So, so much to get through. Sorry about the novel about to happen.
I’m starting right off by saying that today’s beer is Circa 1926, a tangerine wheat ale from Sarasota/Bradenton-based Darwin Brewing Company.
First, the history. When you look at the can/label (more on that later), you’ll notice “Citrus Exchange” across the bottom.
In 1909, Florida saw the creation of the Florida Citrus Exchange in Tampa. This company was a co-op owned by citrus growers in the state. Its purpose was to market the wonders of Florida citrus across the country. They opened modern packinghouses, established citrus grading guidelines, and helped ship over 1 million boxes of fruit in its first year of operation.
In the mid 1960’s, the Citrus Exchange changed its name to Seald Sweet, after one of the labels it distributed under.
As for 1926, a citrus maturity law was proposed that year, which indicated specific properties that a fruit must have before it can be picked, processed, shipped and sold. This law ensured that Florida citrus was consistently high quality across the board.
The growing season on 1925-1926 also produced a massive citrus crop. That year, over 14 million boxes of fruit were shipped from Florida, including over one thousand train cars full of tangerines. And while a drought made the next year not so grand, Florida and the Citrus Exchange were able to revel in at least one healthy growing season.
This all combined to create some wonderful inspiration for Darwin Brewing Co. chef Darwin Santa Maria and Brewmaster Jorge Rosabal, not that they don’t make excellent beers anyway. The beer was intentionally left very light, with a base of white wheat, Munich, and 2-row pale malts.
It’s gotten some good buzz, especially after winning a bronze medal at the 2013 Best Florida Beer competition. Because of all of this, Circa 1926 has become one of their standard beers and is now available statewide in cans. Those cans, by the way, were designed by Alizon Studios, a West Florida design studio that does a lot of designs for Darwin, Big Top, and many more.
That’s a lot of backstory. Now, onto the beer itself. Ladies and gentlemen, Circa 1926 (Hefeweizen, 5.2% ABV).
Trust me, all of the above was worth it to get a great, wonderfully Florida beer. It’s incredibly light, as you can clearly see with the color of the beer. Light orange haze to it, opaque with a white head to the top.
The flavor is also light and crisp, and basically looks like a witbier with the wheat malts, plus adjuncts of orange, coriander, and what they call citra spices. Don’t know what that is, but it’s more than welcome in the beer.
And then the citrus. Oh, the citrus. It’s juicy, it’s moderately sweet, and it’s got a delicious tang to it that’s wonderful. The malt really helps to accentuate the tang as well. It’s a very mouthwatering flavor.
As you can tell, I had a little bit of fun writing this post. Almost as much fun as drink the beer. Or maybe equal. But it’s still a great beer, and it’s always made better when it can provide a window into Florida history.
Now, if I could only get a bushel or two of these beers to grow on trees in my backyard…
Drink Florida Craft,
Florida Citrus Exchange pictures courtesy of Florida Memory Project. Circa 1926 pictures courtesy of Alizon Studios/Darwin Brewing Co.