Tuesday, July 06, 2010

BEERflections ~ Hurricane Summer Kick Off Weekend

I’ve never been one to be put in a box, smothered in labels, and reduced to a faceless statistic. I am me; Kristyn Lier, daughter of Peter and Julie Lier. Florida native. Animal lover. Writer. Dreamer. Environmentalist. Thinker. Lesbian. Burgundian. Geek. Fisherwoman… to name a few.
So wait a minute. Those are all labels.
Yes, and labels are all they are: me and not me at the same time. Through whimsy and chance with a dash of mood, sprinkling of fate, and tour du jour, my life is my own for good and good. After all, even the bad can be good; it’s all in perspective. Judge not. Passion is purpose which I’ll take with a dollop of wisdom cynical, please and thank you.

So what does all this have to do with the Summer Kick-Off Weekend at Hurricanes? Everything and nothing of course. Silly you, silly me. With UFC fights featured on Saturday and family fun highlighted on Sunday, I knew to tighten my bloomers for a whirlwind of a weekend fraught with playful debauchery.

I worked Saturday as per the norm, beer tasting and all, before drifting home to workout, freshen up, then track way to UFC central, otherwise known as Hurricane Grille & Wings of Vero Beach, FL. While the beers and wings are familiar stomping grounds, the world of UFC and mixed martial arts was virgin territory indeed. I can get down and dirty as well as any of the guys, so it was with raunch and flair I embraced my inner testosterone. Complimenting the fighting skills on display that night were tasty wings and beers of thirst-quenching flavor-stimulating proportions for me to slam down.

Ok, maybe not slam down but I was definitely there to share in the fights, fun, food, and my peeps of beery persuasion who joined our milling throng and throng there was. Outside was especially packed despite the relative humidity (love it or leave it) as the air buzzed with enthralled UFC fans. Adding to the evening’s excitement was the attendance by two of our very own UFC fighters: Mike Brown and Dean Thomas. There had been two separate and previous events during the day which were well attended from what I heard thanks to my reputable sources. Though not in person, I would like to think I was there in spirit.

Parking was…a challenge but also surprisingly easy since Vero Beachans seem to forget the plethora of space along US1 and the building formerly known as Dennys. Parked and raring, I found Howard running to and fro outside while rugrats played with his tap toss, a sneak preview of but one of the next day’s exciting activities. But I wasn’t here to play tap toss, I was here to snarf wings, sup beer, and find much to my unamazement that UFC matches are awesome good stuff.

Separate from the weekend festivities though just as exciting, I finally met the one and only Mr. and Mrs. Steinberg, otherwise known as Howard's Dad and Mom. The pleasure is all mine, assuredly.

Before the main fight between Liddell and Franklin, a series of preliminary matches were shown. Each one built the excitement inside and out to roof blowing levels, an excitement yours truly was happily victim to. One eye glued to the TV while the other roamed freely, I savored my salt and vinegar wings with immense gusto while pairing them with the roasty toasty smoky and slightly salty Anchor Porter. There may not have been any raw oysters involved, but the combination was no less outstanding. When next you are in Hurricanes of Vero Beach, do give this tastetacular pairing a try.

A special Howard concoction I also enjoyed that night was the one and only Anchor-Nation, a blend of Anchor Porter and Stone Ruination. Blasphemy! You say. Au contraire! I say. Ever heard of the Bodacious Black & Tan from Hoppin Frog Brewery? Then you know how bodaciously beervanic the above beer blend was. As far as beer blends in general are concerned, tis certainly nothing new. Brewers and beer drinkers alike have been blending beers for pretty much as long as brewers have been brewing and beer drinkers have been drinking.

Further dappling in the blending arts, later that evening I tried to treat a fellow friend of beer and coincidentally birthday boy to an Anchor-Nation when tragedy blew in the form of her keg. As inspiration struck, the Mad-Nation was born and so from one great taste revelation was spawned another. A blend of Cigar City Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale and Stone Ruination, a beery orgy of sintastic proportions was released unto our willing tasebuds. Delish! A regular blend now at Hurricanes, don’t expect to see it listed anywhere. You have to ask for it. Tell them Kristyn told you to.

Now where was I…

Ah yes, the fight at hand. Many floor-pounding nail-biting preliminary fights later, the main event was about to begin. Amidst a hush quickly followed by the din of cheers and jeers, two men entered the ring for the ultimate showdown. As anticipation continued to build unencumbered, the two professionals faced off in a flurry of jabs, ducks, kicks, swerves, grapples, and ultimately a K-O. With Liddell down and out before the first round knelled, Franklin was pronounced the up and coming undisputed champion.

For every climax there must be a release and so began the inevitable slow trickle of merry-goers heading home after an evening well spent. Yours beerly hung around the bar, chatting with Howard and some beer tasting regulars, the jovial trio of Chris, Chris, and Dave. Eventually their ladies-in-charge arrived just in time to watch me down my pint of Southern Tier Iniquity, an imperial black ale of hoppy proportions and tasteful designs. Yum!

Calling it officially over for the night, I mosied over to the car and home for sleepies. After all, I had a busy Sunday ahead, a day devoid of work and full of summer sunshine, brews, and friends. Enter the Hurricane Summer Kick-Off Weekend, day two.

The sun has risen and so too must I, though with great protest and the prerequisite two cups of coffee. Mornings and I have an understanding see. Neither enemies nor comrades, it takes only an amiable jolt of coffee to keep us together and beholden to the day’s promise ahead. For myself and hundreds of others this particular Sunday was a day for summery festivities at the beertopic Hurricane Grille & Wings. Coffee, cleaning, a workout, and some Mr. D snuggles under the belt for a busy yet relaxed morning, I made my way on down to the old Publix plaza on the corner of US1 and 15th, also known as “where was that again?” Not exactly the best location, Hurricane's booming success and current growth is due in large part to Howard and his fine staff who believe in those who embrace the fine philosophy of burgundism. If you brew it, or in this case pour it, we will come. We will tell friends who will tell friends who will tell friends who will tell their neighbor’s squirrel.

But I digress.

Already shaping up to be a blistering day, I found a parking spot and worked my way to the inner sanctum for a beer with a side of Howard. I was able to grab his attention in enough time to find where my beer tasting table was going to be located, and then set out to find my Ronny-poo who was handling the draft truck. On pour were the Brooklyner Hefeweizen, Brooklyn Lager, Yuengling, and Miller Lite. Over at my table across the street and through the woods… Ok, maybe not but still fun to say. In reality I was next to the outdoor tiki seating area were six different craft beers were being tasted. Specifically:
  • Stone Arrogant Bastard & Pale Ale
  • Brooklyn Brown Ale & Local 2
  • Bells Oberon & Kalamazoo

We were only able to work together for a couple hours, but as always, it was a pleasure, Rich. Loves ya!!

To my right was the tap toss, an ingenious twist on a classic featuring Hurricane flair and beery booty. Putting together a 4’x4’ wood table then painted midnight black and the top with their signature nautical marking in blood red, it surely caught the eye of anyone passing by. Fastened and screwed on top was a variety of tap handles that either represented beers currently on draft, specific breweries, or a little bit of both. After all, a smidge of rotation never hurt anybody not to mention the health and wealth benefits wherever specialty beers are a focus. I even took a stab at the tap toss, though I declined to accept any winning vouchers. Work and play are what I do out of passion and heart. Rewards need not apply.

To my left was the band, Sekond Nature, who has been the recipient of quite the buzz around town far and wide. Their set-up required two tents, so with my eye on the pitiful “some assembly required” tents that lay strewn apart like a wreck beyond progress, I utilized my lifeline and called the Dadster. Why? To borrow our folding tent which paired with the only other folding tent there was just the right breadth. It’s amazing what I a little bit of shade can do to make a gorgeous summer day complete. With three full sets of jamming classics and modern funk, Sekond Nature performed well above and beyond their calling for which I was grooving and jiving.

Joining in the outdoor festivities was a dunk tank where guests and staff alike could take a toss at their favorite (or not) Hurricane employee. I tried my share of throws but obviously those years of softball in high school didn’t stick around. Let’s just say I could have benefited from a much larger strike zone. It’s a conspiracy I tell you, a conspiracy.

Equally fun-inspired if not even more so was the addition of a gigantic bounce house a-la slide a-la chaos. Definitely a no holds barred hit with the kids, even the adults were getting into it, albeit it with a bit less finesse. Ah maturity, it changes our thirst for reckless abandon though ultimately it’s all about balance and fun, bounce houses included.

For all the active hustle and bustle, there were more than a few spectacles in which to unwind, relax, sip a beer, and hit the open road. Now before you any of you get your panties in a snit, let me explain. This isn’t the advocacy of drinking and driving. This is the advocacy of drinks with drives. Much like a personal favorite television show sharing the triple Ds, this was an equally diverific stroll amidst classic roadsters, beer in hand, gleam in the eye, and smile on the face. Each car was a personal point of pride and possession, the Florida sun glinting and gleaming along their well polished curves.

Not too far away from the Renegade Cruiser porn was the Mozaic Mobile Kitchen dispensing soda and water, wings, and other tasty grub to satisfy the cacophony of rumbling stomachs. Wherever there is fun in the sun with beers and bands, hunger is never too far behind. I saved my wing indulgence for after the event. A wind-down in the air-conditioned sanctuary of Hurricanes was going to be just what I needed…and I was right. Festive duties done, I soaked in the A/C while they prepped my wings to finger-licking nummyness. If I remember correctly, my sauce of choice was an old standby, the Bourbon Apple Glaze. Joining Paula and her sister, Jenny, I literally collapsed into my chair. As much as I love the outdoors and beer, after a while the constant frenzied adrenaline rush wears off and the realization of baked exhaustion rears its ugly self. Wet towel draped over my head, it was a long while before my body rediscovered its normal temperature. Shortly after Paula and Jenny left, I bid kisses farewell to Howard, his staff, Ron, my posse of peeps, and bid welcome to Mr. D and my bed. As pillow and head met, sleep moved in and I stirred not until the new day’s sun had already risen.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. I’m not done yet. Heck, Hurricanes Summer Kick-Off Weekend isn’t done yet. There’s still the wing eating contest, but first I must delve into the orange and blue. Gator territory. The Swamp. UF. However you want to call it, Vero Beach is thankfully a Gator town, and both my sister and her husband are Gator alumni with Josh especially fervent. As much as I enjoy the chomp, so too do I enjoy individual artistry and the wood. Wood? Off the Chain Carving had set up shop on the grassy sidewalk in front of Hurricanes, both displaying and selling their skillful wares. Having seen their work in person, varnish me impressed. The main showpiece was a wood bench engraved in Gator regalia and just screaming Josh’s name. No sale was made, but for anyone looking for a personalized piece of wood artistry, give Off the Chain Carving a call. You won’t be disappointed. Craftsmanship is an art sorely in need and unfortunately neglected these superficial days.

Food for thought: just how convenient is convenience, really?

Never least and never last was the wing eating contest which was dominated by one Mr. Jeremy Park. Look out Vero Beach because I have it on good authority that we may be looking at a future competitive eating pro. The prize for his wingly skills was 10 free wings once a week for a full year along with having his name engraved on the Lord of Wings trophy. Sweet!

Wings duly conquered, we can now fast-forward to the inner sanctuary of Hurricane Grille & Wings. Belly full with tasty beers and wings, I took my perfectly baked self home for the conclusion to a fabulously fun weekend. For at least one more day, my burgundian purpose was complete.

(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)

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