June 24, 2014

Man in search of beer in America: Part One -- Southern Florida

Your intrepid Israeli beer seeker flew towards the western skies on June 8.  The trip was planned for a while but it took on urgency when my 96-year-old mother in southern Florida suffered a very minor stroke around a month ago.  It left her needing round-the-clock assistance, which Trudy and I were able to arrange.

The shelves of American craft beers:
Mix and match six-packs for $9.99.
Anyway, in between interviewing aid-givers and keeping house, I was able to get out and see some of the effects of the craft beer upsurge in America.

One of the super supermarkets had an entire wall of single bottles of craft beers, and a huge refrigerated section of beers in six-packs and twelve-packs.  Beers from the four corners of America and beyond.  The single-bottle wall let you pick any six beers for $9.99!

I chose three different style beers to drink at home -- my mother's home, that is.

The first was Shiner FM 966 Farmhouse Ale from Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas.  The interesting label informed me that farmhouse ale is from a European tradition of brewing beers in the winter for drinking in the spring.

I think I might have missed the right spring by several years.  FM 966 had the color and fizz of ginger ale.  The aromas were hoppy, spicy and grassy -- but the dominant taste was sour. The bitterness of the hops -- listed on the label as Golding, Sterling and Meridian -- just weren't able to counteract the sourness.  This is a beer I did not enjoy.

Things got better with the second beer, which we drank with Shabbat lunch: Hoptical Illusion from the Blue Point Brewing Co. in Patchogue, Long Island, New York.  I visited Blue Point several years ago on a visit to the U.S.  They have a beautiful Friday afternoon beer party (which we called a kabbalat Shabbat, a welcoming of the Sabbath), when you can drink three of their great beers for free and then buy some more.

Hoptical Illusion is a classical India Pale Ale (no ABV was given), with a delicious balance of hops and floral spicyness.  It enhanced the taste of our food, and of the entire day.

Ice cold six- and twelve- and 
I tried to imagine the British soldiers in 19th century India enjoying beer this good, but I couldn't do it. No way.  Hoptical Illusion is IPA which has evolved in the New World, spurred on by American ingenuity and magnitude.

My third bottle was Southern Pecan, "the original pecan nut brown ale," from the Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. in Kiln, Mississippi.  The label claims it's the first beer made with whole, roasted pecans.

Southern Pecan pours out dark copper with a thin head and, really, a nutty aroma.  I found it to be a bit on the sweet side but a delicious beer.  I couldn't find any pecan taste; I guess the pecans ferment into a neutral nuttiness.  But it was a truly interesting and awareness enhancing beer drinking experience.

When we visited my cousin Debi, her husband Jerry served us Sam Adams Summer Ale and Boston Lager.  I preferred the latter, a rich and satisfying dark amber which to my mind redeems the "lager" appellation from the indignity caused by the mega macro brewers of American pale lagers.

The Summer Ale tries too hard to suit itself to the season.  This wheat ale has nothing special to say, even though it it's made with added lemon peel and grains of paradise, a kind of African pepper.  I found it a little acrid.

I had one more beer before leaving Florida.  When we ate at the California Pizza Kitchen, the Blue Moon Brewing Company's flagship beer, their Belgian White wheat ale, was offered as a draft choice.  It was just one more nondescript wheat ale that I drank along the way -- though it did go well with the salad and pizza we had.

My search for American craft beer would now have to continue at my next stop, Washington DC.          


  1. Doug, Blue Moon white is hardly a craft beer. its made by Coors...

    1. Thank you, Noam. I gratefully stand corrected. Perhaps we should be looking at what happens to craft breweries after they are "bought out" by big beer.


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