South of the city of St. Augustine is the area’s second-most famous fort, Fort Matanzas. It was built by the Spanish in the 1740s at the mouth of the Matanzas River to serve as a rear guard to the city.
The area, river, and fort all share the name ‘matanzas,’ Spanish for slaughter, for a rather gruesome series of incidents that took place in the area in 1565.
At that time, but the French and Spanish were attempting to place footholds in present-day Florida. Spanish soldiers, under the command of Pedro Menendez de Avilez, found themselves locked in battle at sea with the French forces of Jean Ribault. Rough seas and an eventual hurricane extended the battle to a standstill.
The Spanish were able to use the hurricane to sneak upon the French Fort Caroline near Jacksonville, surprising and killing 140 French soldiers. Ribault’s fleet, however, was decimated, and the surviving soldiers made it ashore and marched 14 miles north to the present site of Fort Matanzas.
Sensing an easy victory, Menendez and his troops tracked down Ribault’s tired and hungry soldiers and lured them inland with the promise of food and shelter. In groups of 10, the men were put to the knife, and in the end over 350 French soldiers were dead.
That dark history served as inspiration for Ormond Brewing in nearby Ormond, releasing the bomber Matanzas (Imperial Brown Ale, 11.8% ABV) with the ghostly image of Ribault’s doomed fleet on the bottle.
I wish I could continue the dark and brooding tale with an equally dark and brooding beer, but Matanzas is quite delicious. Yes, it is a strong beer at over 11%, but it’s still remarkably smooth and velvety. There is no trace of alcohol burn that some higher gravity beers tend to have, and it’s definitely not brutal and bitter like a Russian Imperial Stout.
The malty flavor is wonderful, with big nutty notes of walnut and brazil nut, a little cocoa, and maybe the faintest touch of molasses. Low hops and a beautifully deep brown color round out an enjoyable beer.
Based upon the dark and evil history of one of the worst mass murders in Florida History.
Drink Florida Craft,