In anticipation of the upcoming New Times' Beerfest (Saturday, March 31, in downtown Fort Lauderdale) Clean Plate Charlie has been talking with South Florida beer aficionados and experts about the state of beer in Florida and beyond.
Earlier this week, we talked to John Linn of Brown Distributing, who said craft beer was (finally) taking off in Florida, citing the 84 percent growth rate of craft beer business at Florida-based Brown Distributing in 2011.
Bobby Gordash, founder and head brewer for South Florida-based crafter Holy Mackerel, echoed that sentiment this week, saying the industry had nowhere to go but up.
"Craft beer is booming right now," Gordash said. "[But] it has a long ways to go."
Gordash said Florida -- and South Florida in particular -- lags behind many other regions in the country when it comes to embracing American craft beer and microbrews. Within our own state, southeast Florida has been slower to catch on to the trend in comparison to cities like Tampa and Orlando, where craft beer enjoys a robust culture.
"Even Atlanta -- just one state away -- is a hugely craft-beer-oriented place," Gordash said.
That being said, Gordash cited 2011 as Holy Mackerel's biggest year to date. His products have increased in popularity at such a rate that his main priority is simply "keeping up with demand." Once that is under control, he is looking to expand the Holy Mackerel brand with a small tasting room in Broward County where he can work on test batches and beer fans can enjoy beer that has been brewed on premises. Clean Plate Charlie will report more on that plan as it progresses and details become available.
In the meantime, Gordash offered advice on the kind of brew that craft beer devotees can use to win over their more mainstream friends.
"Holy Mackerel Special Golden Ale," he said. "It's got a nice, sweet taste."
Gordash said the ale -- made with Pilsner malt, Saaz hops, and Belgian Trappist yeast -- isn't bitter like many craft beers, and that makes it more palatable for someone who is easing into the craft beer sector after a lifetime of Corona and Miller. One caveat: Because it doesn't have the heavy, bitter kick typically associated with a strong craft beer, it conceals the higher alcohol content -- 8.5 percent ABV -- so newbies should pace themselves.
"It's a good poolside, down-by-the-beach beer, but the downside is it's strong," Gordash said.
Curious to try other Holy Mackerel brews? Brown Distributing will be at Beerfest with nearly 30 beers, among them three from Holy Mackerel: Mack in Black, Special Wit, and Panic Attack.
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