Western Boca Raton has little in the way of interesting beer spots, but Chef Daniel of the Sybarite Pig has decided to make it his mission to bring good beer to the Mission Bay area, and this past weekend saw the appearance of sour beer master Johnathan Wakefield of the soon-to-be opened J. Wakefield Brewing.
Armed with kegs of sour beers on ice, Wakefield was poised to make his mark on the gathered crowd, and most of them were enjoying it. It looked like both beers (the Frambuesa Gloriosa and Austin Milbarge Florida Weisse) were indeed the A-list celebrities of the restaurant.
With a mild aroma of grape must, the Austin Milbarge Florida Weiss belies what will be coming in flavor. Highly assertive and intense tart upfront slap sour citrus fruit onto your tongue. It's like an intense sour candy. It then flows outward into a prominently grainy wheatiness (yeah, that's a word I'm using) and rests as a nice, slightly acidic but refreshing drink. Think a cold lemonade on a hot day.
It's close to a classic Berliner style, but with just that little bit of extra grape punch to it that knocks it up into another level.
If for some reason you missed him on Saturday, you can find him around town on June 22 at the Palm Beach Craft Brew Festival, or if you happen to be in the Tampa area, he'll be pouring at the Sourfest at the Cajun Cafe in Pinellas Park on June 15.
Beyond these events, Wakefield is focused on continuing to start his South Florida brewery.
As word gets out on the upcoming opening of his 15-barrel brewery this year, he tries to head off a lot of rumors by being forthcoming with the current timeline.
"It bodes well, and I'm looking at possibly December to open," he says. "It's part of the game, you know? You must wait for all good things."
"Like you can't rush a beer?" I ask.
"Exactly," he responds.
The sour-beer market is small but growing.
"There's as much more flavor and complexity in this 4 percent beer than a barrel-aged stout, for example," said Jonathan. "[There are] tons of different aspects in something of low alcohol content."
That's what Wakefield has become known for: full-flavored, low-alcohol sour beers. Much the same as the Old World Belgian and Dutch-styled beers.
"It's still pretty new for most beer drinkers," he said.
But beyond the notoriety of sour beers, Wakefield produces a bevy of "standard" beers, including wheats, ambers, porters, and stouts. His favorite go-to beer is "probably the smoked coconut porter."
When asked about his online infamy, especially among the beer forums, he tries to just shake it off.
"It's exciting, for sure, but it's extra pressure... good pressure," he says. "I'm just hoping that when I open the doors [to the brewery] that it isn't a case of 'no one's there.'"
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