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Brew Review

We’ve Got the Traveling Brews

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By Joni Williams


We just stayed at what was the absolute worst hotel, ever. Honestly, we’ve always had good luck with hotel rooms, probably because we book based on a chain’s reputation or a friend’s enthusiastic recommendation. This room had the benefit of both, plus another biggie.


It was pet friendly, important since it’s one of the few times we’ve been brave enough to travel with the pooch. You know, the one with severe separation anxiety. (Even now we wonder…what the #@*$ were we thinking?)


So there we were in this vile motel room with a dog that would hysterically freak out if we so much as tiptoed out to the ice machine, which we unfortunately had to do after a seemingly mild injury caused our mouth to swell to Donald Duck-like proportions.


The only good thing about having a massively swollen, black and blue bill (which also gave us a lovely lisp, like Sylvester the Cat) was that by looking and sounding like a freaky hybrid of two cartoon characters, we could scare away any shady characters lurking at the even shadier motel. Of course, a yelping dog in the throes of a nervous breakdown is also a good deterrent, even if he is only 15 pounds.


You would think such a trying trip would give anyone in their right mind a case of the traveling blues. But we’ve got a case of the traveling brews. Actually, just a six-pack and a growler. As we set out for the Interstate, we wisely stopped at a few places and picked up a some brewskis to enjoy during our stay at what we now know is the hotel from hell.


One place that we’re getting to like more and more is Crestview’s Tom Thumb Liquor Store, just south of I-10. This time around, we decided to check out their growlers. The draft choices were downright delectable and included their biggest seller, the super smooth Green Man English-style porter. It’s earthy yet sweet, creamy and raisin-y with a shy wisp of chocolate. Though it’s hearty, it’s still a good choice even as the warmer months arrive, simply because it tastes so good. If you love a good porter, this one’s a must.


The biggest surprise of the lineup was NOLA Brewing’s 7th Street Wheat Lemon Basil Beer—as insanely tasty as it was light and refreshing. Keep in mind, we dislike most summer shandies or other lemony brews, but this one had a natural, almost clean taste with just the right hint of basil.


The “it” citrus right now, though, is blood orange. In keeping with the trend, Tom Thumb taps Funky Buddha’s More Morro Blood Orange Ale, with its grapefruit hops giving the prized Morro fruit a zinger of a boost. The end result is an interesting, top-notch brew that wisely doesn’t overdo the pucker power.


Our choice for a take-along growler, though, was Highland’s Black Mocha Stout. While it’s true that even some diehard hopheads aren’t as crazy for stouts as we are, this one is fine enough to win new fans. It’s incredibly smooth. And though full-flavored and robust, its almost creamy taste makes it easy to drink.


It’s worth noting that Tom Thumb’s growler is cute. Though made of glass, it’s shaped like a brown moonshine jug and comes sealed with tape in an effort to prevent buyers from unwittingly violating Florida’s open container laws. They also offer an oversized steel container that not only keeps cold beverages cold but also hot ones hot. Pretty nifty.


The taps are rotated. Right now they’re offering one of our faves, Oyster City’s Brown Ale as well as an IPA by the notoriously excellent brewer Sierra Nevada. If we would have known what a stressful trip lay ahead, we may have gotten one of each.


For our next three-day jaunt, we’ve already made arrangements for a doggie sitter and booked a sunny Hilton property. We may get a case of the traveling brews again, or we may just hit the hotel bar. Either way, after our trip to the Hell Hotel, it’s sure to feel like heaven.

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