I had a great time on vacation (thanks to Gerard Walen for filling in), though it wasn't particularly focused on beer. I did enjoy some pricier beers I wouldn't normally buy, thanks to an online certificate I bought for Whole Foods. These vouchers are pretty neat, offer amazing savings and several sites sell them, including LivingSocial, Groupon and the Herald-Tribune's new site, htdailydeals.
I paid $10 for the Whole Foods voucher, which gave me $20 to spend at the grocery store.
I ended up buying about $40 worth of beer.
I've bought vouchers in the past for Mr. Beery's (2645 Mall Drive, 343-2854, mrbeeryssrq.com) and for the Tasting Room at Cigar City Brewing in Tampa. Each one worked like a charm and there were no problems with employees not honoring the deals. I've also seen vouchers for the granddaddy of local craft beer bars, the Cock & Bull (975 Cattlemen Road, the-cock-n-bull.com).
Back to the vacation beers.
I was surprised to see bottles of Cigar City's very good Marshal Zhukov's Imperial Stout in stock at Whole Foods. That annual August release, a thick and rich 11 percent heavyweight, usually sells out quickly. Perhaps the $12 per 750 ml bottle price put a damper on demand.
I also bought a bottle of this year's Sierra Nevada-Dogfish Head collaboration: Life & Limb, a strong ale brewed with syrup that was so complex (with flavors of fruit, molasses and syrup) it reminded me of a quadruple, a strong dark ale traditionally brewed by monks. At $10 for 750 ml, it was a bit more affordable than Marshal Zhukov's.
This year was the first time they brewed Life & Limb since 2009. Some weeks ago I was able to sample the 2009 and 2011 at a Sierra Nevada night at Mr. Beery's. I'm not sure if the recipes were the same, but if they were it seemed that time had changed the 2009 beer and smoothed some of its sharp edges. Me, I like sharp edges.
Lakewood Ranch beer fest
The first International Beer Festival will be held Saturday at Lakewood Ranch Main Street, 8100 Lakewood Main Street, from 4 to 8 p.m. A ticket gets you unlimited samples of more than 100 beers. It's sponsored by Gold Coast Eagle Distributing and seems similar to the very fun Sarasota Beer Festival at Robarts Arena in August. There will be a costume contest, live music, and food and wine from local restaurants will also be sold.
The festival is open to all ages, but of course you have to be 21 to drink. Advance tickets cost $25; they're $35 at the gate. Part of the proceeds benefit Honor Animal Rescue.
To buy tickets and for details, go to lakewoodranchbeerfestival.com.
Cigar City beer dinners
Cafe Zest (6584 Superior Ave., 924-2535, zestofsarasota.com) is holding its second series of dinners featuring a seasonal menu paired with beers from Cigar City on Nov. 4 and 5 at 7 p.m. Reservations are required for the five-course meals, which cost $45 per person if ordered on or before Monday. Check out the menu.
Got a question?
If you have questions about beer, including what's available locally, please send them to me using my contact info above. I'll try and answer them in future columns.