For as long as I can remember, Big Bear Brewing has been a staple of Coral Springs. Aside from a brief moment when they also got to enjoy Sawgrass Brewing, it’s the only place in Coral Springs to get anything brewed in Coral Springs.
Their original brewmaster was Matt Cox, who left three years ago to found the brewery now known as Copperpoint Brewing. Before he left, however, he brought in firefighter/homebrewer Jeff Evans to learn the system and his recipes. And it was Jeff I went to visit on a rainy, balmy South Florida
Under Jeff’s command, Big Bear is still going strong, still bringing the same beers to Coral Springs drinkers and bringing more awards to the brewery. Along with assistants like Shane Davis who had brewed with Swamphead in Gaiesville, it’s interesting to see exactly how much Jeff has been doing on the 10 BBL system right at the front of the restaurant.
In terms of scheduling brews, the standards tend to take up the vast majority of the days (with one fermentation tank practically devoted to Polar Light, their biggest seller). With that, there is a little leeway with special releases, keeping a fruit beer, a special beer, and a dark beer on tap. Remarkably, Jeff has complete creative control with those beers.
I was lucky enough to get a draw of one such beer, the upcoming release of Octobearfest (Marzen, 5.7% ABV), their traditional Marzen malt explosion of which I’m pretty fond. It’s coming along quite nicely and I am definitely looking forward to it being on tap.
One of the beers on tap that I was able to try (missing out on his Russian Imperial Stout by days) was Bear Saison (Saison, 7.1% ABV, 20 IBU), his saison liberally hopped with El Dorado hops to give the already citrus-forward beer a delicate, delicious melon characteristic. It was more refined than the average saison, surprisingly smooth and a real masterwork of the style.
Jeff has made a few minor tweaks to the beers, changing a slight water profile here, a malt tweak there, all to keep the beer as flavorful as patrons expect. And yes, the patrons there have been coming since the opened in 1999, and are pretty fanatical about their beers.
Not that most people would have noticed, but what was known as Hibernation IPA has been tweaked enough to where it is now known as Hibernating IPA (IPA, 7% ABV, 65 IBU), but is still chocked full of great, earthy hop character. We talked about how he has the ability to brew a lot of great beers and switch things up on a fairly regular basis, but simply doesn’t have the space to brew some of the creative ideas he has in mind.
I can hope that maybe they purchase the office building next door and move some more production equipment there. We will have to see what the future holds.
I also mentioned the military with him, since he is an ex-Marine and the Florida brewing community has a strong number of former military personnel opening up their own breweries (3 Keys and Veterans United come to mind).
His response was interesting. First, being in the military gave a lot of brewers the strength of character to face the resilience and determination required to open their own brewery. They also have the great desire to branch out on their own, letting their creativity go wild in doing what they like best. From what I’ve tasted so far, more power to them.
That’s a small glimpse into the big goings on into Big Bear Brewing. I hope to be giving more information in the near future for their rotators and any other fun things going on with Jeff and his team.
In the meantime, I’ll be patiently waiting for Octobearfest to release again.
Drink Florida Craft,