Craft-beer menus in South Florida's breweries and bars can seem daunting. Pilsners? Stouts? Hefeweizens? Saisons? What's the difference?
As more breweries open in the tricounty area, beer options for drinkers continue to swell in complexity.
There are now 79 styles of craft beer, according to the Brewers Association, a national outfit supporting American independent brewers. And beermakers are constantly tinkering with the chemistry of ales and lagers, taking control of factors such as temperature, water sources, hop varieties (plants that add bitterness to beer), yeast strains (how beer ferments) and malt grains (providing color and flavor).
"We constantly make our beers with Florida in mind," says Luis Bignoni, founder of Wynwood Brewing Company in Miami. "We think about the heat, the local fruits and flavors. Beer is our expression of the landscape."
We asked a handful of South Florida brewery employees to help define eight of the common styles that locals are guzzling, and describe beer examples from their own taprooms. These craft beers can be ordered from bars, restaurants and liquor stores year-round.
India Pale Ales
What it is: "It's a beer that focuses on hops as the central flavor mover of the beer. There are hundreds of different crossbred hops, from grassy to herbal, to grapefruit to citrus, to lemon, passionfruit, even hops that are dank and oniony, robust and funky. IPAs have a higher bitterness and more alcohol, typically. But there aren't any rules, man. That's the beauty of the American beer industry."
Local beer: Hop Gun IPA at Funky Buddha Brewery. "Hop Gun is an East Coast-style IPA, which is to say we're a bit more balanced in the hops and malt profile. Instead of super-bracing bitterness that numbs your mouth, we go for a balanced finish with caramel and honey malts for sweetness, and Centennial and Cascade hops, which taste like pink grapefruit and pine."
— John Linn, brand director at Funky Buddha Brewery (1201 NE 38th St., Oakland Park)
Category 5 Imperial IPA at Due South Brewing Company, a super-hopped imperial IPA
Pineapple Pop IPA at J. Wakefield Brewing Company, a fusion of fresh pineapple and citrusy hops
What it is: "A traditional cream ale is … crisp, light, and uses ale yeast. Ales sit at the very top of the animal kingdom next to lagers, the other major category. It's a yeast-forward beer. It can be crispy, in the case of a blonde ale, or malty, in the case of an amber ale, and they're distinguished by the different ways the malts are added to the fermenting process."
Local beer: Caramel Cream Ale at Due South Brewing Company. "It's in its own little unique category. The Caramel Cream falls in between a crisp blonde ale and a malty amber ale, and it melds the best of those worlds together."
— Doug Fairall, brand manager at Due South Brewing Company (2900 High Ridge Road, Boynton Beach)
Other blonde/cream ales:
Big Rod Coconut Ale at Miami Brewing Company, a crisp blonde ale with notes of coconut, caramel and vanilla
La Rubia Blonde Ale at Wynwood Brewing Company, a blonde ale with notes of golden syrup and honey
What it is: " 'Hefe' signifies yeast and 'weizen' signifies wheat, so, right there, you're going to expect a very yeasty, wheat-dominant beer, with a very hazy, milky golden color. What makes the hefe shine is that specific German yeast, which adds those clove and banana and bubblegum overtones."
Local beer: El Jefe Hefeweizen at J. Wakefield Brewing. "At its base is your traditional German wheat ale, but we gave it more of a Miami flair. We added a bit of fresh coconut from a Wynwood distributor to the second stage of fermenting. We want you to pick up that beautiful bouquet you get from a German yeast, and amplify with coconut flavor."
— Alex Gutierrez, brand director at J. Wakefield Brewing (120 NW 24th St., Miami)
Heisenberg at LauderAle Brewing Company, a hazy, gold hefeweizen-style beer
White Wizard at Barrel of Monks Brewing, a wheat beer with a light hop finish
What it is: "It's the first beer style to showcase the hop, and it caught on in Bavaria and Germany in the mid-1800s. Pilsners are crisp and light like straw in color, with a dry finish, and you should not have to question if there's enough hops in it. By modern definition, the IPA is a descendant of the pilsner."
Local beer: Domino Pilsner at M.I.A. Beer Company. "Our Domino isn't in any German pilsner category, because it uses the local hard water. We don't use low-bitter hops, which is more of a Bavarian style. The result is a very approachable beer that's earthy, floral and spicy."
— Michael Demetrus, brewmaster at M.I.A. Beer Company (10400 NW 33rd St., Suite 150, Doral)
La Boheme Bohemian Style Pilsenser at Khoffner Brewery, a spicy, floral, slightly bitter pilsner
Stiltsville Pilsner at Concrete Beach Brewery, a pilsner loaded with citrus hops
What it is: "Saisons originated from Belgium. Farmers used to drink it all day long before the Industrial Revolution, so it comes from a farmhouse tradition. It's dry and crisp and extremely refreshing with a bright acidity and citrusy, lemony flavors that are called 'esters,' or byproducts of the yeast fermentation. A saison is one of the original summer beers and works great in Miami heat.
Local beer: La Finca Saison at the Tank Brewing Company. "Ours is a Belgian-style wheat saison. We add 3 ounces of dry hops per barrel. We also use three kinds of grains, mostly barley and wheat malt with a touch of rye malt. We choose not to add spice. A saison should never taste like a bowl of spiced soup."
— Moh Saade, brewer at the Tank Brewing Company (5100 NW 72nd Ave., Miami)
Sunday Afternoon Saison at Devour Brewing Company, strong fruity, spicy ale
J. Wakefield Brewing Rainbow Road, a guava-flavored saison
What it is: "A full-bodied, fruit-flavored beer that pairs extremely well with food. It uses traditional Belgian yeast, which gives it its bubblegum and banana flavors. But the more malt you add, the more it produces a higher concentration of sugar and alcohol content. You have a single, which is the lowest malt build, and it goes up to dubbel, tripel, quadrupel, which is four times the amount of malt."
Local beer: Three Fates tripel at Barrel of Monks Brewing Company. "Three Fates is representative of our three partners, and it's our first brew produced. We've always had a passion for Belgians, but we love this one's big, white, foamy, head, and it's beautiful golden color. It's a light-tasting, crispy beer."
— Keith DeLoach, co-owner at Barrel of Monks Brewing Company (1141 S. Rogers Circle No. 5, Boca Raton)
Other Belgian ales:
Don't Get Confused Belgian tripel at Saltwater Brewery, an amber-colored, crisp tripel with notes of fig
Tourist Trappe Belgian tripel at M.I.A. Beer Company, a fruity, spicy beer punched with an Belgian Abby yeast strain.
What it is: It's a dark beer with notes of chocolate and roasty, coffeelike flavors. It's very dry and very drinkable. You roast the malts like you would coffee beans, which gives porters their color and flavor, and whether the beer is light, medium or full-bodied depends on your malts and the residual sugars from fermenting."
Local beer: Pop's Porter at Wynwood Brewing Company. "Ours is a light-bodied porter. It's 90-some-odd degrees every day in Florida, so you don't want a heavy beer. We use seven different types of malts and English hops, malts and yeast."
— Luis Brignoni, founder of Wynwood Brewing Company (565 NW 24th St., Miami)
Imperial Café Ole at Due South Brewing Company, an espresso-style porter
Barrel-Aged Chocwork Orange at Funky Buddha Brewery, a roasty porter with notes of chocolate and orange
What it is: "It's a darker beer — darker than porters — with a lot of roast and a fuller body and higher alcohol than your average beer. A porter is usually lower alcohol and not as roasty. The lactose sugar that goes into milk stouts adds a creamy mouthfeel. Other than that, the line gets blurred for porters and stouts."
Local beer: Sea Cow Milk Stout at Saltwater Brewery. "It's a 'sessionable' stout, which means you can drink a lot in one sitting. It drinks like a lighter ale, with creamy chocolate up front with a roasty finish."
— Chris Gove, president of SaltWater Brewery (1701 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach)
B. Rabbit Espresso Stout, Copperpoint Brewing Company, an espresso-flavored stout
Moodoo Voodoo Milk Stout at Bangin Banjo Brewing Company in Pompano Beach, a roasted stout with notes of coffee
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