Hercules Double IPA, a 10 percent abv brew from the Great Divide Brewing Company of Denver, Colorado, has a palate massaging 85 IBUs. This polished amber coloured ale releases notes of nuts and pungent fresh, green hops. Hop bitterness heavily impacts on the palate but a firm backbone of semi-sweet malt supports and holds it all together. The finish is bitter and extended. It’s a thoroughly luscious and delicious 2X IPA that is to be sipped, savoured and then drunk!
Devils Tale, a collaboration beer from Coronado Brewing Company in Coronado, California, just across from San Diego, and Devils’s Backbone Brewing Company, Lexington, Virginia, was brewed at the Coronado brewhouse. This 7.5 percent abv IPA is pale amber in colour, with a citrusy and fruity nose. On the palate, sprightly citrus hops dance merrily forward, gliding across a structured malt base, keeping the alcohol neatly restrained. The finish is decidely bitter, courtesy of Centennial, Mosaic and Northern Brewer hops, and therefore, is very moreish in nature. It’s a fine brew with captivating flavour nuances.
José Martí, an India-Style porter clocks in at 8 percent abv, and is brewed by Cigar City Brewing of Tampa, Florida, USA. This ebony coloured ale, okay, it’s pitch black, reveals 65 IBUs of hops, roast notes and black licorice that spring sharply from the tasting glass. Roast and hops combine to deliver a decisive blow to the palate, that is, bitter and a bit raw like a street fighter taking umbrage and no prisoners.
Still, it settles down and comes across as a gentleman with a point to make; ‘this is how porters were meant to taste’. So buck up and get it down your throat without ructions. It’s a bit like chewing on a Cuban cigar but of the very finest variety. It showcases a dry finish. http://www.cigarcitybrewing.com
Florida, land of sun, sand and sea, can certainly add craft beer to the list of its major attractions. I hadn’t been to Florida before, perhaps fearing theme parks more than alligators, pythons and sharks. But once I had found a couple of really good craft beer bars, the tide turned very quickly and I was happily swept away in an undertow of great beers, many of them being hoppy IPAs.
The Ale and the Witch, located in the Tower Plaza Courtyard, 111 2nd Ave Northeast, in the heart of a shopping and business enclave, has plenty of local beer choices, including an occasional cask ale on hand pump. Okay, I counted 32 taps, with a few of the slots sometimes left empty for brewery tap takeovers or promotions. Expect regular and delightful rollovers on the chalkboard beer menu.
It’s not a big joint but with spillover allowed into the forecourt, where there is daily music, it is a more than an adequate space. The staff are knowledgeable about beer and friendly and open with their banter. Food is limited to smoked fish dip, IPA cheese dip and a few other snack items.
St. Pete’s and Florida breweries are well represented such as St. Pete’s Brewing, 3 Daughters, Cycle, Green Bench, Cigar City and from farther afield in California, Stone and Bear Republic.
The Ale and the Witch opens at 3 pm daily, except Monday, when it is closed.
Another great bar, which is a short walk away and across from the municipal marina, is Hops and Props, which is part of the Saint Petersburg Museum of History. It is located at 335 2nd Ave Northeast on the way to the pier.
They have 24 craft beer taps with a strong shading toward local craft breweries. BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, smoked wings and eggplant stackers highlight the menu. Beers disappear quickly around here too, so, don’t be afraid to ask what beer’s next? Look for beers from Barley Mow, Rapp, 2 Henrys, Lexington Brewing, Swamp Head, Cigar City, Six Ten and Big Storm, among an ever-changing major league lineup.
It is far too easy to while away a few hours outside in the shade of a few palm trees with a beer in hand and sailboats and pleasure craft bobbing in view in the harbour. Looking back toward St. Pete’s, one should notice an elaborate building housing public toilets as an example of how inviting a municipal toilet can and ought to look.
Hops and Props opens Tuesday to Sunday from noon until midnight.