It has been more than a hot minute since this year’s North Miami Brewfest. I published quite the magnum opus about last year’s visit, and that got quite a bit of play so I was able to go to this year’s as well.
Much like everything else with the festival, it is only gotten bigger and better since beginning so many years ago. This is still one of my absolute favorite events, but it is almost impossible to try everything there is and stay functional at the same time.
Naturally, I was able to calmly and quietly make my way through some of the most important things that I saw so that I can report upon them to you, dear reader.
A little background for those of you unfamiliar with the festival: North Miami Brewfest is put on by the Claflin School of Hospitality at Florida International University. It is both a fundraiser for and a promotional tool of the college, and a nice change they made this year was to place signs on the vendors that had graduated from the University.
I say vendors, since there were a lot of food options, one of the many things that I love about the event. It’s one thing to sample a variety of great beers, but something else entirely to sample great food along with those great beers.
And it was food that we went to first, starting with a wonderful bowl of ceviche from Dr. Limon Ceviche Bar. It has whitefish, shrimp, a tangy citrus sauce, some interesting nuts thrown in there, and if I knew I wasn’t going to be eating other things, I would have stayed put for pretty much the entire event.The students from the FIU Brewing Arts program were there, many of which I had already met on my trip to their campus to record the preview episode for the Florida Beer Podcast released a few months ago. As promised, they brought a lot of the beers that were brewed as part of the program, but I was completely unaware that they do sodas.
And I hate to say it, but those sodas were the best thing that I drank all day. I’m not saying the beer was bad, far from it, but those sodas were just so good. They had two on draft, a Jamaican Kola and a Sorrel soda. You can immediately tell which is which, as the sorrel has a bright reddish pink color that is unmistakable.The beers made by the program got around quite a bit, as some food vendors used their beers for their desserts. One was Steph’s sweet events, bringing a schnitzel beer chocolate trifle and a Jasmine beer cupcake, neither of which should have been missed for the world.Frice showed up again with another ice cream, this time a Rocky Road Stout ice cream with the stout freshly sourced from FIU. It was great last year, and it was fantastic again this year, richly dark with a lot of wonderful stout flavors without the booziness.One of my favorite Miami breweries, Legacy Caribbean Craft Brewery, was there again with their Mulatto Porter (Porter, 6% ABV). This Rich swirl of Dominican coffee and dark chocolate holds up quite nicely with heavy roasted malt, creating a beer that is both bold and dark, but also unmistakably Caribbean at the same time. An absolute treat and one not to be missed. I was happy happy to hear that they are about to move into a much bigger and more historic location in 2020, I’m hoping to get more details soon.The other brewery I can’t wait to get more details on is Bousa. I did a media event with them before they opened, but apparently they have gone through a complete revamp since then, with new owners, new brewers; it’s a whole new look and feel even though they have the same name. They brought several beers, including Miami Born (Tripel, 8.5% ABV, 30 IBU). Very refreshing for an 8.5% beer, and I’m intrigued to see what they’ve done with the location and brand.Another brewery that is also going through a bit of a revitalization is Tomoka Brewing Company. They’ve had some ownership changes and the original brewery has closed. They were at the event, surprisingly, with Warrior Breakfast Brown (Brown Ale, 5% ABV), a brown ale brewed with coconut, lavender, and locally-grown Yaupon Holly. It takes a classic standard and managed to achieve a radically different direction with it, creating some very interestingly mature notes on top of a slightly sweet and nutty brown ale.Louis from Old Deck was there (I wouldn’t have it any other way), and he brought a very fresh batch of Hop Invaders, his new double IPA. If you want dank, he has your dank in abundance. No need to look for it elsewhere. 🙂I also had another great chat with the Head Brewer at Lincoln’s Beard (Check the Florida Beer Podcast for our previous discussion), who showed up with a couple of very crazy beers. Ordinarily this would be insane for a normal brewery, but it’s fairly par for the course for the ones at the Beard. This one, Are You Done? (Pale Ale, 3.8% ABV) was brewed with pineapple, watermelon, sweet cherries, and sour cherries. It’s basically as close as beer can be tasting like Hi-C, but still actually remain beer. Incredibly fruity, incredibly sweet, and so insanely Miami it hurts.I also got a pour of the French-Oaked version of Brew Hub’s Rome City IPA (IPA, 5.8% ABV, 70 IBU). Brew Hub was at the event last year, so I had anticipated them arriving, but did not anticipate them bringing this nicely mature, deeply rich version of their award-winning IPA. There’s something about Florida and doing really well with their oaked IPAs, definitely can’t blame them here.Let’s stop for a little bit of food, since Mimi’s Ravioli was there with a rather delightful meatball. Any red sauce that impresses my Italian wife is good by me, especially when you consider you usually get a standard, boring red sauce at an event like this. Mimi’s did not bring that. They brought the flavor and I was happy to have it.The other South Florida chain that was at the event, which I was very surprised to see, was Bolay. Bolay is a gluten free restaurant chain, starting in Palm Beach County and aggressively reaching farther south. It was a little bizarre to see them, since pretty much every beverage around them invariably had gluten as an natural part of its recipe. But Bolay showed up with a plate that had cilantro noodles, lemon chicken, and mint tomatoes. I cannot begin to describe how amazingly wonderful this was, and this was another place then I could have camped out at for the entire day continually scarfing down food.Blue Planet Brewing was there as well, a homebrewing outfit run by Bob Stasko that I had met previously at a tiny beer festival in Boca. He brought a few of his beers, inventively advertised on a canvas that he had painted himself, the most creative tap list I have ever seen.We went for the Cinnamon Coffee Stout, which hit every single note it was supposed to. Moderate body, slight chewiness, a big blast of cake-like cinnamon that lets the coffee gradually hit your palate. It does everything right and it’s a beer I would definitely love to try more of.The final good beer (you’ll understand later) was Chilling Is My Business And Business Is Good from the relatively new Tripping Animals Brewery (Double IPA, 9.2% ABV). THis is a Jarillo and Azacca hop-powered Double IPA with additions of purple carrot, honeydew melon, and vanilla. There’s a lot going on here, but the hops definitely won the day. You’ll get a little bit of the carrot and a tiny bit of the other adjuncts on the back, but this was first and foremost a hop forward beer. It doesn’t look like it thanks to that carrot, but it was a hop forward beer and great for my hophead friends.The last thing we did was go to an off-flavors seminar, something a little different than what they had done last year. I enjoy the seminars at North Miami Brewfest, since it teaches you a little bit more about brewing and gives you a respite from constantly sampling (which can get exhausting).
Our instructors were brewers, one of whom was from Funky Buddha and provided everyone with samples of their Vibin’ Lager, one in a fresh can we opened ourselves, and also samples that had been pre-infected with chemicals to replicate various off flavors. It’s part of a program you can get from the people behind the Cicerone certification, and it was interesting to be walked through each of the different negative beer flavors, what you should be tasting for, and what they mean.
Once again it was a great event, I’m definitely very glad to have gone once again. I was also happy to have gotten VIP tickets, as the VIP area was a wonderfully plush and shaded area about dead center of the festival, a welcome place to sit and relax in, getting away from the bustle of the rest of the Beer Fest.
I definitely cannot wait to go back next year, and can’t wait to see how much bigger it’s going to be.
Drink Florida Craft,
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