Topping Goliath coming to Florida via Brew Hub

toppling goliath logoRumors had been swirling about a partnership between the much-lauded Toppling Goliath Brewing Company and Lakeland’s Brew Hub after the Florida brewing facility did test batches of a couple of the Iowa brewery’s flagship beers.

The rumors are true, and Toppling Goliath brews will soon be available in Florida. Here are the details from the news release:

ST. LOUIS, April 13, 2015 — Brew Hub, a company led by a team of beer industry executives and craft-brewing experts, has signed an agreement with Toppling Goliath that will allow the Decorah, Iowa-based craft brewery to immediately expand distribution and grow volume.

brew hub logoWith this partnership, Toppling Goliath will brew its award-winning craft beers, including PseudoSue, Dorothy’s New World Lager, Golden Nugget IPA and Rover Truck Oatmeal Stout, in Brew Hub’s Lakeland brewery. Toppling Goliath then will ship the beer back to its brewery in Iowa to be distributed throughout Iowa and Wisconsin, where the company has been unable to meet to consumer demand for some time. Toppling Goliath also will immediately expand distribution to Minnesota where the demand for high-quality craft beer has been growing in recent years.

Toppling Goliath produced approximately 3,200 barrels (45,000 cases) of beer in 2014. The partnership with Brew Hub will allow the company to increase its volume to nearly 20,000 barrels (275,000 cases) annually. Brew Hub will package the beer in cans, bottles and kegs.

“Toppling Goliath is one of the most exciting and cutting-edge craft breweries in the country, and this agreement will allow them to almost immediately grow their business exponentially,” said Tim Schoen, CEO of Brew Hub. “Over the past few years, craft beer drinkers throughout the country have heard about the legendary beers these guys brew in Decorah, Iowa, but acquiring the beers has been very difficult. All of that is about to change, which is great news for craft beer consumers and the overall craft beer industry.”

“We began brewing our beer in 2009, and the positive response from consumers was almost immediate, but it has been overwhelming,” said Clark Lewey, CEO and co-founder of Toppling Goliath. “It’s been really gratifying to brew craft beer that people love, but we have been unable to meet consumer demand for several years, which has really been frustrating for us, retailers and consumers. Our partnership with Brew Hub will allow us to grow Toppling Goliath the way we always dreamed, and we could not be more excited.”

Toppling Goliath was invited to participate in Cigar City Brewing’s annual Hunahpu’s Day craft beer festival in Tampa in 2014. Attending Brew Hub team members noticed the lines for Toppling Goliath beers were some of the longest at the festival. A week later Toppling Goliath and Brew Hub team members began discussing a potential partnership.

Clark Lewey and other members of the Toppling Goliath team returned in early 2015 to tour Brew Hub’s Lakeland, Florida, brewery and discuss a potential partnership. During that meeting, Toppling Goliath asked Brew Hub to brew their two flagship brands, PseudoSue and Dorothy’s New World Lager. Lewey wanted to see for himself how well Brew Hub could brew their beer.

“Once I tasted our beers brewed by the Brew Hub team, I got really excited,” said Lewey. “Brew Hub’s brewing team led by Dr. Paul Farnsworth and Jim “Otto” Ottolini is second to none in the craft beer industry, and they brewed PseudoSue and Dorothy’s New World Lager flawlessly. That was the proof I needed to know this partnership was the way forward for Toppling Goliath.”

“Once we brewed PseudoSue and Dorothy’s New World Lager, we wanted to take the next step and see how craft beer drinkers in Florida would respond, so, without announcing it, we put the beers on draft in the Tasting Room of our Florida brewery,” said Schoen. “Keep in mind, our tasting room features roughly 30 of the best craft beers in the country, but the Toppling Goliath beers almost immediately became best sellers, which was the last piece of evidence we needed to know this was a perfect fit for Brew Hub.”

This summer Brew Hub will begin brewing the Toppling Goliath brands for distribution throughout Florida, and negotiating distribution agreements with wholesalers. Toppling Goliath beers will be available at retailers in Florida beginning in September. This move follows similar partnerships Brew Hub has established with other craft brewers, which has allowed them to expand distribution in Florida and eventually will allow them to expand throughout the Southeast.

In 2016 Toppling Goliath will be the inaugural brewing partner at Brew Hub’s second brewery, which is scheduled to open just west of St. Louis in 2016. This agreement will give Toppling Goliath and other Brew Hub partners the capacity to expand their distribution throughout Missouri and eventually throughout the Midwest.

Brew Hub was founded in 2012 in St. Louis. The company is building a network of five new, state-of-the-art craft breweries across the country. The St. Louis brewery will feature a 3,000-square-foot tasting room and biergarten. The company will employ approximately 55 people at its St. Louis brewery in brewing, operations, front office and the tasting room.

Brew Hub provides full brewing, packaging, distribution and selling services for craft brewers that are constrained by capacity, geography or capital. Brew Hub offers its partners services, including sales, marketing, logistics, legal, and government affairs. Brew Hub’s financial sponsor is a private investment firm, The Yucaipa Companies.

Brew Tees - Craft Apparel

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A cigar and a beer can be a pleasurable pairing

Beer in Florida photo by Gerard WalenAficionados of craft beer and of fine cigars have much in common. Both enjoy relaxing with a quality product created for adults and socializing with others who share their passion. They make product choices based on taste, appearance and craftsmanship.

Most have a go-to brand or style, but they are not averse to trying a new product based on reputation and recommendations from friends.

There are folks out there who believe tobacco in any form should never dance upon the same palate with craft beer, claiming that the smoke would dull the taste buds and mask the more subtle flavors of the brew.

I beg to differ, with the caveat that such pairings be done in moderation. The tastes can blend well together and accentuate each other, providing a relaxing experience.

Few states better accommodate the cigar lover than does Florida, the closest U.S. land to what many call the epitome of cigar production – Cuba. Of course, we’ve not been able to legally enjoy the fine sticks from there since the U.S. embargo was put in place in the early 1960s after Fidel Castro instituted a Communist regime in the island nation, but Florida was fortunate. Many of the talented cigar makers and companies fleeing Cuba settle right here and started their businesses anew, particularly in Ybor City. This led to Tampa adopting the “Cigar City” nickname. Later, one of Tampa’s most well-known craft breweries adopted that name.

Cigar City Brewing was never located in Ybor City despite widespread misconceptions, but it has embraced the history, going as far as having a cigar roller blending tobacco leaves in its West Spruce Street tasting room on most weekdays. Its cigar-friendly patio allows patrons to enjoy the weather along with a stogie and one of the brewery’s hand-crafted beers.

As in pairing with food, choosing the right cigar with the right beer requires some thought and research.

One of the most basic guidelines, valid for pairing either food or cigars with beer, is to match strength with strength.

You don’t want the taste of one overpowering the taste of the other. For instance, with a lighter-bodied beer such as a witbier or a pilsner, you’ll want a light, smooth-tasting cigar. Look for one with a Connecticut shade wrapper and mild tobacco filler leaves.

A medium-bodied beer such as an IPA or a low-ABV porter pairs well with a medium-bodied cigar. Seek out a spicy Honduran or Dominican stick to fire up.

Heavier beers — Scotch ales, stouts, or anything that has “Imperial” in the name — call for big cigars, both in size and strength.

Of course, your personal preferences might vary.

If you are a relative beginner in the world of cigars, a post on the Brewers Association blog Craft Beer Muses, offers some solid advice:

Get a sampler pack!

What better way to try a variety of sizes, strengths and manufacturers without having to invest too much thought or money? Some samplers offer cigars, a humidor, a cutter and a lighter all in one at reasonable prices. You can often select the intensity of the cigars included, so for instance a “mild” sampler will net you some well-known and (you guessed it) mild cigars, perfect for the beginner.

I’ve found that when it comes to samplers, online retailers offer the best bargains. One of my favorites is Famous Smoke shop, and Famous supplies Davidoff smokes here, as well as other brands.

If you’re not ready for a multi-cigar commitment, visit your local tobacconist and ask advice. Pick up a stogie or two to take home. Some cigar bars offer craft beers on tap; other shops will allow you to bring your own. Call first and ask.

Here are some other sites that go into deeper detail on pairing cigars and craft beer:

Long Ashes to You, and Cheers!

This post was sponsored by Famous Smoke Shop, but all opinions are my own.

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Kids, cancer, beards and breweries

cigar city beards-001

Some of the crew from Cigar City.

Staff members from three Tampa Bay area breweries are sacrificing something near and dear for a noble cause: These gents are shaving their beards and/or heads to raise money for the Pediatric Cancer Institute, a Tampa-based nonprofit that focuses on funding research that will lead to the elimination of pediatric cancer worldwide.

The three wise guys from Barley Mow.

The three wise guys from Barley Mow.

But there’s a problem. None of the breweries has yet reached its fundraising goal for the Cut for the Cure Charity Challenge.  and the campaigns started a few weeks ago. Here is where they  stand, as of this writing on March 25, 2015. (Click on the brewery name to donate and to find out more information):

Rodney Sedillo, the hippiest of the Tangent Brewing team.

Rodney Sedillo, the hippiest of the Tangent Brewing team.

But, Gerard, are you going to put YOUR money where your mouth is?

Good question. I’ll try to find some wiggle room in my budget to make a monetary donation. But here is what I know that I can do.

As a supporter of and advocate for the Florida craft beer community, I would like to see  all three of the participating breweries reach their fundraising goals by the event.

If that happens, I shall join the teams at the Cigar City brewery on April 9, 2015, and contribute my facial fuzz to the cause. Granted, my goatee is not as impressive as some of the other chin hair headed for the floor, but I’ve grown quite fond of it. It’s likely been close to 15 years since I’ve been clean-shaven – very briefly – but if it helps children win battles against cancer, there is no question that it’s worth it.

(UPDATE: I have been made aware that the groups can raise their goals once the original one is met. My offer is contingent on the goals mentioned in this post).

And anyone familiar with the craft brewing industry knows how important beards are to its mystique – Heck, Rogue Ales in Oregon brewed a beer a few years ago that used yeast harvested from a brewer’s beard.

Circa age 13. My beard didn't come in for another year.

Circa age 13. My beard didn’t come in for another year.

So go to those links above and support the brewers, get them to their goals, and find out why I rarely have been sans beard for most of my adult life.


P.S. According to the charity rating site, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation is rated at 98.60 out of 100 for Financial and 100 of 100 for Accountability & Transparency. It’s such a great group.


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What do you do with leftover beer? Drink it!

Leftover party 2015 logoNow that Tampa Bay Beer Week 2015 has left the building, it’s time to … Celebrate Local Beer!

Granted, that’s something we do year-round, but the BFBC Leftover Party, in previous years a part of the TBBW festivities, has been rescheduled this year in hopes that more folks will attend and help raise funds for the Best Florida Beer Championships, which each year judges and awards the best homebrews and commercial beers produced in the state.

So what’s the Leftover Party?

“The BFBC homebrew competition is gaining momentum with each passing competition. Recent years have seen the number of entries grow to over 500, which means we receive more than 1,500 bottles of beer!

“In the process of the competition a mere one or two bottles are opened for judging purposes. This means that we are left with over 800 different beers that are typically just thrown out. We decided that instead of wasting these brews, that we’d share these bottles with you, our fellow craft beer enthusiasts.”

It’s like the biggest bottle share ever, and one of the best beer bargains of the year – only $10 at the door or in advance.

This year, the event will be at Pair O’ Dice Brewing, 4400 118th Ave. N., Suite 208, Clearwater. The festivities start at 6 p.m.

Around 7 or so, there will be a panel discussion with local craft beer personalities discussing the State of Craft Beer in Florida. Confirmed panelists are Sean Nordquist, beer writer and TBBW board of directors member; Bob Sylvester, founder of Saint Somewhere Brewing Company in Tarpon Springs; and Julia Rosenthal, co-owner and co-founder of Pair O’ Dice. There may be one or two other speakers, but that has not been confirmed yet. UPDATE: Matt Abdoney, who oversees the craft beer portfolio at JJ Taylor Distributing, Florida, has accepted an invitation to join the panel.

Yours truly will be the moderator. This is the third year we’ve done this, and it always proves to be an eye-opening and sometimes spirited discussion.

Also, as was pointed out to me, if you are a homebrewer and need empty bottles, there should be more than a few available after the event. In addition, there are usually a few bottles of the commercial award winners to sample at the event, and there will be a special tapping of at least two BFBC medal winning beers: Seventh Sun’s Saison Caribe and Funky Buddha’s Doc Brown.

If you have not yet purchased one, or if you did and would like it personalized, I’ll be signing and selling copies of “Florida Breweries” when I’m not running my yapper.

See you there!

BFBC 2015 Commercial Winners

BFBC 2015 Homebrew Winners

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