A conversation with @TheCraftBrewnette

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This post is part of an on-going series of posts where we plan to highlight craft beer personalities from Instagram.

Today, we talk to Ashleigh (@TheCraftBrewnette). Ashleigh is a Florida-based craft beer fan and teacher who enjoys “pints, pups, and plane tickets”.

In today’s interview, she shares her craft journey that started in California and now has her drinking her way around the Florida beer scene. We’re big fans of Florida, so of course we loved chatting with her… and we’re also big fans of dogs.

You can follow Ashleigh on Instagram at @TheCraftBrewnette.

You know we have to start the interview with an important question.. What was the first craft you ever had?

Okay, so this is a whole story! I actually hated beer for the longest time, but it turns out that the beer at college fraternity parties is very different from the craft I know and love today. My first craft beer was actually a Delirium Tremens. We had this bar/restaurant in San Luis Obispo, CA, called Spike’s that had a beer challenge – like a “drink-around-the-world” or “try-this-many-beers” kind of thing, I can’t even remember specifically. Some of my friends were into it, and I tagged along. They convinced me to order one and get in on the fun, so naturally I picked the one with the cute pink elephants. (Duh.) I took one sip and thought, “This is NOT the same beer that I’m used to.” 

But before we dive in further, let’s ask an EVEN more important question:  What are the names of your dogs?  (We did a little creeping around your highlights before this interview)

Creep away… I love my doggos, as you probably figured out! The first one is Indy, named after Indiana Jones. She was so small when I brought her home that she could sit in my hand, but that didn’t stop her from jumping off the back of the couch, running up and down the stairs, and getting insane zoomies everywhere. As I was watching the tiny wild thing exhibit so much courage, I started humming the IJ theme song and it stuck. Lainey is another story! I teach at a university and did a service project with one of my classes making dog toys out of old t-shirts for our local humane society. When I dropped them off, I walked around to say hi to all the fur babies and fell in love. They had named her Lainey, and as a kid who grew up during the teenage rom-com glory days, I immediately started calling her Lainey Boggs like the movie She’s All That. I was a goner from that moment forward.

Ok so, back to business, what was it that made you fall in love with craft beer?

So the first beer I fell in love with was actually the 805 Blonde Ale from @firestonewalker. After the first time I tried it, I was fired up. It turned out that I lived right in between both of their Central Coast breweries, so I got to hit up the brewery too. It was fascinating. That’s what got me started, but what kept me coming back was the community craft beer creates and the passion that goes into it. The more I meet other craft beer lovers, then beertenders, then brewers and brewery owners, the more I realize what an awesome medium this is as both an art and a science, as well as just how much it brings people together. For example, I recently went to Rockpit Brewing in Orlando, on recommendation from @floridahopmama and @maltymaiden. While sipping their beers, the owner Chris sat down at my table, and we all had the best conversation (and great beers) for so long. Then he brought over two other craft IGers, @thehopcircles and @beers.beards.bbq, and it was so exciting to meet them in person. I left so energized… and slightly tipsy!

What are some of your favorite beer styles at the moment?

This is a tough question – I love so many! I’ve always been a stout and porter girl, but I recently ignited a new obsession with saisons AND rekindled my love affair with sours . However, show me an ale of any color, and I’ll probably love it… blonde, brown, amber, red. There are too many to choose from! But you will always get my attention with a peanut butter brew. Always.

While we’re on the topic, what are some of your favorite breweries at the moment?

Another hard choice. You really came to play with these questions! I recently fell in love with Tactical Brewing in Orlando. I was excited to see what they were all about after seeing their epic can art on IG, but when I got there… holy s***. Their Wildlicious Fruited Sour was phenomenal, and the Reese E’s Phone Home Double White Stout was divine. I came home with a 4-pack of everything they had in the cooler. I’m also a big fan of Southern Tier all year round, and I had the best time at Denver Beer Company last time I was there. We also can’t forget it’s about to be pumpkin season… Shipyard, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Harpoon, and UFO, I SEE YOU.

I love the SWFL beer scene so much, I travel there at least once a year (prior to COVID).  I’m a big fan of Odd Breed and Gulf Stream.  What are some your favorite SWFL breweries?

I’m based in Fort Myers, so locally, you are most likely to find me at Point Ybel, Palm City Brewing, Momentum Brewhouse, Big Storm, Crazy Dingo, Eight Foot Brewing, or Fort Myers Brewing Company. (Okay, okay, that was a long list.)  However, all of our SWFL breweries are killing it! They’re all on the SWFL Ale Trail passport, which was just named the #8 hidden gem in Florida by Travel & Leisure. Their passports come out every March, so I always start the “brew year” with some fresh stamps. However, I’m not afraid to advertise that I “will travel for beer”, so don’t be surprised if I drive up to Calusa or Big Top!

I see you’re originally from California.  Do you see any major differences between the CA and FL beer scenes?

You know, every individual brewery is unique. That’s what I love about this crew! Florida and California are so different in general, like two different worlds, and I see those aspects reflected in each area. (I definitely had a bit of interstate culture shock when I made the cross-country move.) However, the foundations run deep, and some things remain the same wherever you go. Namely, the awesome people, the creativity, and passion I mentioned earlier.

If you could travel to one beer city you’ve never been before, which would it be?

I’m an insatiable traveler, so is “all of them” an acceptable answer? In all seriousness, I’ve had my eye on Asheville, NC, for quite some time. (What’s up, @highlandbrewing?!) And I’m pretty sure you could drop me anywhere in the middle of Colorado and I’d be justtttt fine.

Do you have any other Instagram accounts you’d recommend for beer lovers?

I do! I have met so many awesome people through IG. For their amazing photography alone, I highly recommend @thebeergal, @hopsandhues, and @jasonsjourney.mn . For creativity, I love @glimmerofhop and @brewswithbunny. I have to shoutout @roxy_liquid_dream and @juicebombhero, who have absolutely been the biggest IG supporters in so many ways. There are also some absolutely kickass beer babes out there, and while there are soooo many I love, a good place to start is @maltymaiden, @swfl_brewblonde, @brews.with.beerkowski, and @craftbeeryogini. And lastly, everyone knows I’m a big fan of @drinking_with_will_shakesbeer… Can I keep going?!

Lastly, how can our readers at all home find you online?

So far the best place to find me is on Instagram at @thecraftbrewnette. But when I get rolling, it’s hard for me to stop, so be on the lookout for more in the future! Cheers! 💋🍻