Yes, craft beer is still a thing. And a BIG thing at that. This is not a complaint, by any means. I love craft beer. It’s just more of a surprising observation.
By this point in time, I thought that there would be way more consolidation and culling of the pack in the craft beer space than there has been. If anything, just the opposite seems to be true. I can’t even keep track of the head spinning number of options that are now available. And more are coming every day.
Some of the original “craft brewers” have gotten big and been sucked up into the macro-brewery world. We’re talking about the New Belgium’s, Elysian’s, and Bell’s of the industry. But, at the same time, it seems like there’s another tsunami of super small batch beer offerings on the horizon.
Here are a couple of Sarasota examples. Brew Life Brewing (5765 S. Beneva Rd., (941) 952-3831) is putting out some crazy flavor combinations (Broken Ice Cream Machine Chocolate Stout, Pink Guava Sesh IPA, and Curuba Tropical Sour Ale, to name a few) in batches that are small enough that they can only be consumed on premise. They’ve got some canned selections for sale at the brewery. But they’re not supplying kegs to area bars and restaurants like some of our larger Sarasota brewers have been doing for years.
Chef Darwin Santa Maria, the co-founder of Darwin Brewing Co. and Selva Grill, has a new micro batch brewing project, Almazónica Cervecería & Peruvian Eatery (4141 S. Tamiami Trl., (941) 260-5964). They’re brewing some imaginative beers to go with Darwin’s creative Peruvian cuisine. I love the idea of special brews created to pair perfectly with the food your restaurant is serving. Let’s see where this goes…
So, where does all of this leave us? Well, you’re certainly able to get wonderful locally brewed beers in so many places around town. But do you know what you’re really ordering? I mean this in a style-centric way. There are just so many beer styles to choose from. How is a person to navigate today's complicated beer menu?
I’ve got an expert in the field to help us. Enter Certified Cicerone®, Ed Paulsen. He can definitely help unravel some of the mystery. Ed knows his beer. He’s probably forgotten more about beer than I’ve ever known. I know that sounds cliched, but in this instance, I believe it’s true.
When it comes to beer, personal taste is everything. If you don’t like the flavor, does it matter what style of brew it is? Let’s take a look at some of the beer styles that you’re likely to run into on a Sarasota restaurant menu. This is where Ed really shines!!
Associated with the Northeast of England, brown ales are full of flavor; malty, lightly roasty, or chocolatey, and with a solid drinkability. American examples are often stronger and may have a pronounced hop character in aroma and/or finish. Examples: Cigar City Maduro, Bell's Best Brown Ale, Newcastle Brown Ale.
Historically enjoyed by Bavarian royalty, Hefeweizen is the famous cloudy wheat beer of Germany. With an expressive fermentation character of spice and clove, it is traditionally served in a tall glass with a grand cap of foam. Examples: Franziskaner, Erdinger, Paulaner, Widmer, Sierra Nevada Kellerweiss.
Originating in Britain, this style has come to embody modern American craft beer more than any other. An enthusiastic and occasionally unapologetic celebration of the flavors and aromas of the wonderful hop. American versions may be explosively aromatic with notes of citrus, pine and even tropical fruits. The ‘hazy’ style that originated in the Northeast US within the last decade features a softer mouthfeel and sense of ‘juiciness’ Examples: Cigar City Jai Alai, Calusa Zote, Stone IPA, Bells Two-Hearted, Founders All Day IPA, Big Top Ashely Gang.
Not a style, but a family of beers and type of fermentation historically associated with Germany, Denmark, and what is now the Czech Republic. Of a wide range of colors, strengths and flavors, great lager beers express the very essence of malt, hops, and drinkability with a generally more neutral fermentation character. Examples of lager styles include Pilsner, Oktoberfest/Marzen, Dark Lager, Bock, Vienna Lager, Schwarzbier and others.
One of the world's oldest and most revered fermented beverages, mead has been experiencing a resurgence in recent years. Mead can be still or sparkling, dry or sweet, with strengths ranging from the most modest beers to the most powerful wines. Traditionally, mead was often combined with herbs, spices (even hops!), or fruits. With a modern spirit of playfulness, such additions have become even more extreme with creative additions such as tea, vanilla, even peanut butter(!). Naturally gluten-free, mead is a fascinating showcase for local terroir and honey varieties. Examples: Redstone Meadery, Schramm’s Mead, Bee Nektar, as well as a range of small and traditional producers.
The world’s classic golden lager was born in Bohemia in 1842. Dry, aromatic and appetizing with an herbal, floral hop character and crisp finish, Pilsner is one of the world’s great beer styles. Examples: Pilsner Urquell, Bitburger, Green Bench Postcard Pils, Calusa Outbound, Darwin Pirata Pils.
Perhaps the quintessential 'dark beer' with a focus on the chocolatey, coffee-like character of roasted grains. A true family of beers, ranging from the light, dry character of Guinness through the intensity of Imperial Stout. Substyles include Oatmeal Stout, Milk/Sweet Stout, Foreign/Tropical stout. Dry and appetizing, Irish Dry Stout is exemplified by Guinness with the crisp, bright character of roasted barley. Examples Left-hand Milk Stout, Deschutes Obsidian Stout, Guinness, Lion Stout.
A family of ales containing a portion of wheat in addition to barley, traditionally ranging from the Western coast of Belgium and The Netherlands through Germany and Poland. Generally golden and occasionally gently spiced, they all share a wonderful drinkability and lively carbonation. American examples, such as Bell’s Oberon, often lack the spice and fruit character of continental versions.
What did I tell you? Ed knows beer. These are just a few of the more popular styles that you can find rounding out beer menus around town. Ed was kind enough to contribute his time and expertise to put together a more comprehensive beer drinkers style guide for our Little Sarasota DINING Book. You can read about some of the more obscure styles there.
Let’s wrap things up. Yes, there are a lot of beers to choose from. Yes, those choices can be very intimidating at times. And now, hopefully, you’ve got a little bit of extra info to help make those decisions a little less stressful. After all, beer drinking should be one of the most stress free activities there is!
A special thank you to Ed Paulsen for his contribution to this piece. Cheers!
Here are a few links we think you’ll find interesting.
If you’d like to grab a cold craft beer around Sarasota, here are a few places that have excellent selections:
99 Bottles Taproom & Bottle Shop (1445 2nd St., (941) 487-7874)
Island House Tap & Grill (5110 Ocean Blvd., (941) 487-8116)
Mandeville Beer Garden (428 N. Lemon Ave., (941) 954-8688)
Shamrock Pub (2257 Ringling Blvd., (941) 952-1730)
We’ve done all of the heavy lifting for you! All you need to do is make that reservation. Here are some upcoming local food events that we think you might find interesting…
JAN 13 – Duckhorn Vineyards Wine Dinner – Michael’s Wine Cellar - TICKETS
JAN 13 - Tralia Pasta Night – Dive Cocktail Den - WEBSITE
JAN 13-23 - Manatee County Fair - INFORMATION
JAN 14-16 - Sarasota Seafood & Music Festival - INFORMATION
JAN 15 - 3rd Annual Sarasota Beer & Burger Festival - TICKETS
JAN 16 - Wine Dinner with the Damolis' – Andrea’s - INFORMATION
JAN 20 - Caymus Wine Dinner – Café L’Europe - WEBSITE
JAN 20 - Bordeaux Wine Tasting - Mademoiselle Paris - INFORMATION
JAN 21 – Revana Wine Dinner – GROVE Restaurant - INFORMATION
EVERY SUNDAY - Siesta Key Farmers Market - DETAILS
EVERY SUNDAY – Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch - DETAILS
EVERY SUNDAY – The Meadows Farmers Market - DETAILS
EVERY WEDNESDAY – The Phillippi Farmhouse Market - DETAILS
THIRD THURSDAY NIGHT – RADD Night Market - DETAILS
EVERY SATURDAY – Sarasota Farmers Market - DETAILS
EVERY SATURDAY - Downtown Bradenton Public Market - DETAILS
EVERY SATURDAY – Venice Farmers Market - DETAILS
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