First Coast Brews: Oktoberfest Beercation

I have a great love for the German festival of Oktoberfest, in fact, visiting Munich during the event is on my bucket list. I love Marzen beer, that sweet yeasty bready flavor. My favorite German version is probably Spaten. Its a bit darker and more like pumpernickel bread. Oktoberfest is my indicator of fall. We certainly don't get a temperature change, so Oktoberfest means fall beers. In particular, pumpkin beer. I know so many people hate the pumpkin, but I proudly wave my pumpkin flag!

If you like Pumpkin beers too, mark October 19 on your calendar. Engine 15's (Jacksonville Beach) annual Pumpkinpalooza starts at six o'clock and ends at Midnight. They usually have 20 or so pumpkin beers from around the country on tap. Including some rare ones. To get in the mood, on October 16 at 5:30, bring the kids in for a pumpkin carving event.

We usually take the first week of October off to celebrate our wedding anniversary. In the past, we also had Brew at the Zoo this week. Happy coincidence! Hurricane Matthew postponed last year's event and this year it remains in November. This opened up our week for other events we have missed in the past. 

To start off, we went to Art Walk Oktoberfest. All the Hubs had to hear was Duke's German Chocolate Brown Ale and he was game. When they brought out the keg, I realized very quickly there were more people wanting to taste it than there was beer in the keg. So since we were a mere seven or eight blocks from Bold City's Downtown taproom, we set off in that direction.

All I can say is it was worth the walk! The absolute chocolate richness of German Chocolate cake is how this Duke's variant tastes. We enjoyed it so much we took 2 Crowlers home with us! Good news, as of October 13, the Downtown tap room still has this beer on tap. If you missed it at Art Walk, you can still get a pint.

I also sampled Bold City's Pumpkin and Oktoberfest beers and both were exceptional. If you haven't tried them, get over Downtown for both or the Production facility for the Pumpkin. 

I'm embarrassed to say I had not been to Bold City's Downtown tap room before this night. I can tell you I won't be repeating that mistake. It's a cozy and comfortable place with great people. We had a blast there and it was worth the long walk back to our car (carrying two cold Crowlers mind you!)

Our Beercation continued at one of our standard rotation breweries the next night. As an aside, have you noticed how much we (as in all of us) in town rotate through the various beer places? I will see the same friends and even beertenders at multiple locations. We are so lucky to have such great breweries and beer joints in town, we don't want to not go to one, so we just add it in our rotation!

So Thursday night we hit the Pilot Batch night at Aardwolf. I've made it no secret that I am very fond on sour beers and Aardwolf has a great knack at turning out interesting sours. The batch was Blueberry Lavender 2.0. I gather the first version was 'unique' and needed some toning down. I can tell you 2.0 is pretty tasty, tart with just a touch of floral notes.

Still on tap, since the Pilot Batch blew while we were there, are a few I think everyone should try. Bees?! is a Saison style brew with Honey and Hibiscus. The combination of the funky yeastiness of a Saison with the floral and a touch of sweetness was amazing. It was pretty close to being my favorite of the 2 flights (3 if you count what I tasted from the Hubby's flight/glass)

My next favorite or equally favorite is Splendor Solis, described as a Foedre aged sour wheat. My exact tasting notes are "Woody, savory, Unami finish. Bright tart acidity up front. Unusual and great" I'm fond of different flavors in beer and this one was definitely different.

Interestingly enough, there was a business holding an event in the back. A couple of people came to the bar that were not beer drinkers. Eventually after sampling a few, they ended up liking the Splendor Solis mixed with San Marco Sour, which I think would be a great combo.

We stopped in at Beer:30 San Marco after Aardwolf to stock up on beer for home. While we were in there, we sampled a new Meadery out of Interlachen called Royal Manor. We sampled 2 Meads and a cider that was on tap. Honestly, the Cu Dubh Mead was pretty darn tasty. It is spiced with those great autumn flavors, but not overly sweet. They also make a Green Apple Cider that I reminded me of my childhood and Jolly Rancher candies. Right now, Beer:30 San Marco is the only place you can get their products in town.

Friday, I took my Dad and Step-Mom to Bog Brewing in St Augustine. I must say this again, Bog is a jewel. My Dad is still talking about their IPA a week later, its just that good. I enjoyed a flight with a Belgian Dubbel and a Trippel, plus Pumpkin and a Peach Saison. Both Belgians were great, I am more fond of Dubbels with the caramel notes, so I liked that the most. The Pumpkin was great, not overwhelmingly pumpkin, with a touch of bitters on the finish to cut the sweet notes. I would gladly drink again. The Saison was good, but I expected more Peach fruit flavor instead of the musky notes from the fuzz of the Peach. My Dad tried everything and liked it all.

The 'Rents went home after that, but we stopped in at Ancient City Brewing's Brewhouse. It was our first time there, what a cool place! They had a specialty Coconut Cream Milk Stout on tap, which Ed immediately ordered. I opted for a Pumpquistidor which was just what I needed, like a pie with just a touch of sweetness. The Coconut Cream Milk stout was amazing.

There are 3 areas at Ancient City. A large Air Conditioned tap room with lots of bar top and tables, plus a dart game area. The brewery itself with large picnic tables, this night a band was playing. Then there is a completely outdoor area, with tables plus a cornhole game. A group was also playing poker. Literally something for everyone there, plus lots of parking. The Brewery is off SR 16 near the Outlet Malls in a mostly industrial, warehouse district. When the sun goes down, the parking lot is all ACB.

Saturday offered four Beach Oktoberfests. Four! We thought about what we wanted to do and thought we could hit all four. Many people did, unfortunately we only made it to three. We started at European Street Cafe at 11:15 a.m. They had a huge tent with multiple outdoor beer taps and beer garden style tables. While we were there, a fantastic Oompa band started playing and we lingered while shouting Ein Prosit!

Most of the beers were authentic German fest beers. I immediately went to my favorite, Spaten. Spaten was my first introduction to Oktoberfest and I simply must have one during the season.  Friends met us there and we went on to another beer, this time Erdinger. Ok I'll admit, if you got one, while supplies lasted, you got a cool 'wizard' Erdinger hat. I was calling it a 'sorting hat' from Harry Potter. "And you are sorted in House Brew"

We walked out of European Street a couple of beers more than anticipated, several hats, a Warsteiner boot and some awesome koozies. European Street has the market cornered as far as give away's. As we wandered along Beach Boulevard, we knew who had already been to European Street by the giveaways!

At Southern Swells First Oktoberfest, they had two special beers on tap. 30 Seconds to Marzen, obviously an Oktoberfest and This is Not a Pumpkin beer. Corey Adams, owner of Swells said there wasn't a bit of pumpkin in the beer, just spices, hence the name. I have to say it wasn't a pumpkin beer, but it was! Both are still on tap as of 10/13/17, so you can try both. The Marzen was a good solid, darker fest beer, reminding me of my beloved Spaten.

If you have been to Swells, you are familiar with the outdoor patio next to the tap room. This space will soon be occupied by The Mini Bar. They are a gourmet mini doughnut shop that will serve coffee and Southern Swells beer. They were handing out plates of doughnuts in the brewery, prior to their opening. Boy are they a good match for beer!

We wandered down to Engine 15 and met some more friends just in time for the traditional Chicken Poop Bingo. It's basic Bingo you get a ticket with a number and if the Chicken poops on your number you win a prize. Unfortunately the first chicken was not in the mood, requiring a back up chicken fetched from Luch Scremin's yard!

We have a couple of 1 Liter Engine 15 Steins that we filled. That pretty much ended the day! We ate dinner at Engine 15, drank Das Oktoberfest beer and watched the chicken not poop. It was fun!

We finished the week with a Bottle Share, I'll tell you about that next week! If you want to know about events going on around town, head to our Facebook page, where I'll update you with events and news around town.

PROST y'all!

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