Thursday, April 18, 2024

Brewery Review - Home State Brewing Company

The front door to Home State Brewing Company, a store front with glass windows.
Home State Brewing Company

Home State Brewing Company in Winter Garden, Florida, got me to visit through a theme park connection. What I found on our visit was a comfortable space and well-crafted beer that made for a fun afternoon.

Home State Brewing had a logo and name that did not tell me much about the vibe and story of the brewery. I’m not from Florida and I’m not sure if the owners are from Florida. I definitely don’t know if they are trying to masquerade as a local spot or explain what Florida means to them. A small part of me thinks they are trying to express their out-of-state roots, without emphasizing their transplant to Florida. Maybe they come from Nebraska? All in all, the logo was cosmic to me, without good old home vibes. So after a fair amount of research on my part, apparently, the owners are nerds, who chose a logo that made sense to them but not to me. After sleuthing up an answer, I knew why they chose their logo, but the issue still remains that I, as a common consumer, have no idea what their vibe was going to be.

I was there for Mammoth Club, the theme park YouTube channel. They were having a meet-up at Home State at the end of the week. Unfortunately, a meet-up I was going to miss. Alan and Molly had worked with Home State on a beer collaboration. As a proud drinking member of the MamFam, I needed to at least try and rate their IPA creation.

Expecting more, my expectations diminished when we arrived at a strip mall. A smallish strip mall brewery, likely with the typical cramped feeling setup that tries to fit ten times as much seating into the room as possible. Expecting the worst, I was surprised to open the door and find an unexpected phenomenon to my left. It was there I saw a large and spacious patio complete with games and an outside set of taps currently not in use. Additionally, the inside offered a roomy, clean and welcoming taproom. It was obvious time had been invested to set up a taproom that provided a consistent feel instead of one that haphazardly filled a room with mismatched furniture.

But hey, why are we here? Obviously the beer! I could care less about the atmosphere if the beer is worth the pain. So, is the beer good? Yes, the beer is well-executed. All in all, Home State makes a super drinkable beer.

A flight of four beers sitting on a table.

  • “SheMAMigans”: The Mammoth Club collaboration is to me a light hazy IPA. Light in the sense that there is a lower-level citrus taste, not a juice punch. But it is also not coming at the drinker with an excessive hop bite. I think a lot of MamFam members may not fully be in the “I love IPA” camp. For those drinkers, this is super approachable, something that they can share in without feeling excluded. And maybe, they can enjoy one of their first IPAs.

  • “Big Dark Energy”: I love Imperial Stouts. They are my jam. This version was roasty and toasty. I could cuddle up next to a fire with this beverage. Oddly, it seems like a good-tasting non-Imperial stout and the 9% ABV doesn’t slap one in the face. Honestly, that high ABV is super sneaky so watch out. But I do wish that it had lived for a while in a barrel.

  • “Doctor’s Orders”: This is a well-made on-model Hefeweizen that gives you the banana and cloves vibe. It’s exactly what one wants when ordering this style.

  • “The Audacity - Strawberry Peach” - I was worried this sour would be too puckery, not something that I enjoy. This is not a lactose-type sour that tastes like a fruity cocktail with the mouth feel of a smoothie. But it has a light pucker with a celebration of fruit flavor and a mouth feel that comes across as well, beer. It could serve as an introduction to traditional sours for some drinkers as it’s not overpowering.

  • “The Selective Eccentric” - I am not a Saison fan. But this was still something that I could sit down and enjoy if there were no other options available. It could have easily been the addition of peach and blackberry, as I’m not sure I have had an adjuncted saison before.

  • “Octoberfest, Ja!” - Yep, that’s a Marzan! I loved the bubbles, the perfect Marzan caramel color, and it’s one of my favorite representations of an Octoberfest this fall!

Overall, everything was approachable in a sense of style, and something that I could recommend to friends. But on this day, there were no unicorns that were must-haves that I would chase upon release. There were numerous to-go options if you wanted a great-tasting beer back at your resort.

For food, we just had the always-welcomed big pretzel, which was good. However, we did not go deeper into the menu because we noticed that there was a Pizza Press nearby. This was an unexpected find for someone who has fallen in love with this freshly made pizza joint in the shadow of Disneyland. So stumbling on one located in the Orlando area completely derailed the food plans of my party.

For the non-drinkers, there was an array of non-alcoholic beverages. Along with craft beer, Home State offers craft coffee. Specifically, Filigree Coffee is located within the same building but as a separate business. 

Second Sips: Recently I stepped in for a second visit on a Saturday.  And I loved that the outdoor patio was vibrant full of people visiting and enjoying the sun.  Some where there for a conservation event but others were just there using the large open space to socialize...and enjoy what is really is, a friendly open, neighborhood space.  I only grabbed one taster

  • "Sweet Nothings": To me this tart cherry stout is an experiment, trying to create a chocolate covered cherry.  I got the tartness instantly, but maybe not as much of the cherry as I wanted.  It was easy to drink, but maybe not something I would order more of. 

Who Drinks Here?:  Honestly, if one were visiting Orlando for a theme park, it’s hard to recommend a side trip to this brewery as a must-do. On the days we visited, no beer screamed, “Everyone must drink this!” However, if you need to get away and want some space, Home State would guarantee well-crafted and executed beer in a friendly environment. The beer is well-made, and delicious, and offers a menu where almost anyone can find a style that fits their tastes. It is a safe bet to keep a craft beer fan satisfied within a clearly theme park fan-friendly environment.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Beer Review - Dark Forest Ale

A pint of Dark Forest Ale sitting on a wall in front of the Velicoaster Track
A Pint of Dark Forest Ale

I’m in a mood! But maybe I did it to myself. I love dark beer. It’s my favorite. When I saw Dark Forest Ale in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios at Universals Islands of Adventure I was excited.

I saw dark…and assumed it would be at least a brown ale.

I saw forest..and I thought woodsy, maybe a little spicy.

And I swear I saw spice in a description somewhere. But maybe I tricked myself!

I thought, yes something different and new, I bet it’s a spicy winter warmer style beer that will remind me of cold days as I see the snow-capped buildings of Hogsmeade.

I was wrong!

Dark Forest Ale by Crooked Can is a drinkable 5% ABV copper-colored beer with no IBUs. It is light, drinkable, and reminds me so so much of Yuengling Traditional Lager! The color is similar and I think the flavor is similar. I walked away wondering if that was what I just drank. But nope, it was a theme park specialty beer that I hoped was going to be different than other offerings, but I think I could have just been as satisfied with another copper-colored beer in Dragon Scale which also has no IBUs.

So first, let’s be fair. I do love a themed beer and I love craft beer. So I do tip my wand to Universal for choosing again to partner with Crooked Can as a local craft brewery. I also think that Crooked Can as a brewery has dialed in making a drinkable crowd friendly beer. I just wanted something dark, spicy, and as dangerous as the scariest creatures in the Dark Forest.

Who Drinks This: You like lagers, you like Yuengling, and you want to be themed so you find yourself with a dilemma as you spend a buck fifty more for this draft than you would outside of the Wizarding World for Traditional Lager. Then you flipped a coin and selected this potion over Dragon Scale!


Thursday, April 4, 2024

Beer Review - Yuengling Traditional Lager


A Pint of Yuengling Traditional Lager
A Pint of Yuengling Traditional Lager

It’s not everywhere. In fact, only around half of the United States gets it. 

But it’s everywhere! Wherever you look you will find this strange-sounding beer is on tap, in cans, and in bottles in Central Florida. If you are in a theme park, you will likely stumble onto Yuengling Traditional Lager.

I’ve mostly lived in states that didn’t get Yuengling and I have only recently had a pint despite the fact that it is honestly the most prevalent craft beer in Universal Florida or Walt Disney World. 

A 16 ounce can of Yuengling Traditional Lager
A Can Seen Throughout Theme Parks!

Recently, I acquired some pints of Yuengling Traditional Lager. I was overjoyed by the light brown amber color. Despite the color, the word that best describes this pint to me is light. It’s crisp and clean. The malt which gives it color also adds a very slight but not overpowering malty flavor…but not too much. It claims to have 12 IBUs, but really when it’s that low and light is anyone asking? The 4.5% ABV, makes it easy to drink a few, as this lighter amount of alcohol makes it easy to have more than one. It was not my favorite lager, but I do enjoy the malt flavor. But I can think of others that I would rather have. It does the job, and is a recipe that out of all craft lagers has had the most time to be perfected.

I mentioned a long time, right? Yuengling is a craft brewery that is mentioned numerous times in any craft beer history. It was founded in 1829 as Eagle Brewery by David J√ľngling, which he anglicized to Yuengling, in Pottsville Pennsylvania. David was born in Germany, where his father ran a brewery. The first beer he introduced was a German lager. Now five generations later, the company president still shares the Yuengling name. Another German brewery, Anheuser-Busch, wasn’t founded till 1852! In fact, Yuengling is the oldest brewery in the United States.

I keep calling it craft beer, but is it? According to the Brewer’s Association, two things must be true for one to be called a craft brewery. It must be small, which they define as under 6 million barrels of beer or less. Now anyone who knows the history of craft brewing knows this number has increased as some craft breweries saw increased markets and production, much like Yuengling has. This brewery is considered small by the Brewer’s Association. It must be independent, which means not under the control by another brewery. I mentioned five generations of presidents with the name Yuengling right? Not only is this a craft brewery, but it is according to the BA the largest craft brewery in the United States.

But, let’s not convince ourselves that Traditional Lager has a century of history. It does not. The current recipe was introduced or reintroduced in 1987 as a pre-prohibition lager. And yes it does have generations of family beer-making know-how behind it. After its introduction, it rose to become Yuengling’s flagship beer and is in grocery stores, restaurants, and theme parks wherever their distribution takes them.

Who Drinks This? I have a few ideas here. First, if you are a craft beer nerd, and you don’t always get access to this brewery you really need to have one to check off the list. But you may not need a second. Second, if you are a craft beer nerd and have your choice between a traditional lager or a macro lager at a beer cart…this is your choice. It will pack a little more flavor but not be overpowering. Third, if you want to dip into the boozy pond of craft beer but are a little afraid, this is a brew that can help ease you into the hoppy waters. But honestly, there are so many other beers to sample in the world so one may be truly enough. It won’t change your world, but you need to mark it on your scorecard.

A shot from the top of a Yuengling pint showing the high foam level

On a side note, I will say that a beer you may need a whole six-pack of and should have every year is the Yuengling Octoberfest. That is a caramel-colored malt bomb that is currently the best American representation of the Marzan style. If you like Sam Adams’ version, I think in a taste test this bottle may have it beat!

Friday, March 29, 2024

Beer Review - Gamorrean Ale


A pint of red Gamorrean Ale on the table.
A Pint of Gamorrean Ale

I texted my buddy, “Tomorrow is a red ale day.”

He texted back, “Everyone has a 3.25 red ale!”

That was my hope and expectation!

Returning to Oga’s Cantina at Star War’s Galaxy’s Edge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I knew that Gamorrean Ale, a Red Amber Ale, was my targeted pint for my 45-minute visit. The beer has a 5.2% ABV with only 22 IBUs and is brewed by New Belgium Brewing Company from Fort Collins, Colorado. It has a nice red shade. But the word light is what comes to mind with flavor. It has some light maltly flavor with a light touch of hops. It’s a very approachable light-tasting beer that any bounty hunter can sample. But for myself, I preferred Bad Motivator IPA as a more aggressive beer, as my potential Oga’s go-to beer.

New Belgium Brewing Company is a craft beer legend. It was founded by a couple in their basement as home brewers. Over the next several years they took the Fat Tire Brand from their home to national distribution and grew a sizable brewery as they grew through territory out of the Outer Rim to the Core Worlds. Today they are the tenth largest brewery by production in the United States. But their story changed like many craft beer pioneers. But instead of closing, the co-founder and first brewer left for other pursuits. His ex-wife led the growth of the brewery with a strong cadre of employees, to the point they sold to Kirin, a Japanese beverage company for nice profit for a home business. This sale removed them from eligibility as a craft brewery as a key requirement is the company cannot be owned by another beverage entity. You likely know New Belgium today not for Fat Tire but for Voodoo Ranger, the highest-selling IPA by volume in the United States. The brewery has the history and sales to show they can make a very competent well-made ale, even please the staff of Jabba’s Palace! 

A partially drank pint of Gamorrean Ale
Lacing on a Mostly Finished Pint

Who Drinks This? You have your window at Oga’s, and you want a beer not a sweeter cocktail. Maybe, it’s the price of other options that took you out of the market. But beer is a little much for you and you want something safe. Despite Gamorrean tusks and the color of the beer, this is your safe approachable option which makes beer that has been validated by the masses. And as my friend pointed out, everyone has a 3.25 red ale. Gamorrean Ale is definitely Batuu’s.

But for me…I’d prefer to drink a different ale from Oga’s taps.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Beer Review - The Citrus Blossom Beer Flight


A flight of three beers in a brown cardboard carrier with tasters of Orange Twist Imperial Ale, Lemon Drop Shandy, and Tangerine Express Hazy IPA
The Citrus Blossom Beer Flight

Everybody loves Orange Bird, and he is clearly the king of Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival 2024. In The Odyssey, formerly the throne room of Figment, one will find all things orangey from hats, to bags, to beers! And I’ve heard quite a few good things about the beer flight at this Orangey Location. There was enough good press about it in my house, I wasn’t even the one who wanted to order these three beers!

The flight features three beers representing three different citrus fruits; orange, lemon, and tangerine. And they have three very different taste profiles.

A taster of Orange Twist Imperial Ale
Orange Twist Imperial Ale

  • Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Orange Twist Imperial Ale has an 8.6% ABV, making it Imperial with a bigger ABV and only 10 IBUs. The brewery is from Lakewood, NY, so not a Central Florida brewery like all three brews in this citrus-focused trio. The only location where this beer seems to have been rated recently during the festival season is Epcot. Still, it’s not a festival-exclusive beer as it’s a collaboration with Perry’s Ice Cream in New York State. So you are likely to not find it outside of the Disney bubble or the greater New York area. The orange liquid is very orange-forward, with a touch of citrus and beer that tastes like beer notes on the backside. In my party, this taster was finished by the drinker who least likes beers and ales.
A taster of Meyer Lemon Drop Shandy
Meyer Lemon Drop Shandy

  • Left Hand Brewing’s Meyer Lemon Drop Shandy has a 5.5% ABV with 0 IBUs. Left Hand out of Longmont, Colorado is a brewery that you can find pretty much in any market. But this beer also seems to have only been rated during festival season at Epcot. And I wonder if this will change as they have an image of a Meyer Lemon Drop Shandy seasonal can on their website. Perhaps, this is Left Hand attempting to break into Leinenkugel’s monopoly on shandies nationally. It’s been quite some time since I’ve had a Leinie, but I think I would prefer that option. I found this to be a lemon shandy meeting an IPA, despite the low IBUs. But it also had tones of lemon cleaner on the tongue, which while I didn’t mind it, I also found myself asking how I knew what that tasted like! In my party, the taster who is nearer to beer finished this taster.

A taster of Tangerine Express Haxy IPA
Tangerine Express Hazy IPA

  • Stone Brewing’s Tangerine Express Hazy IPA with a 6.7% ABV and a big 75 IBUs, compared to the rest, finished out the flight. Stone IPAs are everywhere in every market and a standard for IPA fans. This beer is not at all special or exclusive to the festival as you can likely find it pretty much anywhere in the U.S. all year long. It is what it says it truly is, a juicy orangy IPA. Of the members of my party, I finished this taster and didn’t hate it one bit. But I also would never say, I want to go to a festival just to drink this brew as I can get it anywhere. In fact, I was SHOCKED, I had never drunk this before and think it was a lie in my data.

Overall, I think this flight was fine. The family member who wanted this would never order it again and was a little disappointed. I think for them either an orange seltzer or an orange pastry sour would have made them much happier with that offering coming off as more of a low-alcohol cocktail. I thought it was fun to compare different beers in a flavor profile. But I would get a different flight if given another chance to walk Epcot for the day. I do think there is a missed opportunity to have a Florida-based brewery make an exclusive orange or orange-themed beer that you can only get at the Odyssey during the months of the festival.

Who Drinks This: This is an easy one, festival-goers wishing to give tribute to the Orange Bird! As my notes pointed out, this is really best to drink together in a group. That way you can compare palates, share the tasters, and find someone in your party willing to finish the taster glass. By sharing, you also open yourself up to sampling more on a long festival day.

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Beer Review - Base Camp Imperial IPA


A pint of Base Camp Imperial IPA

Everyone needs a place to relax, and BaseLine Tap House is a great place to enjoy a beer and watch the crowds as they move towards Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, and then maybe choose to visit the Muppets instead if they don’t want to wait 90 minutes to save the Resistance. And while Baseline only features two breweries, they do a nice job of surprising us with seasonal pours.

Base Camp Imperial IPA is one of those seasonals. I grabbed a drink for both myself and my date treating myself to the big pour, it’s really leaving money on the table to choose a small draft. I was expecting a solid West Coast-styled IPA since Sierra Nevada Brewing has that style perfected. It couldn’t go wrong. I found myself surprised by this butterscotch-colored liquid. It is listed as having no IBUs. It has a pleasant piney woody flavor. But the big surprise with this being an Imperial IPA is that the hops don’t punch you in the face as it has a pleasant and mellow aftertaste. With an 8.6% ABV, that can be a little shocking, as these could catch up to you quickly if you don’t moderate you’re drinking.

Imperial IPAs are generally bigger IPAs, with Base Camp having a nice big 8%+. They are typically more bitter highlighting the hops, becoming a hop bomb. This is not that imperial. I generally have experienced an Imperial IPA hop bite as a bitter slap. But again, this is refined and easily drinks like a typical West Coast IPA. Finally, they are usually darker than a usual IPA, but Base Camp has a color that you can generally see through. I think you could argue this is a very atypical Imperial IPA as it reminds me more of Sierra Nevada’s typical West Coast IPAs. And I liked this one didn’t fit my expectations as it was an easy drinker in a theme park. 

Who Drinks This? There are a lot of folks who would enjoy Base Camp Imperial IPA. First, if you are a big IPA fan, treat yourself and add this one to your IPA experiences. You will love comparing this to other IPAs and Imperial IPAs you have drank before. Second, if you go to BaseLine on the regular, this is a seasonal that won’t fail you. So put aside your regular and as long as Base Camp is on tap, treat yourself. Just don’t drink too many as it’s a deceptively big beer!

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Beer Review - Oh Baby King Cake Brown Ale

A pint of brown Oh Baby King Cake Brown Ale
A Pint of "Oh Baby King Cake Brown Ale"

I’ve been to New Orleans and I found I didn’t enjoy it. That was shocking to me. There’s so much history there, and I allowed myself to enjoy museums and national sites. But the city’s vibe wasn’t for me and I did not enjoy the food at that time.

I’ve been to Disney versions of New Orleans and loved every moment of it. Bring on the beignets my friends! Tiana, let’s get some of those tasty treats into the Magic Kingdom!

Recently I got to explore my first Universal Parks version of New Orleans with Mardi Gras. I saw there was a themed beer brewed by the local Crooked Can Brewing Company. A themed craft beer for a special event, I’m in!

"Oh Baby King Cake Brown Ale", tells you in the name that it should remind you of a Mardi Gras' king cake. So I expected sweetness and cinnamon. I’ve had several brews with cinnamon as a featured flavor, and it is generally a nice standout. But I am afraid that while the beer had a mild sweetness, cinnamon or any spice just didn’t rise to meet me. I drank this accompanied by a small king cake, my first, and could see how a king cake-themed beer could balance sweetness and cinnamon burn. But slight sweetness is all it gave me. Will I get another of this 7% ABV and 0 IBU brew? Well, there’s a decent chance as I have a refillable glass that I can use to get discounted fills in the future. And as I didn’t love this beer, I also didn’t hate it and found it to be pleasant and refreshing. 

A donut shaped Mardi Gras King Cake with green and purple sprinkles
A Mardi Gras King Cake

The beer itself is a dobblebock. A German-style that roughly translates to double bock. So double the sweet dark lager. " Oh Baby’s" nice caramel brown shade is spot on for the style. It is known for its sweetness, but not overly powerful sweetness. And I feel like "Oh Baby" is well within the flavor style. I also think the style is a good choice for a darker beer that can seem dangerous to those who don’t believe dark beer is for them, but in flavor is far from intimidating or overpowering.

Who Drinks This? If you are enjoying Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Florida Park, you are looking to find unique themed beers and snacks. You will want to check this one off your to-enjoy list! But for a cup refill, you may seek another beer. If you enjoy pilsners or lagers but are worried about darker colored liquids, give this a shot too! When an imaginary New Orleans…enjoy the brews.

Brewery Review - Home State Brewing Company

Home State Brewing Company Home State Brewing Company in Winter Garden, Florida, got me to visit through a theme park connection. What I f...