Drinkin' Beer at Ye Olde Falcon Pub, the Lodge Beer & Grill, and Brother Tuckers
Liquor is a cruel, messy mistress, and she doesn't love me. The last time I saw her, she left me with a hangover that lasted for three days. So, as I do every time she leaves me aching, I swore her off. It won't last, of course — but it will give me ample time to make her jealous by experimenting with her smart, sexy, multilayered cousin, Miss Beer.
Early in life, my parents impressed upon me the beauty of beer. Beer is the answer to hot summer days; beer is the answer to a long day at work; good times come straight from the brewery. South Florida might be overrun with more people who enjoy consorting with Miss Liquor than those who love soaking up the thick, foamy, imported flavor of Miss Beer, but I was determined to find the beer-loving hot spots scattered throughout the region. They're out there, and, as I discovered, they're worth looking for.
Ye Olde Falcon Pub: Stepping inside this dark, wooden pub is like happening upon an ancient, sacrosanct ritual ground for a tribe of beer worshipers. It is low-lit, with scuffed floors, wooden tables, booths, and a huge oval-shaped bar smack-dab in the middle of the joint. A mounted warthog head hangs over a doorway, wearing a Santa hat (clearly some kind of sacrifice to their heathen beer god). Blackboards mounted over the bar tick off all the available brews (the alcohol percentages are conveniently there as well).
My friends Beard and Fancy had already found a spot at the bar and were peppering the blond, bored beer guardian with questions. In the middle of the space behind the bar sits the true gold: Illuminated by overhead lights, the beer taps glowed with heavenly glory.
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"How many beers do y'all have?" I asked the bartender.
"Forty-nine," she said with a small smile. "Soon to be 50."
"What's the general patron favorite?" I pestered.
"Right now, it's our pumpkin ale," she said. She suggested we each purchase four small samples for $8.
"Which has the highest alcohol content?" I demanded. She and Beard laughed at my question: She thought I was kidding; he knew I wasn't.
"It's the Delirium, at 9 percent — we don't give samples of that, though," she said, teasing.
Was she insinuating we couldn't handle it? We'd show her.
She recommended the Holy Mackerel — a close 8.5 percent. Done.
Beard and I agreed on the Holy Mackerel, the Falcon house brew (5 percent), Brooklyn Lager (5.2 percent), and Purple Haze (4.2 percent). Fancy decided to go balls-out and order a romantic, wheaty brew called "The Love" — a beer aficionado's creamy wet dream. She served us our four samples on a Leinenkugel wooden paddle, and we threw back, swapping glasses among the three of us.
Of the four, Beard and Fancy both gagged on the dark, bitter Holy Mackerel, and I got a buzz just from sniffing it. Fancy found the Purple Haze — a soft, light brew — to be boring, so I drank it all. Beard relished the Brooklyn, which had a sharp, tangy taste; all three of us agreed that the Falcon house beer — a rich taste reminiscent of Newcastle — was the best.
The Lodge Beer & Grill: When I visited the Lodge shortly after it opened, the place was empty, it smelled like wood, and the air conditioning was broken. It has come a long way since then.
Shenandoah, the pretty, petite bartender, had purposely disheveled brown hair, and her skin was tattooed with stars and randomly strewn inspirational words like "Hallelujah" and "Live on." She smiled. "We've got quite a following now."
The Lodge boasts more than 100 kinds of beer, including imports, domestics, and microbrews. Its unique, brick- and wood-wall interior makes it seem more like a low-ceilinged Colorado cabin than a South Florida brew joint; its scant décor (mostly chalked-up blackboards and antler chandeliers), low-key atmosphere, and copious specials (regulars get 20 percent off on Mondays; Sunday is "kill the keg" night) make it the perfect place to pass the time.
"Give me something," I instructed Shenandoah. She nodded and spent careful time studying the taps until she found the perfect brew for a pushy girly-girl like me: Gulden Draak, a classic imported ale with a 10.5 percent alcohol content. She informed me that it would taste sweet without being syrupy like a soda.
I cautiously took a taste and approved its refreshing flavor.
Then the other bartender, a thin, bearded fellow with numerous tats, cracked open a bottle of Kasteel Rogue. He poured a small taste for himself, Shenandoah, and me. He said something in Russian.
"To your health," Shenandoah translated. We all sipped. He spoke in Russian again and translated himself: "That means, there goes your health."
I didn't care. "This is delicious," I said, draining the blood-colored brew from my shot glass. "It tastes like pure cherries!"
"Careful," Shenandoah warned. "Those cherries have an 8 percent alcohol content."
Next, the bearded bartender introduced us to Trappistes Rochefort, which caused both Shenandoah and a customer — a male pilot — to become rather girlishly giddy.
"What's the big deal?" I took a sip of the beer.
"Warm it first with your hands," Shenandoah instructed. "Even as a novice, you'll notice the warmth will open the flavor."
I did as I was told. The Trappistes was really tasty — and I felt a special kind of manliness just by drinking it.
"It is good," I said, trying to sound smart.
"There are only a few cases of that stuff in all of Florida," Shenandoah said with a slight you'd-better-appreciate-it air. "It's brewed by monks, and they only let a little bit into the U.S. at a time."
"I feel closer to God when I have this," she continued.
Brother Tuckers: Brother Tuckers is lost amid a strip of nail salons, barber shops, and sub stops. But once you're inside, you can claim sanctuary against the outside world, bury your face in a frothy brew, and thank your particular deity for it.
Brother Tuckers bills itself as a beer and wine garden, and they rock it just like in the mother country. The one-roomed bar is small and low-lit, with a wide-brick décor, candle-bearing sconces, mirrors, and various artistic incarnations of ruddy-faced, happily imbibing monks. There are a few paintings of beer bottles and beer-filled mugs, and a blackboard echoes the menu's beer selection (which boasts Belgian strong ales, stouts, wheat beers, pale ales, light beers, and pretty much everything else). A small sign above the jukebox reads, "Good beer; good cheer; always on tap."
We plopped down near the jukebox, and Ian — the stubbly, broad-chested bartender — offered us first a sample of Scaldis, but when Beard took a sip and opened his mouth, I could smell the full 12 percent alcohol content hanging from his breath. We opted to go with St. Bernardus Tripel, one of Beard's favorite beers.
"Who was St. Bernardus?" I asked Beard, pointing to the depiction on the beer label — a smiling, rosy-cheeked man wearing robes, pointing skyward with one hand, and holding a brew in the other.
"I'm the patron saint of kick-ass beers, obviously," answered St. Bernardus, actually Beard throwing his voice and moving the bottle in a manner to imply it was talking.
"What does that have to with God?" I asked.
"We couldn't come up with an elaborate delusion that involves an all-powerful alien who controls our destinies without alcohol, and lots of it," answered St. Bernardus.
"That seems sacrilegious," I observed.
"I meant 'Beer is God's gift,' " St. Bernardus amended.
Just then, Ian walked back over to check on us, so we stopped fiddling with the now-empty bottle.
"Why aren't beer bars more popular around here?" I wondered aloud.
"A lot of people associate beer with the blue-collar lifestyle," said Ian. "Martini and wine bars are aimed at the white-collar or wannabe white-collar folks."
"This is way classier," interjected Beard. His St. Bernardus was rich, smooth, tasty, worth savoring. It also had an 8 percent alcohol content. Beat that, Blue Martini.
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