a possible ten points!

The Review I’d Write If I Really Hated This Beer: Ugh! Shit! What the fuck is that taste? Cedar? CEDAR!?!? Who the hell puts CEDAR in beer?  Jesus Christ, cedar is good for lining humidors and gerbil cages, and this tastes like cedar infused gerbil piss! What? I have to give this gerbil piss a score?  Are negative numbers possible?  Why the hell not?  Who makes the fucking rules around here?  Fine, zero out of ten, and that is generous.  Now get this shit out of here!

My Actual Review: I certainly did not love this beer, and while I did not hate it as much as Review #2, my actual review is closer to the ‘Hate’ review than the ‘Love’ review.  The cedar aging, which at first seems like an interesting twist for an IPA,  starts to taste weird by the fourth or fifth sip, and by the time you reach the bottom of the bottle it is overwhelming and unpleasant. This is probably one to share with friends, as it might be better in small doses.  There are hints of a good beer here, with some nice hops aroma, a velvety head, and a nice mouth feel, but the cedar just kills it.  Cigar City makes some very fine beers, but this is not one of them, 3/10.


A Cornucopia of India Pale Ales

July 21, 2011

Santa Fe Brewing Co. Happy Camper IPA:  Creamier than the usual IPA, Santa Fe Brewing Co.‘s Happy Camper IPA is malty and piney, with a nice cloudy orange color and fluffy white head.  Probably not worth seeking out if it is not readily available to you, as it is nothing spectacular, but it is a decent beer, 6/10.

Maui Brewing Big Swell IPA:  This has a crisper mouthfeel than the Happy Camper IPA, which I attribute to the higher carbonation level, and is not nearly as malty.  The hops are on the tropical fruit and grapefruit end of the spectrum, with a hint of lemon as well.  Another IPA that is good and drinkable, but is well short of spectacular, 6/10.

Thirsty Planet Buckethead IPA: I tried this at the Katy Road Icehouse (“KRI“) in Dallas.  Pluses for KRI: It is located on a popular bike path that I ride on occasion; It is an open space with a huge outdoor seating area, and has those giant misting fans to combat the Texas heat; It has an enormous selection of Texas beers; And it is usually packed with tons of attractive women. Read the rest of this entry »


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