South Florida is frequently criticized for being slow to get catch. But when it comes to malted beverages, you don't have to wait for brewers to "get with the program" on hot trends. After this year's Great American Beer Festival, it's clear that brewers in South Florida are already getting themselves onto the cutting edge of craft and pushing the style envelope with ever-increasing flavor combinations.
We've taken the top four trends that Draft Magazine calls out as the takeaway ideas from the GABF and found South Florida brewers who are already putting them to the test.
1. Craft Lagers
"Craft lagers are here. We’ve identified the rise of American craft lagers, and GABF only confirmed it."
Due South Brewing Co. is already into the lager game, producing Craft American Lager, a sessionable 4.6 percent ABV lagered beer which won a 2015 Best Florida Beer Championships Bronze Medal in the German Pilsner category. Tequesta Brewing Co. has been on the forefront of craft lagers for years with beers like Lucky Langer Lager, an Almond Joy Dark Lager, India Pale Lager, and Red Lager, just to name a few. Even at GABF, Funky Buddha Brewery was on trend when it brought in Abe Froman's Vienna Lager and is working its Oktoberfest magic with a Czech pilsner called Saaz Matters.
Trend Score: A
2. Hopped Sour and Wild Ales
"The best versions match citrusy, earthy or spicy hops with their complimentary Brett or wild yeast strains, yielding funky-sour-bitter profiles that should appease Americans’ insatiable taste for wild ales and IPAs."
In-the-works brewery Odd Breed Wild Ales has been experimenting and producing beers like its Hoppy Brett Pale Ale, while the brewer for Odd Breed, Matt Manthe, has collaborated with Due South Brewing Co. in the past for an epic Brett IPA. Brewers are taking a more welcoming approach to brettanomyces and lactobacillus than they have in the past, but there's still a little bit to go.
Trend Score: C-
3. Local ingredients
"Sense of place is increasingly important to brewers, and drinkers responded enthusiastically at the festival."
Sourcing local has been a huge component to how South Florida brews for a while now, with breweries leveraging all of the bounty that our agriculture-heavy state can produce. Twisted Trunk Brewing recently put together Loxahatchee Lager, a beer brewed with wildflower honey, hibiscus, lavender, orange peel, and lemongrass all sourced locally. Mack House consistently uses ingredients from Natural Chai Farm in Davie, like its honey for the New Times collab Mustache Rye'd, while Saltwater Brewery uses local seagrape wood for its Black Current strong ale. Ask any brewer down here and there's bound to be at least a handful of beers it makes that have some sort of locally grown ingredient... and the best part is, it won't be hops or malted barley; it will be some uniquely Florida food.
Trend Score: A+
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4. Coffee beers
"Breweries have expanded what coffee additions can bring to a beer."
Coffee and beer have been best buds since before you were born. The simple act of adding coffee to a beer is no longer enough, however, with breweries like Copperpoint Brewing Co. taking locally roasted coffee and infusing it into a creamy nitro-rich beer with B Rabbit Espresso Stout. Funky Buddha Brewery put itself on the map years ago with it coffee- and maple- and bacon-flavored beer Maple Bacon Coffee Porter. But coffee isn't being limited to dark beers. Fort Lauderdale's Lauderale created an IPA brewed with coffee beans roasted by Argyle Coffee Roasters, proving that coffee goes with everything.
Trend Score: B
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.