I’ve just spent a week in Florida, on a family vacation first and foremost, but with the hopes of getting my hands on some beers that I wouldn’t normally see in MN. I had researched a few stores in the area we were staying in, only to come up way short…well lets just say the selection came up way short. After 5 stores I realized (there must be something going on with the distribution in this town…almost everything for sale was Budweiser/INBEV). My wife was on the hunt for Crispin Cider( owned by Miller Coors), after being told you couldn’t buy it in Florida, we found it at the next store we went into. I bought a Rogue Irish Red and called it a night. Thankfully we took a side trip to the Gulf coast beach beauty of a town, Clearwater. It just so happened that The World Of Beer on Gulf to Bay Blvd
Clearwater was on the way (located directly across the street from THE ORIGINAL Hooters location). Here I finally found some real selection and someone 1) knowledgeable 2) friendly. As soon as I mentioned what nearby country I was staying in and how much trouble I was having finding anything other then Budweiser, he told me he hears this all the time. Apparently, a certain County Sherrif known for conservative values, and probably generous pocket filling, keeps tabs on who sells what, when and how. Ah the south. Now keep in mind this is second hand hearsay from an employee of a store…I’ve got no idea if this is true or not. I’m guessing there just aren’t many distributors in this area…and what they’ve got just concentrate on what sells the most. (That was my disclaimer) At any rate, this is what I picked up at The World of Beer:

Cigar City Brewing : Florida Cracker White Ale, Hotter than Helles Lager
Terrapin “Moo-Hoo” Chocolate Milk Stout
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
Orange Blossom Pilsner
Sea Dog Blueberry Wheat Ale

Both Cigar City’s(Tampa, FL) Brews I tried were quite good. The white ale was light on the coriander and citrus, which maybe because it was Florida, I was looking for more of those flavors, but it was easy to drink. Hotter than Helles was also good, but not great. A little bit sweet, fruity and hoppy. This is definately an easy drinking hot weather beer. Next time I’m in FL I plan on hitting up the brewery and/or the tasting room and I recommend if your in Tampa, FL you do the same.

Terrapin Beer Co.(Athens, GA) Moo-Hoo Chocolate Milk Stout was also very good. I’m a huge chocolate stout fan, and despite the humid 85 degree day weather, this was very tasty. Right on par with many of the other Chocolate Milk Stouts out there, I’d just never seen Terrapin before ( not in MN)

Next, was something called Orange Blossom Pilsner. Now brewed by Thomas Creek Brewery in SC but was created by Tom Moench (in his garage in the 70’s). Popular in Florida, made with orange blossom honey and won a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Fest in 2004.Moench is now working on opening his own brewery in the Orlando area. This is a pretty good niche beer, but not alot of punch to it. Light, sweet, very easy to drink. Think Corona or something similar.

Sea Dog Blueberry Wheat: This is a New England brand, so I was suprised to see it in FL, but apparently Sea Dog has expanded to open a couple of locations in Florida (Clearwater and Orlando). In the same vein as Sam’s Cherry wheat…only not as good of course.

Last but not least, because out of this 6-PK it was by far the best:

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. If I had drank this first, I wouldn’t have bothered with any of the others. It pours dark caramel and thick almost syrupy. Smells and taste is sweet, a little hoppy, a little bit malty, strong and powerful but not overpowering. Smooth and slow like a good scotch ale or scotch or wiskey…my mouth waters now just thinking about it. Maybe one of the best beers I’ve had.  4 Stars-Brilliant !