Sunday, July 26, 2015

Four Beers from Orlando Brewing

A lot has happened since my last post. I've successfully relocated myself and the family to Orlando, where we hope to be for the foreseeable future. Settled and ready to get back at it, I figured it was only appropriate to have my first Orlando-based review come from Orlando's Organic craft brewery: Orlando Brewing.

The brewery is located in an industrial area near downtown Orlando in a fairly unassuming building. The taproom is a dimly lit area (more on that in a minute) with a small bar, a dozen or so tables, and a stage area for live music and entertainment. There is also a back room that provides some more space and an area for darts.

Mariah was the bartender on duty during my visit, and she was quite welcoming, knowledgeable and friendly. After I told her that I was new to the area and this was my first time, she recommended two "flagship" beers, Right on Red and I-4 IPA (both of which I selected to be in my flight sampler).

The dim lighting is the worst part about the taproom and makes it hard to see and appreciate the color and/or clarity of the beers. As you can see from the pictures, it's nearly impossible to gauge the appearance of the beers. I'm sure the lighting works great for the live entertainment that comes through the taproom, but it's really a bummer for someone like me who appreciates more than just the flavor of the beer I'm drinking. But enough about lighting, let's get to the beer.

Right on Red
Mellow and drinkable red ale. Very balanced with some sweetness coming on the front and bitter notes on the back, followed by a bit of dryness. Overall, this is a malty amber ale that's easy to drink is likely a crowd-pleaser. For a flagship ale, this is quite generic and drinkable...but unfortunately, it's also forgettable. Grade:C

I-4 IPA has a citrus kick on the nose and on the front of the palate. I get lots of grapefruit, lemon, and orange zest before the beer mellows out with a smoother finish. There is some lingering hop bitterness, but nothing too strong. The brewery describes this beer as a "Full bodied West Coast style IPA." I have this beer down as a medium-light bodied IPA, but do think the hop profile lends itself nicely to the style. I can see why this is their best selling IPA. Grade: B

Pompous Ass
Released just four weeks prior, Pompous Ass is one of the newest additions to the taplist. And it's one sweet ass beer! Tropical fruit flavors followed by subtle malt notes and finishes with some citrus bitterness. Tropical aroma, sweets, and bitters. As the beer warmed, I got a taste of some Belgian spices that were overshadowed by the initial hop flavors, but not nearly prominent enough to describe this as a Belgian IPA. If you don't mind your IPA being on the sweet side, this is the beer for you. Grade: B

Doble Imperial IPA
Gotta tip the hat to Orlando Brewing for brewing a beer in honor and memory of Tampa Bay Brewing founder John G. Doble. Love seeing some beer love being shared from one brewery to the other. Doble packs a (balanced) punch. The beer is malt-forward, ending with heavy hop notes and booze. Like many Imperial IPAs, this is a full-bodied, full-flavored beer. Doble is balanced without compromising on the malt sweetness or hop bitterness. I found this to be the best beer of the four I tried and the one I would order again. Grade: B+

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Five Must-Try Jacksonville Beers for Summer

Summer is around the corner, and that means you’re going to need local beers to keep your thirst quenched and palate satisfied. With eight distributing breweries in Jacksonville, there are plenty of beers to choose from. But the beers on this list stand above the rest in their ability to provide crisp refreshment without skimping on the flavor.

5) Buzzin Bee Honey Rye Wheat, Veterans United Craft Brewery.
Buzzin Bee is unfiltered and brewed with local honey which provides a balanced sweetness to counter the rye and wheat flavors. Hints of citrus fruits make this an enjoyable summer beer.
Notes: Honey, orange, and hints of rye.

4) I-10 IPA, Intuition Ale Works.
This highly drinkable IPA packs a hop-forward punch without being too aggressive for summer. Zesty citrus and resinous pine make this a flavorful IPA that’ll quench your thirst when you need it the most.
Notes:  Citrus, pine, grapefruit, and pineapple.

3) Big John’s Apricot Wheat Ale, Bold City Brewery
Light, drinkable, and refreshing, this is a gratifying beer that’ll please the palate. Complex layers of wheat, tart fruits, and sweet malts make this a refreshing companion to those sweltering summer months.
Notes: Wheat, biscuits, apricot, and apples.

2) Endless Summer Blonde Ale, Pinglehead Brewing Company.
Endless Summer laughs in the face of naysayers who believe Blonde Ales don’t have flavor. This beer starts with an inviting malt profile and finishes with a crisp, clean, and slightly dry finish.
Notes: Biscuity malt sweetness, honey, and an earthy-dry finish.

1) J’Ville Lager, Engine 15 Brewing Company.
Brewed to commemorate their anniversary, J’Ville is an American lager done right. It’s a clean and refreshing beer that will keep you comfortable during the dog days of summer.
Notes: pale malts, bready yeast, honey, and lemon zest.

From Left to Right: Carolyn Graham, Brian Little, Sean Bielman
celebrating the launch of Engine 15's J'Ville Lager

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Soucing Suds: Pinglehead's Ambitious Monk

'Sourcing Suds' is a monthly column featured in BUZZ Magazine recognizing beer that’s locally brewed and served. Join me each month as I highlight a local craft beer and where you can find it on tap! 

Nestled in an unassuming plaza along the busy intersection of Blanding BLVD and Wells Rd in Orange Park, beer lovers and foodies alike can find indulgence in Orange Park’s only Brewpub: Brewer’s Pizza. Brewer’s has become a local favorite for those who live on the west side of Jacksonville, and a worthy destination for those who don’t.

The pizzas are handmade with fresh dough and marinara (both made on site) and fresh-cut ingredients. This is pizza done right. No corners cut. Just good food! My recommendation: order a Florida Smacker—a customizable personal thick crust pizza that is lip-smackingly delicious!

In addition to the handmade pizzas, Brewer’s is home to Pinglehead Brewing Co., where patrons have been enjoying aggressively flavored beers since 2011. "Pinglehead beers are brewed for beer-lovers seeking aggressive beer flavors and styles," said Chief Beer Officer, Steve Halford. Beer with Attitude, as Pinglehead’s slogan goes. 

Suds: Ambitious Monk 

Ambitious Monk, a spring seasonal from Pinglehead, is a Belgian Tripel that clocks in at 10.4% alcohol by volume. It pours a straw-yellow in color and gives off a sweet candy aroma with hints of Belgian yeast aromas. 

Ambitious Monk is dangerously drinkable. Notes of clove, apples, and bubble gum coat the palate. Lots of bubble gum! As the beer warms, the alcohol comes through a bit more and some of the Belgian spices begin to pick up on the palate. The finish is sweet and tart with the yeast characteristics lingering.

This is definitely a beer that is more appropriate as a "sipper," and not one I would recommend drinking too...ambitiously.

Brewer’s Pizza is located at 14b Blanding Blvd, Orange Park, FL 32073. Open daily at 11am.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

10 Must-Do Steps for Sustainable Homebrewing

All images taken from
Over the past several months, I have been focusing my attention on homebrewers and the process of making your own beer because it's a simple way for anyone to enter the beer community and contribute something that is uniquely crafted and designed to their own desires. I have fielded many questions from newbies who are looking for simple ways to begin brewing, as well as veteran brewers who are looking to take their game to the next level and compete in competitions.

However, every now and then I receive questions from readers who are looking to alter their brewing to increase production, efficiency, or sustainability. While there are many ways to answer those questions, it's not always easy to provide a clear-cut answer that makes sense for everyone.

Or at least not until now. I was recently approached by the good folks at Ghergich & Co. recently teamed up with CustomMade to create an article on Sustainable Home Brewing. They requested permission to post their article on Beer Apostle and I am happy to help share the information.

10 Must-Do Steps for Sustainable Homebrewing 
By Abby Quillen

In the craft beer world, solar panels and ambitious recycling programs have become the norm. Microbreweries from Alaska to Colorado to Massachusetts strive to be sustainable, local, and organic. But there’s an even greener way to drink beer: Make handcrafted ales in the comfort of your own home.

The 1.2 million U.S. homebrewers have some advantages when it comes to sustainability. They brew smaller batches and thus use fewer resources. They almost universally use kegs or reuse bottles, and they have no need for distribution, which is one of the most resource-intensive parts of commercial brewing. 

However, many homebrewers still have room for improvement on the sustainability front. Homebrewers tend to be less efficient and more likely to use malt extract and imported ingredients than craft brewers, according to the USDA. But that doesn’t have to be the case. An eco-minded homebrewer can take a number of measures to green their brewing operations.
Never brewed? Check out one of these excellent manuals:
1.     Transition to Grains

Beer consists of four primary ingredients: water, barley, hops, and yeast. Most homebrewers begin with kits containing tubs of malted barley extract (barley that’s been malted, mashed, and concentrated into a syrup). Malt kits are a great place to start but, as with all food preparation, using less-processed ingredients gives the brewer more control over the finished product and more ability to purchase sustainably grown, minimally packaged ingredients. Moreover, brewing with grains usually produces better tasting beer, and the better the beer, the more dedicated the homebrewer. Transitioning to grains is a great first step toward sustainability. When using a malt recipe, look for an extract that doesn’t contain additives (most commonly corn syrup).

2.   Choose Sustainable Equipment

Go for stainless steel and glass equipment over plastic options, which degrade over time and have a limited lifespan. Even small abrasions or scratches on plastic buckets can harbor bacteria and spoil a batch of beer, so many brewers go through a lot of buckets. Be sure to recycle them when they’re no longer usable. Before buying equipment, check Craigslist and other used sites for gently used carboys, kettles, coolers, and chillers.

3.   Go Local and Organic

Today homebrewers have the option to brew with ingredients grown all over the world. For sustainability purposes, domestic usually beats imported, and less packaging is always best.
How local can a homebrew be? It depends on the location. Most barley is grown in Montana, Washington, North Dakota, and Idaho. The Pacific Northwest is home to the majority of commercial hops production. But with new local economies sprouting up to keep pace with the craft beer industry, a hops or barley farm could be nearby. Ask at a local brew shop: Brew-shop employees tend to be friendly, helpful, and responsive to customer concerns. Support them and be sure to express your desire for sustainable ingredients.

Choosing organic ingredients supports healthier ecosystems and helps ensure pesticide residues don’t end up in beer. In one study, beer grown with conventionally grown ingredients had detectable levels of five pesticides, including significant levels of Imidacloprid, an insecticide used heavily on conventional hops. Imidacloprid was recently banned in Europe because it is a threat to honeybees and may be dangerous to the developing nervous systems of children. 

Until recently, it was difficult to find organic hops because the USDA didn’t require craft brewers to use them to attain organic certification. The USDA changed its rules in 2013, and organic hops production has already increased exponentially. Sustainably grown options will hopefully be even more readily available in the future.

4.   Grow Your Own

It doesn’t get more local or sustainable than a brewer’s backyard. For beer with a truly local flavor, consider growing some ingredients on your own. Gardening enables homebrewers to experiment with unusual ingredients. Growing your own is also a way to remind yourself that, at its heart, beer is an agricultural product. Hops, peppers, and mint are three easy crops to try.
  • Hops
The cones of this woody vine give beer its slightly bitter, citrusy flavor, plus it’s relatively easy to grow (depending on the climate). Ideally, hops need six to eight hours of full sunshine a day. They grow in most soil conditions, but require fertilization and good drainage. They are heavy nitrogen feeders. A good support system is crucial, because vines grow more than 30 feet high and can weigh up to 20 pounds. A fence, trellis, or the side of a building works well to support the vines.
It takes a couple of years for hops to get established. They won’t produce many cones the first couple of years as they focus energy on their root system. After that, it’s important to keep them from taking over the garden: They wrap their spiky tendrils around everything in sight.
  •  Peppers
Green chiles, jalapenos, poblanos, and habaneros can add heat, flavor, or both to a pale ale, IPA, or stout. Many brewers add peppers to the secondary fermentation (like a dry hop) or make a pepper extract and add it just before bottling. Peppers are relatively easy to grow in a home garden, but they are sensitive to cold, so should be planted after the danger of frost has passed. They like plenty of direct sun and fertile, well-drained soil.
  • Mint
Like hops, mint is easy to grow once it’s established. It tolerates poor drainage and varying amounts of watering, and it does well in partial sunshine. It’s best to contain mint, because it will happily take over an entire yard if allowed (which makes for aromatic mowing, but may not be desired). Once mint is harvested, it can be made into mint extract and added to the secondary fermentation. As with peppers, experiment with small batches: A little mint goes a long way.

Consider incorporating other garden crops into the home brew. Hopped beer is a relatively modern invention. Before that, brewers made gruit using herbs in place of hops, such as yarrow, marsh rosemary, juniper berries, ginger, caraway seed, aniseed, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Pumpkin and berries can also make tasty ale additions.

The most dedicated DIY homebrewers may want to grow barley. It’s relatively easy to grow, but harvesting and malting are labor-intensive.

5.    Reuse spent grains

Once the beer is brewed, a homebrewer has pounds of spent grains. Don’t throw it away! It has all sorts of uses. Add spent grains to garden soil or a compost pile. Feed it to chickens. Or, even better, use it in a bread recipe (like this whole grain version) or to whip up a delicious spent-grain treat invented by the geniuses at the Brooklyn Brew Shop. Try their Spent Grain Peanut Butter Cookies, Spent Grain Brownies, or Spent Grain Waffles.

6.   Reuse yeast

Rather than purchase new yeast each time, a brewer can reuse the same yeast five to ten times. After the first fermentation, save the yeast that settles on the bottom of the bucket or carboy, wash it, store it, and use it within a few weeks for the next batch. (This practice encourages back-to-back homebrew batches. Since homebrewing is more sustainable, it’s important to keep the inventory stocked.) If stored yeast sits longer than a few months, make a yeast starter to make sure it’s still viable.

7.    Chill More Efficiently

Chilling the wort from 160 to 80 degrees is often the most wasteful process in homebrewing. Some brewers put the boiling pot of wort in the sink and run cold water to cool it down, which flushes gallons of clean water down the drain. It’s better to do an ice bath. Or fill recycled soda bottles with water, freeze, and use in place of ice. Afterward, return them to the freezer and reuse. 

Try this handy trick when brewing malt kits. Purchase a reusable one-gallon food storage container. Fill it with water and freeze it. Then during the cool down, add the frozen block of ice to the wort in place of a gallon of water. It will help cool the wort quickly. Be careful to lower the ice gently to avoid splashing hot wort.  

Immersion wort chillers are popular, because they cool rapidly, but they waste a lot of water. Blogger Chris Jensen devised a way to use his without wasting water. He connects it to an aquarium pump and circulates the water through an ice-filled cooler and back into the chiller. Jensen says he’s cut his water waste by three quarters using this method.

8.   Reuse water

No matter the chilling method, there is some wasted water. Water conservation is important, because it takes a lot of energy to treat and deliver. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “letting your faucet run for five minutes uses about as much energy as letting a 60-watt lightbulb run for 22 hours.” Moreover, the EPA says, “With the U.S. population doubling over the past 50 years, our thirst for water tripling, and at least 36 states facing water shortages by 2013, the need to conserve water is becoming more and more critical.” Don’t flush clean water from the brewing process down the drain. Use it on the garden or house plants, or in the washing machine.

9.   Downsize Container Waste

Most homebrewers reuse bottles, which is more sustainable than throwing store-bought containers in the recycle bin. To cut down on even more waste, use swing-top bottles. A kegging system eliminates packaging altogether. (However, kegging requires the energy and expense of running a small fridge, so homebrewers should take that into account when deciding which is more sustainable.)

10.   Green the Clean

All equipment used in brewing must be clean and free from soap residue, and all equipment used after the boil must be sanitized. When possible, choose biodegradable, environmentally-friendly cleansers and sanitizers. Seven Bridges Cooperative, an online supplier of organic brewing ingredients, recommends using 5-Star PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash) or Straight-A to clean and Iodophor to sanitize. Use a refillable spray bottle to save water.

By adopting the above measures, homebrewers can be confident they are good stewards of the environment while making the delicious beverages they love. In the words of Charles Papazian, all that’s left to do is, “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew.”

This article was originally posted on March 23, 2015 and can be found here:

Friday, March 27, 2015

Sourcing Suds: Zeta Brewing's American Lager

'Sourcing Suds' is a monthly column by the Beer Apostle, Brian Little, recognizing beer that’s locally brewed and served. You can find a printed copy of this column by picking up a copy of BUZZ Magagazine at your favorite local beer joint. Join him each month as he highlights a local craft beer and where you can find it on tap!

Source: Zeta Brewing Co.

In the heart of Jacksonville Beach, Zeta Brewing Company offers an additional layer of fun, food, and beer to an already lively beach scene. Zeta boasts a prime selection of hand-crafted beer, food, and cocktails, all just a jump, skip, and a hop from the beach!

Head brewer, Chris Prevatt combines his years of experience in food and brewing to produce delicious beers that pair well and compliment Zeta’s diverse food menu. Prevatt, who is a classically trained chef, uses local ingredients to create unique spins on traditional styles, like his Twin Finn Pre-Prohibition light American lager.

Zeta offers a fun-but-sophisticated beach vibe. Stop by on a Saturday, and you're sure to see dozens of visitors in their sunwear pairing one of Zeta's craft beer with a food item from the menu. Zeta is the perfect place to visit, whether you're the beach-goer, the foodie, the craft beer enthusiast, or a combination of the three. Oh, and they offer pretty tasty cocktails too, for those who might be looking for a libation without all the carbs.

Suds: Twin Finn American Lager

Twin Finn showcases what a well-crafted lager can offer the palate. This is a malt-forward and crisp lager—refreshingly pleasing and perfect for the beach—with a subtle citrus burst that cuts through the malt sweetness and adds a hint of bitterness. This pre-prohibition lager demonstrates all the flavors and complexities that a lager has to offer, without using the adjunct ingredients and watered-down techniques used by some of the big beer companies. This is a light(er) beer that brings doesn't skimp on the taste!

“We are a brewpub and appeal to a large crowd—we really have something for everyone—but at the same time, we take pride in the beer we produce and like to focus on one-off brews and experiment with new batches to really please the craft beer drinker,” explained Prevatt. Whether you’re stopping in for a quick bite before the beach or looking to grab a flight of craft beer, Zeta is sure to please.

Zeta is located at 131 1st Ave N, Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250 Visit to see everything they have to offer!