The 17th annual New Times Beerfest was on an absolutely gorgeous Saturday evening at Esplanade Park in downtown Ft. Lauderdale. Thanks to Chesi and Doug at Broward New Times, I was able to scope it out and report it to you, dear readers.
40 beers, some food, an energy shot and some vodka later, and I’m a little happy. 🙂
If you’ve never been to a beer festival before, it’s a good time. Basically you’ll get your sampler glass when you come in (this year, the glasses were sponsored by J. Wakefield Brewing). They aren’t big. That’s a good thing, trust me.
This is what you’ll take around to an untold number of vendors sampling over 100 different beers. But if you’re going to do that, bring a designated driver. with a 2 oz. pour of each beer, that’s almost three six-packs you’re consuming. That’s a lot.
Not that I didn’t have a lot anyway. Okay, for the ourposes of brevity, there are going to be a number of Florida breweries that I am going to spin off into different blog posts, most notably the aforementioned J. Wakefield, plus Saltwater, Cigar City, Islamorada, Funky Buddha, and Wild Oak breweries.
I want to start off with the VIP area, since it was a separate, additional charge from the rest of the event.
The VIP area was oddly notable for being where almost all of the non-beer stuff was located. There was some fantastic ceviche and tacos from Tokyo Blue, Some really good pizza and alfredo pasta from The Garlic Knot, and some excellent pulled pork sandwiches from M.E.A.T. (who always had a line.
Now, I know I am a blog about Florida beers, but of course I can appreciate beers from elsewhere. Especially when one of those beers is Rübæus from Michigan’s Founders Brewing Co. It’s a wheat beer with one of the most intense red colors I’ve ever seen, since they keep dunking raspberries into the beer worse than hops into an IPA. This was easily my favorite non-Florida beer of the event. It was immediately stolen by my wife, so I had to get one of my own…
Chicago’s Goose Island, one of the exclusive beers in the VIP area, was there with their Rambler Red IPA, which was an easy drinking, mildly hoppy IPA, that had a lot of the good rye flavors I tend to love in these beers.
I’ve also been exceptionally happy that Kansas City’s beloved Boulevard Brewing has finally made it to Florida. And while Duvel didn’t bring a gigantic selection from Boulevard’s portfolio, they did bring Bob’s ’47 Oktoberfest. It’s a good, solid marzen. Light on the maltiness but exceptionally tasty and easy to drink.
But, I write a blog on Florida beers, and there sure were a lot to choose from. It’s always good to see and be able to support local businesses and craft breweries. The biggest beer I was able to try was the Official Beer of the New Times Beerfest, Mustache RYEd from Davie’s Mack House.
It’s a brown ale, brewed with rye in additional to the traditional barley. The rye gives the beer a really nice, mellow feel. Even though the beer clocks in at 7.5 ABV, you don’t totally feel it. The best part of the beer is the honey, locally sourced by Natural Chai Farms in Davie. In fact, Mack House head brewer Justin Miles told me the honey had been harvested the day before they brewed. It was a freshness you could completely taste in the beer, almost as if every glass had a piece of honeycomb in it. Only two barrels were produced for this event, so it was good while it lasted.
Miami homebrewing supply store Daddy Brews was also there with a few of their beers brewed in-house. The Belgian Dark Strong Ale I had was very rich and flavorful, with a nice kick to it. According to the owner, Daddy Brews has a pretty good selection of malts, hops, basically everything I need for my upcoming homebrews. I’m excited to go visit them soon.
The newest kid on the block in Ft. Lauderdale brewing is the aptly named LauderAle. They’re located exceptionally close to Port Everglades, and co-owner Kyle Jones was there with a selection of some of their new beers, plus some old favorites. I was finally able to get my hands on some of their Lake Sylvia Saison, a remarkably easy drinking, fruity, smooth saison with a beautiful blonde color. It’s a little wacky to get to the facility right now with the road construction the port is experiencing, but get out there soon.
And I love the tap handles, BTW.
There were a few breweries I had been hoping to try and was pleasantly surprised were there. One was Big Storm Brewing from Odessa, Florida and their Wavemaker Amber Ale. It’s good, a little cleaner and without the giant caramel flavors that make up a traditinal brown. it’s a little cleaner, a little meaner, and very sessionable (even at 5.6% ABV).
Another beer I had wanted to try was Hatuey. This one comes with an interesting story, as it was originally brewed in Cuba a century ago and was named after a native chief that had led fights against the invading Spanish. It had a pretty big market share in Cuba before the Communist Revolution. The trademarks and recipe were picked up by Bacardi and is now being contract brewed in Maryland, but shipped down for sale in South Florida. It’s very indicative of traditional Central and South American cervecas, very light, crisp, and not strong. But the history can’t be ignored, and goes a long way in promoting the beer. I’d love to get a poster of it someday.
I’m also happy to see Tampa’s Florida Avenue beer is getting more love down south. I had their crisp, flavorful, and approachable IPA before, but I was not expecting to see Betchy Brown at the event. It’s incredibly smooth and clean, with a strong caramel note that I adore from brown ales. The aroma and flavor lingers quite nicely. I am hoping this means we’ll be able to see more Florida Avenue taps here soon.
There are a few other breweries that I should give a little love to as well, if you don’t mind. I didn’t try anything new, but these breweries are so good that you need to search them out. Luckily, they are all beers you’ll be able to find at local specialty stores such as ABC and Total Wine. First is the Orlando organic powerhouse Orlando Brewing. Their two bottle beers, I-4 IPA and Right on Red were there for tasting. I like the IPA, but Right on Red is so sweet, mellow, and fantastic that it needs to be highly recommended.
Miami Brewing was there as well. I was sad they didn’t bring their Jack O’Spades pumpkin ale, but they had their four distributed cans available for tasting. And they were able to make one of my favorite beer blends, the Dirty Rod – 1/2 Big Rod coconut hefeweizen and 1/2 Gator Tail brown ale. It’s some excellent stuff.
Finally, Native Brewing was there with the taps for their four beers. The Eleven Brown ale is simply fantastic, and Thunderhead Red (their only non-bottled beer) is also a masterpiece of maltiness and caramely goodness. I’m very excited for Native Brewing, since they have finally announced plans for a Ft. Lauderdale-based brewery and tap room. That makes me very happy.
In all, Beerfest was pretty fantastic. It’s an annual event, so you’ll definitely want to watch for it the next time it comes around. As for my covering the event, keep an eye out on FloridaBeerBlog.com for upcoming posts. I still have a lot to share in the near future.
Drink Florida Craft,
Chris and Dave