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Saint Somewhere Brewery

Beer and Loathing in Las Vegas

Beer and Loathing in Las Vegas

“Beer and Loathing in Las Vegas” will feature craft beers and local brewers, plus snacks and samples from some of Tampa’s top independent restaurants.

Though the lineup for this year’s event is still forming, returning BeerFest event co-chairs Michelle Baker, General Manager of The Refinery, and Veronica Danko, owner of The Independent Bar and Café, promise that “Beer and Loathing in Las Vegas” will feature enough oddball antics and outlandish fun to do its 1998 namesake film proud. Past participants have included The Independent, The Refinery, Cigar City Brewing and the Saint Somewhere Brewing Company.

And in classic Hunter S. Thompson fashion, there’s “the good stuff” and then there’s “the really good stuff.” A limited-capacity Premium sampling begins at 7:00pm, and Grand sampling ticket-holders mix in at 8:00pm. At 10:00pm, BeerFest 2014 becomes nothing but a hallucinogenic memory…

Patrons are encouraged to dress as their favorite character or come in a “Loathing”-inspired costume.

Tickets are $70.00 / $45.00 at the Tampa Theatre Box Office and $73.00 / $48.00 online (all service fees included).  Tampa Theatre members save $5 off advance ticket prices, and any remaining tickets will be sold day-of at the Box Office for $80.00 / $55.00.

Jupiter Craft Brewer's Festival 2014

2014 Jupiter Craft Brewers Festival

Join us Saturday, January 25, 2014, from 1-5:00 pm at  Roger Dean Stadium located in beautiful Jupiter, FL. There’s no better way to experience the ever-growing world of craft brewing. Guests will sample and savor brews from some of South Florida’s as well as the nation’s finest breweries. With paid admission and proper identification (stating you are 21 years of age or older) guests will enjoy unlimited samples of the brews. All this while listening to some of the best local entertainment around!

2014: A Year in Preview

More Thoughts on Volume and Predictions for 2014

There’s talk – always talk – about a bubble in the “craft beer” industry. Heck, even Greg Koch calls this a time of “irrational exuberance”.

The Stone founder, always quick with a metaphor, compares the craft industry to a young San Diego tree, one that came of age during one of those rare years when the usually fierce Santa Ana winds fail to materialize. “There’s no headwind at all,” he says. “In order for a tree to grow strong, there has to be wind. Otherwise, when we have a season of severe Santa Anas, there will be toppled trees all over the place. A lot of small brewers right now are growing up with no headwind. Chain stores are asking them before they open if they can get in line to buy some of their beer. This is an unusual thing that they think is normal. This won’t continue.”

But really is there a bubble? Are our breweries operating in an environment devoid of any headwind?

I’ve already written my thoughts on the addition of  3 Daughters Brewing capacity to our fair local market. One of the things I missed was the impact of tourism – the transient population will drive up the volume of beer consumed here. Here’s a few more thoughts in the form of predictions for Tampa’s local beer economy, triggered by Koch’s doomsday premonitions. In my opinion – we’re gonna be just fine, but there may be some growing pains.

We will lose some local breweries

The growth in craft beer is not coming because people stopped drinking wine or other spirits, or because there are a lot of new beer drinkers in the marketplace – it’s coming at the expense of other breweries – you know, the big three.

There will be a point at which the market of early adopters and people who like beer but not “that beer” has been “tapped”, and without significant growth in the overall market of beer drinkers or Joe Sixpack upping his beer budget by 50%, one doesn’t have to wonder long to know what the result will be: a bunch of small businesses which are highly leveraged and/or under capitalized will likely get tapped out.

Established breweries with better financial footing will likely survive this culling – think Cigar City with its debt-averse owner Joey Redner, big new heavily capitalized breweries like Motorworks or Coppertail, or little guys with tiny capital footprints that are still bootstrapping but are beer purists and dedicated to the craft – call them artisinal breweries, like Three Palms.

Mind you, at last count there are about 30 breweries open or planned making beer for sale either on or off-premises. That’s a lot of breweries and a lot of beer. Among these 30 there are some unique concepts serving sub-markets of the beer industry – and they will likely be just fine – like Saint Somewhere and their unique blend of beers (not to mention that most of their distribution is outside of the state!). But the breweries that are focusing on just plain old ales with nothing special about them – they’ll likely find an untimely end. I’m not naming names, but I suspect there are at least a dozen that won’t make it in their current format. Maybe they’ll be merged into brewpubs. Maybe they’ll be consolidated and their equipment merged into other small breweries or brew pubs, or gasp! it may go to a brewery in another part of the state or country.

We will grow to be a Mecca on the East coast for beer

We continue to surface brave, creative, and intelligent people into this industry. We have a fantastic local home brew club circuit, numbering at least 8 counting only Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. We’re getting a world-class contract brewing facility in Polk County. Our local breweries are getting national and international attention for their creativity and style. And, we have two father-figures in Cigar City and Yuengling. We may not be Asheville, but what they have in volume we make up in charm. We have a theme park that was built on beer for crying out loud.

Look for groups like Tampa Bay Beer Week, Alan C. Shaw, Florida Beer Guy, Tom Scherberger, and yours truly to keep pushing the local angle and upping the tourism ante. One way to grow that demand for Tampa Bay Brews is to get people here drinking it and having a good time doing so. We already have a signature non-brewery event – Tampa Bay Beer Week – and one more that is brewery specific – Hunahpu’s Day. Other parts of the state will look to us for distribution and representation we build up the critical mass of eyeballs and visitors required to become a beer destination. Heck, San Diego did it.

Furthermore, there are talks among the local beer geeks that we need to do a better job of publicizing what we’re all doing around here: making great beer and building a great community. Look for some action on this side – a new organization representing local breweries and doing their charitable good deeds. I suspect at least one more of these will open in 2014 in addition to the great work that Tampa Bay Beer Week is doing.

Big beer will fight hard

The efforts of those representing the current three-tier system will come to light this legislative session and the next. Something has to be done – everyone is looking for resolution to the tasting room loophole and whole the #growlergate thing just makes us look dumb. Big Breweries will continue to use the tools at their disposal – no silly, not their research labs and incredibly bright brewmeisters, I’m talking about their lobbyists and deep pocketbooks – to maintain their dominant position on grocery store shelves. Without access to shelf space, growth beyond beer geeks for little guys will be hard to come by. (Did you ever wonder why we have dozens different varieties of watery lager, but only a handful of ales on the shelves, even with such incredible local variety?) This is where I believe the battle will be fought and won. Retailers can’t carry beer except that which has traversed the distributor networks. Distribution contracts are opaque, one-sided, and not always in the brewery’s favor.

With local breweries like Intuition Ale Works stepping up to the lobbying plate and additional pressure coming from the likes of the Florida Brewers Guild, I suspect that we’ll see some forward motion but not a resolution in 2014.

Its all about the gemutlicheit

We’ll soon realize that there are a lot of really great breweries around here, and taking the time to drive to one and sufficiently enjoy their offerings makes for a long unwinding time before you can actually drive home. Getting people into your tasting room for more than an occasional pint will require something more than the latest imperial sour double-dry-hopped goodness – it will require mug clubs, cornhole, dart boards, board games, shuffleboard, pinball machines, good food, and … dare I say it … a sense of community and warmth. You’re not just selling beer here folks, you’re selling a state of being. Breweries that focus on this – on being a destination – will succeed, in this guy’s opinion.

But it really doesn’t matter

… because these kinds of predictions are only worth the bits they’re written in, and these days that’s worth less than a cup of coffee. These predictions are my own – your mileage may vary. I hope that you at least have a good chuckle at them and that you convince your officemate, roommate, mother-in-law, or postal worker to drop by your local brewery for a pint and a growler to take to that New Year’s Eve party you’re hosting.

Happy Holidays from TBBN.

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!