It's #FloridaBeerFriday, when we take a look at a beer brewed in the Sunshine State, giving analysis to the burgeoning craft-beer movement of Florida.
This week we're taking a trip down south to the islands where winter forgot, to the 'Village of Islands' known as Islamorada, where a brewery is producing an American wheat ale called Sandbar Sunday.
The town spans five different islands in the Florida Keys, is a sport fisherman's paradise, and is now home to Monroe County's newest brewery, Islamorada Beer Company. Their taproom opened to the public late last year, and they've begun distribution of this wheat ale into the South Florida market.
Though there is a 2 barrel brewing system in place at the taproom, the bottles out in distribution are contract brewed by Craft Brewing Company out of Saratoga Springs, New York. Interestingly, the contract brewers appear to also be called Olde Saratoga Brewing Company, which in turn is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mendocino Brewing Company of Ukiah, California, which in turn is 68% owned by United Breweries Limited, an India based holdings company that is known for the Kingfisher line of beers. See, beer can be complicated too.
Sandbar Sunday is an American wheat ale, and is named after the famous sandbar that hugs the Whale Harbor Channel a few hundred feet offshore. There, on any given weekend, dozens of boats will gather, anchor down, and its passengers disembark to enjoy the cool sandy waters and drink. In my youth I frequented this spot with my parents, and it became a frequently attended and sought-after vacation spot. Granted, I didn't partake in the booze at that time (do margaritas count?), but the sandbar has held a lofty spot in my memory ever since.
Here, the beer pours a deep golden amber color, giving off a minimal head that leaves just a small amount of lingering lacing and some hazy islands on the surface. There's a sweet malt aroma, with some mild butterscotch piercing through. This might be a sweet beer, you think. However, the body is surprisingly light, with moderate carbonation. It is indeed crisper than expected, with some lager-like bitterness, almost like an icy limeade, or similarly watered down tart citrus based beverage. The whole beer is wrapped in a mild butter flavor as well, and ticks in at only 4.75% abv: quite sessionable by today's standards.
The bottle desires us to enjoy it with a key lime wedge, and unfortunately we had none to spare. Maybe next time.
Overall, it's an easy drinking and inoffensively brewed beer. It's missing some quintessential wheat characteristics, which is slightly disappointing. It is, at the end of the day, a beer that's brewed to be enjoyed on the sandbar and other such Keys-worthy excursions.
Sandbar Sunday is available all over South Florida (there's even a fancy beer finder available) .
Follow #FloridaBeerFriday for more reviews of Sunshine State brews.
Get out there and #DrinkLocal.
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.