Political Brews

Posted: August 25, 2012 in Beer Drinking Adventures

My wife really wanted to attend the Republican National Convention this year as she is an avid Ron Paul supporter.  For me, it was just another excuse to get down to some good drinking in Tampa, Florida again this year.

After one of the choppiest flights I’ve ever taken in my life, we landed in the Cigar City…Tampa.  The airport itself was loaded with banners, signs, people showing their support for their party and candidate of choice.  My original plan was to run over to Cigar City Brewing and swallow beer for a couple of hours (on an empty stomach) but my wife thought better and decided to go out for lunch instead.  We ended up at one of the highest rated Mexican restereunts in the Tampa area.  Upon arriving at Chihuahua, the place is kind of small but the decor was modern and the place seemed ample enough.  As true to style with most Mexican places, we were greeted with a bowl of some killer salsa and homemade chips served in a dog dish.  The salsa was amazing and uber fresh as it had a nice balance of tomato/onion and loaded with fresh cilantro.  I ordered a shredded chicken burrito which was huge and a margarita the size of my head.  The food was as good as advertised, the staff were attentive and the margarita was a good start to the day.

While driving a 5 mile stretch of a main through road, we also got ran off the road by a police escort transporting some political d-bag to some glad handing event.  Whoever you were, damn you for slowing up my travel to…

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Cigar City is considered to be the best brewery in Florida and has many local, state, and national accolades to back that up and are proudly posted on their walls.  It was about 130pm when we arrived and the place was jam packed with patrons and people waiting to go on the brewery tour.  The tour itself costs $5 (which some people think is a shame but personally, I think its a really good deal and smart on their part).  For 5 bucks, you get to take a stroll through the brewing facility which is kind of awkward for its set up, then go back to the tasting room and enjoy a pint then keep the glass.  This is a great promotion because all of their beers are about 4-5 bucks plus you keep the pint glass.  I think it is a smart move by them to do this because it gets people interested and probably prevents more glass pints walking off without their knowledge.  Win Win.  After dropping 80 bucks at the gift shop for 2 shirts, 2 snifter glasses and 2 bombers, we bellied up to the bar for some flavors.

  • Cigar City Grouchy Gourd ~ Pumpkin Ale (FL) ABV unknown was a variation of their popular pumpkin ale Good Gourd but served without any added spices and served on nitro.  If you like pumpkin beers that aren’t overly spiced or require a diabetes test, then this is the beer for you (and me).  Great Pumpkin/Yam flavor but you definitely get some boozy taste on the back end.  The beer even had that creamy taste from the nitro tap which I thought was a great addition.  4.08 /5 Rating.
  • Cigar City Oblique ~ Belgian Strong Dark Ale (FL) 8.8% ABV had a very fruity profile of banana, cherry, sweet bread, and a hint of currant or mild red plum on the nose and taste.  The fruity notes did a great job of hiding the booziness that usually comes with a beer like this.  4.23 /5 Rating.
  • Cigar City Minaret ESB ~ Extra Strong Bitter (FL) 5.0% ABV was being offered both regular and on nitro.  I am kicking myself for not doing both side by side but opted for the nitro instead which I think mellowed out the hoppy flavors of the beer.  The beer had a great amber hue, thick creamy head due to the nitro.  The nose was floral, hints of caramel, and a mild grainy maltiness while the taste was a neutral grainy flavor with a nice caramel and mild floral flavor on the back end.  Tame for an ESB but on nitro so that was my fault for doing it that way.  3.7 /5 Rating.
  • Cigar City Big Sound Scotch Ale ~ Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy (FL) 8.5% ABV had recently been released and I thought it was my birthday when they pulled out the firkin and dropped it right in front me.  Obviously I had to have the first pour out of the cask…yeah me.  Anyways, the beer poured a dark opaque hue, passed no light and had very little head (it was on cask after all).  The nose was bright but had dark malts, caramel, toffee, and a mild milk chocolate finish and the taste was very similar.  I had been fortunate to have the barrel aged versions of this beer last year from my tasting group but never had the base version…I can see why they tried this in barrels because it was a great base beer to barrel age.  Infected Rum Barrel FTW.  4.18 /5 Rating.
  • Cigar City Tony Jannus Pale Ale ~ American Pale Ale (FL) 5.5% ABV was a great pale ale (borderline IPA) with a hazy golden straw hue, white head, and decent lacing.  The nose was outstanding with a piney, grapefruit, and orange peel nose with a similar taste of grapefruit and piney notes.  4.10/5 Rating.

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After a good time at Cigar City, we headed back to our room for a quick much needed nap.  Before I receive any texts about being a sally, I had only slept three hours the previous night and was up at 6am (proceed with the sally comments).  We had made reservations months ago to go to dinner at Charleys Steak House, which is an annual member of the Tom Horans Top Ten Independant Steak House list.  In 2012, it was inducted as a Hall of Fame member into Tom Horan’s list for their continuous appearances on the Top 10 list.  Being in Tampa, the place offered a great selection of seafood along with their award winning steaks.  As the old saying goes ‘When in Rome, do as the romans do’…so I had to rder an appetizer of Florida Gator and not to sound cliche, it tasted like chicken….chewy chicken actually.  Although they had a great selection of different cuts of steak, I went with a 20oz cut of bone in bison steak, which was just delicious, full of flavor, a little fatty but just excellent.  Unfortunately, the food was so rich that it literally sent me directly to bed after we got back to our hotel room.
 
 
Sunday morning, we bounced out of bed nice and early (given the fact we were passed out by 930pm), grabbed breakfast and shot over to the U. of S.Florida Sundome for a Ron Paul rally.  6 hours of sitting inside a basketball arena was taxing to say the least, especially with Bud and Bud Light being my only options…I chose bottled water as it is a close cousin of the aforementioned beers.
 
After the rally, we raced across the bay to catch up with our 7pm reservation at Pegs Cantina in Gulfport.  Pegs Cantina was recently awarded the 2012 Small Brewpub of the year award.  Upon arrival, it made me question what their definition of ‘small’ was because this place is tiny.  When you approach the place, it like walking onto someones front lawn with a small walkway.  There were several outdoor tables in front of the place but the inside was even smaller.  The bar itself could hold 8 patrons and had 5 more tables.  If you followed the bar around, it lead you to their outdoor patio which was basically an open air florida room that had another 5 tables for seating.  Thankfully we arrived there and were able to sit on the outdoor patio because we were there between rain bands from TS Isaac.  Pegs offered 4 in house taps, 4 local taps and 4 other craft taps.  The 4 in house taps were a single hop pale ale, an amber ale, a brown ale and a light marzen.  The wife and I both ordered burritos which were tasty but a little pricey.  The beers too were about 1-2 dollars more than should be and to my surprise they did not take credit cards.  Also, Pegs is not opened on Monday and Tuesdays so when we had gotten there, they had kicked 5 of the 12 taps and would not be replaced until they reopened on Wednesday.  Overall, a nice little place to visit…make sure you have extra cash.  Here is what I chose while at Peg’s Cantina…
  • Pegs Cantina Mouteka ~ American Pale Ale (FL) ABV Unknown was a single hop pale ale using New Zealand Hops and the first in a new series of single hop beers Pegs will be making this year.  The beer had a golden straw/amber hue, passed most light, white head and some lacing.  The nose was bright floral and a mild sweet malt finish.  The taste was decent with a floral, medium sweet malt and mild citrus flavor.  Overall, a nice APA with a nice flavor and didn’t blow out your taste buds.
  • Pegs Cantina Boing ~ Marzen/Oktoberfest Ale (FL) ABV Unknown had a nice amber/golden straw hue, passed some light and had a low head ring.  The nose was subtle with a hint of caramel and a mild sweet malt.  The taste was better with a caramel, sweet malts and mild grainy flavor.  3.63 /5 Rating.
  • Cigar City Cucumber Saison ~ Saison/Farmhouse Ale (FL) 5.0% ABV had a golden straw hue, passes most light and a white head ring.  The nose was heavy cucumber, pickles and mild black pepper.  The taste was dead nuts resembled Bread and Butter pickles with a cucumber and mild white pepper taste.  This beer strongly resembles pickle juice…3.95 /5 Rating. 
Unfortunately the weather started to turn for the worst and another patron stated that there was a possibility of closing I-275 across the bay if the wind kicked up, so we decided to high tail back to Tampa before things got worse with Tropical Storm Isaac.
 
 On Monday, we were kind of unsure what to do with ourselves for the day.  We headed downtown first just to check things out but that was an epic failure as downtown was transformed into a demilitartized zone.  Half the streets were blocked off, all government buildings and hotels were surrounded with 8ft riot fence and every corner had a minimum of 4 police officers, bike cops, state troopers, national guard and secret service police.  We were stopped several times by police asking where we were going and the only thing I could say was “Aquarium”…downtown was such a clusterfuck that even the local police couldn’t give us directions because of the massive amount of roadblocks.  After a half hour of winding our way through downtown, we decided to head to Clearwater Beach and maybe get a jetski to rent.  Renting a jetski during a tropical storm is apparently a bad idea.  Every place in Clearwater for rental or fishing charters were boarded up or closed for the day…sissies.  The waves weren’t that bad and it would have been okay to be out on the water between rain bands which were rolling in and out every 20-30 minutes.  We decided to try to stop in at 7th Sun Brewing but it was closed…then tried Dunedin brewing….closed…then tried a local beer bar…closed.  Finally we settled at Dunedin House of Beer, which offered 40 taps of good craft beer, nice change in styles and had some great offerings from around the country.  Having previously been shut out at Pegs Cantina (twice) on trying some 7th Sun Brewing, I ordered the only tap they had before going out to lunch.
 
  • 7venth Sun Brewing Grafitti Orange Creamsicle ~ American Pale Wheat Ale (FL) 6.3% ABV had a hazy golden straw hue, passed most light and had a white head ring.  The nose was a very strong wheat with a mild lemon and mild orange finish.  The taste was again heavy wheat, lemon and a mild orange chaser. The presence of wheat was just overwhelming to determine what hop(s) were used to make this ‘orange’.  3.73 /5 Rating.
 
After leaving House of Beer, we headed to a really Mexican place in Dunedin called Casa Tina.  We had stopped here when we were down here in January on a fluke but wanted to dine in this time because last time we had gotten our food to go.  Casa Tina has a really cool dark macabre style to it and the food was great.  We both ordered their house tacos which came with 3 different styles of in house hot sauce.  The food was excellent and hit the spot between the breakfast and our planned dinner at Justine’s Cousin’s house.  After being chased off the beach after 20 minutes of walking in the water, we headed over to my wife’s cousins house for dinner later that night.  The weather was on and off as rain bands were coming and going still from TS Isaac and some nasty wind to follow. 
 
Tuesday was our last day in Tampa as we had a mid-afternoon flight back to Buffalo.  We were both kind of dragging butt from constantly going and trying to cram as much into our weekend as possible.  Unfortunately, there wasnt much for us to do because we had to check out of our hotel that morning, downtown was completely out of the question and we didnt have enough time to go to the beach without having to rush back to the airport…so we drank.  Thankfully, Cigar City was less than 5 minutes from our hotel (how nice for me).  Here were my breakfast selections:
  •  Cigar City Brewing Florida Cracker White Ale ~ Witbier (FL) 5.0% ABV had a nice hazy golden hue, passed most light and had a nice white head with decent lacing.  The nose was solid lemon, wheat and a mild belgian yeast while the taste was also lemons, wheat, belgian yeast and mild belgian sugars.  3.90 /5 Rating.
  • Cigar City Brewing Ligero ~ Schwarzier (FL) 5.5% ABV was done justice by being served on nitro as it had a dark opaque hue, passed no light and had a cream off white head.  The nose was a solid dark roasted chocolate malt, mild coffee and mild caramel blend while the taste was similar with a dark roasted malt, nutty, chocolate and coffee flavors.  4.08 /5 Rating.  (One cool thing was after I ordered this beer, the bartender decided to mix beers and as playing with this beer on nitro and good gourd…then threw me the half pint to test…it was pretty damn good)
  • Cigar City Brewing Oktoberfest ~ Oktoberfest/Marzen (FL) 5.5% ABV was a big disappointment for me as it was under carbonated and the flavors were somewhat weak.  The appearance was okay but the lack of carbonation left the beer without head or lacing.  The nose was somewhat flat with a caramel and mild sweet malts smell.  The taste was similar but had a mild earthy flavor to it too.  Its too bad too because this was my 700th Beer Advocate review, disappointing milestone.  3.38 /5 Rating.
  • Cigar City Brewing Good Gourd ~ Pumpkin Ale (FL) 8.5% ABV had a deep orange hue, passes some light and had a thick off white head.  The nose is spice heavy with cinnamon and nutmeg with a yam chaser.  The taste is pumpkins, sweet potatoes, allspice, cinnamon and clove.  A great pumpkin if you like them sweet.

Unfortunately, we had to leave because out flight was embarking at 230pm but to my delight, our terminal happened to have a Cigar City remote location and they also had a small brewing set up too….I thought that was cool personally.  The girl at the counter said that they use for small batch stuff that they do at the airport only.  Anyways, I couldnt leave without one more beer…

  • Cigar City Hotter than Helles ~ Munich Helles Lager (FL) 5.0% ABV had a mild hazy golden straw hue, passes lots of light and had a white head ring.  The nose a mildly floral, mild sweet malts and mild grainy malts, which was very similar to the taste except that floral character was more present.  A nice lager but kind of a boring style in my opinion.

Here are some other random pictures that I snapped over the weekend that I thought were worth showing off…

 
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Thats sexy and funny…

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How tortilla chips are suppose to be served.

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Interior of Casa Tina Dunedin, FL

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Tropical Storm Isaac (more like Tropical Storm Bullshit)

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