Ten Best South Florida Craft Beers
Say, for a moment, you've got only one night to spend in South Florida. How would you sample the local beer scene? Luckily, we've assembled a list of some of the best and brightest locally produced beers.
With new breweries opening seemingly every few months and the beer culture expanding faster than the FDOT can add new lanes to I-95, it's hard to keep track of who is offering what.
In a perfect world, one would be able to grab some of these in bottles or cans, but this is not that world. Instead, we will approach this conundrum with the assumption that you're able to fill up with growlers or use your knowledge of matter-energy conversion and beam yourself from bar to bar.
Some breweries are featured more than once, because this list is about the individual beers and not the breweries as a whole -- all of which we hold in high esteem. Rather, each of these craft brews represents some of the best work of its respective brewer.
So, here it is, the ten best craft beers brewed in South Florida.
10. Der Chancellor Kolsch from Tequesta Brewing
We would start our session light, beginning first with Tequesta Brewing's Der Chancellor Kolsch. This German-American styled Kolsch, and New Times' best beer of 2011, is a straw-colored delight from the fellas up in Jupiter. Brewed in the traditional style of a crisp and clean beer, the team at Tequesta put a bit of that American hop flavor into theirs that lets it stand out in a crowd. It's pleasant and perfect to get your taste buds going.
9. City Fest from Brewzzi
We'd then move on to Brewzzi's City Fest, a Vienna lager, or marzen beer, that has a rich malt base and a closing hop bitterness to seal the deal. This is a little sweeter than a Sam Adams Boston Lager but in the same territory. At only 5.5 percent alcohol by volume, it's another good early beer and would work incredibly by itself as a session beer.
8. Big Rod Ale from Miami Brewing Company
Now, let's travel down south and sample some of the tropics with Miami Brewing Company's Big Rod Ale. No, it doesn't taste fishy at all (though tap handles are big fishing rods), this is the brewery's popular coconut blond ale. This beer is like a pina colada rushing in, with hints of vanilla bean that's followed by an effervescent mouthfeel and a light malt backbone. The finish is crisp but still flavorful with a bit of coconut. At 5.4 percent abv and low IBUs of 16.5, it's a drinkable if highly coconut-y session beer. We love it for its Floridacentric appeal -- and it tastes good.
7. Hoppy Berliner Weisse from Funky Buddha Brewery
There's a trend of sour beers as of late, with the almost-unheard-of Berliner weisse style making a huge comeback in the craft beer world. A cloudy, sour, low-alcohol beer that was popular in Germany has made inroads into the minds of American brewers, and Funky Buddha Brewery is no exception. The Boca Raton and Oakland Park brewers have been experimenting with a delicious example of the neo-Berliner for quite some time, racking up impressive fruit-oriented beers for each batch that is brewed. Seemingly using whatever is fresh and on hand, the team puts together beers with pineapple, Key lime, starfruit, raspberry, or passionfruit. The Hoppy Berliner Weisse is one of the most approachable sour beers found in the area. It has a cloudy yellow color and slightly sweet and tart aroma, which gives way to a grainy and lemonade refreshing taste. At 5 percent abv, it's higher than a traditional Berliner, but that's no matter here; this is a great beer to get accustomed to the sometimes daunting arena of sours. If it's not available, try any of the fruit-based weisse beers -- it's a must-drink.
6. Gnarly Barley from Tequesta Brewing
Another pick at our friends to the north in Tequesta, this is Gnarly Barley, an American pale ale with enough flavor to get you going for pint after pint. It's like a hoppy amber (produced with three hop varietals) with a bit of grain kick to it and malt backbone to keep it from becoming snarled into IPA territory. Classic American pale ales are less renown nowadays, it seems, but make no mistake on this one -- it's a true standard and amazing example from the brewers at Tequesta. It also runs at a respectable 6 percent abv, so watch yourself if you're going to attack these hand-over-fist. Which you totally can.
5. Hop Gun IPA from Funky Buddha Brewery
Let's get those hops flowing. By now, we're attuned to the flavors and aromas of refreshing and balanced beers, so it is time to buzz the tower with Oakland Park's flagship Funky Buddha Brewery's Hop Gun IPA. This is a perfect example of what hops can do yet not taste like a pine tree fell into your glass. This one is brewed with Cascade (good core American hop flavor), Galena (a Brewers Gold hybrid, giving floral and fruit aromas), and Nelson Sauvin (from New Zealand, heavy on the citrus) hops, allowing a full spectrum of hop flavors come to the forefront. It's also a bit stronger at 7.7 percent abv, but the strong malt backbone keeps it all from feeling in any way boozy.
4. Category 4 IPA from Due South Brewing
Tie down the boats and put away the patio furniture, as a hurricane of hops is on the loose in the form of Due South's Category 4 IPA. It's considered by the brewers as an intensely hopped Irish red ale (at 85 IBUs), and we couldn't agree more. Hop aromas of grapefruit, citrus pith, and a note of maltiness dominate the nose, with a flavor of assertive citrus and resinous hops riding that small paddleboard of a malt backing. It's what we want in an IPA, and it fits perfectly after our run of sweet beers. It joins the heavier club at 7.7 percent abv.
3. Caramel Cream Ale from Due South Brewing
Even though we're passing through some modestly alcoholic beers, it doesn't mean we won't be getting anything flavorful. That's especially the case with Due South Brewing's Caramel Cream Ale. Arguably the brewery's most popular beer, it's also one of the best it makes. Caramel candy notes come through on a modest body of malts and hops, like sniffing a bowl of Werthers Originals. It's even dry-hopped with vanilla to give it that extra burst of aroma. It's another all-day type beer at 5 percent abv, but we've got more to sample, so just the one, please.
2. Psycho Phish from the Mack House
We're going for some interesting beers now, especially with the Mack House's Psycho Phish, its blend of Holy Mackerel Brewing's Panic Attack and Special Golden Ale, infused with Florida navel oranges. "But surely," you protest, "this is a blend of beers like a black and tan!" Not quite. The Mack House is the nanobrewery for Holy Mackerel, meaning that it's as close to a mini-mad-scientist lab as you can get. Taking the flagship brands and placing them into secondary for the infusion of the oranges is just another step in the brewing process. Since the base beers are quite the kickers, this beer comes in at 9 percent abv and holds tons of flavor. The richness from the fresh oranges makes itself known in a juice-like fashion that melds perfectly with the rich almost cloyingly sweet malt base and yeasty characters of both the Panic Attack and Special Golden. It's a must-drink.
1. Maple Bacon Coffee Porter from Funky Buddha Brewery
The final beer of the night is the trickiest, since it's a special release that may or may not be available at any time. If the picture didn't give it away, we're talking about Funky Buddha's Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, an insane offering from brewmaster Ryan Sentz. This is the beer that put Funky Buddha on the beer world's radar, and it consistently pulls it off to much success, unlike some other brewery's pink-bottled production. The recipe has changed a bit over time, going from 6.3 percent abv to around 10 percent, with an increase in body from the previous incarnations. A nose of sweet syrup begins the journey. Then, a brash, almost-cloying sweetness at first drink relaxes into the greasy Irish bacon meatiness of the middle and finally calms down into coffee and mild cigar notes. On-the-spot mouthfeel. Superb.
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