I woke up the morning of November 7 to the first snowfall of the season, and was immediately grateful that I was heading to Florida that day for a weekend of shows in Gainesville and Jacksonville.
It is a LONG drive from Cincinnati to Gainesville, but the solitude is nice, long drives are one of the few times I get to really listen to music for an extended period, and for a person like me who hates the winter more and more each year, it's a lot easier when you know you have snow behind you and sunshine and surf ahead of you. Not that there's surf in Gainesville, but you get the idea...
Normally I would try to break up the 12+ hour trip with a gig along the way, in this case Atlanta would've made sense, but it was a bit of a last minute deal, so my planning wasn't as efficient as it normally would be. Regardless, the trip wasn't bad and I rolled into town a good few hours early. On this night I was playing at Cypress & Grove Brewing Company, which is a stone's throw from the University of Florida's entertainment district. I grabbed a bowl of fried rice as an early dinner, then hit a pretty cool drum store located just down the street from the brewery. The shop specialized in hand drums from around the world, and the owner also made hand-craft drum kits and snare drums from salvaged Cypress wood. Gorgeous stuff (see some pics below).
Cypress & Grove Brewing Company – Gainesville, FL
The beers are available via tap and crowlers/growlers, and some cans, at the taproom. Come beers are also available on tap at finer restaurants and drinking establishments throughout the region.
Cypress & Grove, while only a few blocks from the rather busy universty area, is tucked back in a mostly residential area. An unassuming building that would be easy to miss if not for the signage, the fenced in lot consisted of a good sized building for the brewery and taproom, a large lawn surrounded by some huge pecan and cypress trees, and a beer garden around the back of the building that isn't visable from the street. Inside the brewing facility is largely in the back of the building, then in the middle is a room that houses some brewing equipment, video games, and a few tables, and then the bar area is what you walk into from the entrance, with a large bar, plenty of hightop tables and interesting artwork. Off to the right and up a few steps is a larger room that feels almost like a large loft, with big wooden exposed beams, pools tables, another bar, a tons of seating... and an area for the bands to perform. Food is provided by a rotating cast of food trucks.
The beer selection leans towards the traditional European, more specifically German, but isn't limited just to those varieties. In addition to beer, they also serve some wine, cider, and flavored seltzers. The first pint I had was the Pecan Brown Ale (4.9%). The pecans were harvested from the two pecan trees in the brewery's yard, and added a nice slightly nutty add to the solid brown ale. Crisp and refreshing, it was a light-to-middle bodied brown that seemed perfect for the season. I recommended this to a few other folks, and everyone seemed equally pleased with it. A nice hearty nutty, slightly malt flavor combined with extreme drinkability made this one quite enjoyable.
The Bavarian Lager (4%) was my next selection of the night, and it was a very poundable lager lighter on the body side, a little bready, but again very refreshing and sessionable. Golden on the pour with a lighter head, this is one you could even turn your “I only drink Bud Light” friend on to, albeit with more substantial flavor. I think comparisons with some of Europe's larger lagers would be appropriate.
Cypress & Grove's Porter (6.5%) was also quite delicious and well suited for Autumn drinking. Dark and rich with hints of coffee and chocolate, this one would be perfect for a nippy day, or in Florida, perhaps a cloudy raining day with just a hint of a chill.
At some point earlier I had also sampled the Huell Melon Haze IPA (6.7%), which was a New England style with just hint of melon flavor introduced by the hops. A little sour (but not terribly), it was a respectable haze, and he Melon added just a little something to keep it interesting.
The staff and crowd and Cypress & Grove were extremely friendly and encouraging, and the crowd was engaged with the music from the start. I had several interesting conversations throughout the night with folks who approached me and were interested in talking about the tour.
After the show I was a bit hungry, and was pointed by the staff to a place in the entertainment district called the Tops, which was quite popular with the locals. I had a short wait for a table, but once I sat down I had a very good pan seared blackened ahi, and an interesting sour brew that I now don't recall. The people watching was great, and a nice way to wind down the evening.
All around Cypress & Grove was a very fun place with very good beers (also... pints were only $5). I'll be heading back to Florida a couple of times in 2020, and would love to stop here again to dig deeper into their beer menu and seasonal offerings!
Next stop: Ruby Beach Brewing in Jacksonville Beach.