Yes, 26 Degree Brewing in Pompano Beach made their own holiday, right before Father’s Day. And, according to co-owner/co-founder Greg Lieberman, why not?
It’s pretty perfect. There’s video games, cigars, sports on the TVs, wings from Tilted Kilt, and beer (obviously). Greg was there to give us a quick rundown of the event and to show us around their 21,000 sq. ft. facility. It used to be a Winn-Dixie; use that for a sense of scale.
26 Degree only opened a few years ago, but Lieberman and partner-in-beer Jonathan Ghersi already boast a pretty impressive tap list and two cans in regional distribution: Hefeweizen Cap’t. Ron and IPA1A. But this was Man Day, and they had some special releases just for the day.
My beer fried Steve immediately alerted me to the presence of Pineapple Rum Milk Stout (Stout, 6% ABV, 34 IBU), which was pretty much a requirement. of course.
The story behind the beer was definitely interesting. We had assumed, rather erroneously, that the beer was aged on pineapple in rum barrels. Nope.
To understand the Pineapple Rum Milk Stout, you have to know the name Avi Aisenberg. I’ve written about him before; he’s the co-owner of South Florida Distillers and maker of Fwaygo Rum, locally produced and one of the best rums I’ve ever tasted.
Every year, Avi makes a run of Fwaygo aged on 300 lbs. of pineapple they source, cut, and grill by hand themselves. the pineapple doesn’t stay in the rum; it’s just steeped. This, of course, leads to the enviable problem of figuring out what to do with 300 lbs. of rum-soaked pineapple slices.
Avi and Greg have been friends for years, growing up only a few houses away from each other. During the construction of 26 Degree, former engineer Avi even assisted with the design and construction of the brew system. I’ve seen how Avi designed and built the system at South Florida Distillers’ first location. It was quite impressive.
So, of course, Avi asked Greg if he wanted the excess pineapple. and when Avi Aisenberg asks you if you want 300 lbs. of pineapple that had been soaked in his award-winning rum, you say yes.
Greg’s particular genius was putting it in a milk stout.
Of course it was delicious. Really strong, with a heady rum flavor and good, solid, fresh pineapple flavor attached to a great, solid, milk stout. I never they knew they had a milk stout, and I sort of feel like I was missing out.
But off we went to something a bit different. Another special release they had that day was Dry-Hopped Berliner (Berliner Weisse, 4.1% ABV, 27 IBU), their standard Blank Wall Berliner liberally dry-hopped with Cashmere Hops. The distinctly European thing to do, according to Greg, was to serve a Berliner with a flavored fruit syrup.
I’ve never heard of that, but he brought out a few syrups, raspberry and strawberry if I’m correct, for us to play around with. THe base berliner was pretty good, with the Cashmere hops bringing a decidedly floral aspect to the otherwise tart and cistrus-forward beer. I didn’t put a ton of syrup in the tasters, but you can see the color really changed with one, and the flavor was definitely stronger and fruitier with the other one (the raspberry).
We headed back, past a large collection of barrels that actually belonged to friend Matt Manthe who is hard at work building his tasting room and production space at Odd Breed Wild Ales. Past that was grain storage, a good mixture of German and English malts that cost a bit more, but are pretty solid in quality.
He’s one of the few brewers that I’ve seen also use a mini-conveyor belt system to transfer malt from the mill to the brewing system. It helps, since the industry standard tends to lean towards pneumatic delivery that can further grack your grain more than you wished. Greg’s an old-school engineer; he wants to control as many variables as possible. Makes sense.
That brewing system, by the way, is a gorgeous 30-BBL monstrosity fed by a huge reverse-osmosis water tank and upported by a rapidly growing number of fermentation tanks. They can produce a lot of beer, and there have been times where they’ve almost maxed out production. Uusally that happens with IPA1A or their special Pale Ale brewed exclusively for friends and neighbors Flanigan’s Seafood Bar and Grill.
One last interesting tidbit of info about the brewing floor, and specifically the floor itself, is that it’s built essentially like a road. High point in the middle, and the slopes come down on the sides towards an ample drainage system. It’s interesting to see and pretty ingenious, showing off Greg’s engineering side.
We let him go do his thing and grabbed a few other beers, most notably an Orange Strawberry Hef (Hefeweizen, 5.6% ABV, 15 IBU), their signature Capt. Ron hefe treated with an insane amount of orange and strawberry juice, all fresh and locally sourced. Basically it was a hefeweizen shandy, but so insanely refreshing and bright that it was worth drinking over and over again. A definite hit of the table.
It had been a suprisingly long time since I had been to 26 Degree, but I need to make a better habit of going back on a regular basis. Greg and Yonathan have built up quite a nice facility with a great selection of beers. There’s a ton of space, they’re incredibly family friendly, and it’s a fantastic place to be.
Now, can I have some of that pineapple?
Drink Florida Craft,