It's a typically sleepy weekday night, and about a dozen people occupy the taproom at Pompano Beach's Bangin' Banjo Brewing Co. Open for about a month, this brewery has already become a spot where locals descend after a day of work. I wanted to stop in to check out how the new spot has been handling itself.
"It's been great," Bangin' Banjo Brewery owner Adam Feingold told me as he brought me back into the brewhouse; where the magic happens. He and brewer Matt Giani have stocked up on enough kegs of beer to open their impressive brewery and have continued to brew laboriously ever since swinging the doors opened.
After a thorough tour of the brewing facility, which is fully air conditioned (something that Giani is well appreciative of), I was brought back into the spacious taproom to sample seven of the beers on tap that night.
Picnic tables dominate the front half of the space and are soon displaced by a collection of high-top tables. Like Vlad the Impaler, the entire room is encircled by the remains of the owner's fallen enemies... well, the empty bottles of uncommon and rare beers from all over the world.
Sitting down, I was presented with a flight paddle that's shaped like a banjo. Quite fitting, naturally. As for the beer, the flight included a bevy of beers from styles all across the board.
Pleasing caramel and bready flavors mingle together in this amber ale. A fuller mouthfeel gives off a richness even at 5.5 percent alcohol by volume.
This malty Belgian red ale is "a tribute to Odin the cat" and features distinct Belgian yeast aromas and all-around character, as well as sharing an herb-like hop profile. The yeast did their work to 5.9 percent ABV.
Hop of the Muffin IPA
Bangin' Banjo's current year-round hop-forward beer, Hop of the Muffin is packed with American hops (Apollo, Cascade, Columbus, and Summit) in a well-balanced subtly bitter East Coast arrangement (rounded flavors and citrusy aromas). It comes to the glass crystal clear and remains super drinkable though it hits at about a 6.3 percent alcohol by volume.
Moodoo Voodoo Stout
Oh, delicious stouts! Moodoo Voodoo is a magical concoction bursting at the seams with unfermentable lactose sugars. This leaves some residual sweetness in the beer, leading to a sweet stout. Notes of nutmeg, raisin, and chocolate all vie for attention while the aroma gives off some subtle roast. It's 6.4 percent ABV.
The Gose Getter
This should show the state of craft beer when a brewery that isn't sour specific begins life with a gose on tap. It's even a year-rounder. The Gose Getter is a fruity sour beer but not overly acidic or overwhelming. It holds that characteristic wheaty grit at the end and is finished off with coriander and fresh orange peel. It's a nice refreshing 4.4 percent ABV.
Endurance Potion Belgian Blonde
Part of the "Potion" series, these videogame-themed beers will be a rotating set intriguing brews. Currently, they have Endurance, their Belgian blonde. It's lemony, spritzy, and contains that ever-lovely Belgian yeast character. It's 6.2 percent ABV and will make you feel like a bear.
The beers are the main draw, and this sampling was just that: a sampling. The crew is constantly moving things forward: dry hopping for fun, creating banana pale ale, and trying out new styles... even revisiting old ones. Like their Black IPA that releases today.
"The first time we made this beer, despite the conditions not being ideal, this was the first beer that came out 'exceptional' for us," Adam told us. This was during the early days of their brewing in 2012. "We had been brewing for about five months prior... and all of our beers tasted like 'homebrews.' This beer was one of the first beers we brewed that began to set apart what we could do and what we had already done, and that was without controlled fermentation.
"Every time we've brewed this beer as homebrewers, it got better and better. The beer became the namesake for our brewery just because of the history behind it, the sentimental value, and is just a testament to what we do.
"This isn't a beer with rare ingredients, an absurdly high ABV, special processes, or anything that I would consider extraordinary. This is just the black IPA you want to drink."
It's simply a black IPA (or Cascadian Dark Ale, if you're a PNW'er) that uses four kinds of hops. It's currently available in the taproom.
At the end of the day, they are seeking to partner with a distributor to get kegs out the door and into the hands of the many local bars and restaurants that are begging for their beer. (Gee, wouldn't this be a swell time for some limited self-distribution, don't you think, Florida Legislature?). They are optimistic and are content to serve out of the taproom while business is negotiated.
Until that day, the brewery and taproom will be sitting tight just off Sample Road and Powerline Road, creating away and slinging pints across the bar.
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Bangin' Banjo Brewing is located at 3200 NW 23rd Ave., Suite 500, Pompano Beach. Call 954-978-3113, or visit banginbanjobrewing.com.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.