Head brewer Justin Miles is at it again over at The Mack House in Davie. After coming on board with Holy Mackerel's nano brewery last year, Miles has been busy crafting recipe after recipe of 'off-centered' beers (pardon the usage Dogfish Head!) on a 2 barrel system for the small tap room.
Most beer drinkers will be familiar with the more dessert-y types of beers that frequent top 10 lists across the country: chocolate barrel aged this, or creme brule that... even previous offerings from the Mack House have been in that range. During South Florida Beer Week, they put out a Maple Chipotle Brown ale and a Chocolate Coconut Porter.
But this time, Miles wanted to bring some of his love of the culinary world into the glass.
"An idea comes from either Larry [Hatfield] or Kyle [Hatfield]," he says. The Hatfields are the current proprietors of the Mack House. "It's then my job to figure it out."
The idea of a sausage beer came up, and Miles ran with it. "I needed to come up with a recipe that was suited to the idea of sausage in it. It had to be good, and it had to almost drink like a meal."
In the end, Miles decided to go in the route of the cajun-style sausage, something that would tie in with the then-upcoming holiday of Mardi Gras. The process involved simply boiling fresh sausage in the wort (sorry kids, this is definitely not vegan friendly), and proceeding normally from there. The addition of some fresh thyme and bay leaves at the end made this akin to making a pot of 'sauce' rather than a barrel of beer.
What came out surprised even him. "Usually I'm my own worst critic, but this one, after tasting the first samples... it was really good."
The beer went on tap this past Tuesday, and I decided to head in to try it out for myself. I would say I was skeptical: beers with bacon I've enjoyed, because, well, bacon. But sausage? It just seemed too over the top.
Turns out I was wrong.
The beer is a dark brown, mildly transparent with a tight off-white layer of foam that hangs around in wisps as you drink. The aroma is decidedly herbal, with the thyme and bay leaf really coming out. On the palate, it's a mildly roasty beer with that same thyme and bay leaf flavor, but there are also hints of fennel and green pepper. It finishes cleaner than expected. Beyond some of the flavorings traditionally used in sausage, the meaty flavors don't come out too much, which leaves this beer working with the herbs as its main show.
While I was there, some others sampled and were as pleasantly surprised as I was.
If oddities are your thing, head down to the Mack House before the end of the weekend, as it will assuredly be kicked by then. Only 20 gallons were produced, so get it while the gettin' is good.
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.
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