Writing this blog is so much more satisfying when I get to talk to welcoming, interesting people that also happen to be making great beer.
Such is the case with Ken and Julia Rosenthal, owners and brewers at Clearwater’s Pair O’ Dice Brewing.
The brewery opened in 2013, a few years after they Rosenthals moved back to their Florida home after living in Austin for a few years. Ken homebrewed for almost a decade (naturally), but they also have the experience running gargantuan AB breweries as well. They had an interesting side story about this, since I always assumed AB brewers go home and make amazing homebrews. Apparently, this is not the case. They all go home and make wine, which I found interesting.
Back to the Rosenthals and the warm greeting I recieved from them and their dog Simcoe. They have a solid 15 BBL system and a number of fermentation tanks helping them spread their two canned core beers, Clearwater Honey Cream and Hop Bet Red IPA, throughout the state.
The name is sort of a combination of a light gambling theme and a celebration of the paradise that is their Gulf Coast home. It’s not overly aggressive in scope, but it’s cute. They have a great tap room where everything is brewed and canned, featuring the prerequsite games, etc. And yes, for $4 you can take home a Pair O’ Dice pair of dice.
One thing they really prided themselves on was a sort of classic approach to beer. They weren’t completely into huge, killer piles of crazy adjuncts in the beers. No, they wanted to make sure they did classic styles done well. If they did use adjuncts, such as the strawberries in heir newly canned Lucky Lucy Strawberry Blonde (Blonde Ale, 5.5% ABV, 15 IBU), those adjuncts were fresh and local.
It’s pretty easy to find fresh strawberries in the Tampa Bay area; just take the drive to Plant City. It’s worth it, as Lucky Lucy can attest to. She’s got a light, breezy maltiness and really allows the fresh, juicy strawberries to shine though quite nicely. Incredibly refreshing, and I wish I had tried it on nitro as well. But she was the first; the three of us went through the next few beers:
Little Joe Stout (Stout, 6.3% ABV, 25 IBU) – A good, solid, hearty oatmeal stout that is chock full of great roasted barley, chicory, and coffee notes. There was also a touch of aggressiveness on the palate, which was nice.
Nina Belgian White (Witbier, 5% ABV) – Fresh Florida citrus was used in this witbier that actually felt smoother and softer than many in the style. Instantly refreshing and apparently very popular as well.
Mo’ Guava IPA (IPA, 6% ABV, 40 IBU) – The next few beers are interesting since I let them know I wasn’t the biggest IPA fan. And I’m glad they gave these to me since they both are really great beers. One is Mo’ Guava, bursting with fresh, sweet guava that both accentuates and controls any overarching bitterness from Mosaic hops. Very delicious
Pit Boss Triple IPA (IPA, 11.5% ABV, 125 IBU) – This is one of POD’s biggesst beer, one they consider to be their big ‘whale’ beer that others search for every year. It’s a whoppingly huge triple IPA with 4 lbs of hops per barrel. It’s been hopped with Amarillo, Apollo, Chinook, Mosaic, and Simcoe, and the remarkable thing of it all is how easy it is to drink.
Honestly, you have to be told it’s so big, and you have to be informed of the insanely huge bitterness. It just doesn’t appear in the taste of the beer. It has a good, solid citrus flavor combined with a moderately chewy malt base that is really delicious and has a lot of amazing layers. No wonder people want it so much.
Hobo’s Delight Imperial Porter (Porter, 8% ABV) – It is depressing how disgustingly good this beer is. Thick, heady, laden with big flavors of chocolate and coffee, with an almost lactose-laced velvety mouthfeel. There’s a lot of Madagascar vanilla beans used in the beer, and therein lies the problem. The price of those beans has shot up from $75 a pound to well over $450 a pound. It’s necessary for the beer, which means that Hobo’s Delight won’t be brewed as much anymore. Such a shame.
It was good to finally meet and chat with Julia and Ken. They’re truly generous and warm people to speak to and they’ve built a fantastic brewery. It is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Say hello to Simcoe for me.
Drink Florida Craft,