“What happened?”, were the first words from my mouth on Sunday morning. Oh wait, it’s only 9am Friday morning. We’ve been here for a mere 13 hours and we’ve already PWN Tampa. Well, we were in Dunedin, not Tampa. I bury my head for a few minutes only to convince my rookie self to wake up and shower. It’s our second day here and I think Beer Monster has a full agenda for us. So we’re off.
Peg’s Cantina & Brew Pub
Our first stop of the day is to meet Doug over at Peg’s Cantina & Brew Pub in Gulfport. Just like 7venth Son, this small hidden gem is truly awesome. With the very recent addition of four 7bbl fermenters their capacity has greatly increased. We sampled a few beers while chatting with Doug. His Dancing Cody IPA was another favorite so far on this trip. Along with the brown and the lager, they were all really good beers. The cozy inside seating looks almost as promising as the natural covered outdoor seating for pulling up a chair, a flight of beer and some good food. We didn’t eat, but the menu is very inviting. Being only a block at most from the water in Gulfport adds to the ideal location of Peg’s. If you are ever in the area, or anywhere near for that matter, I’d highly recommend stopping in and saying hey to Doug.
Cajun Cafe on the Bayou
We make our way over to Pinellas Park for lunch at Cajun Cafe on the Bayou. Beer Monster is good friends with Paul, the owner, who was an awesome host. I’ll be honest when we first pulled off the road I thought we were lost, or just stopping to talk in the lot of a bait shop. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been wrong either. We go inside and get greeted like kings. We’re given lunch menus, but then Paul makes his way over and quickly gives us the dinner menus. Not that the lunch menu looked bad, but wow at the dinner menu. Just as deceiving as the outside is, my shock in the beer menu was just as jaw dropping. They do a cool thing and only feature Florida beer on their 15 taps. You can get a five beer flight to sample of these. Since we’re bringing it, we get the 15 beer flight for the table. One of the beers that stuck out from the rest was Caroline from Saint Somewhere which was a coffee saison. It had every feature of a true saison, color, head, nose with the addition of coffee. Worth checking out if you ever find it. The order for the day was the crawfish lagniappe. I was the only one to get it without crawfish, opting for the catfish only model. Best meal of the trip, hands down. I’m thinking of going back down for one of Paul’s beer fests. He told us that it’s typically $45; all you can drink – all you can eat. It’s worth twice that easily for the food. Cheers to Paul, a great host and he really knows his beer.
Cigar City Brewing
After lunch we travel across the bay bridge and into Tampa. I have no idea where I’m at on a map. But for some reason I can feel we’re just around the corner from CCB. Sure enough, another right turn and we find the brewery on our right. We meet some of the people who will later that night become embedded in our memory of one of the best times ever had at a brewery. But first we must find a hotel room. How odd is it that the Republic National Convention begins on Monday. Even more odd that Tropical Storm Isaac is pushing through the Caribbean with Tampa in it’s line of sight. Fear not beer friends, we shall drink on! Brief history on CCB is that they were founded in 2008. Produced commercially in 2009 near a total of 1000 barrels. 2010 saw a production of around 3500 barrels and 2011 was near 8500. They won back to back medals at GABF their first 2 visits. CCB is known for their great barrel aging of beers along with a focus on extreme styles with beers such as the surprisingly delicious Cucumber Saison. That I may have chilling in the fridge. Widely known for the Hunaphu RIS and the wild day known as Hunaphu Day. We got a tour of the brewery, part of the new brewery and where they will be expanding their tasting room into part of the current office building. I would say it’s greatly needed to expand that tasting room. Unlike the previous night we plan to eat dinner instead of completely drinking dinner. Thankfully CCB almost always has a food truck on site.
On this particular night it’s NYO food truck, aka Not Your Ordinary Food Truck. Private American and I had a buffalo burger while Cloudyfly had meat sticks in the flavor of python and ostrich, or was one of those kangaroo? My burger was great and did a good job of filling me up to the point that I had to slow my consumption of beer or risk exploding. The night did move on with more enjoyment of beers like Grouchy Gourd, which is basically Good Gourd pumpkin ale brewed without all the spices of cinnamon, all spice and nutmeg. I wouldn’t say I like it more than Good Gourd, but found it pleasingly less sweet. The Minaret ESB was also a favorite. I had it in its regular form and on nitro. The nitro made for a thick creamy head. Our night may or may not have finished with an accident involving wrecking a shopping cart.
Tomorrow is a new day and thankfully, I’m not afraid of waking up.