*Taken from Sips from the Snifter*
There’s something special about winters in Miami. The sun doesn’t shine any less, but the temperature dips making the outdoors bearable. Throngs of snowbirds flock to our sandy shores in search of a respite from whatever frozen abyss they hail from. Before the snobbery of SoBe Food and Wine Festival and the madness of Winter Music Conference, the month of January belongs to the beer scene. Every January, South Florida Beer Week spotlights our local beer scene and the breweries that make it happen. The premier event that week is Miami Beer Festival.
If your interest in craft beer is the local scene in Miami, don’t skip Miami Beer Festival. All of the up and coming breweries, breweries in planning and even some home-brewers in the area brought their best, most experimental franken-beers and in many cases those experiments were mind blowing. No other brewery more inescapably captures the unique local culture of Miami-Dade County than Hialeah Brewing; with beer names like “Porque Tu Tan Sexy”, a vanilla-hazelnut porter, “Chongivity”, a torrejas (Cuban French Toast) strong ale and with flavors like Flan. It seemed like there was never not a long line for Hialeah Brewing, bro. At times the line extended so far that you couldn’t tell where it ended and the line from the booth across the plaza began. “For Our City”, the bourbon barrel-aged flan imperial stout contributed to that phenomenon. The nose was out of this world! The aroma of vanilla and sweet caramel were unmistakable. I found that the barrel-aging imparted notes of vanilla and made for a dryer mouth-feel than you might expect from an imperial stout. For a bourbon barrel-aged beer it wasn’t the least bit boozy.
Perhaps, the best barrel-aged beers of the night belonged to Lincoln’s Beard Brewing Co. People were already lining up a half hour before the 7:30 tapping in anticipation of “Big Whiskey”, “Rosebud” and “Bodhi’s Last Wave”. “Big Whiskey” was just that, big on whiskey flavor! The light body of the brown ale was a great vehicle for delivering all of that boozy goodness. Rosebud was a treat, somewhat reminiscent of a Flanders Oude Bruin. “Bodhi’s Last Wave”, a Double IPA, was my favorite IPA of the night. In your face hop flavor balanced just right. All of their offerings will be a welcomed addition to the Miami beer scene. Their brewery is set to open in the Bird Rd. Arts District later this year.
The barrel-aged excitement continued at Micro Mammoth’s booth! Their “Sarah Jessica Parker 2” Sour Ale aged in Amaretto Barrels with roses, cherries, hibiscus flowers, lemon peel and cranberries was delectable. It delivered wave after wave of flavor and made your face pucker like, well…just look at the name. No small draw was the little toy boy who, with a little help, rinsed out your tasting glass. He is a regular fixture when they pour at events.
At the other end of the plaza there was Two Henrys Brewing Company, whose name pays homage to the two foremost railroad magnates of the turn of the 20th century who helped civilize peninsular Florida: Henry Flagler and Henry Plant. Located in Plant City outside of Tampa, the names of their beers reference other historical figures and places in Florida’s history. “Belleview Biltmore Vanilla Blueberry Wheat” was downright refreshing and really hammered home the vanilla and blueberry flavors. I would recommend this beer to someone interested in getting into craft beer.
Next, Descarga Brewing Company, a very promising brewery, featured some of the most interesting flavor combinations of the night. “Hi-Ju-Doin” a fruit-beer featuring juniper berries and hibiscus was invigorating. “Palero” was a porter aged on palo santo wood. It was delicious with a beautiful tan head. The aroma and flavor were intense, to say the least, as the palo santo imparts a woodsy, cinnamon and licorice flavor. I was disappointed to learn that the brewery in planning had turned its sights northward to Hallandale Beach in Broward County. Originally, the brewery was looking to set up in Wynwood or west of Wynwood. Going north has become commonplace, as start-up breweries are priced out of the Wynwood neighborhood. The difficulty of doing business in Miami is also a major factor.
Speaking of Broward, 3 Sons Brewing from Davie was the darling of the festival. I was able to try a few of their offerings. “Break of Dawn”, a coffee-maple imperial stout, touched on all the flavors, but didn’t overpower the senses. It still tasted like beer. “Gose a Little Something Like This”, a gose with Hawaiian sea salt, hibiscus and coriander, was a very light, slightly tart palate cleanser. I would love to have a few of those at regatta. My absolute favorite from them was “Pumpkin Spice Latte”. From simply reading the name I expected just another pumpkin beer. Wow, was I blown away! They really nailed the coffee flavor on this one. It tasted just like the autumn favorite from Starbucks. They were also kind enough to be pouring mead from a new Florida meadery, Garagiste. “Triple Black” was great, but “She Wore a Raspberry Bochet” was so awesome, with the raspberries lending a slight tartness to the affair.
Another brewery in planning eyeing Broward is King Fox. King Fox specializes in funky, wild, farmhouse ales. Think Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, but better because they’re from Florida. Is my bias showing? They certainly had the most unique beer of the night. “Petite Fumee” is a smoked-sour ale. Holy cow! It smelled like a BBQ in a wet basement. For those of you into wild ales, you know that’s a compliment! The only hoppy Berliner Weisse I can really get into is The Dry Hoppa. King Fox often features a different hop variety in this brew every time I’ve tried it. I’d love to have it with Simcoe or Amarillo. In any case, I can always count on the Dry Hoppa to scratch that sour and hoppy itch.
There were plenty of other great breweries at the festival; these were just some of the ones that really jumped out at me. The St. Bernardus booth did some serious work and so did the Miami Brewing Company and MASH, Miami-Area Society of Home-brewers. All in all, it was a spectacular night of sampling at a great venue. Here’s hoping it’ll be back next year in the same spot. Cheers!
Alex Reyes is a contributor to Sips from the Snifter. Follow him on IG & Untappd (@TheKingOfAllapattah), and on Twitter (@Allapattah_King).
(Featured image credit: sipsfromthesnifter.com)