Florida is in such a magical and endearing place in the beer game at present. It holds a checkered past replete with some of the most coveted releases, the lowest bottle counts, and just short of Chicago, some of the absolute worst beer traders in the game. Despite the foregoing, this leaky waterhag filled peninsula has unquestionably pumped the everglades with some of the finest breweries in the game right now.
Since we are painting with sweeping generalizations about a huge swath of land occupied by an equally diverse populace, coveted Florida releases usually go like this:
1) take an existing style
2) add a bunch of obscure fruit, coffee, chilis, or white oak to it
3 release like 120 bottles to the public well knowing that over 1000 sweaty nascar bros will show up.
4) wait nine months and release the barrel aged version to cause a shitstorm of even more pandemonium and butthurt
That’s pretty much how things fly down there, five times a year since always until forever.
So today let’s take a look at an upstart brewery that is concurrently working within the climate of Floridian demands, but also ekeing out their own character: Aardwolf Brewing.
Whiskey Barrel Aged Early Bird Special
Stout aged on vanilla bean, cinnamon, coffee, aged in whiskey barrels
If this particular breakdown looks familiar to you, it’s because every fucking brewery founded after 2012 is brewing this same shit. It’s like dudes saw Founders drop CBS in 2011 and then talked their rich stepdads into buying them a 7 barrel brew house just to make this adjunct banger. Hold onto your hats: a stout brewed with coffee, vanilla, cinnamon, the works.
The first thing I would like to note is that this is markedly thinner than the traditional foray into this now predictable style. It feels more nimble and svelte coating the glass more like an imperial Porter in a way, leaving nice earthy foam on the glass. The nose dominates with coffee to a staggering degree and closes with a long toasty roast. There is a touch of residual sweetness but the ultra thin body and relatively low Abv don’t give this artist much canvas to paint upon. Sometimes an intentionally restrictive medium lends itself to focusing the performance; that is kinda the case here. The taste is focused and it delivers in the manner it promises without overstaying its welcome or feeling poorly crafted. It is tasty albeit not altering the consciousness of the style. If there is a “crushable” entry in this increasingly crowded realm, this would be it and it is unquestionably well brewed, but perhaps not spec’d to shatter any molds or conceptions.
I would much rather prefer something be delicious and come in understated rather than the typical under-attenuated execution we see far too often. This is nice but it won’t displace the greats within its ranks.
As a side note, there is a long lingering spice and cinnamon aspect that was borderline cloying. In what may amount to an incredible amount of irony, DDB is being a bitch about the cinnamon. There is simply TOO MUCH cinnamon on the finish that artificially dries out the mouthfeel and gives it a lingering spice profile that displaces the delicious coffee like a cup of Abuelita. FINE. I GUESS I AM JUST A CINNABITCH AFTER ALL.
Zagreus, Red wine barrel aged Tripel
Ah a barrel aged tripel, the diciest of consumer gambles in beer. This style can fall close to the pin of Curieux if it wants to play it conservatively; or it can aspire to hit the pinnacle of the genre like Sante Adairius’s Always in Life. More often than not, breweries turn out over oaked, over estery adjunct messes like Bruery BA five golden rings or something that becomes too big for its tripel britches.
This offering hugs the curieux design so conservatively that you might have a hard time telling the two apart, aside from moderate differences. Now is benchmarking and coming close to nailing the industry standard worthy of derision? Not really, Hyundai bites luxury brand styling all day and makes cars for single parents year in and year out. This beer is dry and doesn’t exhibit the flabby honey and banana issues most Ba tripels fall into: thank god. In fact it is more oaky than honey, and the red wine barrel gives it this tannic dryness that almost reminds me of Darjeeling or a floral type of chamomile tea.
You certainly should drink this around 50 degrees because it becomes a bit hefty at higher temps and a syrupy mouthfeel develops. If you see this, you should certainly pick it up, but if this shares the same price point as Curieux it is hard to make a compelling argument for one over the other as they are so similar in scope and execution. Pretty tasty stuff, nothing you need to slip your Fedex delivery man’s L5-S1 over tho.
Brandy Barrel Aged Mariachi
Stout Made with Cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, and chilis
Man if you want a textbook definition of the most predictable stout release from Florida, here it is. This infected Westbrook upwards, and then spread like some Umbrella corp virus to all of the brite tanks around the nation.
If you read DDB, you have already had a billion beers just like this, so let’s parse this down to how it is DIFFERENT from the various iterations of this style. It isn’t as hefty as Huna, the barrel profile comes across as understated but presents a light caramel sweetness as though it wasn’t racked for a significant period of time or didn’t hit optimum saturation (i.e. basically anything released by a North Carolina brewery.) The peppers aren’t overpowering and if anything this is a bit hamfisted in the cocoa aspects. I had this side by side with regular ass Mexican Cake and, despite having barrel aging, the two are about comparable in quality.
This could use less sweetness and brownie batter from the cocoa nibs and allow the various other aspects to shine. This is the best of the three and it is worth seeking out because it presents a novel riff on an increasingly crowded genre. While it fails to reach the heights established by BA Abaraxas, Brandy Huna, or Double Barrel Mexican Cake, it stands its own and parries blows with admirable speed and dexterity.
In sum, I like where this brewery is headed in terms of marketing, branding, ambition and DDB nods. In jumping headfirst into the foray of the most contested styles they are bold and didn’t fail in any one of their attempts. It will be a pleasure to see how things progress with these guys in the near future.