This is Part 2 of my visit to BrewPOP; you can read Part 1 here.
I had my first flight of the Big Effort series, I had pizza and mac & cheese to munch on, and now it was time for a visit to Grizzly country. Jerry had a big, awesome story explaining it, and there’s just no way I could remember it all.
Grizzly Honey (Brown Ale, 10.6% ABV) – Big additions of honey malt with Polk-county sourced Florida Gallberry honey and Belgian candi sugar (which I did not know was made from beets). What’s amazing is how berry the honey truly is, and that comes out a lot in both the aroma and the flavor. It’s a lot darker and meatier than your standard brown ale.
Grizzly Smashed a Bourbon Barrel in KY (Brown Ale, 10.6% ABV) – It’s the same as the Grizzly Honey, but aged with bourbon barrel oak. Lightly aged, which thankfully does not overload the beer with a heavy, boozy quality. You can taste a bit of the wood, a bit of the bourbon, but nothing overpowers.
Grizzly Deterrent (Brown Ale, 6.4% ABV) – This is the sole second running of Grizzly Honey, with black pepper and Florida pepper honey from the Brazilian pepper tree. This honey brings more of a floral, garden quality to the beer (apparently, the honey is more bitter and chalky than other honey varieties).
Grizzly Started a Fire in Mexico (Brown Ale, 4.5% ABV) – That silly grizzly… This is a third running on Grizzly honey, with chipotle pepper and a little bit of red pepper flakes. Another name for this beer was Wait For It, since the heat sneaks up on you quietly, then delivers quite the warming blow.
My Grizzly Soured My Bee (Brown Ale, 4% ABV) – Another third running, but fermented with a wild ale and Florida Gallberry honey. Very close to an Oud Bruin, and nicely tart.
Grizzly Honey on Nitro (Brown Ale, 10.6% ABV) – Self explanatory.
He finally plunked down a small glass on what he called The 4th Dimension, a combination of Grizzly Honey, Grizzly Detergent, and My Grizzly Soured My Bee. It’s incredible how the beers all blend together, but you can still distinctly taste everything at the same time.
Jerry’s a big fan of malts, and the Grizzly series used no less than 7 different malts. He’s been doing it for years, and has taken extensive notes on what each malt does for the beers he brews for when he creates future recipes.
I was also surprised with a sample of their beer cheese mac and cheese. It’s not just the mac and cheese, but a whole smorgasbord of optional toppings, many of which are made right in the facility.
It took a lot of time for Jerry to find just the right kind of pasta to use (he settled on Campanelli), but the beer cheese is something that he’s been making for years. Remember, Auburndale is the kind of place where a beer cheese is basically Velveeta and Budweiser. Whereas Jerry makes his with beer malts, extra sharp yellow and white cheddar, heavy cream, cayenne pepper, and a touch of agave syrup for a bit of sweetness.
In his homebrewing days, you could easily find 20 taps and tons of growlers. His wife was only drinking wines, and at that time he decided to add wine to his oeuvre, eventually brewing 15-20 gallons of wines a week.
The food also came from parties Jerry would throw, bringing people to his place to polish off some of the 20 taps and tons of growlers he made while homebrewing. Heck, the pizza crust went through 26 different variations alone.
Now we come to the Rocket Fuel series. I can’t even begin to figure out how to describe these, and they don’t come in pint glasses. Shots only. It took 30 different tries for Jerry to finally nail down the recipe, but he eventually succeeded.
The standard Rocket Fuel (Center, Clear Beer, 14% ABV) is crystal clear and sort of syrupy, like a super-watered down Karo syrup. The aroma is almost vinegar-esque aroma, but still very strong. The flavor is really good, like a mix between Zima and rum. It’s incredibly sweet and still smooth. I have literally never seen a beer like it before, but it is beer.
It’s pretty popular, and had a 2-hour wait at the recent Hogtown Beer festival. He even had a 16% version in the tank coming soon, and there are even plans to take a pitcher of Rocket Fuel and add a packet or two of blue raspberry Kool-Aid to it. It’s fun, you know?
There’s also a Caramel Rocket Fuel (Right, Clear Beer, 14% ABV), a touch darker after letting the mash cook a touch longer to caramelize the sugars. It has a big caramel aroma, still chewy and sweet with a great candy underlay.
To go just a touch further, Afterburner (Left, Clear Beer, 14% ABV) was created, adding Cascade hops to the beer. It’s a bit drier, and the oils from the Cascade hops bring a nice, resiny quality to the beer.
Just don’t ask Jerry for the recipe. He’s not giving it out. Sorry.
He’s not all Parti Gyle, however. He took me through his PCP series, or his Polk County Pilsners. He started with a recipe that combines German, American, and Belgian iterations of a Czech Pilsner recipe, brewed it, and filled all three of his brew kettles. From there, he treated each one just a bit differently:
The first was his PCP Polar Opposite Pilsner (Pilsner, 6.6% ABV), using high alpha hops and an ale yeast. There’s a slight funk aroma to the beer, with those alpha acids taking a strong role in the flavor. This proved to be very popular with many of his drinkers.
PCP Pilsner (Pilsner, 6.5% ABV) is a straight, traditional pilsner. Perfectly classical with a great pilsner malt and yeast quality.
Finally there was the PCP Lager (Pilsner, 6.5% ABV). This beer was the same as the Pilsner, just with a German lager strain instead of an ale yeast. It’s a bit sweeter than the straight Pilsner, and just as drinkable.
But the sodas. Jerry makes his own sodas. It’s interesting, but he has six of those 45 taps devoted full time to some of the best sodas I’ve ever had. He will even do flights of sodas for kids visiting, something so incredibly fun and inventive that I could barely believe it.
First up was the Root Beer, and this was a true root beer in every sense of the word root. No extract was used, instead he used sassafras, dandelion, licorice, and burdock roots, plus Tahitian vanilla, and a 50/50 mix of cane sugar and unrefined Belgian Candi sugar.
The cream soda was just a straight up mix of Belgian Candi sugar and Tahitian vanilla and may have been the single greatest soda I have ever consumed in my life. I am not kidding, I was not paid to say this, but it is easily the best cream soda I have ever tasted. Faw and away fantastic, and the creamiest thing ever.
The lemon lime soda was a bit tart for my taste, being made with pure cane sugar and real lemons and limes. What I found interesting (and delicious) was that Jerry uses this and his Rocket Fuel to make a beer mojito with fresh mint and lime wedges. Yes, I tried it, and yes, it’s fantastic. Very different, and fantastic.
The sodas, interestingly enough, were intentionally made sweeter since they were supposed to be served with ice. The ice will dilute the sodas, naturally, bringing the sweetness down to a normal level.
The only extract soda he makes is Monkey Business, a cola with coconut and banana extracts. This was made more to make kids happy, especially since most kids (and adults) only taste sodas laden with extracts instead of natural ingredients.
Jerry’s great grandfather was proud of the fact he personally bought a car directly from Henry Ford. In talking about that story, Jerry is very proud of the fact he is such a good analogy to the legendary car developer.
It was Ford’s legend that customers could purchase “any color car they wanted, as long as it’s black.” This is exactly the way Jerry runs BrewPop; let go of expectations and the way ‘other brewers do it’ and spend some time enjoying a completely new beer (and food, and wine, and soda) experience that you will not see anywhere else.
That’s just the way Jerry crafted it.
Drink Florida Craft,