Category Archives: Travel

6 tips you must know to score GABF tickets

GABFmedia_02To many beer-lovers, the Great American Beer Festival is the end-all, be-all of beer festivals. It is the epitome of what a beer festival should be and beer nirvana all rolled into one massive event. It is also a very difficult ticket to purchase and, once a ticket is procured, an even more difficult event to navigate.

With just  five months to the 2017 festival, this year’s event takes place October 5-7, will need a plan for attending this event. Tickets go on sale to the general public August 2 at 8:00 a.m. Eastern Time through Ticketmaster.

Last year, tickets to the GABF 2016 sold out in just one hour and seven minutes. That means you have to put some serious effort into getting your entry media. Fortunately, there are several ways you can give yourself an advantage over the unwashed masses.

  1. Mark your calendar and take time off.
    Since tickets go on sale on a Wednesday morning, if you work regular hours, you might want to take the morning off. You’ll know by 10:00 a.m. if you have tickets or not, so if you want to work the afternoon, just take a half day. Or, if you want to celebrate (or, heaven forbid, commiserate), take the whole day off and have a few beers in the afternoon.
  2. Check your account.
    A few days prior to the sale date, log in to Ticketmaster and make sure all of your information is up-to-date. Keep in mind, that if you do get through and get a chance to purchase tickets, you will only have a few minutes to complete your transaction. Nothing is more depressing than getting through and finding out that the credit card you have on file is expired.
  3. Get membership benefits.
    Consider joining the American Homebrewers Association. Members of the AHA can purchase GABF tickets a day before tickets go on sale to the general public. This is a huge advantage and practically assures you to score tickets. And, with membership to the AHA costing as little as $38 a year, it is a good investment. Not to mention you will get a whole host of benefits including six issues of Zymurgy, the Association’s magazine, discounts and, of course, early access to GABF tickets.
  4. Log in early.
    The interweb is going to be packed on the day of GABF ticket sales and this often means lag. By connecting early you increase your chance of getting through and avoiding long lag times that could cause your browser to crash. Plan on being online at least 45 minutes or more ahead of sale time.
  5. Enlist your friends.
    The Beatles famously said that they, “Get by with a little help from my friends.” Getting tickets for GABF is just the situation you want to put this phrase to work. Since each person that gets through can purchase up to four tickets, get your friends to help with the chase. If you have four friends that want to go, get all of them on their computers trying like mad. If just one of your cabal gets through and succeeds in acquiring tickets, your mission is accomplished.

    Pro Tip: Be sure all of your friends have Ticketmaster accounts and make sure they log in to check their status a few days prior to the sale date.

  6. Refresh as if you life depended on it.If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This is particularly true in this instance. You are battling thousands of other hopeful attendees for the few coveted GABF tickets that exist. If you get an error, just keep refreshing. With luck, you will hit refresh at the precise moment an Internet connection opens and your GABF dreams will come true.

If, after doing all of the above, you still do not manage to grab tickets, there are secondary markets. Sure, you’ll pay more for the tickets, but if you really want to go, that may be your only outlet. Just stay away from Craigslist and any other unverified ticket agency. You do not want to be the guy that shows up at the door with a counterfeit ticket and be denied admission.

Watch for more articles on how to get the most out of your GABF experience.

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Posted by on June 1, 2017 in Beer, Beer Festival, Travel


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Beer in the City; Adventures in New York City

The Big Apple, the City That Never Sleeps, Gotham City, the Empire City; whatever you call New York City, add another name to the list: New Beer City. On a recent trip I had the opportunity to visit many of the city’s craft beer spots. And the city that never sleeps knows how to do craft beer.

ponybarThe Pony Bar
637 10th Avenue at 45th Street
New York, NY 10036

Located in a neighborhood of Manhattan known as Hell’s Kitchen, The Pony Bar is more like heaven for craft beer aficionados. We arrived just moments before a drenching thunderstorm shook the city and quickly noticed most of the tables and barstools were occupied. But, no worries, a long table near the door had two empty seats and, after asking if we could share the table, we were invited to sit and enjoy.

At The Pony Bar, the emphasis is on American craft beers, meaning that you may find a Belgian-style beer on tap, but you will never find an import. In addition, there are no bottled beers available other than Bud and Bud Light. The Pony Bar features 20 taps and two hand-pulled beer engines of craft beer at all times, all displayed on a state-of-the-art display that is updated in real time hanging above the bar. The bar also displays their tap list on their website in real time for guests who like to know what is on tap before stepping out into the elements.

During our visit we sampled Elysian Brewing Company’s Super Fuzz, a refreshing blood orange pale ale. We also sampled Blue Point’s No Apologies (Citra) from the beer engine. Beers at The Pony are served in their signature blue-labeled, 14-ounce glass or red-labeled eight-ounce name-sake glass. The name of the bar, is a nod towards the small, eight-ounce glasses of beer – or ponies – that were served in years past between races at horse tracks.

Along with great craft beer, the bar also serves a small menu of pub favorites like burgers, roast chicken and sliders. Like everything else at The Pony Bar, the food was served quickly and with a friendly smile.

If you find yourself in Manhattan and want a craft beer served by friendly and knowledgeable bartenders close to Times Square, The Pony Bar fits the bill perfectly.

rattlenhumRattle n Hum
14 East 33rd Street
New York, NY 10016

Within the shadow of the iconic Empire State Building is an equally iconic to beer-lovers visiting the Empire State – Rattle n Hum. Do not be fooled by the narrow entry, this beer bar opens into a cavernous room that is generally packed with thirsty New Yorkers fresh off-the-clock or other colorful types simply stopping in for a cold pint selected from nearly 40 taps of craft beer and even more specialty bottles.

From the moment you walk in, this Mid-town pub immerses you in craft beer culture and friendly hospitality. Upon bellying up to the bar, guests are presented with an updated menu of the craft beers available that day. The bartenders are knowledgeable and will patiently answer your beer questions as well as provide a small taste of any beers you may want to try before committing to a full pint. And, if you still cannot commit to a single beer, Rattle n Hum offers sampler paddles of four beers chosen by you.

On our visit we chatted with a delightful Irish bartender who spent time answering our questions and even looking at our wedding photos (my wife will show anyone who stands still longer than 10 seconds our wedding pictures). Though, I do not remember her name, she was instrumental in the choices I made for my tasting paddle. Of the many fantastic choices available, I chose Brewer Ommegang’s Fleur de Houblon, Great Divide’s Orabelle, Vixnu from Cervejaria Colorado and Bacchus from Brouwerji Van Honsebrouck.

In addition to an amazing selection of craft and import beers, Rattle n Hum also has an extensive food menu and features brunch on the weekends. Think pub favorites like Baby Lamb Sliders, Shepard’s Pie and selected artisan cheeses and charcuterie.

StagsHead-NY-51st-and-2ndThe Stag’s Head
252 E 51st Street (at 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10022-7744

Down a few step off of East 51st Street you will find the bar level of The Stag’s Head, established in 2008. This popular beer bar boasts 16 rotating taps and over 50 bottles and cans of craft beers. It also features two seating areas and a roof-top beer garden.

When we arrived several television screens distributed throughout the venue were showing a World Cup soccer game to the delight of many boisterous patrons. It was a bit of a challenge to find a couple of bar stools to rest our weary feet, but after a few minutes a couple opened up. The friendly and jovial bartender appeared and took our drink orders. I went with a local brew from Captain Lawrence Brewing Company; Liquid Gold Pale Ale.

After the game ended, the place cleared out a bit and the bartender came down to chat with us a bit. He offered several great tips for where to enjoy more great, local beer that we later tried and enjoyed. Who says New Yorkers are all self-absorbed jerks? Certainly not us since everyone we talked to was more than willing to help and answer questions.

McSorley's Old Ale HouseMcSorley’s Old Ale House
15 East 7th Street
New York, NY 10003

New York is full of history, but it is not often that you drink at a bar that is actually part of the storied history of a place. But, McSorley’s Old Ale House is certainly full of history and character. From its outward appearance in the middle of a block on East 7th Street, one can see that it has been a fixture for many years – 160 years to be exact. That is right, McSorley’s has been around since 1854 and has played host to Civil War soldiers, presidents, musicians such as Woody Guthrie and scores of visiting dignitaries.

When you pass through the door, McSorley’s is revealed to be an old, dusty, dark and musty space; and that is its charm. Hanging from the ceiling are some of the bar’s original light fixtures sporting chicken wishbones awaiting the return of the Civil War soldiers who placed them there. In the back room hangs what used to be a scandalous nude painting of one of the first female regulars to the saloon. Above the fireplace is the bar’s motto, “Be good or be gone!” A motto still enforced in the continuously-packed venue.

Beer at McSorley’s come is just two varieties; light or dark. There are no other choices so do not ask. The only other beverage allowed are sodas that can be found tucked inside the original ice box behind the bar. Beer is served in small mugs often ordered a half-dozen at a time. Grey-vested waiters will deliver your choice of beverage to your table – if you are lucky enough to score one – or you can wait your turn at the bar to order.

McSorley’s is a force all its own in a world of beer bars. It is unpretentious and simple in its approach: serve good beer fast, except no bullshit and treat everyone like a friend. The combination works and, if the size of the Saturday night crowd is any indication, will continue to do so for many more years.

brooklyn-brewery-Brooklyn Brewery
79 N 11th Street
New York, NY 11249

More than just a tree grows in Brooklyn; this brewery near the Williamsburg neighborhood is a hotbed of activity during the week when brewing and even more so when its tap room doors are open. At the end of a large, dark beer hall stands the tap room’s bar with its selection of Brooklyn Brewery favorites like Brooklyn Lager and Local #1 along with lesser known treats like Mister Wilson’s Western Elixir and Ridgy Didge.

But, perhaps the most striking feature are the looming stainless steel fermenters that stand just inside the entrance of the tap room and serve as the starting point of the brewery tour. The tour takes interested beer enthusiasts to the brewhouse where they can get a glimpse at the pilot system as well as their larger main brewhouse. After a quick overview of the viewing process the group is ushered to the fermentation and packaging room where the guide regales visitors with stories of how the brewery started including tales of mob attempts to shut the operation down.

Back in the tap room, lines grow quickly at the bar that accepts only tokens purchased at the small company store inside the main entrance. For just $20 patrons can score five tokens that can be exchanged for a pint of delicious beer.

Just a short subway ride from Manhattan, Brooklyn Brewery is well worth the trip off the island.

birreriaBirreria at Eataly
200 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10010

Walking in to the Mahattan outpost of the European Eataly chain is like walking in to the Ikea of Italian food. The cavernous space houses several Italian restaurants along side of every type of Italian food for sale one can imagine. There is a pastry shop, gelato stand, cheese shop and gadget store all in one space.

But, for beer lovers, it is the roof of the building that holds our attention. From the main store you must board an elevator to the roof, but the short journey rewards you with gorgeous views of New York’s skyline – particularly beautiful at night – and a gourmet restaurant developed with the help of Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, Teo Musso of Baladin and Leonardo Di Vincenzo of Birra Del Borgo.

At the bar, imbibers can choose from three beers on the beer engine or several others on tap. While we were there we tried the Gina from the engine, a bay and rosemary spiced ale that was delicious and refreshing. The beer was also brewed just feet away at the venue’s rooftop brewery. Other choices were a selection of Italian craft beers such as Lurisia Sei and American craft brews from Dogfish Head and other regional breweries.

While all of the bars and beer halls we visited had friendly staff, the bartenders at Birreria were outstanding. Even though the place was packed and outrageously busy, they always stopped to ask if we had any questions or needed another drink. At one point the kitchen sent up a plate of grilled swordfish by mistake and the bartender presented it to us on the house. “I’d rather you ate and enjoyed it than send it back and it go in the trash, he said.

We were impressed and delighted. The fish was superb.

On our way out, we spoke with the manager to let her know about our stupendous experience and she was just as delightful to speak with as the staff. Next time we are in New York, we know exactly where we will be spending a great deal of time.

gingermanThe Ginger Man
11 East 36th Street
New York, NY, 10016

Michael Jackson, the late beer expert not the one-gloved singer, is quoted as to saying The Ginger Man is, “One of finest beer bars in the world.” I tend to agree. The classy, dark wood interior exudes sophistication. Behind the bar are tap handle after tap handle to sate thirsty beer lovers’ thirsts and draw them in. as you approach and sit at the bar one is handed a beer menu that is chock full of interesting and wondrous brews.

As with many beer bars, a sampler paddle was offered and I filled it with several outstanding beers: Duvel’s Single Fermented, Peekskill Brewery Simple Sour, Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge and a lighter beer from Cricket Hill Brewing Company called Jersey Summer Breakfast Ale.

The staff at The Ginger Man is well-versed in the beers on tap and was able to offer thoughts and insights into most. And, like The Pony Bar, The Ginger Man posts its current beer offering online at its website.


Any trip to New York City is going to be packed with new experiences. There is so much to see and do, so many landmarks, museums and shows that beer bars can easily be overlooked. But, for any self-respecting beer-lover, New York’s beer scene cannot be missed. The bars we visited just scratch the surface, there are so many more that we hope to drop in to on our next visit to the city. Suffice to say, that with the bars listed here you cannot go wrong.

The Jax Beer Guy has partnered with the UBER car service in Jacksonville. Because of this partnership, you can receive a $20 credit for your first ride by simply using the promo code “JaxBeerGuy” when you register for UBER on your smartphone.

Click HERE to sign up now!



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St. Augustine pub crawl takes to the water

Pub crawls are a fun way to visit several bars and sample the drinks at each. On any given weekend, thirsty crawlers can find haunted pub crawls, beer-centric pub crawls, historic pub crawls or food-centric pub crawls in St. Augustine. But, until now, there was no pub crawl offered for those with a nautical inclination.

watertoursThe idea came to “Booze Director” Deana Paimes one day while she and her husband were relaxing at the Vilano Pier after a day out on the Matanzas River. Docked at the pier Paimes saw the Jax Water Tours boat and struck up a conversation with the owner Captain Brooks. The discussion came around to the topic of pub crawls and a light bulb went off in Paimes’ head; why not combine the beautiful sites that are only available from the water with music, laughter and a pub crawl?

After more talks and some logistical maneuvering, Paimes’ vision was brought to fruition. Guests board the Osprey at the Vilano Pier for a three and one half hour cruise that takes them to three pubs along the Matanzas. On board the Osprey guests are offered a beer and treated to music and breath-taking views.

“If you are looking for a relaxing boat ride filled with Debbie Downers,” Paimes says. “This is not the boat for you. We will be having fun, floating to each destination while listening to music and laughing along the way.”

Guests can board the Osprey at the Vilano Pier Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. and enjoy a beer before the 2:00 p.m. departure. Once the party pontoon pushes off, guests can expect to make stops at The Conch House, Beaches Restaurant and the Kingfish Grill for drinks and food.  The cruise ends with the boat docking at Vilano Pier again at 5:30 p.m.

Tickets for the cruises are $25 per person and are available at the Jax Water Tours website. Or contact Jax Water Tours at 904-322-7194.

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Posted by on April 12, 2014 in Pubs, Relaxing, Travel


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Most expensive and cheapest places in world to get a beer

beerThe next time you complain about the price of the beer you drink, consider what beer-lovers in Tripoli, Libya cough up for a draft pint (technically .5L): $9.30. Talk about hitting a guy where it hurts! In contrast, the cheapest beer in the world can be had in Guangzhou, China where imbibers need only pay $0.36. Clearly, there is a disparity in price around the world for the third most popular drink after tea and water.

The city pricing data comes courtesy of Quartz ( a consumer news blog. Quartz, having seen an article on Thrillist ( about the countries around the world with the cheapest beer wanted to dig a bit deeper.

Turns out that the country with the cheapest average cost for a pint is Vietnam where beer is served – almost sacrilegiously – on ice for about $0.76 for a 12oz glass although it is not uncommon to find bia hoi for as low as $0.20. At the higher end of the top five cheapest countries to get beer is Ethiopia where you can expect to drink a beer called St. George’s Lager for just $0.93 a pint. St. George’s Lager is named after the country’s patron saint and has been brewed since the 1920s. Should you ever decide you would like a taste of it, the brew is sold at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom theme park for considerably more than the price in Africa.

Other countries on the top five cheapest beer list include the Philippines, Ukraine and Cambodia. Cities that will set you back the most for a pint include four cities in Norway and one in both Sweden and Denmark. Apparently, beer is very expensive throughout Scandinavia.

Read the entire articles about the price of beer at the links below and be happy that you are only paying $5 or so for that pint at your local tap room. It could be worse.

Quartz: The cites with the cheapest beer in the world

Thrillist: Where’s the cheapest beer in the world

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Posted by on January 8, 2014 in Beer, Travel


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A visit to a couple of Hawaiian breweries

Our correspondent from the north recently returned from a visit to the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Kauai. In between sight-seeing and beach-going he managed to visit a couple of breweries and has provided us with the following report.

IMG952013122695191439Breweries in Paradise

Over this past holiday season, I had the opportunity to visit the Hawaiian islands of Kauai and Maui. After a little research, I discovered microbreweries on each of the islands. First I drank at the Kauai Island Brewing Company after a long day on the beach.

Kauai Island Brewery & Grill

First Thoughts: The Kauai Brewery is the westernmost brewery in the world. There, you just learned something. It seemed to be a smaller operation but there was an upstairs seating area that I liked. Since they are based on an island, the brewery had a nice nautical/Hawaiian theme.

NO IPAs?!?: Right off the bat, I noticed two beers on the list I wanted to try: Captain Cook’s IPA and Na Pali Pale Ale. Since I am an avowed hop head, those choices seemed to be no brainers. Other beers on their list were just bonuses. Much to my surprise, however, they were out of both! Needless to say I was pretty bummed and even contemplated leaving. I mean, come on, the beers I chose were two of their flagship beers and they were out. To me this is pretty much unacceptable.

The Beer: After I stopped pouting to my wife I made my selections and ordered several ales, they had one IPA on tap called the Fonz IPAaaaaaa (…get it!?!) and a couple lagers. They all seemed a little on the light side, probably for easier drinkability because it is always so hot in Hawaii. Additionally, the IPA could have been a little hoppier but that is just my personal preference.

Final Thoughts: Beside the fact that they were out of two flagship pale ales, I did end up enjoying myself. We had some food, chatted with some locals, and I got a neat shirt. I do suggest you stop by if you are in the neighborhood and have the time.

IMG_20131229_150210_847Maui Brewing Company

First Thoughts: The Maui Brewery has two locations on its namesake island; a bottling plant and a brewpub. The brewpub is located in a strip mall and I was a little unsure about what we would find there. But, after stepping inside, we discovered that the inside of the place was huge. They even had a spot on the upper level for beer tanks. They had a huge selection of beers, both flagship and an even larger assortment of experimental and seasonal brews.

The Beer: I was able to try two different IPAs and some good amber ales as well. We had a coconut porter that my wife loved but was lost on me. I am just not a fan of coconut. Their Big Swell IPA is very floral and aromatic and is great to drink on a warm sunny day on the beach. I also tried the Freight Train IPA which seemed very flat, drinking it seems like drinking odd tasting water. I need carbonation in my beer.

Final Thoughts: Overall I was very impressed, there was good food, and I got another t-shirt. I tried very little of their flagship beers and focused more on the harder to get releases because I found out they are amping up their production. The brewery is building a second brewpub and a larger production facility. This means they will be increasing their distribution as well; I will definitely be on the lookout for Maui beer in a can.

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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Craft Beer Brewery, Travel


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