Monthly Archives: June 2013

Saint Somewhere Bottle Labels

Saint Somewhere Brewing Company

There’s sort of a path that beer drinkers take over time. It’s almost like a maturity curve: along the horizontal axis you find a pretty predictable path of beer types and styles. The vertical axis is beer drinking maturity.The curve has a gentle upward slope, then eventually sort of peaks and just … stops. People find the style that suits them and that’s pretty much it. Beer is personal like that.

Bob Sylvester, Patron Saint of Farmhouse Ales

Bob Sylvester, Patron Saint of Farmhouse Ales

At the left side of this hypothetical curve are your traditional American pilsners and lager beers: think Budweiser, Coors, and Miller. As you move right along the graph you find ales of all kinds, starting with brown, then red, then pale; then imperials. After ales come typically stouts and porters. Most people get off here, because the next stop is sometimes considered the “funky town” of beer. This is the path that most people in the world take when exploring the varieties of beers out there. It’s a well-worn path, too. Almost everyone I know has taken it at some point in time or is currently on it at some point along the path.

Saint Somewhere is unique among craft breweries in that it falls outside of the realm of where most people stop on their beer journey: it’s waaay off to the right in the sours/farmhouse/wild and funky section, which is just down the street and a little bit past the house with the busted windows, so to speak.If Saint Somewhere was a neighborhood, it would be that one you’ve heard about where the guy with the handlebar mustache who rides the fixie lives.

Bob Sylvester sets up the tap handles in the tasting room.

Bob Sylvester sets up the tap handles in the tasting room.

Bob Sylvester, proprietor of Saint Somewhere and grand-master of funky beers is one of those no BS guys that just oozes craftsmanship. He’s approachable, affable, and a fantastic steward of brewing culture in Tampa  Bay. And he’s a genius.

Bob started brewing more than 10 years ago and opened up Saint Somewhere about 6 years ago. 2 years ago this became his full-time job. For about the last 8 years, he’s been honing his Belgian ale craft. Now, don’t get confused when I refer to what Bob does as “ales”. That’s kind of like calling a horse-drawn carriage a car just because it has four wheels. What Bob does with beer is something that not a lot of people appreciate – remember, he’s off over the right end of the beer-drinker maturity curve.

See what makes Bob different, and in my opinion a genius, is that he uses wild yeasts in the fermentation phase of his brewing process. For those of you so inclined, we’re talking about (at a minimum) Brettanomyces (aka Brett). This is actually not as scary as it sounds. You’re not going to grow a third eye or transmute to a frog if you drink this beer. You may however begin to wonder why you stopped trying new beer after that guy in college introduced you to Newcastle.

Brett (the yeast, not a person) has a tendency to make beers sour, because it produces in addition to alcohol a lot of acetic acid, which you may remember from your high school chemistry class is the main component of vinegar. So in controlled amounts, adding a little Brett may make your beer a little sour.

Saint Somewhere Bottle Labels

Saint Somewhere Bottle Labels

Now, Bob wouldn’t be a genius if he just added this yeast to his fermenter. No, he’s a genius because he gets the concept of the original farmhouse ale, AND because he’s taken steps to achieve that concept. Irreversible steps. Steps that normal folks wouldn’t consider doing. Stuff like spraying down his brewery with Brett. Yep, his entire brewery.

The concept of farmhouse ales is simple, and like all great things, borne of necessity. Apparently in the times before refrigeration and the wide availability of clean potable drinking water, large land owners would sate their farm worker’s thirst with beer. Now think about this for a moment: you have a bunch of thirsty workers who need quick hydration. You could get them some real beer, but that would be too expensive and the workers would be too drunk to return to productive work. What these land owners developed was a simple way to cheaply sate their workers while making sure that they could continue to work. I believe the entire state of Oklahoma was founded on this principle (see 3.2 beer for more information.)

Fast forward a few years – maybe a few hundred – and you find guys like Bob. Guys trying to replicate that style that happened in so many cases by accident. But Bob’s not trying just to replicate the style exactly, he’s replicating it with a local twist. Which is true to the style, if you think about it.

One of Saint Somewhere’s most unique features is the flavor that comes from its location. See not only is the brewhouse covered in Brett, it’s also in a strip warehouse with a big open rolling door no less than walking distance to the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, with all of the airborne goodness that comes from the seabreeze. And that’s another reason Bob’s a genius – he’s following the style by making it as local as possible. At this point, no one else can make a beer that tastes like Bob’s beer. It’s the essence of farmhouse ales.

Bob’s going to be leading a beer cruise in Belgium this year. He’s taking 20-something of the biggest farmhouse beer lovers in the country along for the ride. In my opinion one of the coolest things about this trip is the fact that you get to have dinner in the Rodenbach fermenting room – where the foeders (Dutch for “big fermenting barrel”) slowly add that characteristic flavor to Rodenbach’s Grand Cru sour ale.

Go meet Bob. Move your beer maturity curve over a little bit to the right, at least for one tasting. You never know – you may just become a fan of sours.

Saint Somewhere is located at 1441 Savannah Ave  Tarpon Springs, FL 34689. Check out their website or Facebook page for more information.

Brewers’ Tasting Room

Brewer's Tasting Room Logo

Brewer’s Tasting Room Logo

If you’re an aspiring brewer, at some point you’ve probably wondered how your product would be received in the public market. Sure, your wife/girlfriend/mom says your beer tastes “good”. And yes, your friends love it. But she’s your mom. And they’re your friends. And its free beer.

Well, if you’re not afraid to introduce your product to the often critical craft beer drinking public, Rick Wolfe wants to put your suds on tap at his new craft beer bar, Brewers’ Tasting Room (BTR). “I want this to be a launching-pad for aspiring brewers” Rick told me during a recent Sunday afternoon visit, “The word Brewers’ is both plural and possessive; this is every brewers’ tasting room. Here, we are a community of brewers.”

Located less than a mile north of Gandy Blvd on 4th St. North in St. Petersburg, BTR offers a rotating selection of craft beer that couples well with the authentic Cajun food prepared fresh in the kitchen. Walking in, eyes are immediately drawn to the 2 barrel brewing system showcased behind the copper plated bar. Prices are very reasonable ($4-$7 for appetizers, $8-$11 for large plates), especially considering the portion size; the Jambalaya was terrific and paired well with the Two Brothers Cane and Ebel I ordered.

Brewer's Tasting Room Menu, June 2013

Brewer’s Tasting Room Menu, June 2013

But what makes Brewers’ Tasting Room truly unique is its emphasis on collaboration and community. There are small breweries popping up all over Florida and Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, these breweries are being born into a competitive Red Ocean marketplace; further, the quality of beers being produced varies widely. Before an aspiring brewer quits his day job, drains his life savings, and maxes out his credit cards, Rick is offering a free test trial. If you think your beer can stand up to the likes of Lagunitas, Stone and Cigar City, you can submit a sample to BTR. On a quarterly basis, Rick will contract several BJCP certified judges to, as objectively as possible, rate the submitted beers according to overall taste. If there is an exceptional beer in the lot, the brewer will be invited to back to brew in BTR’s 2 barrel system. Rick, a home-brewer for over 15 years, provides the equipment and will pay for all the ingredients in exchange for the opportunity to put that beer on one of his 10 taps devoted to aspiring local brewers. It’s of no cost to the aspiring brewer and Rick and Matthew Brown, a manager who brews some very impressive beers himself, can also aid brewing process. Sales volume for each beer will be tracked to give the brewer an idea of its true popularity.

Taps at Brewer's Tasting Room

Taps at Brewer’s Tasting Room

The core of BTR’s model is about showcasing beer brewed by the community; these beers are not an afterthought, rather they are the focal point. “There’re a lot of great home-brewed beers that will never get out,” Rick says, “This tasting room will feature them.” In the true spirit of this collaboration concept, successful brewers have the opportunity to, with the help of BTR, package and distribute their product (BTR has a full distribution license). Though the community brewing has not begun on a full scale level yet, Rick imagines the enterprise will be in action by mid-to-late summer. Chris Barrs has already brewed his delightful Amber Ale in the BTR system – look for it on tap in the coming weeks.

Talking with Rick, you understand that he truly wants to help local aspiring brewers succeed. Community and family values make up his character. Though he now has two day jobs, he is quick to point out that his third job, the “number one priority”, is family. He is a loving husband and proud parent of two young kids.

Brewers’ Tasting Room has an eclectic offering of live music every Friday and Saturday. Trivia night is Tuesday and often brings in a knowledgeable craft beer crowd. Though this is far from a sports bar, BTR has two TV’s for all available sports games.

Bob Sylvester of St. Somewhere will be brewing some of his tasty stuff on the morning of Saturday, June 8th. The brewing starts at 10:00am and is followed by a “keep the glass” tasting at 2:00pm. Pulled Pork Sandwiches (souse vides style) will be served for $2.

Hope to see you there!