I have a special affinity for downtown Fort Lauderdale I did not realize exists.
It’s vibrant and urban and very pretty, especially along the river. But it’s nowhere near as frustrating and overcrowded as other major cities in Florida, notably that behemoth an hour to the South. And like other major cities in the state, its craft beer scene is picking up quite a bit.
We are closing in on the two year anniversary of one of those breweries, Tarpon River Brewing. It’s just a touch past the Arts and Science district, and over an absolutely amazing looking bridge with wonderful views of the buildings a few blocks away.
The genesis of Tarpon River is much more deeply rooted in Fort Lauderdale than many realize. It’s the brainchild of several groups, most notably Riverside Market and Adam Fine’s Native Brewing Co. Upon opening the facility, Adam basically folded all of the beers from Native Brewing into Tarpon River, and to this day you’ll still see some of the old Native recipes show up on Tarpon River’s tap list.
It’s also notable for opening up at 8 a.m. every morning for breakfast. They have a full kitchen, and they are not afraid to use it. They’re also not afraid to push the boundaries of their gorgeous copper jacketed 10 BBL brewing system, obtained from the former Brewzzi location in West Palm now known as Rosemary Square.
They’ve been pushing that system to very interesting lengths, coming out with a fantastic new trilogy of wild ales. It actually wasn’t Adam per se that created these beers as much as his head brewer Dan Kastner.
As of right now there are three of these wild ales, and Tarpon River hosted a media event so that authors and bloggers and podcasters like myself to come down and sample each of them.I was excited to meet Laine Doss there, the Food & Spirits Editor of the Miami New Times, whose article beat me be at least 5 days and who can write circles around me and I need to cry myself to sleep right now.
Before even jumping into the beers, I wanted to note the fact that all three bottles were designed by local artist Greg Boucher. His art style is to take old, public domain photographs, enhancing and editing them to surreal heights. It’s worth a shot to take a look at his Instagram account @SurrealVenture.
We started with Weird Uncle Brett (Saison, 8.3% ABV), thoe one one of the three whose bottles are currently sold out. Uncle Brett was fermented by, of course, brettanomyces and carried a deep straw color that contains massive notes of pineapple and a slight touch of cherry. It’s almost a kissing cousin of a mixed drink at Mai-Kai. Tasting the beer gives that continued pineapple fruitiness with additional citrus rind flavors. Not necessarily sweet, and nowhere near as off-putting as other wild ales can be.
If you want even more fruit flavors, Downtown Superbloom (Saison, 6% ABV) is an optimal choice. This is, in essence, Weird Uncle Brett with adjuncts bringing in a lot of flavor and tuning the alcohol down just a bit.
There’s a big aromatic note of fresh guava, almost like guava paste. The flavor starts with that guava, then immediately goes into a big passionfruit powered tartness, only to emerge with a super strong blood orange note. As the tartness finally dissipates, the slightly bitter orange stays behind. Quite refreshing and wonderfully tasty.
Laine and I both agreed, however, that Key to My Tart (Saison, 6% ABV) was our favorite. This is actually a blended beer, as one beer sat in a French oak barrel for over a year, and the other two were in barrels for around three months each. They were completely barrel fermented and then blended together with an addition of peach to kick-start a little bit of bottle conditioning.
The aroma tends to be more of the Oaky vanilla character then the fruits. The flavor, however, has a slight peach sweetness, almost gummy, but with a strong and wonderful Chardonnay characteristic as well. High carbonation makes the beer very fuzzy on the palate.
I did not expect Tarpon River to jump into the wild ale game, but they’ve done so with both feet and done a pretty admirable job of making them very well. The best part was that beer number four was in a barrel conditioning during the event, so hopefully we’ll be able to see that very soon. To be honest, I’m not surprised having known Adam and tasted his beers for as long as I have. I will have to patiently await beer number four and cannot wait for it to come out.
And I’ll even enjoy the drive back to the brewery.
Drink Florida Craft,
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