Times beer correspondent Justin Grant checked out several events Monday evening for Tampa Bay Beer Week. Here's a glimpse of his day:
At 5 p.m., my girlfriend and I picked up a friend from work and headed to ABC Fine Wine & Spirits in South Tampa for the Merchant du Vin Tasting. Merchant du Vin is one of the original craft beer importers in the United States, first introducing England's Samuel Smith's line of beers stateside way back in 1978. The focus of this tasting, however, was on Belgian Trappist Ales.
Of the eight (yes, eight — Stift Engelszell from Austria was approved as an official Trappist brewery last year) Trappist breweries, Merchant du Vin represents three: Westmalle, Orval, and Rochefort. We sampled the Dubbel and Tripel from Westmalle, and the 6, 8, and 10 from Rochefort. The Rochefort 10, a highly regarded Quadrupel Ale, was a big favorite, along with the Westmalle Tripel. We grabbed a bottle of the latter to take home, and it came with a heavy-duty Westmalle goblet.
We then headed over to Seminole's Rapp Brewing for Cigars and OMG. OMG is Rapp's entry into the world of extreme high-gravity beers, clocking in at over 20 percent alcohol by volume. This rich, complex and remarkably smooth Barleywine is served uncarbonated and at room temperature, much like a fine brandy. As such, pairing it with a cigar only makes sense. The event was officially BYOC (bring your own cigar), but the folks at Tampa's Tabanero Cigars were kind enough to donate a bundle of Churchills, and someone brought some Puros Indios Viejo Double Toros to share, as well.
Along with the OMG, we got a little experimental with the Berliner Weisse and flavored syrup combinations, which included traditional flavors such as woodruff and raspberry, along with slightly more exotic fare, such as passion fruit, blood orange, peanut butter and bacon. Yes, peanut butter and bacon. If anyone's curious, the bacon syrup is 100 percent vegetarian. The brewery wrapped things up about 10, so we called it an early night and headed home.