Thursday, May 30, 2024

Beer Review - Old Speckled Hen


A freshly poured pint of Old Specked Hen foaming from the top of the cup to the very bottom.
A foaming pint of "Old Speckled Hen"


My beer journey started in the Midwestern parking lot of a Farm Aid concert. My brother-in-law handed me a green bottled domestic European lager knockoff. It was not a good introduction. I’m pained just remembering the sips.

Years and two moves later I was in London for an extended period. Before the trip, I would drink a super light domestic lager with friends. But beer, whatever! It’s a drink for fitting in, and is it even good? Then on my second night in London, I visited a nearby pub. I asked the barkeep for what’s good and he slipped me a “Fuller’s London Pride”. My pallet then opened to flavor as the mild hop bite and the caramel-colored liquid combined minting me a new beer fan. It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve had my last “London Pride”, an experience I am still chasing.

At Walt Disney World, Epcot’s Rose & Crown Pub is the best opportunity to capture the British pub experience. The staff are British, as confirmed by every other patron asking the cast members if they are really English, British, or from London. I wanted to yell back at my fellow patrons, can’t we just ask once? The beers on tap are all British imports, though it seems some of the Whiskey offerings are domestic. It’s fast-paced, loud, and a great place to grab a beer, and as authentic as possible United Kingdom pub experience…knowing you are steps away from Canada (member of the British Empire) and France (it’s just a Chunnel away)...in Central Florida.

Let me first say, I did not expect a show. As the bartender drew my pint, I saw bubbles…bubbles, bubbles everywhere. The plastic glass filled, not with liquid, but with a glass full of bubbles. This is cascade effect is most prevalent in beers that have been kegged with nitrogen. The tap releases nitrogen gas found in the keg, forming small bubbles that give a creamy finish to the beer. This is most typical in a beer like Guinness, which has gone so far as to add a widget to cans and bottles to give you a cascade effect at home. My understanding is that “Old Speckled Hen” is not typically kegged with nitrogen, but I did find a video that’s over 3 years old showing a can that has a nitrogen widget! In short, I didn’t ask questions and I’m not sure what was happening, but I liked it.

“Old Speckled Hen” is listed as a Pub Ale, sometimes known as an English Pale Ale, sometimes known as a bitter. That’s why I grabbed it on this visit, chasing a “London Pride” family member. I will admit, it tasted like a nice well well-balanced English ale with a mix of malt to give it a caramel color and flavor, with the yeast making it taste like, well beer. The ABV is only 5%, which would easily have allowed me to have a second or third. But what was missing for me was the hop bittering that I remember from my “London Pride” when I first experienced it, and everyone told me it was so vile and bitter. “Old Speckled Hen” has an IBU of zero! It was refreshing and was a great sipper as I sat in the sun next to the World Showcase Lagoon catching up with friends.

A settled pint of amber Old Speckled Hen sitting on a table.
A less energetic pint!


And when I say well-executed, in an age where beer brands jump quickly in and out of the market, it’s been brewed since 1979. Originally it was brewed by the Morland Brewery, founded in 1711. So yeah, they may have known something about beer. In 2000, young upstart brewery Green King bought Morland, having been established in just 1799. Needless to say, as you sit in a country established in 1776, there’s some brewing legacy in your pint.

Who drinks this?  First, it is a solid delicious, and refreshing beer. It’s not too bitter, and the yeast and malt give you more flavor than a lager to let you know you are drinking a more complex beer. So if you like good well-produced beers, here you go! Some in my party found the taste to be too flavorful as it’s not a light lager. Second, it’s for those who want to have an English pub experience in Central Florida. It is an import. You can and will find it in London. So if you are drinking around the world, please split drinks, and want to check off the United Kingdom, you could do a lot worse! Finally, for those looking to manufacture and recover memories of days in the United Kingdom, allow taste and smell to bring you back. It’s a beer that sets a mood and reclaims memories, representing a brewing tradition that was established well before the United States pavilion. And if one wishes to say I did something authentic, and good, you can’t go wrong with the entertainment and refreshment this pint will bring you.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Venue Review - GB’s Bottle Shop

 

The house like building that is GB's Bottle Shop
GB's Bottle Shop


State laws around liquor are weird. You never know what you are going to find or be able to do as you go from state to state. I lived for decades in a state that didn’t sell beer on certain days, from a liquor store. But everywhere else, drink up bro! There were limits to how much take-home beer one could take buy at a brewery if it qualified for off-site sales. Big breweries couldn’t let you take the liquid home. But they totally allowed all breweries to sell you as much THC seltzer as you wanted. State laws are weird. So as you enter Central Florida you may start to question what is and what is not allowed.

Here’s one of my happy discoveries, there are options for off-site sales that allow you to consume both on and off-site. The liquid you buy may be produced by that location…or it could be beers from breweries across the United States. I’m, finding, I love a good bottle shop/brewery refrigerator! 

The GB taps filled with revolving guest options.
GB's Glorious Taps!


GB’s Bottle Shop in Orlando is one of my favorites. The vibe is a hip tap room, though they are not producing and selling their own beers. Thought the outside doesn't scream, find your beer here!  It’s wide open, with plenty of space for friends. And best of all plenty of beer options, along with wine and mead. I had a party of four. Two of us wanted barrel-aged big imperial stouts. I had a handful of options, something that is often lacking in central Florida. I grabbed a draft of The Bruery’s “Black Tuesday”, a true big beer with a 16-hour brew that lived in bourbon barrels, bringing forth some awesome chocolate and dark fruit flavors. Truly this was not for the faint of heart with a 19.4% ABV, yes big big beers. For my second beer, I just went for a small beer that I had never enjoyed that had not kissed wood. I grabbed a Weldworks Brewing Company’s “French Toast Stout”, a sweet milk stout that brought forth maple, cinnamon, and vanilla…with its tiny 7.1 ABV! But again, there was something for everyone. Another friend grabbed a sour IPA, a style that I have never really seen. And it may have been a step too far for my companion. Maybe I will never see that style again. Our final party member snagged a Tripping Animals Brewing Company’s “Cosmic Bandito 2.0” fruited sour…which provided happiness. Again, a big tap selection with something for everyone. In our group, we grabbed beers from Florida, Colorado, and California!



 

Two fridges filled with beer cans of to go beer.
The On-Site/Off-Site Guest Options

 

Shelves filled with beer cans and bottles to go.
Room Temperature Beers to Go!


A big attraction here is the to-go offerings. There is a big refrigerated section, filled with beer from throughout the United States, which you can drink on-site or back in your themed resort room. And next to that is a huge selection of room-temperature cans and bottles to go. I bought three beers I had never seen on this visit, and a companion bought two. Even after I left, I was drinking my spoils at home. 

A pour of Lil Coconut at GB's Bottle Shop
Enjoying "Lil Coconut"


Second Sips: I totally had to go back to grab a wish list draft and restock my home beer fridge. I was able to enjoy two Angry Chair Imperial Stouts. I really wanted their “Bourbon Barrel Aged Simple Math” with it’s 12 ABV of 17 months living in wood goodness. It was so coconut and worth the trip. I also grabbed a glass of Angry Chair’s “Lil Coconut” at just a small little 11.5% ABV which put out the rum and spice feels. And best of all I walked away with a four-pack of “Black Bouquet” a collaboration IPA between Phase Three Brewing and BlackStack Brewing. I truly believe BlackStack makes the best IPAs and collaborations reach the Central Florida area all the time even though BlackStack doesn’t distribute here.

Who Drinks Here? If you’re visiting a theme park, this is a great spot for you to visit to stock your room fridge. Just imagine a fun-filled and tiring day of touring a theme park. You get back to your room, grab a beer you can’t get at home, settle into a chair, and take a break from your relaxing. If you want to get away from the parks and are a hophead, the Ivanhoe area around GB’s Bottle Shop has several craft brewing tap rooms to visit. Treat yourself because you don’t know what gems GB’s Bottle Shop has stashed in their to-go offerings or on their revolving taps.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Beer Review -Gold Squardon Lager



A plastic pint of Gold Squadron Lager on a Docking Bay 7 metal tray.
Gold Squadron Lager


I’m a Star Wars fan and a little selfish! I want a red ale with Red Five in the name. It appears based on surfing the Web I’m not the only one. For example, Revelry Brewing has “Red 5 Standing By”, a Flanders Sour Red Ale. Now honestly this is not my favorite style. But awesome name that fits the style. Even better is Bad Batch Brewing Company and “Red-Five Amber Ale”. This is a traditional ale using malt to provide a nice shade of red. I have no idea how this brewery, the brew, and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge are not a perfect marriage with a brew crafted clearly by the greatest Clone special forces unit of all time!

Alright, breathe my friend. Sure at the Battle of Yavin the Red Squadron X-Wings are the heroes that all the kids wanted to grow up and be. Luke Skywalker and Wedge Antilles are magazine idols. But you know who the kids should give more credit to, the Y-Wingers of Gold Squadron, they sacrificed on that day we can never forget when the Death Star Was destroyed!


A Gold Squadron Lager in front of the room decor.


“Gold Squadron Lager” brewed by Blue Point Brewing Company of Patchogue, New York brings us this tribute to the brave bomber pilots. It’s a 5.0 ABV golden lager with a light 18 IBUs, with flavors of lavender and plum. While I could have grabbed this at Oga’s Cantina, I ordered mine on a busy day at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, as the one Star Wars beer on tap at this quick-service location.

Taste-wise this is the Budweiser of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. The floral flavor of the lavender is lightly present but not overwhelming. I couldn't find any plums. It is a fine, easy-to-drink lager, which is generally not what I prefer. It was not my favorite, as I would rather have a “Bad Motivator” if I were at Oga’s as a personal choice. It does price-wise have a Star Wars premium on it, when I would rather grab a bigger fill at Baseline Tap House.

Blue Point Brewing Company is part of an interesting trend for me. In the 2010’s it was bought by Anheuser-Busch in a flurry of craft brewing purchasing as the big beer company sought to combat craft breweries taking part of market share by buying up craft brands, and convincing customers they were enjoying something local and craft…not a multinational company. In 2023, Anheuser-Busch decided craft breweries were no longer a profitable fit in their portfolio as they sold Blue Point and seven other breweries to Tilray Brands. Tilray, a cannabis lifestyle company, is now the 9th biggest craft brewery in the United States as Tilray Beer Brands. It’s a fascinating story that I could bore everyone with.

Who Drinks This?: You like “Bud Light” or “Coors Light”, but are currently wandering through Batuu and want a beer. This one is for you! For me, there are other more interesting options at Oga’s and I can get water at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo and wait for a better-priced beer at Baseline.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Beer Review: Schöfferhofer Prickly Pear Hefeweizen

 


A Schöfferhofer Prickly Pear Hefeweizen held up with Spaceship Earth in the background
Schöfferhofer Prickly Pear Hefeweizen


Prickly pears are not pears! But they do come from a prickly plant! And they are SWEET!

One of the big wins for the 2023 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival was a beer offering in Germany. The “Schöfferhofer Prickly Pear Hefeweizen” was a family favorite. At the time we had them last year, I honestly thought that it was a one-and-done brew that would quickly be forgotten, except by us. The best part of this beer was the non-beer fans of the family enjoyed it. Which is great for when one is drinking around the world with a non-beer fan who wants to still enjoy the drinking and people-watching experience. Then…Spring 2024 it made a return to Germany.

“Schöfferhofer Prickly Pear Hefeweizen” is a no IBU 2.5% ABV Hefeweizen. The color and sediment let you know it’s a traditional Hefe. The mouthfeel is thicker than a Pils or Lager and lets you know you are drinking something substantial. The flavor profile also has some of the spiciness expected from a Hefeweizen. But, it is so so so sweet from the infusion of the prickly pear flavor. I laugh as sweet as my flavor note, and it reminds me of other prickly pear items I have enjoyed. But the sweetness and low ABV is a super easy and refreshing drinker that does let you know it’s a beer but it still has a lower ABV than your nationally distributed big brand pils, like Bud Light.

It can be hard to find in the Germany Pavillion. I had to ask when seeking out the Frozen Coke and Jager. This draft is found, at the time of this writing, at the beer cart next to the lagoon on the main walkway. There was quite a bit of traffic at this one stand, with a lot of folks grabbing a beer…but not a Prickly Pear. Of the ten people I saw in front of me, no one else grabbed this tasty brew. There was also no signage to indicate it was there, my one clue was there was a tap head handle.

I hope we will see more and more of this beer. When I did my last look on Untappd, there were rankings outside of Epcot. There were multiple ratings from different pubs in the United Kingdom. So maybe this will become a Schöfferhofer seasonal or occasional offering.

Prickly Pear, did I mention is not a pear? It is a fruit of a cactus, or the caucuts plant itself. But it's the sweet fruit that flavors the beer, it is needle free. Most palettes compare the taste to melons, or bubblegum. Basically, if you don’t enjoy sweet things, you may wish to polish one of these down.

Who Drinks This?: You’re at Epcot walking the world. You want something that is not overly boozy and is refreshing while still giving you beer feels. Sure there may be options that are more bitter, but this is the sweet low alcohol beer for you. And even non-beer drinkers are likely to enjoy this, like a cocktail while getting in their steps.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Brewery Review - New York Beer Project



The brick building that holds New York Beer Project with a Gastropub sign on the outside.
New York Beer Project


Let’s be honest! The food within the Magic Kingdom isn’t the greatest in the world. It’s no Epcot or Animal Kingdom. Options are often stereotypical amusement park fare (yeah I said amusement not theme)! They can also be pricey.

I had heard cast members talking about the New York Beer Project as somewhere they enjoyed getting a pint and being social. But when I looked at the beers listed on the website, they didn’t seem like they were for me. But recently on a Sunday Funday to the Kingdom, we decided to visit, and I think friends we have a hidden gem!

First, we have location! New York Beer Project Orlando is about 15 minutes from the Magic Kingdom parking lot. Much of that drive consists of driving near Magic Kingdom area resorts, getting a super exciting backstage view of the main cast member parking, and neighborhoods close enough to the magic to dream about relocation. The brewery itself is located in a small shopping area, where it anchors the area. It is big, inviting stone, with plenty of parking. It feels like it’s from an earlier era, but it’s also clearly a new build. 

The open dining room at New York Beer Project including a full bar.
Wood and Open Decor


Second, we have the atmosphere! The inside is warm, full of wood, open, and so much seating and room for activities. It reminded me in a good way of being in a polished chain family restaurant where everyone feels invited into the super clean space. And there was lots of seating. We were in one large room, and I could see another one that I never entered. Next to me was a mix of customers from the retired couple enjoying an alcohol-free brunch to the three-generational family holding a celebration and playing board games. If you have someone in your group saying, I don’t like breweries, great because you don’t have to feel like you are at one at New York Beer Project. Still, some vibes remind me of other breweries like garage doors that open to the inside from the patio and trees inside which trick my mind into thinking I’m having pint outside! 

A plate of Smoked Brisket Hash & Eggs with a runny fried egg on top of a plate of brisket and hashbrowns.
Smoked Brisket Hash & Eggs


Third, we have the food. I will 100% return because of the food. I ordered a brisket and hash bowl that was delicious and filling. My companion grabbed a breakfast sandwich as suggested by the waiter that combined a nice sourdough bread with all the tastes of morning. There was a pretzel, mozzarella sticks as big as my hands (or at least they seemed that way), and more options that I want to try and didn’t have room for. And this was just the brunch menu served on Sunday. I will come back, I will come back when it’'s not brunch. The prices were also very reasonable, with me comparing the cost to Disney's quick service options. So yes, I would absolutely when hungry take the drive to the brewery to eat better food than a okay Disney burger. 

A flight of three different colored cocktails in a metal stand for the Jamaican Me Crazy Flight
Jamaican Me Crazy Cocktail Flight

They also have plenty of non-beer options. My companion was pulled to this location for the Jamaican Me Crazy cocktail flight with a Rum Punch, Painkiller, and Fishbowl. The Painkiller was the winner. This was just one fun addition offered in April. But with a full bar, your non-beer fans can find something to drink.
 

Oh yeah, we should likely mention the beer, right? I got a flight and grabbed some things I thought might be flagships. In choosing the flight I was excited, there were around 20 taps to choose from, not the 8 to 10 I expected from the website. I do love some choices and the fact there will be plenty of options when I return. 

 

a flight of four different colored beers in a wooden frame.
The Flight!

  • “Orlando Lager”: It’s the flagship commercial lager of the brewery. You need it on tap for your Coors Light fans. And while it was brewed to style, I won’t order it again due to style preferences.
  • “Destination IPA”: Every brewery needs a flagship IPA that helps set expectations. With a name and logo like this, I know it has to be the flag, yet it was surprising. It was bitter, I could taste all the 77 IBUs, which most flagships tend to lower those IBUs to be drinker-friendly. It reminded me of some double IPAs and I applaud the swagger to be bitter.
  • “Coconut IPA”: This was another surprising beer to me. It was bitter with 69 IBUs. But the coconut, which I am fan of, was not hints or reminders of coconut but full-on flavor giving you a bitter tropical vibe. My companion who does not like IPAs however did not enjoy their sip. So it’s more for the IPA fan than the coconut fan.
  • “Salted Caramel Macadamia Stout”: This was a nice English-style stout with some sweet and nutty undertones. The sweetness does hide the 8% ABV, so don’t have too many because it will sneak up on you.


Overall, it was a successful flight with really only one beer I would not consider in the future due to personal taste. But you can also get beer to go with me grabbing a crowler of the New England IPA “The One v6” and I thought this was a good bet for being a nice easy-at-home drinker. I will say with the take-home options there were not any unicorn beers. But not every brewery has constant big beer options for guys like me.

New York Beer Project, is a very small chain. There are locations in Orlando and three in New York state. The original was built in Lockport New York, built new to look old. I get those vibes from the Orlando location also. But it does look like there are more possibilities for future growth!

Who Drinks Here?: The Magic Kingdom is busy today. You are hungry, and you don’t want to pay Disney prices for your hungry party who have a lot of different food interests. New York Beer Project will take care of your group, give you a small respite from crowds, and share their AC with you. Oh…and they have solid beer!

Brewery Review - Ten10 Brewing Company

  A brewery or the local water hole? As I thought about spending more time drinking in Orlando, honestly websites were pretty sketch on what...