Call them tastings if you will. “Throwdowns” would probably be more accurate. On semi-rare occasion, South Florida’s beer cognoscenti gathers to pop the cap on bottle after bottle, many of which contain truly outstanding, singular beers. Gatherings like this are a testament to the small but strong community of South Florida beer connoisseurs – not only because of the sheer ridiculousness of the bottles that get pulled out of all our various coolers, but also the generosity inherent in such events. It’s amazing, it really is.
I don’t have any pictures, I was too busy sampling and shooting the shizz…..so this is going to be text-only, but I’ll run down what I thought were the standouts of the night, roughly in the order in which they were sampled:
“Jade” – Foothills Brewing Co: this was a highly aromatic IPA brewed with Jade hops from New Zealand, among others. This IPA had a beautiful citrus/kiwi aroma, and a soft, juicy bitterness.
“Bourbon Barrel Smoked Bock” – Bluegrass Brewing Co: Outstanding smoked beer, bacon and smoked salmon on the nose with a little coconut, then on the palate the smoke merely melds with the bourbon component from the barrel, not overwhelming at all. This was complemented by light raisin-y sweetness – everything nearly right on point and in balance. A wonderful beer opened early in the evening.
Homebrews – Big John: While their numbers are not large, we have some extremely talented homebrewers in South Florida, John being one of them. A few of John’s vaunted (for good reason) bottles made their way into the tasting lineup, and were well-received to say the least, standing proudly in what was a pretty strong lineup, which made them even more impressive. Rum-barrel coconut porter. Oh yes, you read that right. This beer tasted like a Mounds bar, a Mounds bar dipped in rum and vanilla glaze. And not crappy Bacardi rum, either, real rum. Beyond that, he had a sour beer that to me tasted like a Cantillon gueuze, very classy and tasty beer that could not have been easy to pull off with that much elegance.
Speaking of Cantillon…….
“Lou Pepe Kriek (2006 vintage)” – Brasserie Cantillon: An Old Lambic brewed with cherries, blood red, sour as all get out, and full of flavor. I’d had this beer, this vintage, on a few occasions before, but never had I tasted it bursting with this much gob-smacking sour cherry……so let’s just say this one is drinking incredibly well right now. I swear I was getting notes of cinnamon and nutmeg too, it was like drinking an ultra-sour cherry pie. Pairing with some of the cheeses and sour cherry spread on the food table elevated the beer even further. Phenomenal.
“Fou Foune (2005 vintage)” – Brasserie Cantillon: Oh my. Just an embarrassment of sour riches. From puckering cherry lambic to even-more-puckering apricot lambic. This one is not for the sour beer neophyte – lots of lactic sourness and a little funk over a bone-dry fresh apricot essence. Outstanding beer, as is expected from Cantillon.
“Chipotle Pepper Speedway Stout” – AleSmith Brewing Co: If you’ve had regular Speedway Stout, you know the score…….Speedway is easily one of the best big coffee stouts out there. It’s big, it’s dense, it’s bitter coffee and chocolate. Add muscular chipotle peppers to that, and it gives an already complex beer an added dimension of capsaicin and smoke. Awesome.
“Vanilla Bean Dark Lord” – Three Floyds Brewing Co: Regular Dark Lord is difficult enough to come by, but the Vanilla Bean iteration? This is not a beer I thought I’d ever get to try. The group was actually split on this one – some thought it was just too sweet. I agree in the sense that it was definitely sweet, but the overwhelming nose of raw vanilla on top of the huge roasty stout, and the intense vanilla flavors……damn, with my love of vanilla, there was no way I was resisting this. A huge beer; in all honesty, a mere 2-ounce pour felt like it contained 700 calories. 1 ounce would have been enough.
Last but not least….
“Speciaal Brouwsel (1982 vintage)” – De Dolle: Good lord, a beer from 1982? Yes indeed….and it was quite good. Pretty bleepin’ fantastic, even. I don’t know how a 30 year old beer still had carbonation, but it did. A sour beer, it had nice musty apple-orchard flavors along with leather saddle, the flavor components so well-integrated. It tasted like a world-class blended lambic. It blew my mind. I was in 2nd grade when this beer was brewed.
There were many other excellent, enjoyable beers, but to me these were the clear standouts of this tasting. I hope you enjoyed reading about them, because I sure enjoyed drinking them!