Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Beer Hunting: Southwest Florida

Southwest Florida (well, anywhere in Florida really) is not exactly what one would consider a top notch destination for beer. And it's probably not. But whenever I travel, I try to have at least one beer in mind that I want to get that I cannot get here in metro Atlanta. This time, it was the beers of Saint Somewhere Brewery.

Saint Somewhere has only been producing beer for less than a year and took the unusual strategy of brewing Belgian style beers and only releasing them in 750ml caged and corked bottles. I suppose this wouldn't be too unusual for many microbreweries but Florida breweries are notorious for being "safe" and unimaginative. That's not to say they don't make good beer in Florida, it just tends to be lagers or light ales.

I was going to be staying near Fort Myers with my sister. As this was going to be a family vacation, there wasn't going to be a lot of time for going to the pub so I targeted beer stores instead. The Total Wine in Fort Meyers looked to be my best best.

At Total Wine, I was pleased find beers from Bell's Brewery there and immediately targeted some Two Hearted Ale, one of my all-time favorites. I also picked up a six pack of Penn Pilsner, a tasty but unassuming pilsner from Pennsylvania, as my "utility" beer while in Florida. It was a beer you can enjoy without having to think too much about it.

Other finds included offering from Hawaii's Kona Brewing Company, Oregon's Full Sail, New England Brewing and Lost Coast among others. Various mixed sixers covered it.

That was pretty much it for the beer hunting until we started for home. We were making various stops on the Gulf Coast and had reservations at a hotel in Spring Hill, FL. Imagine my surprise when pulling into the hotel to see a Belgian brewpub across the parking lot from our hotel! Imagine my disappointment when I realized it was out of business!

The St. Sebastiaan Belgian Microbrewery looks to have been closed for about a year now. After some research, I found that it was created by a daughter company of the Sterkens Brewery based in Meer, Belgium. How great would it have been to put the family to bed and go have a couple pints? But now, the grass is overgrown and the outside is in disrepair as the pictures show.

St. Sebastiaan

Instead, I got in the van and decided to try to find some Saint Somewhere beers one last time. We were just north of Tarpon Springs (where the brewery is located) so I headed south to see if I could score some.

The local ABC Liquor store was no help, as I expected. So I headed further south to the Clearwater location of Total Wine. There I found two bottles from Saint Somewhere, the Saison Athene and the Lectio Divina. The Lectio Divina was listed as an amber but at 8% ABV, it certainly isn't an ordinary amber. Mission accomplished...but it was only a bottle of each. So it was onward...

World of Beer is a small store but it has an enormous selection. The owner knows his beer and even keeps the place dimly lit to protect the beer from getting light struck. I found more bottles of Saint Somewhere but there was more. Mikkeller had just come into the market so I grabbed a Stateside IPA and Mikkeller Black, a 17.5% ABV imperial stout. To top it off a La Granja Espresso Stout from Norrebro Bryghus in Denmark. Fantastic.

To complete the trilogy, I headed over to Luekens Big Town Liquors in Dunedin to see what else I could find. There, I found Holy Mackeral Mack in Black from Gordash Brewing Company. Gordash is another new brewing concern in Florida but has their beer contract brewed at this point. Add another mixed sixer that included some old favorites from Maine breweries and my evening was complete.

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