On a cold Wednesday in early February I found myself, through good fortune in the Aer Lingus Business class lounge at JFKs Terminal 5!
I had around 5 hours to kill before my next flight and had managed to escape the madness of the main terminal. The lounge had a fridge full of complimentary beverages which included a limited Choice of Beers to drink. There was a plentiful supply of Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Heineken and an unknown Californian craft Lager - Racer 5 from Bear Republic
My palate discounted Heineken straight away, it's not that I dislike it that much but it gives me a stinking hangover.. I planned instead to give the Racer a try before settling into some reliable Sam Adams
Best laid plans and all that! The first Racer went down well and was followed up by the San Adams, A Beer that I have previously paid a premium for!
This time was different, I couldn't wait to finish the Samuel Adams and get back to the Bear Republic brew. Racer 5 made Samuel Adams taste weak, watery and sub par! Boston Lager is no shrinking violet, so this craft Lager must have had something special
Racer 5 has a substantial ABV for an IPA, but it was so easy to drink that I almost thought that was a typo. I drank from the bottle, so cant describe the colour, pour or head. It had a satisfying taste with a bitter dry finish. In fact, its a beer you need to try for yourself. That's the thing about beer reviews, I read a lot of them and always see the same terms used. Hoppy, dry, and piney. Some Beers just need to be drank, experienced. This is one
Brewed at 7.5% this Californian Lager Comes from Bear Republic, which like most other craft brewers, began with homebrewing. It is a family-owned brewery, located in the heart of Sonoma County, California. Which would normally be associated with grapevines and wine making instead of excellent craft beer!
It is available online in the UK, priced between £2.70 and £3.20 a bottle. Sadly I have heard that this beer doesn't travel well, so I am reticent to spend in excess of £30 for a 12 pack!
If you are in the states and come across this in a bar then you need to try it. In fact you need to find a bar or liquor store that stocks it! It's a beautiful hoppy flavoursome IPA. I don't think i have ever used the word beautiful to describe Beer before! It really is that good
This hoppy American IPA is a full bodied beer brewed American pale and crystal malts, and heavily hopped with Chinook, Cascade, Columbus and Centennial. There’s a trophy in every glass.
2009 Great American Beer Festival® American-Style Strong Pale Ale – GOLD; 2009 Colorado State Fair – Best of Show; 2006 Great American Beer Festival® American-Style Strong Pale Ale – SILVER; 2005 Great American Beer Festival® American-Style Strong Pale Ale – SILVER; 1999 Great American Beer Festival® India Pale Ale - GOLD
Having woken up with Jameson's still heating up my interiors, I managed to crawl into the shower and inject some life into my travel weary frame. Vacations can do strange things to a man and going against my normal routine at home, I felt compelled to exercise. I got some fresh Florida air as I took an early morning walk along Hotel Plaza Boulevard in the Disney Springs area of the Walt Disney World resort. Even at 0630am on an early February morning it felt like a summers day! Ok, maybe not to a local, but to an Irish Man on tour it was a World away from the chilly temp the day I left Dublin.
I hadn't originally intended to stay at Disney. However after reviewing the plan, I booked two nights in the Wyndham Hotel so that I could attempt my own version of Drinking Around the World, which is done at the World Showcase within Disney's Epcot Theme Park. DATW is an unofficial activity that involves having one or more drinks at each of the 11 countries on the World Showcase! These days a one day ticket into Epcot costs around $100 with a drink in each country costing $10 on average, which makes this challenge an expensive one.
After much thought I concluded that as cool as it would be to complete the challenge, the cost far outweighed the enjoyment. Luckily Walt Disney World has quite a few amazing bars and watering holes. The Monorail Bar Crawl is another unofficial drinking challenge. Three hotels are served by the Monorail adjacent to the Magic Kingdom park, so to complete the challenge all you have to do is take a drink in each hotel. It seemed fun but a little easy, so I decided to add some additional locations, settling on a total of 6 bars.
My Hotel choice was also based on its proximity to Disney Springs, which allowed me to avail of the complimentary Transportation services throughout the resort. Meaning every penny spent, would be spent on Booze
Having flushed the Whiskey from my system, thanks to a McDonalds Steak & Egg McMuffin with a Large coffee (Steak and Egg McMuffin, take note McDonalds UK) I began my challenge, which I had entitled, Drinking Across the World. Disney Springs, my starting point, has recently undergone a large scale redevelopment, which transformed most of what used to be known as Downtown Disney. Many of the most popular Bars have been kept along with the addition of some excellent themed eateries and drinking spots.
I started my afternoon off with a visit to Jock Lindsay's Hangar Bar. Themed as only Disney can, around a character from the Indiana Jones films, this bar is of course made to look like an Aircraft Hangar from outside. Inside it is stuffed with props and artefact's along with friendly staff.
I was greeted warmly, my drink order swiftly taken before being offered a menu and a choice of seating. As it was a little before 12 there weren't many people in the place, but it did start to fill up before I left. I chose a table on the Patio, which occupies a prime spot on the edge of Village Lake. Through a combination of ambience, sunshine and the view, I could easily have stayed here all afternoon, but then that would have defeated the purpose.
I chose a cold glass of draught I4 IPA from the Orlando Brewing Company while looking through the menu. The beer and the location was made all the better by the pictures I received of a dark and rainy day back home.
My drink was complimented by a serving of Tuna Nachos, which tasted incredibly fresh. This is a great bay, sure you are paying premium for the overall experience, but the. That's what Disney do and do so well. Sadly, I never made it back to Jock Lindsay's during this trip, but have it on the list for places to visit when I am allowed out again. Amongst its themeing and backstory It had a cool vibe with an interesting drinks menu.
Settling up the bill, I walked to the Disney Springs Bus depot and got straight onto a Bus bound for Disney's Beach and Yacht Club resorts, knowing that it was only a short walk across to my destination at the Boardwalk.
The Boardwalk is attached to the resort bearing the same name and sits a short walk from the International Gateway Entrance of Epcot. It is themed as a turn of the century seaside resort from New England and is made up of shops, restaurants and bars. The duelling piano bar "Jellyrolls" is somewhere I have long wanted to check out, but it would have to wait. I had two stops to make the BoardWalk, the first being ESPN Bar. A sports Bar containing countless televisions with sporting memorabilia and signed collectors pieces.
although I was seated quickly and served promptly by the friendly staff. I was a little disappointed by the ESPN Bar, perhaps that's due to my own expectations, however I found it to be a little lacking character and atmosphere. I didn't spend much time here, stopping only long enough to sample a Draught pour of Jai Alia from Cigar City Brewing
My next stop was a short stroll across the Boardwalk and thankfully it made up for the ESPN Bars shortcoming. The Big River Grille and Brewing Company is a restaurant with an onsite brewery. The Beer's change regularly and you can read not only about what you can have now, but about what is being worked on for future enjoyment.
With several draught beers that are brewed in house available on the pumps, I knew that a pint of each could bring a swift end to my "World" tour. Sensibly I went for the Beer Sampler, which was quickly and expertly poured by the Barman. Consisting of seven small servings of their top brews, it ranges from low content ales right up to hefty stouts. I decided to class these seven small beers as one drink, staying within the rules of the trip.
The Monk Norris Belgian Quad does in fact weigh in at 9.3%. That's not a typo or a piece of stray food on the info sheet as I first thought. I spent a good hour sipping these seven brothers, cleaning my palate with iced water in between each. Such refinement and tasting professionalism
The Rocket Red American Amber Ale was probably my favourite, although each beer had its own pros and cons. Turning down the offer of a full sized version of my favourite. I Settled up with yet another Barman and taking a beer mat as a souvenir I made my way, a little slower than before, to the Boardwalk Bus Stop. It was time to catch a ride to the most visited theme park on Earth, The Magic Kingdom.. It wasn't my destination, merely the place where the Bus meets the Monorail! I was off to Disney's Polynesian Resort. A Pineapple filled with Rum was waiting
Wednesday 1st February 2017
It is a day that will go down in infamy. A date so seemingly inconspicuous, that it wont register with most. However this was the day my Solo Trip to the USA was to begin. A trip that I never thought would get approved by Mrs LJ!. It was a trip that came with many a raised eyebrow, "You are travelling alone?" That was the main query and the point at which most people lost their understanding of the appeal surrounding my excursion.
As someone who enjoys their own company, to the point of being fully relaxed when alone, I couldn't see the issue. Of course, to be honest, I had never planned to do this alone. In early 2016, when the idea of a Bucket List trip to the Super Bowl began to take shape, I had a number of interested drinking buddies, who wished to take the trip. The day, in May, when I got official approval to go, I wasted no time in booking my flights. I figured it would be harder to withdraw my permission slip, if money had already been spent.
So with return flights to Orlando secured, I thought that gave any travelling companions solid dates to work off. As time ticked on, people fell by the wayside. Guys with Wives and Kids had their applications to travel turned down, some with just a withering look. My dates however, remained set, my plans were a go!