Travelling to the Due South brewery is always an exceptional experience. It seems at times to be almost an illicit prospect, what with having to find parking around slabs of marble destined to be someone's kitchen countertop and making your way towards an enormous industrial warehouse. But it's that antithesis to any traditionally commercial hangout that's the draw for so many in this off-the-trail section of northern Boynton Beach.
The brewery has been making beer for a year now, and this past Sunday saw an anniversary party that brought beer lovers from across the area to this little warehouse on High Ridge.
As it was also Mother's Day, there were mothers aplenty; whom all seemed quite pleased to be doing something other than the normal brunch or the same year-in-year-out festivities. Floridians enjoy something different, that's for sure.
The previous year has seen an enormous interest and response to local brewing in surrounding municipalities, and in Boynton Beach in particular.
Mike Halker is the owner and brew master of Due South. He brings a passion to the table that is impossible to fake. That passion brought him from being a home brewer to doing it for a living. And he's a humble fellow.
For example, his highlights from the past year are simple ones, like, "Being able to get the beer on the market," and, "getting feedback on the beers from the community."
But let's get back to the party.
What was on tap?
Bridgeport Scotch Ale cask conditioned with fresh cherries, Pico Duarte Imperial Stout conditioned with oak spirals, Category 5 IPA... needless to say there was a lot to choose from.
Being a malt head, I went straight for the Bridgeport with cherries, which was a fantastic malty scotch ale. Hints of cherries on the nose opened up immensely as the beer warmed, which helped to bring a nice change of flavors over time. The casked Bridgeport with cherries, orange zest and oak, though, was the highlight of cask conditioned series on tap. Orange on the aroma and a muted wood flavor really pushed it into wine-like territory.
The Category 4 and 5 were impressive as always for IPAs, but the One Across The Bow English-style IPA was more balanced for my malt-centric palate. Hop lovers may disagree, but for them, I say enjoy your 4's and 5's!
On this day, the team has split the bartending duties in half, trading cash for tickets for beers. It works great, as the bartenders pouring the liquid gold can worry only about the beer and not have to handle the cash.
I run into Colleen, a 'beer'tender as she puts it, who pours pints during the week for thirsty patrons, but today is exchanging US currency for paper tickets.
"The place has good beer and good owners," she says, describing the atmosphere of the brewery as 'fun and chill'. Halker really helps with the employee knowledge, she says, and he teaches them about the process and the beer styles. She's a newly described 'hop head' and is in love with Category 4 IPA. As a full time teacher, Due South is a great opportunity for her to get a little extra work in. "I love it here."
Which is what patrons say as well. Take Tom and Eric, for example, who came up all the way from southern Broward to join the festivities. They wax a bit poetic on their personal experience with Halker.
"He's a very nice guy, very sincere," they said of their meeting one day in a homebrew shop two years ago. "He helped us out in picking some hops for our brew and really stoked that fire for us as homebrewers. We didn't know this guy, and he was just so friendly and helpful." Tom and Eric won the Funky Buddha March homebrew competition with their Belgian Bourbon Ale.
But what does the future hold for Halker and his team?
He put it fairly succinctly. "The goals for year two are to increase production, double where we are now by the end of that second year... Set up the canning line, sometime in the fall...Get the cans out to local markets, while prioritizing our draft customers."
"For most of us craft brewers it's not about making money, it's about making good beer. We'll reinvest the profit back into ourselves to satisfy demand," he continued. "I won't stop until everyone that wants to drink a Due South beer can do so."
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