Islamorada Beer Company, Islamorada, FL #Islamoradabeerco

I came across this brewery on a total fluke. WineyWoman and I were in Miami Beach, FL, for a few days, visiting with friends from Germany and Holland (I know, that makes no sense, but just roll with it)…We wandered into a small hole-in-the-wall liquor store on a side street between Ocean Ave and Collins Ave, just to see what they had to offer. They had tons of generic beers, an equal amount of wine, and then a cold case of singles and 6-packs to go. In this case, we discovered a lone row of Islamorada Beer Company (IBC) Sandbar Sunday. The name rung a bell, as the following day our plan was to go to the Keys. One quick Google search (ain’t smartphones grand?) and we knew exactly where the brewery was located.

image

The following morning we picked up our rental car, and headed out on the 75-minute drive south from Miami Beach. If you’ve never been to the Keys, you need to go. Once you get past some of the more built up areas, especially in Key Largo, things only get more beautiful as you go south.

image

IBC is located in a small single-story building on the side of Rt1, and you’d likely miss it except that it’s the yellowest thing in the world. Seriously, Big Bird isn’t this yellow. Anyway – we arrived about ten minutes before they opened, so we took a short walk two blocks to the Atlantic Ocean and drool over the beautiful day we had.

image

Upon returning to the brewery, the door was unlocked and we were welcomed in by a wonderful young lady named Crystal. Right away the conversation was easy going and the beers were being poured. That day we were offered seven tasters, including a bunch of their pilot batches.

image

Every single brew we tried was off the charts awesome. From the basic Sandbar Sunday, a great brew for typical southern Florida weather (read: hot and sticky), to their Pump Key pumpkin beer. Yeah, who’d expect to find a pumpkin beer in Florida – surprised me, for sure! The one beer that stuck out in my mind – so much that after we spent the afternoon at a beach resort Crystal suggested we check out, we went back and bought a half growler to bring home – was No Wake Zone, a pilot batch ale brewed with coconut and Key Lime. I seriously thought about this beer all afternoon as we sat on the beautiful white sand, soaking up the sunshine.

image

I knew it was a risk trying to get a growler home on an airplane, even in checked baggage. I was concerned that the pressure changes due to being 32,000 feet off the ground might cause the glass to break; or the TSA agents might fancy a drink while searching luggage…Luckily everything went fine – my bag wasn’t searched, the glass was strong, and the beer (over two weeks “aged” here in New Hampshire) was just as good, maybe even better, than when it was fresh.
No Wake Zone, a coconut and Key Lime ale, is incredible. I was a little unsure of how coconut would work in a beer, but I’m happy to report that IBC knows what they’re doing! The nose isn’t overly powerful, just a basic ale aroma – it smells like a beer. I can’t sense any coconut on the nose to let me know what I’m about to get into. Only a very slight hint of lime says “hey, get ready for some fun!” And what fun it is! That first sip releases all sorts of flavors. The coconut comes rushing to the front, filling my whole palate with a smoothness I’d attribute to having a beer on nitro. That superb silky mouthfeel, with the added benefit of coconut to round it out. After that, Key Lime shows up to the party – fashionably late, but still welcomed. It adds a slightly sweet tang to the finish, just so the coconut doesn’t get to hog the whole palate. Deeper into my first glass and I’m starting to pick up on a slight coconut aroma being released. It’s not strong but does allow the flavor to expand slightly – the way red wine breathes as it sits in a decanter or large glass. I’m going to be a good boy and save the rest of my 32oz bottle for tomorrow, as much as it pains me. I know I’ll enjoy the rest of it if I wait a day.

image

-Beer Man

Harpoon Brewery, Windsor, VT — something a little different this time.

Winey Woman and I decided to visit Harpoon Brewery’s Windsor, VT., location for lunch this weekend. I was smart enough to remember my two empty Harpoon growlers, as I usually find something worth taking home a lot of to share with friends. This visit was no exception. Being a Saturday, the place was PACKED, but even so, the wait for a table was only about 15 minutes. That gave us plenty of time to wander through the retail section to see the new clothing, beer glasses, sunglasses with pop-toppers built in, and of course, plenty of bottled and canned beer.

Harpoon Brewery, Windsor, VT

Harpoon Brewery, Windsor, VT

Upon being seated, our waitress was prompt and knowledgeable about the new beers on tap. Harpoon had two pilot batches ready to serve, Boston Tea Party and Humble Braggert. BTP was described as a porter brewer with black tea, and HB was a double IPA with tons of hops. I opted to get a taste of both, along with ordering one of my seasonal favorites, Long Thaw IPA. The BTP was dark…like really dark. But what did I expect of a porter with black tea? I’m not much of a tea drinker, and when I do, it’ll be herbal or white tea mostly. This one wasn’t something I’d personally seek out, but if you like dark beers with a far amount of bitterness, this one could be right up your alley.

From L to R: Hard Cider, Boston Tea Party, Humble Braggert, and Long Thaw

From L to R: Hard Cider, Boston Tea Party, Humble Braggert, and Long Thaw

Humble Braggert, on the other hand, was awesome. So much hoppy goodness in one small sip, I was blown away. Having only had a small taste, I can’t comment on how it’ll hold up throughout an entire pint, but my small taste was enough for me to get a growler to go. Winey Woman got her standard Harpoon Hard Cider, as having Celiacs Disease makes drinking beer a rather unpleasant experience.

Might as well try a few!

Might as well try a few!

WW interjection: Harpoon’s hard cider is decent. Drinkable, but much more like fermented apple juice in taste than a highly developed flavor profile found in some other hard ciders. I much prefer Harpoon’s honey version of their hard cider. They have also done a pilot batch of dry-hopped cider that was truly delicious. Hint, hint, Harpoon!!!

WW enjoying her cider

WW enjoying her cider

Our lunches came out looking awesome, I had a BLT with beer battered fries, and WW had a tuna melt on gluten-free bread. Like usual, both meals were great, and we enjoyed our time immensely. As mentioned above, I took home a growler of Humble Braggert, and I also got a fill up of Rich & Dan’s Rye IPA. I remember having this one a few years ago when it was launched, and felt it was time to reacquaint myself with it. I’ll be doing full reviews of both of these sometime soon.

The Beer Garden has a warm atmosphere- a really nice place to grab a brew and some food

The Beer Garden has a warm atmosphere- a really nice place to grab a brew and some food

Along with Harpoon’s northern location, the light industrial park (Artisans Way) they are in features a distillery and a shop featuring Vermont food products. Since we were there and didn’t have any time constraints, we decided to wander about some. In The Sustainable Farmer, they feature a smorgasbord of local Vermont products ranging from the obligatory maple syrup to cheese, sauces, spreads, and a recent addition – Putney Mountain Winery. Much to our surprise, one of the owners was there, pouring samples of their delicious wines. After having a taste of all eight they had in stock, we picked out two, a cranberry wine and a cassis dessert liquor. Both shall be reviewed shortly by WW and myself.

Silo Distillery- just across the driveway from Harpoon

SILO Distillery- just across the driveway from Harpoon

The other alcoholic offering at Artisans Way is SILO Vodka. A vodka distillery that now offers other options, including bourbon and moonshine. I decided to sample the bourbon and moonshine, as I’d only ever had their vodka, which is amazingly smooth. The moonshine was definitely moonshine, but was clearly thought out. It had a rough taste, but wasn’t so rough that you couldn’t enjoy it. The bourbon, on the other hand, was incredible. So utterly smooth and flavorful, it was possibly the best I’ve ever had. I wanted to buy a bottle, but the price was quite steep, so I guess I’ll have to wait for my birthday or something… 😦

Overall we had an awesome time in Windsor, discovered some new drinks and revisited some old, and I can’t wait to bring you my thoughts on Harpoon’s brews.

<>Beer Man

Svenska Red and a Brief Mention of the Finger Lakes Region of Wine, Beer, and Spirits

Svenska Red by Swedish Hill Winery is labeled as a semi-sweet table wine, but really should be labeled a dessert sweet wine. With 11.5% alcohol content, Svenska is a doozy, and will get you feeling happy quickly, if you can drink enough of it at one time, due to its sweetness. Overall, it’s a nice fruity dessert wine that I think would taste amazing poured over vanilla ice cream, but definitely not a table wine I would have with dinner.

wpid-20141230_173521.jpg

Svenska Red…sweet and yummy!

Svenska Red is an upstate New York Finger Lakes Region wine. If you have never visited the Finger Lakes Region of NY, and you’re a fan of wine (and beer and spirits!), you are truly missing out. There are over 100 wineries and several breweries and distilleries along the beautiful shores of Cayuga and Seneca Lakes.There are many companies that run wine tours so you do not even have to drive yourself to each winery.

View of Seneca Lake from Glenora Winery- Finger Lakes Region, NY

View of Seneca Lake from Glenora Winery- Finger Lakes Region, NY

Beer Man and I did a mini-tour last year while we were participating in MINI Takes the States (MTTS), a cross-country rally for MINI Cooper owners that had a stop in Buffalo, NY last year. While we couldn’t do the entire cross-country rally, we did the last three stops in Buffalo, NY; Bethlehem, PA; and Boston, MA. We took the long way to Buffalo and spent a night at the very bottom of Seneca Lake in Watkins Glen. As we were leaving Watkins Glen to head to Buffalo we stopped at several wineries and a brewery called Climbing Bines, which I imagine we’ll post about separately on this blog in the future.

Beer Man and Winey Woman at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel

Beer Man and Winey Woman at the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel

Beer Man in the Hops Field at Climbing Bines Brewery

Beer Man in the Hops Field at Climbing Bines Brewery

We will undoubtedly return to the region soon, so I will end the post here. Check out http://www.fingerlakeswinecountry.com/ if you want to plan your wine tour now!

Winey Woman 🙂