Category Archives: Field Trips

Field Trip: Hunahpu’s Day

In Georgia, the beers from Cigar City Brewing are much talked about, but rarely seen. Although the brewery plans to begin distribution in the state very soon, the only ways to get your hands on a bottle of their brew currently are to either trade with someone who lives within their distribution network or go directly to the source yourself-which is precisely what I did. For the second year in a row, Cigar City held Hunahpu’s Day for the release of their imperial stout. Available only at the brewery, Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout attracts quite a number of avid beer drinkers, who come to sample it and other Cigar City beers and eventually take home up to four bottles of the coveted stout brewed with Peruvian cacao nibs, Ancho and Pasilla chiles, Madagascar vanilla beans, and cinnamon.

This year’s Hunahpu’s Day was held on March 12, at the brewery in Tampa. I traveled down for the weekend with a group of others from the Athens craft beer community to see the brewery and get my own bottles to bring home. While the festivities didn’t begin until 11am, the line outside the brewery formed early…very early (the first person arrived around 5:30 Saturday morning). Once the gates opened, however, a full day of beer, food, and music began. In addition to Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout, there were limited and barrel-aged offerings from Cigar City as well as beers from a few other local breweries. Some local homebrew clubs even had tents set up to offer free samples of their members’ brews. A variety of local caterers and restaurants fed the hungry crowd with an assortment of eclectic cuisine. Over the course of the day, I was able to try more beers than I’ll even attempt to comment on, but here are a few of the highlights:

Peach IPA – Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA already offers subtle hints of peach and apricot flavors from the several varieties of hops added to it but this ups the fruit flavor with the addition of actual peaches to the beer, adding aroma and flavor of fresh peaches while still maintaining enough of a hop bite to be a satisfying India Pale Ale.

Red Wine Barrel-Aged Sea Bass – One of the barrel-aged versions of a Cigar City release that were on tap, this takes the tart dark farmhouse-style ale made with wild yeast from St. Somewhere Brewing and adds another level of rich complexity.

Red Wine Barrel-Aged Vuja De – Another wild ale using yeast from St. Somewhere with black currants, hibiscus, elderberry flowers and lemon leaves added, the dark fruit flavor from aging in red wine barrels helps create subtle hints of mulled wine to contrast the bright fruits and sour of the base beer.

Funky Buddha Maple Bacon Porter – From a brewpub in Boca Raton, this is perhaps the most complete breakfast beer I’ve ever had. Smoked and roasted malt to lend bacon and coffee flavors with sweetness from maple syrup to balance it all out.

Peg’s Cantina Bloody Berliner Weisse – This is an amazingly creative brew from Cigar City’s Production Manager, Doug Dozark, who is the brewmaster at Peg’s Cantina & Brewpub in Gulfport. The tang of a Berliner Weisse went surprisingly well with the addition of tomatoes. Hints of peppercorn helped complete the ode to a bloody mary that was so refreshing and drinkable, I wish I could begin each day with a pint.

Check out all of my photos from Hunahpu’s Day here.


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Field Trip: Brew Your Cask Off 2011

On March 5, Sweetwater Brewery in Atlanta held the second edition of its own unique and collaborative beer festival: Brew Your Cask Off. The set-up may appear standard at first (tents, tables, casks, volunteers, tasting glasses, etc.) but it’s what’s in the casks that makes it different. Weeks before the festival, Sweetwater invited around 80 representatives from bars, beer stores, homebrew clubs, and press to concoct their own cask creations using a base of Sweetwater’s brew. Everything from coffee to cardamom went into the casks to produce a plethora of flavor combinations, some great…some interesting. Not all the guests “brewers” have experience in making their own beer, but that’s exactly the point. The festival aims to inspire creativity and experimentation, and that’s precisely what it does.

Last year’s festival featured about 75 guest brewers if I remember correctly. While the casks only grew in number by a modest amount from last year, the crowd gathering to taste them seemed to have grown exponentially. The increased numbers made it a little more difficult, but I diligently tasted all the beer I could get. A judging panel tasted the casks before the festival began and declared the following winners (despite the fifth grade-esque names, I assure you all brewers were 21+):

1st Place – Lika-Titi-Coco Porter (Final Gravity Home Brewers)

2nd Place – The Sch’it (The Porter Beer Bar)

3rd Place – Two Pump Chump (Fontaines)

Attendees were also given a chance to vote on their favorite cask and Cypress Street Pint & Plate won its second consecutive People’s Choice Award with Samhain.

Here are some other notable beers I tried that I would like to award my own imaginary, non-existent trophies:

Brett Tease (Trappeze Pub) A golden ale with a healthy dose of Brettanomyces for sourness and oak chips to lend a slight dryness

I’Yam Cummin (Taco Mac) Sweet potatoes and spice combined to create nostalgic flavors in a well-balanced ale

Peach Flapjack Brown (Hop City Craft Beer and Wine) Fruit in beer isn’t uncommon, but the flavors in this beer matched the name exactly-slightly caramelized peaches with bready notes

Rico Suavé Chocolate Porter (Rocky Mountain Pizza) Mexican hot chocolate beer! Dark chocolate and heat from peppers accompanied the roasty flavors of the porter

Public InChoxication (The Beer Connoisseur Magazine) Another twist on a traditional chocolate beer, this stout was made to taste like chocolate cake

Starlight (Georgia Organics) In stark contrast to many of the dessert beers present, this ale contained honey, ginger, lemon, and sage and begged for a pairing of roasted chicken

Dry-Nutted Brown Ale (Five Points Bottle Shop) This brown ale had all the flavors of a homemade pecan pie, but with a restrained sweetness to remain an easily drinkable beer

If you haven’t had the chance to attend this unique event, look for an announcement from the brewery in early 2012 about when tickets will go on sale for the third annual Brew Your Cask Off. The diverse selection of one-time cask ales promises to be even bigger and better next year.

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Filed under Events, Field Trips, SweetWater Brewing Company

Field Trip: Holy Mother of Gatherings

The community surrounding and supporting the craft beer movement is amazing. A group of true advocates for better beer, community members are always happy to share their knowledge and appreciation for beer, as well as the beer itself. The sharing spirit was in full force on March 5 at Brick Store Pub in Decatur, Georgia for a meeting of local members called the Holy Mother of Gatherings. The idea is simple: come to hang out with some fellow craft beer lovers and share some bottles from your own collection. I heard stories of the event’s humble beginnings, but HMoG (as it’s called by the BA hipsters) has become a throwdown of massive proportions. Packing out Brick Store Pub’s Belgian beer bar (located “upstairs and to the left”), the event is complete with a raffle for beer-related door prizes, a silent auction, and lots and lots of bottles of the world’s best beer.

Some of the benefits of pooling everyone’s beer stashes are obvious: we were all able to try beers we may not have otherwise been able to track down. I was able to sample some beers from breweries that don’t currently distribute to Georgia, including New Glarus, Odell, Three Floyds, Russian River, Goose Island, and many more. There were also some beers that aren’t just tough to get in Georgia, but are sold only in limited quantities from their respective breweries, making them difficult to come by even in their home state. Despite being rare, limited, or just unbelievably delicious, the people who brought them freely shared a pour from the bottles with anyone interested, or even just standing within an arm’s reach for too long. Attendees also had the chance to go on a tour of the Brick Store’s cellar, which is housed in a bank vault beneath the pub.

Aside from seeing and tasting some of the best beer from around the world, the Holy Mother of Gatherings was a wonderful opportunity to discuss and exchange beer stories. The tales of cross-country trips that some of the bottles, and even some of the people, made to appear in Decatur that Saturday made each sip even more enjoyable. Although the attendees weren’t brewery reps (for the most part), the passion each guest shared for the beer they had brought as an offering to the group would have persuaded even the staunchest macro-brew loyalist to give craft beer a shot.

Part of the aftermath from HMoG 2011

Online communities like BeerAdvocate were conceived as hubs for beer lovers to share their knowledge and interest with each other. The Holy Mother of Gatherings is a physical manifestation of the same goals. Instead of just reading someone’s review of a beer, however, they’ll gladly pour you a bit and share some details about how it’s brewed or the people that made it. There is no date set yet for next year’s installment of HMoG, but you can expect that it will probably be even bigger and better than this year’s (a panoramic camera may be necessary for the above picture). Keep an eye on the threads at BeerAdvocate in early 2012 and plan to come out for a great day of sharing among the craft beer community!

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Filed under Brick Store Pub, Events, Field Trips