First Coast Brews: Beercation!

We're lucky here in Northeast Florida, we live in a place where most people come to vacation. Last week I took what I suspect many of us take, a 'staycation'. But in my case it was 'beercation'.

Unfortunately due to a summer cold, we did not beercation like we originally planned. We'd discussed some day tripping, but ended up heading to St Augustine instead of heading farther south. St Augustine has a pretty awesome craft beer scene with three micro-breweries open now, another on the horizon and multiple craft beer venues.

We are well acquainted with Ancient City Brewing here in town. They are the oldest existing St Augustine brewery and their award winning beer is readily available in Jacksonville. The brewery is near the Outlet Mall off State Road 16 and is the farthest away from the tourist center of downtown St Augustine. However this weekend that all changes, when ACB opens a tap room nearly across the street from A1A Ale Works and the Bridge of Lions at 18 Cathedral Place.

I must admit since I started writing this blog, a former WTLV co-worker has been constantly telling me I needed to come down and she'd show me around. Her favorite hang out is Bog Brewing and that is where Ed and I met up with her.

Bog has been open just over a year, on Kings Street just west of US 1. Unlike a lot of other places in St Augustine, we were happy to find ample parking alongside the building. We walked in the back door and were IMMEDIATELY greeted by Bog Beertender Katie. Not only did she greet us, but some of the other patrons did as well. It set the mood for our visit.

When told it was our first visit, Katie immediately went through the beers and when I was talking about picking an IPA, told me to select the regular one, because it was less hoppy. I picked a five beer flight that included a very unusual lineup. On our visit there were three IPA variations, one stout, but a good selection of solid summer beers.

I was most excited to see a Biere De Garde. This is a Farmhouse/Saison type of Pale Ale from France that is dark golden in color. It is absolutely a perfectly balanced beer. Some roasted malts and some strong hop notes as well. Bog's version was Ed's favorite of the day. I tasted the sweetness of the malts but the hops truly balanced it out. Perfect for a hot summer day!

Bog also had a Saison, which I found floral and delicious, two Cream Ales. One was a plain ole cream ale and was refreshing, but the Smoked Datil Cream Ale was a holy cow moment! First, Datil Peppers, something I associate with St Augustine already, but smoked and cream? Wow. The smooth cream ale hits first, followed by the smoke. I was just thinking, where's the peppers, when the spice hit on the finish. If you are wanting nuclear power pepper, this probably isn't for you. But the kick of the pepper was pleasant and I would drink this one over and over. The Gose, as my friend Shauna told me, is a salt bomb. There is absolutely no doubt this is a Gose. I personally love the salt in the beer, so I found it nice. I was alone in my opinion!

The taproom shares a space with the brewing facility, making it front and center! The brick walls, brewery stickers and an awesome growler collection truly make it feel like home. Very relaxing place, friendly and fun. There is a patio out the backdoor with picnic tables adding to the seating. Make sure you check out the old drug store cigar display now housing Bog merchandise.

Overall Bog Brewing is someplace you should seek out when you hit St A. The brewery, staff and patrons are super and the beers are unusual and tasty. I came home with a lovely bottle of Bog's Anniversary Stout, (Thanks Shauna!) Volume 1. Excited to see what Volume 2 will be next year.

It's a quick ride down Kings Street and over the Bridge of Lions to reach the newest brewery, Old Coast Ales (of course passing the new Ancient City taproom so next time we can do all 3). Housed in a former gas station, the feel was more modern and industrial than Bog, it is also a bit bigger. Parking is along side the building with a number of spots, however I suspect parking spills over onto the street.

There was a good size crowd on hand for Mid Saturday afternoon and like Bog we were greeted warmly. Old Coast's brewing facility is behind the bar and I loved the peek-a-boo windows from inside and out to watch what is going on.

There are three seating areas. One is around the bar with tables and bar seating, next is seating in what I would call the game room, and a small patio out front offers the best entertainment around, people watching! The tap list was small, about half a dozen beers, I attribute that more to them being only a few months old. Having said that, their beers were great!

We got three different beers and sampled each. The Tugboat Smoke, is a dark smoked beer. There is a finesse that comes with smoked beers, sometimes it can just taste like burning pine trees. The Tugboat was really nicely balanced, with sweet roasted malts and the smoke as a companion flavor. Like BBQ, not wildfire.

The Blvd Brown was a very tasty brown ale. Perfect for summer time, not at all heavy. The Signal Pale Ale was a great hop forward Pale and very refreshing on a hot day. We met one of the co-owners, Matt, about as nice of a guy as you would want to meet. All I can say is if this is how Old Coast is starting, we are in for some great beer out of them and St Augustine! 

For those of you interested in checking out Old Coast Ales, they want everyone to know that they will be open this Tuesday and their patio offers a great view of the fireworks!

At this point, our trio decided food was a mandatory next stop, so we drove down the island to the 312 Bridge and headed to Brewz N Dawgz. Shauna has been hounding me (sorry bad pun) to come down to Brewz N Dawgz for a long time. I'm glad we stopped in! They have a craft beer specific list and really interesting and tasty hot dogs on the menu. Like a Greek dog with feta and chicken sausage,  Reuben dog, Taco Dog and more. It hit the spot, along with the 'dessert' of Proof Brewing's Strawberry Lemonade Evil Kiss Berliner Weisse. BND has a very active event schedule and is very charitable to pet rescues in particular!

Had we not started at Wicked Barley first to get our Isolated Incident bottles I suspect we would have been at Ancient City too.  It is very doable to hit all the breweries in one day! We could have made it there, but because of the before mentioned summer cold, we decided to play it conservative!

While we were at Bog, a discussion started about St Augustine's next microbrew. With the 'demise' of A1A Aleworks brewing facility earlier this year, long time brewmaster Doug Murr has set out to create his own brewery, Dog Rose Brewing Co. Remodeling is underway at the former art gallery at 77 Bridge Street. It's hoped that they will be open later this year. Until then you can follow along on the construction.

Finally, Happy 7 Year Itch to the guys at Engine 15 Brewing!  After the 2017 Chupacabra Vertical tasting held last week, it was interesting to see how the older vintages were holding up. Personally, I have loved the 2013 vintage in the past two Vertical tastings, however it seemed to have lost some of its punch, at least to me. It was a very good beer this year, but I think it was better last year. It mellowed and lost all of the barrel notes, more of a chocolate milk stout. I think at least in the case of Chupacabra, a Russian Imperial Stout, I'd only age a maximum of three years. That's because I do like the taste of the wood and the bourbon.

At the Vertical tasting we sampled two variants of the 2017 vintage. A Rum barrel aged and a Rye Whiskey barrel aged variety. I loved the Rum, I mean a lot. It reminded me of Creme Brulee, that caramelized sugar crust on top. The Rye was actually a bit harsher to my taste, I preferred the regular Bourbon aged bottle. This was a great event as it has been in the past! I'm looking forward to next years Vertical already!

There is a lot going on these days for beer events and they pop up sometimes at the last minute, so if you want to keep up with what's going on, hit our First Coast Brews Facebook page. I post a daily calendar of that days events, post events to make note of in the future and articles about craft beer that I find interesting. Join the conversation about beer there!

Cheers y'all and Happy 4th!

 

 

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