Sunday, December 06, 2009

My Florida Beer Adventure

Florida is known for many cool things: Bronzed beach goers in bikinis, kick-ass theme parks, lazy Spring Training vacations.

Unfortunately, beer is not one of its notable attractions. And while visiting my father in the Jacksonville area over Thanksgiving, I sought to find out if that non-reputation was warranted.

I can say with limited authority now that it largely is, though if you search hard enough, you can find a few decent offerings. But Florida beers seem to me like beers you find in many hot-weather Central American countries: made to quench thirst, not challenge the palate.

The best of the lot available in most liquor stores seemed to be Key West Sunset Ale, an offering that weighed in somewhere between an amber and a golden but with a sharp citrus taste. Again, this was a nice beer to have when sitting in the backyard on a 75-degree day, but not exactly something you'd choose from the list at the Falling Rock Taphouse.

Hurricane Reef Caribbean-Style Pilsner had similar qualities to recommend it: Smooth, refreshing, nice at the end of a kayaking trip. It's a decent lager with just a little more malt backing than many of its ilk. But it's particularly good for warm weather.

Karibrew Pub in Fernandina Beach had five offerings stretching from a red to a stout to a nut brown that all tasted light for their styles. Maybe it should not have been a surprise that its American Pilsner, full-bodied with a slightly lemon-wheat quality to it, was the most interesting of the options.

And there there was Land Shark Lager, the omnipresent bottle from Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Brewing Co. that is starting to get national distribution, likely because of its famed maker, not because of its taste. All I could think was that if a shark swallowed a keg of Olympia and then had it pumped from his stomach, this probably would have been the result.

So, Florida, home of great seafood, cliff-hanging elections and Spring Break memories, hasn't reached Colorado levels in its beer-making yet. But, if in Rome - or, in this case, Miami or Jacksonville or somewhere similar - expectations of refreshing beers, if not complex or terribly interesting ones, at least can be met.


Did you not have anything from Cigar City in Tampa? I've heard very good things about them.
Adam -

No, I didn't get down to that part of the state to try anything from them. I'll keep that in my for my next trip down there, though.

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