GrassLands Brewing Company gone, but not forgotten
With the announcement Monday that GrassLands Brewing Company will be closing its doors July 15, we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s column to the locally owned business that has been instrumental in Tallahassee’s emergence on the craft beer scene.
Cigar City Brewing’s founder Joey Redner told us a couple of months ago when he appeared on our ESPN Radio show that “We stand on the shoulders of giants” — and GrassLands, which opened in 2015, will certainly serve as a touchstone for Tallahassee’s beer enthusiasts for years.
Sure, Tallahassee had a few brewing outfits — many tied to restaurants — prior to Proof Brewing and then GrassLands opening, each contributing to push Tallahassee’s beer scene forward. But GrassLands is really one of Tallahassee’s original dedicated breweries. That accomplishment alone was no small feat.
Before having a brick-and-mortar brewery, there were many years of brewing, fundraising, testing, and planning, all with owners Gabe and Saralyn Grass at the forefront. Admittedly, it’s easy to forget that GrassLands is only four years old, due in part to the fact that it has been entrenched in our community LONG before officially opening its 603 W. Gaines St. doors, often pouring at volunteer and community events, where they'd always donate their beer.
From the onset, GrassLands was unique in the best ways possible.
Starting with the "Grasshoppers Review Club" — a program that provided beer enthusiasts opportunities to sample GrassLands’ beer (before brewery plans existed) in exchange for comments, reviews, tweaks — the brewery was developed with an open dialogue between consumer and crafter in mind.
Message boards and blog posts could be found with GrassLands enthusiastically engaging commenters, or personally thanking bloggers for their support. Armed with years of Grasshopper reviews and copious amounts of ambition, GrassLands launched a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign featuring their signature wit, sincerity, and self-deprecating humor, to raise funds for what would eventually be their Gaines St. home — all while espousing the tenets underlying their “Craft, Community, Conservation” slogan.
In the video that officially introduced GrassLands to the world four years ago, owner Gabe Grass and partner Scott Hall presented the foundations upon which the brewery was built. Gabe said, “Our mission is to bring people together,” while Hall added, “and that mission all centers around great beer.”
GrassLands did not disappoint. Everything from their tap handles, glassware and décor suggested something unique — not simply a marketable idea, but a well-considered piece thoughtfully selected for you by the GrassLands family.
Standard pint glasses? GrassLands chose to go with one more akin to a beer can. The Tallahassee Beer Society cabinet has quite the collection of beer glassware, but easily identifiable is a green and white GrassLands stein where many frosty GBC Firedrake festbiers met their demise.
Standard tap handles? How about beautifully preserved branches from local trees. The tasting room itself was done in a style not seen many places in Tallahassee, part industrial, part steam punk, all awesome.
GrassLands’ wonderful brand of whimsy carried over to its beers. It takes a certain kind of bravado to make a pickle beer, and a deft hand to make it award-winning. As the 2016 Best Florida Beer Gold Medal winner, GrassLands' D"ill Pickle Boomtown Gose left a surprisingly delicious and indelible mark on Tallahassee’s craft beer scene.
Other hits would include the 2017 Best Florida Beer gold medal winner, "Advanced Darkness Robust Porter," not to mention Tarta! (a sour wild stout), and most recently the To The Goal session IPA brewed in collaboration with the Tallahassee Soccer Club.
The creativity kept coming, along with First Fridays, epic Super Bowl parties, bottle shares, fundraising events, graduations celebrated, relationships fostered, sports victories toasted, and trying times shared. The GrassLands family created a place, and taste, to act as the backdrop for people (and doggos) of all walks to create memories – and for four years that’s exactly what we did.
Since the announcement Monday, GrassLands co-owner Gabe Grass has been busy setting up a week’s worth of celebrations and drink specials to toast all that was and ring in all that will be. We know #TLHBeer fans will show up in force this weekend to say their final goodbyes.
We usually keep this column in a "#TeamWe" voice, but I, personally, would like to thank Gabe for taking the time out of his schedule, to talk, text, or private message a craft beer novice —offering guidance, encouragement, a few words of caution, a delicious beer, and a ton of humor.
Deep set for annual Great Barrier Reese release
There is a LOT going on in all areas at Deep Brewing Company these days with exciting news on the horizon regarding the brew house, tasting room, and distribution; but we’re going to save that for our next column. For now, we’re just going to suggest that you circle July 20 on the calendar because that’s when Great Barrier Reese – Deep's annual peanut butter and chocolate-infused export stout – releases. This dangerous 8.1% ABV will go quickly and is NOT to missed.
Tea sours coming from Lake Tribe
No dates have been set yet, but Lake Tribe has a number of exciting and refreshing releases lined up for the rest of the summer. First to release will be extensions of the Camp Sour line of beers with Camp Wiamea (a tangerine/clementine citrus with pine notes) and Camp Wakatu (balance mix of earthy, floral, and sweet fruit tones) set to release. Following the Camp Sour series will be another sour series called Wild Leaves, which will be a line of tea-infused sours highlighting the awesome products from Tallahassee Tea Company.
We were excited to see cans of “Constructive Interference” American IPA, a collaboration brew between Proof and Deep, in area Publix supermarkets on the 4th of July. But even bigger than that was to see that beer – as well as other Proof and Deep offerings – featured for Publix's "Aprons Cooking School" pairing Friday night.
We’re betting this is just the first of such collaborative efforts between Aprons and local breweries, and with menu items such as pan-seared crab cakes with key lime aioli, and Thai curry chicken paired with Constructive Interference, it’s worth seeing if tickets are available Friday, as well as down-the road.
Matthew Crumbaker is co-founder of the TLH Beer Society, a group of avid craft beer lovers. He is also co-host of Saturday Morning Bottle Share on 97.9 ESPN radio. Follow TLH Beer Society at Facebook.com/TLHBeerSociety or @TLHBeerSociety on Twitter and Instagram. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.