Best Florida Beers of 2015 | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

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#FloridaBeerFriday: The Best Florida Beers of 2015

It's December, and that can mean only one thing: end-of-year-list time!

Those who have followed the blog for the last year have seen our attempt at tasting and sampling a Florida produced beer every week — AKA #FloridaBeerFriday. That has lead to a vast archive of beer-tasting notes in which to cull together a list.

This list, in fact.

Looking back is like flipping through a photo album of flavors. Some of these beers are one-offs and very surely will not be seen again. Others are stalwart standards and can be found on any beer-store shelf at any time of the year. Yet some again are seasonal favorites that come around for just a few weeks a year.

Whatever the case may be, these are nine beers that wowed us, made us excited, and showed that Florida is a juggernaut when it comes to craft beer producers. These are all our 'Beers of the Year'!

9. Oak Aged Black IPA from Tequesta Brewing Company
Tequesta's Oak Aged Black IPA is a variation on the Cascadian dark ale (an India pale ale brewed with roasted grains that lend a roasted complement to the hop bitterness), taking a black IPA and aging it on wood to bring out another dimension of flavors. It is brewed to be 7.8 percent ABV.

The beer pours a dark brown that advances towards cola-colored and deep ruby red along the edges. There's a nice off white crown of foam that dissipates at a medium pace. Aromas of mild earthy pine-heavy hops join forces with bitter coffee and dark cocoa. It has an almost American porter-like richness to the body, but without any of the sweetness associated with such a thing. Just a base to bring about the bittering characters of the hops. The beer finishes with a hit of dry woody oak that lasts and lasts and lasts long after you've finishing taking a drink.

8. Hog Fish Amber Ale from Florida Keys Brewing Company
There's finally a brewery to hit on your way down through the Keys, and it's right at Mile Marker 81.6 oceanside in Islamorada. Florida Keys Brewing Company opened this year and proved to the world that Keys life doesn't need to run on imported Mexican beers.

Hog Fish amber is touted as a 5.4 percent ABV amber ale, arriving in the glass as one would expect. It pours a clear dark orange-ish brown with a lingering but minimal amount of head. Aromas are super mild but give off hints of an underlying sweetness. It hits the tongue with a very malty base, which moves from sweet honeyed bread to more nutty-forward notes. The finish ties a bow around the flavor with a well-rounded bitterness that complements the foundation of grains.

7. Keybilly Island Ale from Brew Hub
Keybilly is a flavored amber ale brewed with Key lime juice and holds the distinction of being the first beer in the Brew Hub's Craft Collection, a series of distinct craft beers the company plans to brew. 

Brew Hub is a 51,000-square-foot facility that doles out commercial beer, for a fee, to brewers struggling to keep up with demand. Some of its current clients include Islamorada-based Keybilly Brewery, Cigar City Brewing, Orange Blossom Pilsner of Orlando, the California-based BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse, and Green Man Brewery of Asheville, North Carolina. It's a way for brewers to be flexible with demand without shelling out for expensive expansions or, in the case of Keybilly, to produce a beer without needing a full-fledged brewery space.

Keybilly pours a remarkably bright golden color with reddish orange hues, like that perfect Gulf sunset during the summer, and holds a wispy white head. This is a gorgeous-looking beer.

Aromas are strong with scents of pineapple, lime, and starfruit, with some minor caramel flavors peeking out. The flavor is, like, a Key lime pie. An underlying current of honey graham cracker malt base highlights the slightly tart and acidic fruity overtones that come through. It's not an overly sweet flavor but fully gives the impression that this is a pie-flavored beer without losing the "beer" aspects.

6. Wynwood Mack Rumours from Wynwood Brewing Company and the Mack House
Collaboration is a beautiful thing, which is why when the folks at Great American Beer Festival-winners Wynwood Brewing Company decided to team up with the noted experimenters at the Mack House, there was bound to be a delicious beer on the way. It ended as an amber Belgian ale, brewed with saison yeast, and honey from local Natural Chai Farms.

It pours an opaque brownish red, that touches on orange. It's difficult to see through, but that's by design. "We wanted it done the old way, with no filtering," Miles said. A ring of khaki foam tops the beer and lingers. On the aroma, a spicy yeast presence is hard to miss, and anyone that has imbibed a Belgian dubbel or the like will immediately sense the similarities.

Taking a sip, there is a full body of sweetness that moves into a lot of grape character, light fruits, and a spicy ester-heavy finish. A hint of spicy yeast flavor clings to the back end as well, sealing the deal. As for alcohol, it hits home at 8.1 percent ABV.

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Doug Fairall
Contact: Doug Fairall

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