Brewery Visit – Khoffner Brewery USA @khoffnerusa

“When a brewer makes a beer, they’re not just making a beer. They’re telling their story about that beer.”


Outside Khoffner Brewery

Speaking with Rauf Khoffner, owner and brewmaster of Khoffner Brewery USA in Ft. lauderdale, pieces of brewing wisdom such as this flow as easily from him as the delicately swirling smoke from one of his classic cigars.

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Brew Review – Saisons and Dunkelweizens (!) at Funky Buddha Brewery

Another Funky Buddha review? Really?

Of course. They’re close, their taps rotate at breakneck speed, their quality is insanely high, they have a massive following, and they had a dunkelweizen. A Dunkelweizen. Almost no one in Florida makes a dunkelweizen. 3 Daughters makes one, and it’s on a seasonal basis.

In short, I never get dunkelweizens. But Funky Buddha has one right now.
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Brewpub Visit – Charlie and Jake’s Brewery

I will admit, Charlie and Jake’s was a little hard to find. It anchors a large strip mall in Melbourne, next to a workout place that looks like it used to be a Publix. All the way on the north side is this place, Charlie and Jake’s Brewery Grille.

Charlie and Jake's - Outside

Charlie and Jake’s Brewery.

Inside, it’s a pretty standard sports bar-type atmosphere. It also had a pretty standard sports bar-type menu, which I didn’t sample from. I was really just there for the beer. I did find it odd, however, that for a pub with a pretty sizeable brewery, they also sold (and advertised the heck out of) stuff like Bud and Corona. I haven’t really seen that before.
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Interview – Justin Miles, The Mack House/Holy Mackerel

The Mack House is the tap room/nanobrewing arm of Davie, FL-based Holy Mackerel Brewing. Recently, I was able to sit and chat with their brewmaster, Justin Miles.

Holy Mack exterior

The Mack House in Davie

What is your brewing background?

I started home brewing about 3 years ago, then I was bringing my stuff into the bar (Mack House). Eventually, the previous head brewer here left and they wanted to keep brewing. I brewed a test batch of a honey-lime ale, and they liked it.

What was the beer that got you started in beer?

If I had to say certain breweries, they would probably be Sierra Nevada and Flying Dog.

What is your general process for deciding on a new beer to brew?

We start with a lot of brainstorming, looking at the seasons. This fall, we could do some over the top culinary beers, but not many yet. We are going to be doing a honey brown rye and a rye IPA soon.

How do you source some of these ingredients? I know Davie has a lot of agriculture.

We get all of the honey in our beers from a local farmer in Davie, Natural Chai Farms. That farmer actually takes our spent grain and feeds it to the pigs on his farm. Sometime in the future, we are planning on doing a pig roast with a pig that has been raised on the grain from our beers.

That pig farmer is growing coffee, too. We also use locally sourced sweet potatoes. That gives the beers a great richness.

Which of your beers are you most proud of?

Probably Nib Slip (a chocolate Porter). It’s a really good beer. We used an experimental, grapefruit-y hop from Yakima and local cocoa nibs.

Will you ever do a Dunkelweizen?

Probably winter. It can be hard to get people to try different beers like saisons.

Yet you brewed a brown ale with andouille sausage. How hard was it to get people to try that?

For our craft beer people, it was actually pretty easy.

Did you use actual sausage in the beer, or the andouille sausage spices?

That’s Whole Foods actual fresh sausage in the beer. When we brew it, we let it sit for an additional 20 minutes to let the grease separate. Then we can skim the grease right off.

Holy Mackerel is one of many breweries in Florida that contract their bottling operations out-of-state. Do you think there is a negativity in the industry about that?

It depends on who you talk to. Some people bash it. I think it’s a great way to get your recipes out there. It’s a good way to distribute beers without investing in a setup like Funky Buddha.

So are you going to start doing collaborations with other Florida brewers?

We actually just did one with 3 Sons Brewing. We made a base saison and did two different treatments. We did one we called Sound Machine, with lime and rum-soaked mint leaves. 3 Sons did one with pink peppercorn and star fruit.

Craft beer in Florida is starting to boom. How do you feel about the future of the industry in Florida?

There’s still room to grow. We went to Atlanta and there are so many breweries there. Downtown, there are lots of places and they’re all doing well. Places like (The Mack House) where you go just for their beer are going to be big.

With Florida breweries that already exist, no one competes with each other. It’s a win for everyone.

Drink Florida Craft,

Chris & Dave


Brewpub Visit – Hollywood Organic Brewery

I love the beach. And being in South Florida has its benefits, since pretty much everywhere is close to the beach. But having freshly brewed craft beer right by the beach? Never thought I would see that.

Organic Brewery Exterior

Hollywood Organic Brewery

I also hadn’t been to Hollywood Organic Brewery, which is right on the Hollywood boardwalk. Which is right on the beach. And by right on the beach, I mean that you can stand on their outdoor patio, grab a growler, and with even a half-hearted throw hit the beach sand. It really is that close.

Inside, it’s an interesting faux-German interior with lots of beer steins thrown into artificial rockwork. It’s interesting. The menu also has a lot of German specialties, and a lot of homemade sausages. But the owners are Russian, there’s a lot of Russian food on the menu, and the brewery also has a line of housemade schnapps. It’s an interesting mix.

HOB Brewing Equipment

Hollywood Organic Brewery’s brewing equipment.

Organic Beer Lineup

Hollywood Organic Brewery’s tap lineup.

There’s a pretty good amount of brewing equipment available at the restaurant, but they only carry four standard beers. I haven’t been able to get a lot of information about other beers they may have.

German Pilsner

German Pilsner by Hollywood Organic Brewery

Usually I don’t like pilsners because I find them bland and flavorless. Their German Pilsner, however, has that light crispness, but with a good light, almost fruity flavor. It’s not as far as a hefeweizen (that comes later), but it’s a good smooth maltiness.

Hollywood Wheat

Hollywood Wheat by Hollywood Organic Brewery

The Hollywood Wheat is your classic hefeweizen. light, malty, fruity, and with almost a bubblegum aftertaste for me. Sweet, light, and really good.

Belgian Ale

Belgian Ale by Hollywood Organic Brewery

Their Belgian Ale is both different and excellent. Most Belgians tend to be a big, strong, explosion of malty flavor. They also tend to be a little on the rough side, lacking the smoothness that, say, a porter would have. This one, however, is smooth as butter. It’s got that great Belgian beer malt taste, and goes down really easy.

Russian Knight

Russian Knight Imperial Stout by Hollywood Organic Brewery

Their Imperial Stout, Russian Knight, is a bit of an anomaly, too. Most stouts that I’ve had are smooth, and this one is, for certain. But whereas most Imperial Stouts are heavy, insanely dark, and very bitter, this one was clean, smooth, lighter, and had an interesting tang to it. Like a slight fruity tang. It almost feels like they brewed an imperial stout with a hefeweizen yeast.

Hollywood Organic Brewery is one of a rare few breweries I’ve seen that will sell their beers in the classic liter steins. Yes, you can buy the steins, and a lot of good quality logo glasses, too. Plus they’re set up with a growler machine for 32 oz growlers and the 128 oz aluminum mini-kegs, too.

I need to go back to try their food. Plus, the beer is really fantastic. It’s a tiny little place, it’s a bit hard to get to, and their social media is a little post-dated, but they are still there. It is worth it to go.

But tell them to make more beers. I’d like to see what they can come up with.

Drink Florida Craft,



Brew Review – I-4 IPA by Orlando Brewing

If you spend any time in Orlando, you have come to hate Interstate 4. Hate. Especially during rush hour. Especially downtown and around Millenia. But when it comes to defining the Central Florida area, I-4 is it. It runs from Tampa to Daytona, but it’s that section through Orlando that gives it that notoriety.

Which is why I found it slightly interesting and ironic that Orlando Brewing, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite breweries I still haven’t been to, used it as the namesake for their I-4 IPA.

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Orlando Brewing’s I-4 IPA.

It’s contract brewed in Melbourne by Florida Beer Co., so it doesn’t get the organic label that everything Orlando Brewing does in-house. But it’s still a testament to how well Orlando Brewing does with their brews. It’s got that hoppy bite, with just a touch of a sweetness and a really pretty dark blonde color.

2014-09-16 18.09.44It’s available in a lot of places in central and south Florida, so you’ll be able to pick up a six-pack there. And take it home.

But please avoid I-4 unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Drink Florida Craft,



Interview – Alden Bing, Orchid Island Brewery

Last week, I reviewed Orchid Island Brewery, a new citrus-inspired brewery in Vero Beach. I had the chance to chat with co-owner Alden Bing and talk about his new distinctly Floridian brews.

Orchid Island co-owners Alden and Valerie Bing outside the brewery. Image courtesy of Orchid Island Brewery.



What is your background before you got into craft beer? You are a banker, correct?

Yeah. (laughs) I’m trying to get out of the monkey suit.

What beers got you interested in craft beer?

My wife and I fell in love with craft beer at a Mellow Mushroom in Asheville (North Carolina). Bell’s Two Hearted Ale was a gateway beer. That was in the fall or winter of ‘07. In ’08, we were engaged. For my bachelor party, my buddies and I went to a place in Ft. Lauderdale where you could make your own beer. We made a batch of a Two Hearted clone for the wedding.

After that, I started tinkering around in my garage. I was homebrewing for the past 6 years. Then I started playing around with fruit growing in my yard.

Orchid Island made a name for itself with citrus flavors. Why did you decide to make that a signature for your beers?

Sebastian Inlet to Ft. Pierce, that is called Orchid Island. Historically it’s grown indisputably the world’s best grapefruit, the best citrus. Indian River County is like Sonoma or Napa is for grapes. A lot of the land has been pushed over for building hotels and condos, but there are some farmers that want to hold on and keep farming.

Do you have a good working relationship with some of those farmers?

I’m from the area, and I have a lot of close friends in the area that happen to be farmers.

You signed with Brown Distributing. Other than your tap room, where can your beers be found?

The Kilted Mermaid in Vero Beach and the Vero Beach Hotel. As we stabilize our production and get more beer out, we want to grow from a nucleus and drive traffic to our tap room. We’d like to also put it in places like Red Light Red Light in Orlando, give it to people that appreciate beer but are also critical. It will be good to get soundboards and get good feedback on how we are doing.

What are your favorite kinds of beers?

Lately I’ve been leaning towards IPAs and sours. They make for an easy association with citrus. I’m currently brewing a saison with brett (yeast). That’s probably where my interest has been. There are breweries in Massachusetts that are harvesting yeast off blueberries. And I’ve been discussing with labs in Indian River County to cultivate local strains off citrus.

I noticed that your beers are IPAs, very hop forward.

Centennials, citras, chinnoks, cascades, all of those are very citrus forward. It’s a good synergy. Plus, I think in our market in Vero Beach, it’s not quite there yet for sours, but it will take a little time. There’s running a company and also staying true to yourself. If I look at the business side, selling IPAs are where the money is.

But where my heart is tends to be more farmhouses, saisons. Originally those flavors were harvest driven, depending on local agriculture. I’m intrigued by, in the wine industry, people use the word terroir to describe the flavors of the local region. I’m very interested in that. You look at some of those, and the vintage may change from year to year depending on the flavors.

Have you thought about collaborating with breweries to accentuate your fruit flavors?

Yeah. We have a small 3 barrel system. We wouldn’t be able to accommodate a big event. We’ve talked to breweries about collaborations and subsidizing production.

Because we’re using the name Orchid Island, we need to build the brewery in a way to celebrate the name and the reputation that’s already here. As far as the brand is concerned, I’m very OCD about it. I’m trying to be esoteric about building. People locally are all aware of the Orchid Island reputation.

Your beer names tend to come from citrus you use and the region in general, right?

I try to add as many layers of naming as possible. Star Ruby is a grapefruit. Jungle Trail was an old road that farmers would take fruit on and off the island. It’s still there. I think another beer I want to do is with a white grapefruit called Duncan. That’ll probably be the common thread with our beer names.

How do you feel about the future of craft beer in Florida?

I’m really excited that there’s excitement about craft beer. I hope to see people be responsible about growing. I see people all of a sudden with 30 barrel systems. What if they’re making bad beer? It would be the 90’s all over again.

As craft beer booms, many people are interested in getting hired as brewers themselves. What advice would you have for these people?

Just understand what goes into making good beer. That’s really it.

Finally, and I’m asking this because I love orange, but are you making more orange beers?

Yeah. There’s this really cool strain of fruit called honeybell. It’s only in crop during January. For a long time it was a legendary fruit. The legend was that there were only a couple of trees that grew it and the citrus farmers hoarded it for themselves. Then it became more available commercially. In January they come into harvest and I’ll be using that. It’ll be supplied by a local farm.


Image courtesy of Orchid Island Brewing.

Drink Florida Craft,



Brewery Visit – Due South Brewing

Due South Brewing, based in Boynton Beach,is the brainchild of husband and wife team Mike and Jodi Halker. Starting as homebrewers, the brewery opened a production facility and (prerequisite, at this point) taproom in May of 2012. In that time, they have expanded themselves to be a permanent face in Central and South Florida craft beer. Their beers are on tap pretty much everywhere, and places like ABC and Total Wine carry 4 and 6-packs of Due South beers year round. Naturally, it was time for a visit.

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Due South Brewing tap room entrance.

It’s a bit of a difficult find, however. It’s in the back of a small industrial park, next to a marble wholesaler. If you use some sort of mapping program, keep in mind that it’ll bring you to the front of the brewery. This, interestingly enough, is also the back of the brewery. You’ll need to go around back to get to the front. You’ll see what I mean. I did it by going down the wrong way of a one-way street, because I like to live dangerously like that.

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Due South Brewing Tap Room.

Their tap room is a roped off section of the brewery floor. It’s got a selection of games like cornhole, giant Jenga, and an indoor, air-conditioned room with a nice selection of beer-inspired artwork.

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Due South’s air-conditioned indoor tap room.

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Some of the beer-inspired art in the air-conditioned tap room.


The other thing that Due South’s tap room has is an impressive tap lineup. Their menu mentioned guest taps, but I didn’t see any, nor did I see the need for one. There were 18 beers on tap, including their standards like Category 3 IPA, Category 5 IPA, and their flagship Caramel Cream Ale.

Due South does tours on the weekends. The ones at 1 PM and 3 PM are free, but the one at 2 PM, their $10 VIP tour, is the one you want. It comes with a free pint glass and samples after the tour. It’s what my wife and I did. But not before grabbing a pint.

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Due South’s gorgeous Roasted Cocoa Stout

Due South’s Mexican Standoff



Of course, we went for their darkest beer. Because I don’t know. Anyway, we started with their Roasted Cocoa Stout. Don’t worry, this stout isn’t overly heave on the chocolate. It’s just a light touch. But it’s a smooth, easy drinking stout with a great, creamy head (due to the nitro pours) and a lot of big flavor. Easily one of my favorites.

The other one we tried before the tour was Mexican Standoff. This one is basically a beer version of a Mexican Hot Chocolate; big, heavy dark beer with vanilla, cocoa, cinnamon, and a giant punch in the throat from chili peppers. It’s a beer you need to prepare for.

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Part of the brewery floor at Due South Brewing.

On to the tour. It’s pretty quick and standard, if you’ve seen brewery tours before. One really nice added touch is a display of the original homebrewing system Mike Halker pieced together when he first started brewing. I’ve never seen a brewery with a display like this before, and it was good to see them celebrate their humble beginnings.

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Mike Halker’s homebrewing setup.

The tour had a fairly quick, but incredibly knowledgeable feel. It’s nice to see some of the raw ingredients, especially smelling roasted malts. Always smells great. Their canning line was there, with a giant mountain of cans for Caramel Cream Ale and Category 3 IPA ready to go, but they don’t can on the weekend. It’s a shame. I’d actually like to see the canning system operating one day.

The other thing that I am starting to find interesting on brewery tours is what each brewery names their fermentation tanks. I’ve seen boring old numbers, family members, sci-fi characters, and Due South has decided on spacecraft. Real ones. Columbia, Atlantis, Discovery, etc. It’s a nice, uniquely Florida touch.

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Due South fermentation tanks.

From there, the VIP Tour moves into their indoor tap room for the tasting portion. Due the the extremely long list of beers we tried, I am actually going to save that for another post. But I had a good time on the tour, and some of the beers I’ll be reporting on are nothing short of fantastic. Stay tuned, dear readers.

Drink Florida Craft,