For our last column, we sampled canned and bottled beers from Jacksonville breweries. There were more than we thought – we found 11 in stores, and there are a few more that we couldn’t get our hands on. This time, we thought we would try other Florida beers in portable packaging. But we quickly realized that, even for us, that would be just too many beers. And we’re really good at this sort of thing. So we narrowed the field down to a dozen – all in cans, two each from six Florida breweries.
By the way, beer cans made their debut 80 years ago in January. But it was only three years ago that Oskar Blues started canning its beer. Since then, other craft brewers have followed.
Now, we here at Amber Waves prefer the can over the bottle. It’s just easier, lighter and doesn’t break if you happen to drop it on a pool deck or in a darkened alley after midnight somewhere downtown. Actually, we generally use a glass anyway, so the vessel is sort of moot.
But back to the beer. The official Amber Waves tasting panel (motto: Because we can) sat down with a dozen of them after a long week of journalism.
To be honest, Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing was a little over-represented in our tasting, because they also contract-brew the two beers we tried from Brew Bus Brewing.
And not surprisingly, the Cigar City/Brew Bus beers we tasted were some of our top picks in this flight.
Our favorite was Invasion Pale Ale from Cigar City. You could call it a session beer, at 5 percent alcohol, but it’s full of flavor – grapefruit and tropical fruits from the hops, a light malty backbone and a fruity, crisp finish with pleasant lingering bitterness. A great summer beer.
Also ranking highly was Cigar City’s Florida Cracker, a Belgian-style white ale that’s citrusy, a little tart and spicy with notes of orange peel. Another perfect choice for summer drinking. We also tried another Belgian-style witbier, Trapeze Monk, from Sarasota’s Big Top Brewing, and although it was enjoyable, it had an almost apple effervescence and lacked the complexity of the Cracker.
We liked the Double Decker English-style porter from Brew Bus. It’s roasty with some creamy sweetness that dries out for a clean finish.
Arcus IPA, from Big Storm Brewing in Odessa, is a nice beer, dark for an IPA, balanced with a pleasant lingering bitterness. Bimini Twist IPA from 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg also is enjoyable, with piney and citrusy hops and a light fruitiness, bitter but not over the top.
Poolside Kolsch from Sarasota’s JDub’s Brewing and Beach Blonde Ale from 3 Daughters both are good hot-weather beers, crisp and spritzy and 5 percent alcohol. We favored the blonde because of its bright flavor and moderately bitter finish.
Despite the terrible pun in its name, Are Wheat There Yet? from Brew Bus is a pretty darn good American wheat, although the lemony aroma and flavor grew stronger as it warmed, and it reminded one of our tasters of Lemon Pledge.
Up Top! IPA from JDub’s is piney with some toast and caramel, and a long-lasting bitterness. Circus City IPA from Big Top is pretty dark, with a fruitiness reminiscent of plums and subdued hop flavor and aroma. Pleasant enough, but we wouldn’t call it an IPA.
And Wavemaker Amber Ale from Big Storm has a candy-like sweetness, some toast, a little roast and a building bitterness, but lacked the complexity of some of the other beers we tried.
The big news in the beer community (a fairly loose-knit but often entertaining crowd) is the new growler law that went into effect Wednesday. Florida has now joined the rest of the country to allow 64-ounce growlers.
At Intuition Ale Works through Saturday, turn in an empty Intuition gallon growler and get a half-gallon growler filled with one of the brewery’s core beers for free. Intuition will continue to fill gallon growlers, but won’t be selling them.
There are some special beers being tapped as we head into the Fourth of July weekend.
On Thursday, Bold City Brewery will tap five of them. First are three cask-conditioned versions of Killer Whale Cream Ale: Watermelon, Blueberry and Piña Colada. (Red, white and blue, in case you didn’t notice.)
It will also tap two barrel-aged beers: Secret Stout and Chinook IPA.
Also on Thursday, Engine 15 Brewing will have a vertical tasting of its Barrel Aged Imperial Chupacabra to celebrate its fifth anniversary. They will be pouring 8-ounce glasses of the Russian imperial stout from each of the last three years.
You get appetizers, two more pints and get to keep the 8-ounce glass for $35. Call (904) 249-2337 for reservations.
AND MORE CANS
First Magnitude Brewing in Gainesville plans to start canning in late August or early September. They’re starting with 72 Pale Ale and Drift English Mild. Distribution will start in Gainesville and then expand to St. Augustine.
Meanwhile, First Mag has its first release bourbon-barrel aged Minnow, an imperial stout, on tap.