I have returned from Orlando, Florida the same degree of pale as when I left Massachusetts. That said, I have also returned to New England armed with TONS of information about new and exciting pet products and brands after having attended Global Pet Expo as a member of the Press alongside my friend, Rochelle from The Broke Dog. Be on the lookout for a post that outlines some of the products I fell in love with and trends I noticed while in attendance. This post, though, is catered towards some other things I love: big mushy drooly dog faces, animal rescue, beer, wine, cider, and yummy food! Please allow me to introduce you to Ginger, April’s Brew Dog of the Month!
When I knew I was going to be in the Orlando area, I immediately started to do some Google searching to see if there were any Dog Friendly breweries that were nearby. It didn’t take long for me to find a brewery called Two Henry’s. “It’s a sign!” I thought, as Rochelle’s dog and muse is named Henry! I placed a call to verify that the facility was, in fact, dog friendly (which is something I always recommend you do). Shortly after placing the call, I found myself speaking with an incredibly helpful member of their staff who shared, not only is Two Henry’s Dog Friendly, their owner is passionate about Mastiff rescue, and they have a pup named Ginger who is on-site often!
In our conversation over the phone, I learned that Two Henry’s is just the tip of the iceberg. The location, which is in Plant City, Florida, is actually home to the brewery, a Winery called Keel & Curley, a Cidery, a restaurant, and a functioning farm. The farm has blueberries, strawberries, fresh veggies that are used in the restaurant, an orchard, chickens, and cows. I’m sure there’s more I missed in the list, but that helps to paint a picture of a magical land that also happens to have DOGS! Needless to say, I knew a visit had to be a part of my itinerary, so I scheduled a time to stop by while I was at the Global Pet Expo.
Upon my arrival, I was greeted with a smile from my tour guide and the location’s Events Executive, Michelle Powers, and a taste of Peach Cider which was crisp, fresh, light and dangerous. It’s sweetness masked its high ABV and, as a lightweight, I needed to stay sober for my visit. I enjoyed my sample, and was escorted to the blueberry fields to meet Ginger and her human, Alicia Keel so we could take some photos before the sun set.
Ginger was everything you could possibly love about a Mastiff all rolled into one. Her sweet, expressive eyes followed me as I made my way towards her. I scratched her chest, found the “sweet spot,” as her hind leg thumped on the ground, and I got a full-face lick that took my makeup away with one lap of the tongue. My day was made! She gently ambled with us through the blueberry bushes and sat patiently as I took her photos.
She indulged us as we placed a Two Henry’s baseball cap on her head for a photo and she sat calmly when I made adjustments to my camera. I, while not a professional photographer, knew to bring some dog treats with me as a reward. The folks at BIXBI were generous with their treat samples at Global Pet Expo, so I had a supply on hand to reward Ginger for her time serving as a model.
After Ginger’s photo shoot wrapped up, she was brought inside to get ready to head home and spend time with the collection of foster Mastiffs waiting for their forever homes. I was brought on a tour of the grounds, was able to take a drive by shooting photo of Joe Keel, one of the owners, as he zipped by on a golf cart, and have a tour of the bottling and storage warehouse for the beer, wine and cider.
Upon our return to the restaurant, I was able to get a good view of where large events, including weddings can be set up. Not long ago, there was a dog birthday party on the porch that includes outdoor seating. The night I was there, a party for an upcoming wedding was taking place. Inside, I settled into a seat at the bar and was helped by two staff members, Hannah and Victoria as they took my food order (fish tacos) and brought over ALL THE BOOZE!
I found this cutie while visiting and had to take a photo! Her name is River and she was full of spunk!
I mentioned before that I’m a lightweight, right? I know, it’s ironic considering the nature of this blog, but I have a minimal alcohol tolerance and have to be mindful of that when tasting. Normally, my husband helps me with sampling, but I was traveling alone, and the last text I got from said husband was “Don’t get murdered by your Uber driver,” so I needed to be on alert. That said, I took some sips of each of the items included in my flights (yes, plural), which started with four of the Keel & Curley wines. I put complete faith in the helpful staff when choosing all of the drinks, and was provided with the following wines to sample: Strawberry Riesling, Key West Key Lime, Sweet Blueberry, and Wild Blueberry Pinot. The Pinot was the most dry of the four and the one I couldn’t stop sipping was the Key Lime. The crisp smell of lime and it’s sweet tartness was delicious.
My food came just as my flight of ciders arrived. The fish tacos were delicious and they paired nicely with the ciders. I sampled their: Elderberry, Strawberry-Lime, Peach, Pineapple and Blueberry ciders and enjoyed them all. They are sweet, but light and I’m sure they’re refreshing on a hot day. I’m accustomed to the dry apple-based ciders from New England so this flight was a welcome change from the norm that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Lastly, the beer. As you would expect, I progressed from the lighter beers to the darker, heavier beers. The first was a great “gateway beer” for those who say that they only drink budweiser. A sip of the Gilded Age Lager might bring someone over to the craft beer side! Of the mix, I most enjoyed the Roasted Jalepeno Blueberry Porter. First, because I like dark beers. Second, because of the sweetness paired with the warmth of the Jalepeno. It was a great way to wrap up my third flight of the evening!
I had a blast while visiting Two Henry's Brewing and Keel & Curley Winery! The staff were all incredibly kind and generous with their time and pours. I know where I’ll be visiting again next time I’m in their neck of the woods.
Before I wrap up this post, though, I want to swing back to Ginger and Mastiff Rescue, which is a cause that the owner, Alicia Keel, is passionate about. After having spent a decent amount of time with members of the Mastiff breed in the past, and have come to know and love them for their loyalty and intelligence. That said, I know that many potential Mastiff owners don’t properly do their homework when seeking the breed, which can lead to them being brought to shelters or breed-specific rescues. Having a member of this breed as a part of your family can be incredibly rewarding, but I want to be sure potential owners know what may be on their horizon.
To help with this, a fellow blogger and long-time Mastiff owner, Stephanie Seger, helped to dispel some myths regarding Mastiffs in her post titled “The 7 Most Common Myths Debunked,” on her blog called Big Dog Mom. I encourage you to read the post if you’re contemplating bringing a Mastiff into your fold. Along those lines, PLEASE consider adoption. Backyard breeding can result in a variety of issues and there are a large number of Mastiffs already in need of their forever homes that are being cared for by loving volunteers until a match is made.