Rabbit Hole Brewing, Justin, TX

2017-05-24 16.08.25

Of all the breweries I’ve visited, the few times when I’ve had a special opportunity to speak with the owners and brewers are the best.  Not only that, on rare occasion when I’m traveling and a brewery opens its doors for me to visit even at times they are closed to the public just further demonstrates why I enjoy craft beer so much.  It’s the people and they way they are bringing together other people, oh and yeah, the beer is nice side benefit.  While in transit to Fort Worth I messaged Rabbit Hole Brewing  in Justin, Texas because they typically only have weekend hours and I was only in town during the week.  They responded and welcomed me to stop by.  When I arrived, the entire ownership/management team spent an hour and a half welcoming me, sharing their story, sharing their beers with me and making me feel right at home.

For a modest sized brewery that’s a pretty good distance from downtown Fort Worth or Dallas they have some awesome beers.  The first one I tried was Rapture Fusion Brown Ale.  Think solid malty brown ale on hop steroids.  Not too hoppy mind you.  Just enough to give it a little kick.  Still malty sweetness and a touch of citrus.  This was a great start.  The next one I tried was 10/6 English Pale Ale.  Part of me wishes I stopped here.  Part of me is glad I tried the rest.  Smooth.  Very Smooth.  Wonderful complex malt character.  Bready but not stuffy.  It’s light but not too light.  English hops keep it from being American hoppy.  I likened it to an ESB.  This would be easy to drink all day long.  And this would pair with just about any food, making it perfect on a restaurant menu.  Next I tried JabberBOCK, their maibock.  German malt and hops distinguish this beer.  And let me say that brewing here is faithful to ingredients from the origin of the style.  I respect that and you should too.  Smooth and delicious for the season coming out of winter and before summer.  Finally, I tried Off With Your Red – Red IPA.  Yes.  Nicely hopped.  It’s red so it has more malt character than most IPAs.  Complex.  Very drinkable and satisfying to the hophead community.

I am hopeful I see the day when Rabbit Hole beers are available outside of Texas.  With the quality of the brew and faithfulness to ingredients I have to believe it’s just a matter of time.  Which reminds me, I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date.

Broken Cauldron Brewery and Taproom, Orlando, FL

I stopped in at Broken Cauldron Brewery and Taproom in Orlando, Florida last night.  As usual, I was taking pictures for my blog postings.  The owner,  Jeanna, just happened to be out front and was wondering what I was doing with the pictures.  She thought I was with the city government.  Apparently there’s some dispute over her sign (the featured post image).  Personally,  I love the painted sign.  My picture-taking led to a wonderful time talking with Jeanna and her husband about the brewery, their beer and their plans.

I started with Ruckus Red, their signature brew.  What I learned from Jeanna is that their brewery and taproom is the tailgate spot for the Orlando City soccer club.  When there are home games the brewery hosts over 1,000 people.  And, the beer of choice is Ruckus Red, red ale.  I can see why.  I’ve enjoyed red ales before.  This one is special.  Its sweet (malty) and also spicy and bitter.  Its a complex beer and really enjoyable to drink.  Great job!

After Ruckus Red I tried the Bleed Purple Blackberry Saison and was really impressed.  This beer packed a delicious tart blackberry flavor into the saison.  Yummy.  I’d drink this often if I were in the area more frequently.  It has both sweet and tart notes.

2017-05-03 20.25.21

Black Cauldron also has a nifty used beer receptacle.

Jeanna also gave me a tour of the brewery.  I felt like royalty.  And, in the process she shared how they use a Rinnai tankless natural gas hot water system.  Using this system saves them time and money.  With my background in the natural gas business I naturally perked right up when she described how this benefits them.  While in the brewery she told me about the cucumber sour they had which I also tried.  Delicious.  Jeanna wasn’t as pleased with this and I’m sure she’ll be putting finishing touches on this recipe.  With the emphasis on sours these days I find this to be a real contender.

2017-05-03 21.36.25

Best wishes Jeanna.  Hope our paths cross again.

Troegs Independent Brewing, Harrisburg, PA

I stopped in at Troegs Independent Brewing in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania attending a work related event.  I was really impressed!  And I had the wonderful opportunity to sample a number of beers in one evening which was a delight.  And, the food they prepared and served for the event was also great.  I especially liked the chicken salad rolls and the java chip cupcakes!.  But, back to the beer.  Troegs HopBack Amber Ale is a great balance between hops and malt.  Drinking this you get some of both and it is really easy to drink.  Troegenator Double Bock is a rich brown caramelly beer that feels perfect for fall weather.  And, JavaHead Stout is a tasty coffee and chocolate tasting stout.  Their Perpetual IPA is a delight to drink.  Not too hoppy yet flavorful enough for most IPA lovers.  Although not as well-versed in Belgian beers, their Jovial is a delicious dubbel, pardon the comparison, but with some of Troegenator and some of JavaHead flavors swirling together.  Although Pilsners are often too “light” for me, their Sunshine Pilsner was tasty and a beer I’d drink again for sure.  The current seasonal, Hop Knife was the only beer I enjoyed a full serving of and it was well worth the full glass.  Not only that, I won a six-pack at the event I was attending and am looking forward to enjoying it with family this weekend.  I also had the opportunity to enjoy to “scratch” beers.  The Mango India Pale Ale was delicious and reminiscent of a Mango IPA I enjoyed in Hawaii earlier this month.  And, if a Harrisburg brewery can make me feel like I’m in Hawaii, that’s awesome.  Finally, I enjoyed the American Style Sour Cherry.  I like sour beers and I really like sour cherry.  This beer reminded me of a similar one at Jolly Pumpkin in Michigan last summer.  I was really tempted to bring a growler of this home with me but with a six-pack of Hop Knife and a fridge full of beer at home I passed on the opportunity.  So, if you’re ever in Harrisburg, PA or even near the area do yourself a favor and stop at Troegs.

2016-09-29-18-30-49

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, Richmond, VA

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of Alex of Hardywood Park Craft Brewery in Richmond, Virginia, I stopped in for a tour and tasting outside of normal business hours.  Shout out to Alex!  Thank You!

Alex took me around the entire brewery, told me the whole history and described their current plans. Wow!  He did all that just for me.  We spend well over an hour together.

From humble beginnings, Hardywood has great plans.  I hope to stay in touch and visit again in the future to take part in their success.

In terms of tasting, Alex started me with the Singel which is a delicious Belgian Blonde Ale.  It’s an on-ramp for regular beer drinkers to get them into craft beer.  Well done!  It’s delicious.  From there we went to Pils which is a wonderful German style Pilsner.  Very drinkable and easy to enjoy.  Next I tried the Peach Tripel which I enjoyed so much that I bought a bottle and enjoyed it at home with the family.  Finally, I enjoyed the Bourbon Cru which also rose to he status of bringing a bottle home, but I’m going to age that.  Although I didn’t try it at the brewery, I brought two bottles of Poplar IPA home.  I enjoyed one with the family and it is awesome.  And I shared a bottle with a good friend.

Alex told me about other styles and I could share them with you but I’ll wait until a return  trip and the opportunity to taste them firsthand.

Hardywood is a great place with great people.  Do yourself a favor and stop by!

Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company, Columbia, SC

I stopped in at Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company in Columbia, South Carolina for a beer and got more than I expected.  I absolutely loved the Dunkelweizen.  Although I typically think of this as a heavier fall beer, this example of the style pleasantly surprised me.  It was fresh and flavorful.  I could drink it year-round.  After I was served, the owner offered to give me a tour and graciously shared their entire story with me.  I had a blast.  I wish them the very best.

Busted Sandal Brewing Company, San Antonio, TX

2016-02-08 18.15.21 2016-02-08 18.50.55

I stopped in at Busted Sandal Brewing Company in San Antonio, Texas.  The thing is, they weren’t open to the public tonight.  But, that didn’t stop the owner, Mike, from responding to my e-mail and meeting me at the brewery and giving me an entire tour and explanation of their story along with several tastings.  Wow!  What an experience.  Mike is an awesome guy, and if you’re in the San Antonio area you really do need to try these beers.  So here’s some idea of what they have on tap.  The 210 Ale is a deliious and very drinkable blonde ale.  This would go great in the hot weather.  It is smooth and very easy to drink.  The Slippery Rock IPA has got to be one of the most drinkable IPA’s I’ve ever enjoyed.  It has the flavor of an IPA but is not heavy at all and is very easy to drink.  Currently they are experimenting with a Grapefruit 210 Ale which is their flagship blonde ale with grapefruit added.  Personally, I love the grapefruit flavor.  I could drink this all day.  The El Robusto Porter is awesome.  It is rich, chocolatey, and delicious.  This would be a great dessert beer.  So, there you have it.  Get yourself over to Busted Sandal and try one!

2016-02-08 18.16.15 2016-02-08 18.16.03

2016-02-08 18.50.35 2016-02-08 18.15.31

Coastal Empire Beer Company, Savannah, GA

2015-10-29 12.44.30 2015-10-29 12.46.58

There are two reasons I write this blog.  The first is that I love craft beer.  The second is that I love meeting the people who make craft beer.  This is a story about both reasons.  When I recently traveled to Savannah, Georgia for business I contacted a few breweries that offered hours only on days I would not be in town.  I heard from one brewery that they would not be able to accommodate a visit from me.  However when I reached out to Coastal Empire Beer Company, the co-founder, Kevin Haborak, told me that I was welcome to drop by.  So, I did.  Today, on the way back to the airport.

2015-10-29 13.05.13 2015-10-29 13.05.05

Kevin arranged for his brother Chris to meet me, show me around, and allow me to taste practically everything on tap.  These guys make awesome beer.  Let me try to step you through a few of these.  The Savannah Brown is a delicious brown ale, caramelly, sweet, malty, solid and very drinkable.  The sort of brown ale you’d drink several of, especially say in the fall when there’s a slight chill in the air.  The barrel aged version of this is like putting it on steroids.  Wow!  The flavor from the barrels makes it all that much richer.  This puts it in the category of a sipping beer that I would enjoy after dinner instead of dessert, in a snifter.  Perfect.  Going a completely different direction is the Tybee Island Blonde Ale.  This is a great option for hot summer days.  Cans of this are perfect for the beach.  One of these after cutting the lawn would be perfect.  I also tried a pineapple, coconut and sea salt gose which is basically a secret weapon.  Wow!  This beer is off the hook!  Its sweet and salty and tart all at the same time.  My tastebuds were all over the place.  Let me wrap with Dawn Patrol.  Think Imperial Stout.  Think Chocolatey goodness.  Think Mole.  Think Peppery Spices.  Wrap all four of those together.  KaBam!  This is crazy good.

2015-10-29 12.47.12 2015-10-29 13.05.35

If you line in Savannah or are visiting Savannah you must stop in here.  There’s at least one beer for every person’s tastebuds.  You will love this beer.  I need to figure out how to get distribution north to Maryland.  The rest of the country needs these beers.  Chris and Kevin, thank you for taking the time to meet with me.  Thanks for the snifter.  I will eagerly anticipate drinking Dawn Patrol from it in the comfort of my own home some day.  And, I’m hoping to bring my wife to Savannah at some point and will definitely stop in to see you when I do.  Keep up the great work!

Intuition Ale Works, Jacksonville, FL

2015-09-30 20.37.41 2015-09-30 20.15.56

I stopped in at Intuition Ale Works in Jacksonville, Florida and enjoyed Tall, Dark + Cherry.  I was hoping for more cherry flavor, but it did deliver as a chocolate stout with hint of cherry.  Of course, you wouldn’t want the cherry to be overpowering any way.

I’ll also mention that several years ago while on business in Jacksonville I had the opportunity to stop by and was given a private tour by the owner which was totally cool.

New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, WI

2015-08-09 15.11.08 2015-08-09 15.12.38 2015-08-09 15.15.33 2015-08-09 15.15.59

I stopped in at New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, Wisconsin. Getting there is quite a trip from most major cities, but worth every minute of the drive.  I enjoyed a sample of the Spotted Cow, which New Glarus is famous for.  This is a delicious farmhouse ale which everyone should try.  Very drinkable.  This would be a go to beer for me if available back home.  I also tried the Sour Raspberry which was delicious!  The self guided brewery tour is also worth the trip.  Stop in if you have a chance.

2015-08-09 15.18.42 2015-08-09 15.25.27-2 2015-08-09 15.29.17 2015-08-09 15.29.50

Abita Brewing Company, Abita Springs, LA

2015-06-10 13.57.58     2015-06-10 13.23.08

2015-06-10 14.05.20     2015-06-10 14.00.08-1

I stopped in at Abita Brewing Company in Abita Springs, Louisiana for a brewery tour.  WOW, just WOW!

Getting to Abita from New Orleans is an interesting trip.  The drive across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway bridge absolutely looks like a bridge into the ocean or a bridge to nowhere.  Over 20 miles of bridge.  But the trip is well worth the drive.

The Abita Brewing Company tour is well worth the time.  The tour guides greeted us and gave us ample time to taste Abita beers.  In fact, they allowed visitors to pour their own beers, opening up the taps to us.  In countless brewery visits and tours this is the first time I’ve enjoyed this kind of hospitality.  And, I must say I took advantage of it.  I tried many of the offerings on tap.

The mainstay Abita Amber is a solid go to amber beer.  Period.  Purple Haze is a refreshing beer with a hint of raspberry – from the raspberries included in the brewing process.  Wrought Iron IPA is an absolutely delicious IPA – I heartily recommend this.  The beer that surprised me was the Strawberry Harvest Lager.  I found this to be delicious and refreshing.  I really enjoyed this.  Andygator is intense.  How about I just leave it at that.  I tried the Two Boots Saison and concluded I’m just not sophisticated enough for this.  I was delighted with the Macchiato Espresso Milk Stout – smooth and delicious.  And I filled my cup with Abita Root Beer for the road which was also delicious.

Did you catch that they let us pour our own samples.  WOW.

So maybe the key to all this success is the Abita Springs water.  Or maybe they’re just great brewers.  Or both.

Seriously, if you’re ever in New Orleans or otherwise near the brewery you need to stop by!

And, please check out Abita on MicrobrewingAmerica!

2015-06-10 14.37.29     2015-06-10 14.37.10

2015-06-10 13.58.53     2015-06-10 14.00.29