Friday's here, so it's time for beer.
Every Friday, so long as the creek don't rise, this beer enthusiast will take a look at a Florida beer that, hopefully, should be readily available in a local shop or on tap at your favorite bar.
The swamp ape. Florida's bigfoot. This mythical creature, also known as the Myakka "Skunk Ape", was (is?) an ape-like monster that is said to inhabit central Florida, from the backyards of suburban Sarasota to the marshy interiors of Holopaw and Brooksville. Sightings and legends from the 1960's and 70's point to an orangutan-type creature that is recognizable not only from its' visual presence, but from its' unusually appalling smell.
Perfect choice for a beer name, then, right?
Swamp Ape from Florida Beer Company is labelled as a double IPA, meaning it should be bursting with hop flavors, aromas, and an almost astringent level of hops -- kinda similar to a swamp ape, I suppose.
On the stats side, this DIPA comes to us with the following bill of health: 10% abv, 85 IBUs derived from 5 distinct hop varieties (Tettnang, Centennial, Chinook, Cascade, Amarillo), and a malt bill of 2-Row, European and Cherry Wood smoked malts.
But what's in it on the taste side?
This four-pack, which was easily available at my local Total Wine & More, has no discernible production date, but does have 'brewed in Cape Canaveral' on the label, so it must be relatively new.
At first pour, I get floral scents, honey, and pollen notes. Not at all what I am expecting from an imperial IPA. It's also the color of apple juice, or a nice thick cider. You can see through it a bit, but there is body to it -- not cloudy, but there.
Sipping, (and this is one to do that to,) I'm greeted with a sweet malt flavor upfront, that moves to a sizzling effervescent bitterness and finally into alcohol-warmth lingering on the back end. The hops don't make themselves known until the second act, and, along with the booziness, linger on after you swallow. In fact, taking another sip right afterwards intensifies this sensation.
It also has a bit of cough syrup consistency on the mouth feel, like a liquor. It's a bit confusing from the name, as I'm expecting there to be much more hop intensity, and what we're given instead, is something closer to an American strong ale, or a 'hoppy blonde barleywine'. Whether it fits nicely into a BJCP style category or not, I find it very enjoyable. Just don't expect a traditional DIPA.
Florida Beer Company is in a bit of a turn-around as of late; with the transition to a larger capacity brewery on Cape Canaveral (versus their original facility in Melbourne) and the acquisition of former Holy Mackerel founder and brewer Bobby Gordash, the brewery is looking to take their beers to the next level.
Will that mean a re-categorization of this beer? Reformulation? Or do we as beer consumers accept a maltier DIPA as part of the style? Personally, I hope the formula doesn't change, because it's a good strong ale, but perhaps it deserves to move out of the imperial IPA category.
Unlike the real swamp ape, there's no mystery where to find this Swamp Ape. It's available in most major beer retailers, like Total Wine and ABC.
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