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Florida's Best Summer Beers

Stephen Brown

Florida Brewed Beer - summertime beers brewed in Florida and in Naples   The Sunshine State has been steadily developing a palate for more artisanal brews over the years. As this local thirst for craft beer blossoms, so does the readily available selection at local watering holes, beer-centered retail shops and big-box alcohol centers like Total Wine. And Florida’s growing popularity in the craft beer realm parallels the path of individual beer lovers' own journey of self-discovery: Similar to a maturity curve, drinkers gradually experiment with different types of beers, sampling ales, porters, lagers and stouts, until finally settling in to a favorite style.

   While the growth of Florida’s craft beer market is on a similar trajectory, that plateau is nowhere in sight. Generally speaking, the rest of the continental United States has had a pretty big leg up in terms of exposure to craft brews. Wheat Beer - summertime beer - Brewed in FloridaThis is mainly because the variety of artisanal foodstuffs shipping this far south was somewhat limited in the past—there had to be other items to export that would be equally compelling in order to get the goods rolling. But times have indeed changed. Now, just as Floridians may dine on tuna caught just 24 hours ago off the shores of Japan, fresh beer can be cold-shipped across the country, landing at the tap or on the shelf well before that born-on date becomes a red herring.

   We are experiencing a beer renaissance in the Sunshine State, a great awakening if you will. And it is not just limited to outside influences looking to tap into the great swarms of sun-kissed suds drinkers. Plenty of Florida-based brewers are getting in on the action, many of whom are just a beat away. Seeing that the hot season is in full swing, we’re tapping a few summery brews made right here in Florida and readily available to help you work on your own summertime beer maturity curve. Enjoy!

 

Tequesta Brewing Co. | Belgian Cream Ale | Belgian Summer Thyme Ale

Tequesta Brewing Co. has been the apple of our craft beer eye ever since it opened its doors in January 2011. In the able hands of brewers Matt Webster and Fran Andrewlevich, the brewery/taproom in northern Palm Beach County has become a force for craft beer in South Florida, constantly tinkering and creating some of the most intriguing and quaffable brews in the state. Stepping through the doors is an education in all things beer, from the glimmering fermenting tanks in the back and the underlying aroma of hops, malt and barley that permeates the air to the beers served—a la flight for the newbie looking for variety or a pint once you’ve settled in for a favorite. Webster and Andrewlevich—who are often on hand, pulling beers or brewing the next batch—are always happy to talk sports, Florida’s craziness and, of course, beer. Places like TBC are what make the craft beer craze sustainable and lasting.

   Here are our picks for TBC’s summer offerings.

 

Tequesta Brewing Co. - Belgian Summer Thyme Ale - sumer beers from FloridaBelgian Summer Thyme Ale | ABV 5.2%

This is the beer for those who love a menagerie of spices and herbs in their dishes. Brewed in the traditional Belgian spiced ale-style, the beer pours a brooding gold complexion that tends to hang on the darker side. The head sits like a creamy pillow that lasts throughout, giving off so much fragrance it's like walking in a summer garden. The nose sticks close to that garden, with thyme hitting the nostrils with a swift kick. It's not overpowering but rather unexpected. The taste is much more subdued in terms of thyme. Though prevalent, the coriander quickly catches up, smoothing everything out for a nice earthy sweetness. Hints of lavender also soften the edges, while citric chord is struck with the slightest bit of orange playing on the palate.

   This beer is an outright star—from nose to finish, there is something to love in each bubbly drop. Yet there is a catch: Supplies are quickly going the way of the polar bear—not gone yet but certainly not long for this world. The supply is expected to run dry by lobster mini-season—July 25 and 25—but fear not. Currently in the conditioning tank, an American Ale with watermelon chaser (ABV 4.5%)—we have it on good authority that this stuff will be awesome.

 

Tequesta Brewing Co. - Belgian Bream Ale - summer beers from FloridaBelgian Cream Ale | 4.8%

On the lighter side but staying with the Belgian tradition, TBC’s Belgian Cream Ale imbues summer sipping—clean and light, just right for harsh temps and muggy afternoons. Straw in color, this beer is clear and bright with a creamy topper of tightly compact bubbles that slowly dissipates. The nose has a slight assertion of hops, giving it a light bitterness, while the Trappist yeast lends a fruity, citric hint on the backend. The beer is crisp, clean and a little effervescent, just as a summer ale should be. The hoppy-ness is slight, giving the beer a slight bitter taste while fruity flavors from the nose carries through to the palate. Made with 25 percent corn and 5 percent oats to counter the bitterness of the hops, the beer comes out altogether smooth and balanced, leaving us thirsting for more.

   The relative low ABV makes it the perfect accompaniment for the barbecue—or, better yet, beach-a-cue—and will pair well with light fish and spiny lobster.

 

Due South Brewing Co. | Florida Blonde | Southern Saison

Boynton Beach’s Due South Brewing Co. is one of the major contributing factors in South Florida's craft beer movement. Celebrating its one-year anniversary in May, Due South has been a staunch advocate for the bready nectar, not just through the seeming graduate-level course of a tasting flight at the taproom offers but with brewmaster and owner Mike Halker leading the charge. Not only are his beers some of the more inventive in town, Halker is also a board member on the Florida Brewers Guild, an advocacy group dedicated to promote the art fo brewing in Florida to the public, brewers, suppliers and the government. For Halker, brewing is a passion, and it shows through the beers created. Recently tapping its 100th batch of beer—an Imperial Caramel Ale—the brewers at Due South decided to re-release a few oldies but goodies for these hot and muggy days. The Florida Blonde (re-released in June) and Southern Saison (tapped in May) are the perfect brews for what ails ya’ and are great way to pass these long months before Oktoberfest cracks us back to full-flavored bevvies.

Due South Brewing Co. - Southern Saison - Summer Friendly BeersSouthern Saison | ABV 5.6%

This brew just seemed destined for summer. Farmhouse ales/sasions were traditionally brewed in the winter specifically for summer drinking and are usually accompanied by some fruity notes, a spicy and peppery bite and medium bitterness. The Southern Saison does not disappoint. Pouring a hazy golden hue, a slim white head dissipates to a nice little ring around the collar. The aroma is slightly fruity, but an underlying hoppy bite lingers. The spice flavor is distinct, perhaps the Caribbean flavors Halker and crew add, while the hoppy bitterness is more upfront than other farmhouse ales. This beer is distinct, a nice jump from some of the standard summer offerings.

 

Florida Blonde | ABV 4.2%

With a name like Florida Blonde, you know this brew can handle the state's tempestuous weather. The characters at Due South specialize in what Halker likes to describe as “drinkable beers"—brews that make a smooth transition for the craft beer newbie—and Florida Blonde is well in line. A blonde ale, it pours a clear golden color with a creamy white head that holds. With a lightly sweet malty, citrus aroma, the taste has a nice balance—there is a light grain and yeast taste with a faint underlying citrus foundation, while a mild hop bite finishes it off. The lower ABV and light flavoring makes this is a relaxed, refreshing beer that can easily make the rounds be, it 112 heat index or in the comfy confines of an air-conditioned den.

 

Cigar City Brewing | Hotter Than Helles

When it comes to Florida-brewed beer, Cigar City Brewing is the undisputed king. Hailing from Tampa, Cigar City opened in 2009 and has consistently delivered some of the finest, most inventive suds in the state. The standards like the Jai Alai IPA and Maduro Brown are consummate favorites among the BeerAdvocate and Ratebeer crowds, while the brews have continued to make a name on the national stage. This company's creations have garnered 12 medals at the United State Open Beer Championship since 2009, more than any other Florida brewer. This summer, Cigar City offers an array of beers, from IPAs to stouts and ales, but for something refreshing that pairs well with the delicate flavors of Florida lobster—mini season looms!—there is no better sip than Hotter Than Helles Lager.

Cigar City Brewing - Hotter Than Helles Lager - Florida brewed beerHotter Then Helles Lager | ABV 5%

Staying true to the German-style helles bier—meaning light in German, though in color only—this Bavarian bevvy is crisp, refreshing and full of bitterness; a supreme example of a lager.

   Pouring a hazy straw color, the head dissipates quickly, leaving some bubbly after-effects, but not for long. A zesty citrus smell off the top gives way to a malty sweetness and bitter hops. The taste goes from citrus to sweet, a nice balance with a light carbonated feel at first. Nice and refreshing, it's perfect for the beach, especially because its available in cans.

 

Florida Beer Co. | Key West Southernmost Wheat

Arguably the largest Florida craft maker, brewing more than 100,000 barrels of the good stuff a year, Florida Beer Co. has long been on the brewing map. Located in Melbourne, the brewer dabbles in a number of beers, under an array of labels and names. Swamp Ape IPA is a consummate favorite on the award circuit, while the beers under the Hurricane Reef banner fly some tasty Caribbean-infused flavors and inspiration. But for a true summer staple, it's hard not to gravitate towards the Key West label in the Florida Beer portfolio, more specifically Southernmost Wheat. Citrusy, biting and refreshing, it is perfect to enjoy in mid-July.

Florida Beer Comapny - Key West Southernmost Wheat - Flrodia Brewed Beer for SummerSouthernmost Wheat | ABV 5.1%

With Key West in the name, it garners an expectation of wackines. This beer uses everyone’s favorite Conch Republic fruit, the Key lime, with a dash of the thin-skinned zest added to the batch during brewing. The Belgian-style wheat ale pours pale yellow with a white head that rings the glass. The Key lime comes through in the aroma, as does a light spice. It's a good wheat beer for Florida, as the lime and spice play through and the hops add just enough bitterness to give it balance.

 

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