What More Could We Need In Life? Palm Trees, Visiting an Old Friend and Great Craft Beers!

Eric came home a few months ago and said that he had to go to Orlando for a conference. My first thought? Sweet, I'm tagging along! 

The conference started on Sunday, so we flew down on Thursday night to visit with one of my dearest friends, Patrick, who moved to Tampa at the end of last year. 

We were in Florida last year for Memorial Day weekend, and spent a day in the Clearwater and Tampa area (before Patrick lived in the area) and visited a couple pretty cool places including Datz (which gets a repeat visit this trip) and Mr. Dunderbaks, a very cool German  Biergartten and restaurant. On our way out of town that trip, we knew we wanted to go back and do more exploring. And exploring we did! 

Beer #1 of our trip - Full Sail Pale Ale
We flew in Thursday night after work, and unfortunately, since we landed so late, not much was open. By the time we made it to my family's house, and got all settled in, we both were in need of a drink! Thankfully we keep a few beers stashed in the fridge, and opted for a Full Sail Pale Ale. Not a bad way to kick off our longest vacation we've taken in a while (although Eric was technically "working" 2 1/2 of those days! Yuck!)

After riding bikes around the grounds of Disney's Wilderness Lodge (my favorite resort on property) and Disney's Fort Wilderness Friday morning, we got ready and made our way to Tampa, where we met Patrick at the first of many spots we would visit throughout the weekend, Tampa Bay Brewing Company

Eric and I originally saw Tampa Bay Brewing Company on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and loved everything the place stands for. Check out this clip from the episode the Brewing Company was featured on!

Located in Ybor City, it is run by a very cool mother and son team. The mother is originally from England and is fanatical about serving the freshest, cleanest beer possible. Their chef ensures that they use the brewery's beer in each and every recipe. Can't complain about that!

Tampa Bay Brewing Company
The brewery has an outdoor area steps from their front door, which is where we decided to sit. This place offers a ton of beers. So many, it was a little tricky to pick what we wanted to start with! Over the course of our time there, the three of us had the Noxious Smoked Scotch Ale, Old Elephant Foot IPA, One Night Stand Pale Ale (which I had to order simply because of the name!) and Moosekiller Barley Wine. To snack on, we had the Cheese & Ale Dip, made with the brewery's Red Eye Ale, as well as an order of the Brew House Pretzels, which came with Moosekiller Barleywine Mustard and Wild Warthog Weizen Pepper Jack Fondue. Our second introduction to Tampa was a pretty awesome one!

The bad news was, it started to pour as we were sitting there enjoying our beers, so the rest of the night we took it easier. Later on, we went to a great burger place called Burger21. Their first location outside of Florida is opening in Voorhees, NJ in the spring. You can guarantee we'll be making the drive up to have another one of these burgers! Especially because they even have a gluten free menu, including a gluten free bun! At Burger 21 I had the black bean veggie burger, and Eric had the Cinco Burger, topped with guacamole, salsa, jalepenos, Monteray Jack cheese and cilantro cream. We split a basket of fries, both regular and sweet potato, with Patrick, and went to town with the fun ketchups and dipping sauces this place offers. - like toasted marshmallow, apple cider and curry mayo. Oh yeah, and they had regular ol' ketchup, but who wants to eat that when you can have crazy concoctions to put on your fries! They serve (bottles of) beer, and even had a few craft beers to pick from. We went with Stone IPA.  After a day like that, we were happy to be back in Tampa, and even happier to get to spending the time with Patrick!

Boat (and Dock!) Drinks!

As rainy and crazy as the weather was on Friday night, Saturday was a fantastic day in Tampa. After a relaxing morning of coffee, a walk along the water, and not much else, we hopped on Patrick's boat and took it out to the bay -what a fantastic way to get from point A to point B -all the while drinking a little Samuel Adams Summer Ale (Patrick is a Boston boy, so of course that's what we were drinking on the boat!)

Our destination was the Yacht Club and Hula Bay Club, where we proceeded to dock the boat, and make our way in for some bayside drinks and a late lunch. They had a pretty decent tap list available, including Kona Brewing Company Fire Rock Pale Ale. It was seriously refreshing and the perfect beer for the perfect kind of afternoon we had!

On Sunday we had to head back to Orlando for Eric's conference. Before we did, we got every last bit of Tampa (and Patrick) awesomeness in! Although note to self: you can't order alcohol in Tampa until after 11am on Sundays...which totally ruined our plan for the bacon bloody Mary we were going to have during our 9:30am brunch reservations at Datz! Of course it wasn't really the end of the world, especially since their cold brew coffee is addictive!

After brunch Patrick took us to one of the coolest places I think I've ever been to, ThePub. The Pub is fashioned as an English Pub, but with a very cool, very technologically updated twist. 

We've been to a few wine bars that give you a reloadable card that you can use in their wine machines, only pouring how much you want of what wines you'd like to try. The Pub has self-serve draughts that are controlled by the same type of card, but using an iPad screen. It's very cool. You simply wave the card in front of the screen. Once it registers the card, you pick what you'd like to drink and pour. The screen display tells you how many ounces you're pouring. It was way too much fun!

The Pub! And Patrick showing us how it's done!
With it being a British pub, the tap choices were quite heavy on the British brews, which was fine by us! I went with the Belhaven Twisted Thistle IPA and Eric went with Magners, as it reminded him of his time in London, when pretty much all he did was drink. Oh, and watch 'football'!

It really couldn't have been much better of an afternoon. Hanging in a British pub, sipping on some British brews dispensed from an iPad controlled tap, with two of my favorite guys, all while watching the Euro Cup on TV. 

As quick as I thought that, we then made plans for one last stop before leaving the Tampa Bay area - we decided to head over to Cigar CityBrewing for a tasting. What a way to end our time in Tampa! 

Cigar City is tucked away in a an area of industrial looking buildings. And beyond lucky for Patrick, the brewery is only about 5 minutes from his place!

Final Stop in Tampa - Cigar City Brewing!
For $6, you get a pretty awesome tasting of 4 of Cigar City's beers. Between the three of us, we covered a good amount of the brews Cigar City had on tap, including Snack Attack, Hotter than Helles, Jai Alai IPA, Florida Cracker, a Belgium Wit, and Maiden Voyage IPA. The beers were all outstanding! I'd hop on a plane just to get another taste of it!

The IPAs were awesome. I think the Jai Alai edged the Maiden Voyage, which was still pretty awesome! The Helles was fantastic! I think we could have easily sat there all day and just hung out. It was a really cool, laid back place! 

Snack Attack, an Imperial/Double Porter,  was seriously one of the most interestingly, intriguing beers I've ever had! It's a collaboration with Cigar City, Funky Buddha and Bluejacket Brewery, which isn't opening until next year. On a side note, we're totally going to have to check out Bluejacket when we go to visit friends and family in DC. And after checking out the details on Funky Buddha, I totally want to get back to Boca and go there! 

Cigar City Brewing, Tampa
Anyway, back to the beer. Snack Attack is a a movie theater food inspired brew. Seriously. It's brewed with Florida sea salt, cacao nibs, vanilla beans and dry-roasted peanuts. The flavor of the peanuts comes through but isn't overpowering, as it seems to be mellowed by the cacao nibs and vanilla beans. It was like having a chocolate covered pretzel beer, but that wasn't as gross as that might sound! I can still taste the distinct flavors! 

So off to Orlando at this point. After checking in, Eric had to almost immediately get into his conference, but not before he made a pit-stop with me at the hotel's bar, where we had an Orlando Brewing Company OrlandoPale Ale. I have to admit, in all the years I've been going to Orlando, I've never really had an opportunity to seek out any of the local breweries as we spend most of our time at theme parks (although thankfully they're all starting to step up their craft beer selections!) It was a pretty nice way to kick off the next couple of days. 

Most of the indulging we did over the next couple days was the conference Eric was attending, including a private party at the Orlando location of Cuba Libre. Which, bonus, guess what was located right next door - The Pub Orlando's location! 

After the sweetness of Cuba Libre's delightful mojitos got to be too much, we headed next door to play a little more with the magic beer dispensing iPads! This time around we were thrilled to see a little Delaware love with Dogfish Head on tap! And 90 Minute no less! I really liked the Twisted Thistle IPA when I had it in Tampa, so I went for that again, plus a DFH 90 Minute and a SamAdams Angry Orchard Cider. I'm always drawn to brews by Left Hand Brewing Company, since I myself, am a lefty. They had their Milk Stout on tap, so I also got a tiny bit of that! Wanting a little taste of home, Eric also went with the 90 Minute and the Twisted Thistle. As you can imagine, it was time to call it a night and think about our trip back to reality. That's never fun! 

Our time in Florida, as it always is, was fantastic. Spending time with one of the best friends a girl could ask for, drinking great brews, hanging on the water for a bit, and just relaxing - I couldn't ask for anything else! Well, except to do it all over again! And something tells me we will! Cheers!