Saturday, June 23, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Beer Week: From wine grapes to aged brew to homebrew

I got a relatively early start to Beer Week on day five and took the long trek to B-21 Wine Company in Tarpon Springs to check out one of the several interesting beer tastings they've had throughout the week. This one was a sampling of two wheat ales from Blue Moon that are brewed with wine grapes for an interesting, hybrid end product. The first, Impulse, is a semi-sweet beer brewed with a wheat base and fortified by cabernet sauvignon grapes. The second, Proximity, is more dry and white wine-like, made with an addition of sauvignon blanc grapes.

I grabbed a bottle of Impulse to go and headed to the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks for lunch (I love the gigandes at Costa's). I headed over to the Nook at Dunedin Brewery for the Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Vertical Tasting. A flight of five versions of Bigfoot was available — the 2005, 2006, 2008, 2012 and whiskey barrel-aged release of the 2011/2012 blend — enabling fans of the beer to compare the batches side by side.

The vertical tasting was quite eye-opening, lending insight into just what happens to a beer after it's had one, five, seven or even eight years to mellow. My personal favorites were the 2005 version (the bittering hops were still present, unbelievably, but the finish was much smoother and caramel-y) and the fantastic barrel-aged blend.

Next, I stopped by Tampa's Cold Storage Brewery for the Special Hoperations Night, a homebrew clinic and sampling hosted by the Tampa-based homebrew club. Unfortunately, the brewing demonstration didn't happen as planned (no one brought the gear!), but there was live music, a free pint of any of Cold Storage's beers (three of which just won gold in the Best Florida Beer Championship), a tour of the brewery and unlimited samples of six homebrews. I learned a few homebrewing tips from the Special Hops guys while sampling some really good stuff, like a phenomenal dry-hopped Black IPA and a well-executed traditional Hefeweizen.

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