Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

March 22, 2007

Beer Diary:

SnowBeerDorks Allowed

If you choose to winter in Florida, you’ll still have good beer.
by Jill Jaracz

Jill Jaracz is not a fruit, but she loves a good fruit beer. And wheats and wits. Catch her other writing at The Diva Platform, Prevention Magazine's Buzz Blogs, and Gapers Block.
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Now that we’ve had another crummy, bitter cold Midwestern winter, you may be wondering, “Why the hell do I stay here in the cold? Why don’t I just go down to Florida for three months?” Then you think that might not be a good idea because you don’t really know about the beer quality in the Sunshine State. I mean, the whole place is pretty much Disneyfied, so shouldn’t their beer pretty much be swill? Well, I’m happy to tell you that you can now be a winter bird and still have easy access to quality beer.

Baby-Boy and I spent some time on the Space Coast, and we were able to track down a good microbrewery and a decent brewpub, all within a couple of days. For microbrew, check out the Florida Beer Company, located in Melbourne. They brew 16 different beers, 7-8 contract beers, and two ciders, all of which are distributed throughout the state, with limited distribution in Georgia and Alabama.

Formerly known as Indian River Beverage Company, FBC has five different labels: Key West, their number one seller; La Tropical, a Cuban-style beer made with an authentic recipe; Hurricane Reef and Ybor Gold, which they acquired after buying Tampa’s Ybor City brewery; and Beachside, whose slogan is, “Would you salute the sunshine with a beer from Milwaukee?”

FBC has a capacity of 2,000 barrels a month, including four new fermentation tanks that added 960 barrels of capacity. They also have a bottling line on the premises. You can see their brewing operations if you visit their tasting room, where a friendly server will pour you about five different beers for your sampling pleasure. They’ve also got a nice shop with freshly bottled beer, t-shirts, glasses, and even soap made with beer.

After a day at the beach, you can have a fine dinner at Charlie & Jake’s Brewpub, also in Brevard County. Charlie & Jake’s was founded in 1996, and a year later their Anniversary Ale won a silver medal at the granddaddy of competitions, the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado. Needless to say, they were off to a good start.

With their New World Brewing Systems brewery, Charlie & Jake’s churns out up to 700 barrels of beer a year. Michael Jackson has even sought out their beer for inclusion in his books. But was it good enough for this Beer Dork?

Survey says yes! I had a tasting mat with five samples of solid three- and four-mug beers. My first taste was Wickham Wheat, an American wheat ale made with Cascades and Fuggles hops. I found this one to be slightly hoppy with a finish that was a little bitter for my liking, but overall it was quite good.

Next up was the Harbor City Gold, a pilsner made with Pale and Carapils malts. The overall effect was a smooth, creamy beer with a nice body. It was my second favorite beer of the night.

Three ales rounded out my mat. First was the Indian River Red, my favorite beer of the set. The Red had a beautiful scent that hinted at a slightly fruity taste. Made with Cascades and Centennial hops, it also has some caramelized malts, which added some of the nice texture. I’m not much for the hoppy taste, but the fruity notes in the beer really made this one go down smooth.

The famed Anniversary Ale is made with four separate additions of Cascade hops that give it its bitterness. Even this non-hophead found it to be a really interesting beer with a good mouth feel. Unfortunately for me, the back end is quite bitter, so it left me a little cold.

Finally I got to the Brown Bottom Ale. This one’s a complex mother, made with roasted barley and chocolate malt. Throw in Mt. Hood and Northern Brewer hops, and you’ve got the makings for something pretty hoppy?but wait! There’s an Irish Ale yeast to balance out the flavor. I found the taste to be pretty nutty, but that’s about all I’ll say because overall I’m not a fan of brown ales and my own palate has not learned to appreciate them yet.

One great thing about Charlie & Jake’s is that for $40 a year, you can buy a personalized mug that you’ll leave at the bar, and every time you come in, it’s only $2 a beer. They even throw in a t-shirt with the deal.

With good beer and a quality menu, Charlie & Jake’s hits the spot. The only bad part about the place is that you can’t take the beer home with you. Thanks to Florida law, brewpubs can only brew and sell within their own four walls. They can’t sell it for consumption anywhere else, even if they have another brewpub location. You’ll just have to head to Florida to enjoy it.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

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