Yesterday (June 13), House of Blues Orlando hosted an event called Local Brews Local Grooves that featured sampling of beers made in Florida along with live entertainment.
The event started at 4pm. It cost $5 to get in and then $3 a piece for a 3oz pour of beer. You could get a wristband for $15 that gave you 5 pours and a souvenier plastic cup. No real savings for buying 5 at a time, which I found odd, but I figured I’d buy the wristband to limit myself to 5 samples. We also got a booklet offering beer descriptions and a layout map of the breweries.
Looking through the 2 pages of descriptions for the beers being offered, I first decided to try The Unkindness, an American Black Ale offered by Barley Mow Brewing of Largo, Florida. Made with a lot of hops, the ale was dark and bitter, but not heavy, with a hint of chocolate and coffee.
Talking with the owner I learned the name of the brew came from the fact it is as black as a raven, and a group of ravens is called an Unkindness. It was the first brew for the company, too. The owner and marketing person then donned their Raven heads for a photo. You can check out the brewery online at barleymowbrewingco.com.
Meanwhile my friend Joan tried the Day Trippin’ beer from Swamp Head Brewery out of Gainseville, Florida. It was crisp and light, with a hint of grapefruit, and she eventually proclaimed it her favorite of the samples we tried. You can check out the brewery online at swamphead.com.
While we were enjoying our first samples of the day, Orlando musician Emily Kopp started off the entertainment portion with a collection of soul covers that sounded really nice and provided a good accompaniment to the beer.
We then went upstairs to check out the rest of the breweries at the event (there were five downstairs, four upstairs, and one outside on the back patio).
In the far back corner, we started with Wop’s Hops Brewing Co out of Sanford, Florida. Wop’s had four brews to sample and it was hard to decide, but ultimately, I went with the Irish Red Ale. It was a beautiful dark red, balanced, and had a slight toffee-note at the end.
I had a few seconds to talk with owner Greg “The Wop” Piecora, and he said his personal favorite of the four was the Romulus Rye Porter. He also proudly proclaimed they don’t use any high fructose corn sugars, fillers, GMOs, or additives in their English-style brews. You can check out the brewery online at wopshopsbrewing.com.
From there, we went to the opposite corner of the balcony area to check out Bold City Brewery out of Jacksonville, Florida. They had two brews, and both of them sounded delicious.
I chose their Barrel-Aged Roxy’s Imperial Cream Ale and was surprised by the taste. The best way I can describe it is that it sipped like a bourbon but finished like a beer. The barrel-aging is what gives the ale that bourbon taste, I was told.
The brother and sister duo manning the table (Bold City is a family business) talked us into also trying their limited Orange Screamsicle brew, made with orange peel, bourbon vanilla beans, and milk sugar. It was light and fruity, with a hint of creaminess. A nice beer for the hot summer, I would think. You can check out the brewery online at boldcitybrewery.com.
While we were making the transition back downstairs, the Jake & Elwood Blues Revue came on stage. They did a very respectable homage to the real Blues Brothers, and it was funny to see the crowd going wild when they performed the “Theme from Rawhide” and Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man.”
I used my final sample ticket to try the Blueberry Cobbler Ale from Funky Buddha out of Oakland Park, Florida. It’s made with real vanilla beans, cinnamon, and blueberries, which give it a slight purple tinge. It sounded different so I gave it a shot, and you know what? It tasted like I bit into a blueberry pie and chased it with a beer in the same mouthful. I don’t think I could drink it all the time, but once in a while, chilled on a hot day, yeah, I’d drink it again. You can check out the brewery online at funkybuddhabrewery.com.
Over all, I would say my favorite brews were the Barrel-Aged Roxy’s Imperial Cream Ale from Bold City and the Irish Red Ale from Wop’s Hops. My roommate loved The Unkindness from Barley Mow (it placed a close third with me) and the Barrel-Aged Roxy’s Imperial Cream Ale. Joan preferred the lighter Day Trippin’ from Swamp Head Brewery – so much she got a second sample at the end.
I should mention House of Blues had appetizers for sale, as well, but since they cost 2 tickets a portion, we opted not to get any. Why buy an appetizer when you can get 2 beer samples for the same cost? Besides, most of the food was seafood-based, which I’m allergic to.
Things I enjoyed about this event:
- I got to try a lot of beers I’d never heard of before and it was fun comparing notes with my friends.
- Most of the brewers were really nice and as long as they weren’t swamped, were willing to take a few minutes to talk about their beers.
- I enjoyed the live music as we walked around sampling beers. There more acts after the ones we saw, too.
Things I didn’t enjoy about this event:
- The beer/food tickets and wristbands were cash only. Yes, there is an ATM at House of Blues but when you stand in a long line to get your tickets only to have to get out of line to get cash, then wait in line again, it becomes not worth it. Luckily we had cash on us, but it would’ve saved a lot of people grumbling if that fact had been made clear on the advertising for the event, or even signage outside.
- The ticket table was right at the entrance, which made things a little congested trying to get to the bathrooms or elevator.
- One brewer was really rude to us (I don’t want to give him any publicity), but not only didn’t he want to talk even though nobody else was at the table, he was very rude to my friend who took a sip of one, didn’t like it, and asked if the other one was better. He dumped her full sample, poured the other one, then charged her an extra ticket. That’s not the way to do business with someone who might be a potential customer down the line.
All in all, it was a fun way to spend the afternoon, and I’m glad we went early when the event started. Around 6pm when we left, it was getting crowded enough it was hard to get from one beer vendor to another. If House of Blues hosts another of these events, I’ll let you readers know.
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