I was in Tampa, FL last week, and I must say that the Tampa area is one of the best places on the face of the Earth. The sun set, and moon rise over the bay is just breathtaking. Just awesome.
One of the places I found in Tampa was the Tampa Bay Brewing Company. It is a very nice little brew pub near downtown Tampa.
One of the best features of the place was that they had a large outdoor bar area. Being from cold country, and with the weather beautiful, that is where I spent my time.
The very very best part about this place is that the brew master will set small batches of his work aside and ferment it in a traditional cask. This lets the beer naturally carbonate due to fermentation process. This takes a long time, and most places simply add fermentation artificially.
The cask ale has a very persistent head, and will seem a bit "flatter" than beer that is artificial carbonated. The beer and head will seem more like a stout.
Cask beers are very very rare. They take a long time to make, and they do not keep nearly as well as keg beers. They sour very quickly, so if they are not sold, they go to waste. Not good for a business where your margins are razor thin. In order to do a cask brew the brew master either has to love beer so much that they are willing to eat the cost of the waste, or have a very strong regular clientele that is willing to buy what is in the cask.
I am what is known as a "hop head." Meaning that I like beer that uses a lot of hops, and is therefor quite bitter. Bitterness is measured by "IBU." Normally the IBU scale runs from 1 to 100. A Budwiser is measured at about 6 IBUs.
It just so happened that the cask beer that was available when I was there was their very hopiest brew, the Old Elephant Foot IPA. It has an IBU of 80. This is very interesting as most people don't like hoppy beers, and having a cask brew of something so very very hoppy will only sell to the most hard core of hop heads.
I didn't care, I was in heaven.
So, I had the very best of all worlds. A super hoppy cask brew, an outside bar, 78 and sunny weather in February, with my friends and family enjoying a snow storm at home. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if the wife were there with me.
As I was sitting and sipping in my own shergala, I started noticing the people around me. I am a beer snob so take what I say with that in mind... I will make fun of you if you do certain things at the brew pub.
The first thing I noticed was the amount of people who walked up to the bar, and ordered a Budweiser or, even worse, a Bud Light. The bartender would politely say, they do not server Budweiser, they brew their own beer, and would be happy to pour them a complementary taster of their lightest beer. Out of the 5 (really!!) people that did this only one took a taste. That person did what most people do when they get a taste of their first real handcrafted beer. Their eyes lit up, a smile crossed their face, and the light of knowledge filled their soul. Another convert, praise be to Silenus!!
Seriously, if you go to Miller brewing do you order a Budweiser? Why do you do that at a brew pub???
As I sipped my hoppy glass of cask ale, glorying in its awesomeness, I caught a snatch of conversation. A man had ordered a cask ale. He was laughing with his friends saying that the foam just won't go away. I turned my head to see what was going on. The man was saying how he had never seen anything like it... He then did the most horrible thing he could have done, the equivalent of killing a baby while burning the flag, peeing on a crucifix, giving the Nazi salute, and spitting on a Jew. He took salt, and sprinkled it in to his cask ale to get rid of the head. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
WHAT DID YOU JUST DO???????????????????
He then complained to the waiter about how bitter his beer was, asking if it had been "skunked." You, sir, are a class A jackass. You have no idea what you just did, you arrogant asshole.
After that, I took my attention and moved it to the other patrons at the bar. They seemed to be beer lovers, and I tried to unsee what had been seen.
The best beers in Tampa!!!