Quick history lesson: In the late-70’s, Key West was a fantastic place to smuggle drugs into the U.S. As a result, the U.S. Government set up a roadblock on US-1, next to the Last Chance Saloon in Florida City. You could go into the Keys unencumbered, but leaving the Keys involved going through the roadblock, taking up to 4 hours to get searched.
Naturally, no one wants to sit for 4 hours when leaving the Keys, and the local government immediately complained about how this new check was negatively affecting tourism.
In a form of protest, the city of Key West ‘seceded’ from the United States to set up their own country, the Conch Republic (Key West residents are sometimes called ‘conchs’ in reference to the conch snail and conch fritters, which are quite yummy). They declared war on the U.S., surrendered immediately, and applied for one billion dollars in foreign aid.
The publicity stunt worked, and the roadblock was removed. Conch Republic flags are evident across the Keys, especially in Key West.
The Conch Republic has entered the cultural lexicon of Florida, and the Republic is the inspiration for many a product. One such product is Conch Republic Key Lime Wheat (Pale Wheat Ale, 5.1% ABV, 17 IBU) from Sarasota-based Big Top Brewing.
If you know the Keys, or at least the cultural impact of the islands, you’re probably first thinking of Key Lime Pie. That is a good place to start when thinking of this beer. It’s incredibly breezy and light, buoyant and bright but still bursting with some incredible flavors.
The deliciously tart flavors of key lime are immediately evident in the aroma of the beer, opening up quite nicely when pouring the beer out. Those lime flavors sort of dance around the moderate banana qualities the hefeweizen naturally brings in the beer.
What’s also interesting is an almost vanilla character in the background. Big Top describes it as a graham cracker quality, and the description is incredibly close. It definitely accentuates the Key Lime Pie qualities of the beer.
Conch Republic is now in cans, but distribution is still limited to the Gulf Coast. Which is a shame, since this is a fantastic beer.
Time to complain to the government. Vive la republic!
Drink Florida Craft,